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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Mask Rage: The Modern-Day White Feather Campaign

From 24 July 2020 to 19 July 2021, it was a legal requirement to wear masks in indoor spaces in England. On the whole, people have adhered to this regulation and now it has become second nature for us to grab a mask, along with our phone, wallet and keys, before leaving the house. However, the law recognises that individuals with certain physical or mental illnesses, impairments or disabilities may not be able to wear masks and are, therefore, exempt.

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Hysteria and Victorian Women in Art

In ancient Greece there existed the medical concept of a woman’s “wandering womb”; that is, the womb could move about the body, obstruct breathing and press on other organs to cause various symptoms of illness. It was “an animal within an animal”, according to the celebrated ancient Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia. In the late nineteenth century, the notable French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot began his study of unusual physiological symptoms presenting in women, such as nervous anxiety, faintness, irritability, uncontrolled

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Picturing the Angel Outside the Home

When one pictures Victorian advertising, a fairly consistent image springs to mind: that of trade cards depicting corset-clad white women alongside their respectable husbands and cherubic children. These advertisements are intended to ensnare the morally sensible “angel of the house,” and persuade her that a particular brand of soap or soup or other household product is guaranteed to enrich her family’s wholesome lifestyle. But the Victorian era also gave rise to two earth-shaking consumer products that were intended to transport

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Sarojini Naidu, Cultural Exchange and Anti-Imperialism

Sarojini Naidu was a nineteenth century poet and political activist. Her upbringing was, in a sense, privileged because she was born into a middle-class family of well-educated Brahmins. Her father was a scientist and her mother a Bengali poet, so she also had strong literary ties. This gave her the space and opportunity to write and develop her English poetry and yet this was not the sum of her ambition. She used her connections, English education and social standing to

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Helen Kingstone: Women are aliens! Radical feminism and contemporary-history-writing in the work of Alice Stopford Green

This post accompanies Helen Kingstone’s Journal of Victorian Culture article: ‘Feminism, Nationalism, Separatism? The Case of Alice Stopford Green’. This article can be downloaded here. For several years now, I’ve been tussling with a troublesome question: how do you write contemporary history? Luckily, perhaps, I haven’t had to do it myself, but instead have been looking at how Victorian writers approached the challenge. Because it is a challenge. How do you write a history (conventionally a generalising, singular, even grand

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Roller Derby’s Victorian Prehistory

By Susan Cook (Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, NH) Roller derby was not a Victorian sport. But it should have been. Today roller skating is typically thought of as a twentieth-century fad, but historians trace its origins back to the eighteenth century. Although the Dutch began using roller skates in the early 1700s, the Belgian inventor Joseph Merlin made the most memorable early impression on the new sport by skating into a masquerade party in 1760 whilst playing the violin.

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Book review: Amy Levy’s Fate: Death and the Statistician

The Women Who Dared: A Biography of Amy Levy, by Christine Pullen, Kingston upon Thames: Kingston University Press, 2010, 241 pp., illustrated, ₤20 (paperback), ISBN 978 1 899999 43 9 Reviewed by Theodore M. Porter, University of California, Los Angeles The narrative trajectory of this biography begins and ends with the suicide of the writer Amy Levy at the age of 27 on 9 September 1889.  That tragic end gives direction to Christine Pullen’s wide-ranging study of Levy and her

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