Victorian era feminism

Feminism by Molly Youngkin LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2014 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0139

Sources that provide an overview of the development of Victorian feminism are essential to any scholarly work on the more specific topics included in this article. Caine 1992, Caine 1997, and Levine 1994 all paved the way for serious discussion of Victorian feminism by highlighting key figures and themes in the movement. Hollis 1979 provides important primary documents on the subject, and Delap 2011 and Griffin 2012 place Victorian feminism in relation to men’s participation in the debate over women’s rights legislation and larger philosophical issues pertaining to human liberty.

Caine, Barbara. Victorian Feminists. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Classic study of key figures in Victorian feminism, with an emphasis on their understanding of oppression against women, as opposed to the goals of their specific campaigns. Places these figures, active in the 1860s, within the context of early- and late-century feminism through bookend chapters on these topics.

Caine, Barbara. English Feminism, 1780–1980. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Good supplement to Caine 1992. Places Victorian feminism in the larger context of English feminism. Organization is historical but thematic, with chapters on periods of feminism (i.e., mid-Victorian feminism) and sections within these chapters on themes (i.e., feminism and sexual oppression). There is some emphasis on key figures, but within a larger historical-thematic scheme.

Delap, Lucy. “The ‘Woman Question’ and the Origins of Feminism.” In The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Political Thought. Edited by Gareth Stedman Jones and Gregory Claeys, 319–348. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Places Victorian feminism within larger tradition of 19th-century political thought. Essay is part of the section “Modern Liberty and Its Defenders, ” which includes discussion of Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and Alexis de Tocqueville. Argues that Victorian feminism was not simply a campaign to gain specific rights but engaged broader debates about “sexual difference.”

Griffin, Ben. The Politics of Gender in Victorian Britain: Masculinity, Political Culture, and the Struggle for Women’s Rights. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Focuses on role of male politicians in legislation that changed the status of Victorian women. Argues that “gendered identities” influenced how these men reacted to women’s rights campaigns and shaped parliamentary debate over legislative acts. Acknowledges John Stuart Mill’s role in Parliament’s response but also analyzes roles of lesser-known men.

Hollis, Patricia, ed. Women in Public 1850–1900: Documents of the Victorian Women’s Movement. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1979.

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