The Endowment of Motherhood Wars of the 1900s

Who doesn’t love Mother? Consider two scenarios that faced late Victorian and Edwardian social reformers and opinion makers: working-class mother tending the family’s oh-so-many children while father drinks up his wages at the local public house (I’m thinking of the premise of Reginald Cripps’s Public House Reform 1901); and, moving up a notch, mother pointlessly tending the family’s suburban villa (“The Laurels” of George and Weedon Grossmiths’ Pooter sagas) and anxiously watching one or two children (all the family can

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Books, Reading, and Daydream Believing: Christy Carew Has ‘Nothing’ to Do

The current pandemic triggered what appears to be a reading revival. As I noted media discourse on people accumulating books, I wondered whether sometimes these books were companions to a daydream, as individuals imagined an alternative present or felicitous future; experiencing, as Charlotte Bronte expressed it in Villette, “the life of thought, and that of reality”.[1] Researching fictional experiences of reading in women’s writing at the fin de siècle, I notice a book is often accompaniment to a daydream. It

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‘Crushed Flounces and Broken Feathers’: British Women’s Fashions and their Indian Servants in Victorian India

‘We have had so many inquiries respecting Indian outfits, and necessary articles of dress for the Presidencies…’ (The Englishwoman’s Conversazione, Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, 1 July 1869). Britain’s imperial control and power over India had reached its epitome in the nineteenth century, as the East India Company had become entrenched, and later, the colonial society was consolidated by the imposition of Crown Rule in 1858. The nineteenth century, especially the second half, witnessed many British women crossing the seas to reside

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Language of Feminism in Arabic and British Fin-de-Siècle Writing

Writing a comparative PhD thesis on the New Woman in Britain and the Arab world at the fin de siècle entailed establishing similarities and differences in language usage in the early feminist movements in both cultural contexts. Considering that the New Woman is a well-established field of study in Western scholarship, the main focus of my research project was to demonstrate that, contrary to the assumptions made in existing literature – that the New Woman appeared in Arabic from the

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Venerating Verses and Disrespectful Ditties: Informal Music Inspired by Queen Victoria

Over the course of her record breaking six-decade reign, Queen Victoria was the subject of numerous formal and informal musical compositions alike. While most formal music was reverential in nature and sought to praise the monarch, by and large the informal music that Victoria inspired among the lower classes tended to contain derogatory or mocking depictions of the queen. However, there were a small number of compositions that celebrated Victoria’s personal and political successes. Still, most of these were informal

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Words at War: Fiction and Critique Forged in Times and Spaces of Violence

War occupies an uneasy place in literature and in the study of literature. Raymond Williams’s well-known observation about Jane Austen captures something of this dynamic: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen chose to ignore the decisive historical events of her time. Where […] are the Napoleonic wars: the real current of history?” (113). In posing this question, Williams makes war both central to, and beside the point of, the novel form. Today, the relationship between war and

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Women’s Self-Defence: How Ju Jutsu played a key role in the fight for women’s suffrage

Since the #metoo movement in 2017, the martial arts world has seen a huge uptake in women participating in self-defence classes. These classes aim to strengthen a person’s capacity to protect themselves against a physical attack. Yet, for women, they are also essential in building self-esteem and offering a sense of self-empowerment. This is particularly the case for trauma-informed martial arts programmes, which serve to give victims of sexual assault or domestic abuse control over their bodies and help them

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Neo-Victorian Afterlives: Time, Empire, and the Occult in Final Fantasy VIII

The Final Fantasy video game series is famous for its idiosyncratic narratives and eclectic references to different historical time periods. Often using concrete eras and locales as inspiration for their imagined fantasy-based worlds, the series has oscillated between medieval, steampunk, futuristic, Mediterranean, and Western settings. But what happens when a title modernizes specific aspects of nineteenth-century culture and represents them in a stylized format for the contemporary consumer? In the 1999 Japanese Role-Playing Game, Final Fantasy VIII, which was recently

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Claws and Petticoats: The Victorian Lion Queens

In a recent article I wrote about Maccomo, the first black lion tamer in Victorian England. But working with wild cats was not only just for men. Several Victorian women became famous in their own right for braving the lion’s cage. The earliest mention of a female working with wild cats appears in the Liverpool Mercury on 1 August 1845: ‘A Mrs. King, who takes the title of the Lion Queen, has been exhibiting her foolhardiness at Glasgow, by going

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