‘A Crisis in Woman’s History’: Duties of Women and the practice of everyday feminism



In the 1881 preface to Duties of Women, Frances Power Cobbe looked at the women’s movement around her, and pronounced ‘a crisis in woman’s history’:

greatly as I desire to see the enfranchisement and elevation of women, I consider even that object subordinate to the moral character of each individual woman. If women were to become less dutiful by being enfranchised, – less conscientious, less unselfish, less temperate, less chaste, – then I should say: ‘For Heaven’s sake, let us stay where we are! Nothing we can ever gain would be worth such a loss.1


Lecture Series Great Transition Social Duty Feminist Community Political Emancipation 
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  1. 1.
    F.P. Cobbe, Duties of Women, Authorised Edn (London: Williams & Norgate, 1881), p. 11. Further references are to this edition and appear in parentheses in the text.Google Scholar
  2. 21.
    B. Caine, Victorian Feminists, p. 127, notes that the letter came from Hengwrt, Mary Lloyd’s family home in North Wales, where Cobbe moved in 1884.Google Scholar
  3. 42.
    Angela John, ‘“Behind the Locked Door”’ reminds us that the space on the threshold between feminist and non-feminist communities undergoes profound shifts in political and cultural meaning in the period from 1863, when Cobbe first starts writing, to Sharp’s own journalism for The Nation and the Manchester Guardian and other papers in the first decade of the twentieth-century.Google Scholar

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© Susan Hamilton 2006

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