Hannah More and Conservative Feminism

  • Harriet Guest


The life and work of Hannah More have been the focus of extensive and energetic debate in the last fifteen years or so, culminating most recently in Anne Stott’s fine biography, Hannah More: The First Victorian (2003). As Stott points out, More is a complex and contradictory figure, who has attracted both harsh condemnation for her political conservatism and anti-feminism and qualified celebration for her ‘counter-revolutionary feminism’, argued for most subtly and persuasively by Kathryn Sutherland and Mitzi Myers,1 and most militantly, most explicitly as an opportunity to counteract what she identifies as ‘a theoretical tradition grounded on Marxist or left-wing socialist ideologies’, by Anne Mellor.2 Stott’s scholarly biography builds on the work of Myers and Sutherland to develop a portrait of More that acknowledges the restrictive implications and effects of her conservatism, but emphasises the extent to which she encouraged middle-class women to ‘dip their toes into public life, to campaign, to organize, to develop expertise’.3 Stott ably explores the complexity of More’s position, in enabling labouring men and women carefully controlled access to education and the means of social advance-ment, and in promoting socially marginalised women to positions of local influence and authority, while affirming the value of a rigidly differentiated social order which resisted mobility and depended on the social and educational privation of women and the working class.


Private Individual Ideal Plan Woman Writer Liberal Reform Harsh Condemnation 
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© Harriet Guest 2005

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  • Harriet Guest

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