“Preferring Death to the Embrace of a Strange Dancing Woman”: Jewish Dancers in Victorian Ballrooms

Dancing was perhaps the most universal and popular mixed-sex leisure pursuit in the nineteenth century. Yet dance was not purely a recreational activity. Ballroom etiquette demanded adherence to the rules of fashionable society, including precise rules for comportment, conversation, and choosing a dance partner. For upwardly mobile Jewish dancers, balls presented additional challenges. First of all, mixed-sex dancing was forbidden according to traditional Jewish law, which regarded men and women dancing together as a gateway to sexual impropriety. And while

Read more

The Virtuosa is the Villain: How Hulu’s ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Rehearses Victorian Ideas About Female Musicians

Alert: this piece contains spoilers for Hulu’s 2021 show Only Murders in the Building. Scroll down to read!                         I should have known it was the bassoonist.  As a scholar of classical music and gender and a clarinetist myself, I can’t believe it took me until the second-to-last episode of Hulu’s 2021 murder mystery/comedy series Only Murders in the Building (OMITB) to realize that the serial killer at the core

Read more

Who’s Wearing the Pant(aloon)s Now?: Women Illustrators and Rational Dress

In “‘Rational’ Dress”, a cartoon published in the 6 June 1883 edition of Judy, or the London Serio-comic Journal, Marie Duval (1847-90) parodies the rational dress movement, which strived for improvements in women’s clothing, through a series of individual figures (fig. 1). The figures, or ‘characters’, represent various ways in which rational dress has influenced fashion trends and women’s place in society. Printed underneath are captions pertaining to each character on the page or ‘stage.’ Everyone has a unique ‘role’

Read more

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); 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 afford),

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more