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

Read more

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

Read more

Flora Shaw: The Times, imperial travels, and a woman in empire

Flora Shaw was a journalist and Colonial Editor of The Times, 1893-1900. She secured this position due to a widely praised series of ‘Letters’ from South Africa, penned during the first of a number of visits to South Africa, Australia, and Canada in the following decade. Shaw visited South Africa and Australia in 1892-3, Canada and the Klondike in 1898, and South Africa in 1900 and 1902. Shaw was an evangelising imperialist, as Dorothy O. Helly and Helen Callaway have

Read more

Wish You Were Here: Victorian women pioneers of travel photography

In September 1835, Constance Talbot wrote to her husband asking if he would be taking his small experimental “mousetrap” cameras on a visit to Wales. She remarked, “It would be charming for you to bring home some views.”[1] Four years later, William Henry Fox Talbot announced his invention of Photogenic Drawing at the Royal Society, London, and started the extraordinary creative phenomenon we know now as positive / negative photography. We all take photography for granted: it’s an indispensable, ubiquitous

Read more

Lady Clementina Hawarden: photographic pioneer

Next to a window with shafts of light providing shadowy illumination into a sparsely furnished room stands an adolescent girl. There is a look of casual awkwardness about her, yet she has an enigmatic stare towards the camera, showing a degree of trust shared between herself, the model and the photographer.  Beyond the window is a blurred view of the city, lost in the power of the intimacy of the dramatic pose struck by this girl, the subject of the

Read more

Laura Foster, ‘Merry Christmas in the Workhouse’

Laura Foster completed her PhD at Cardiff University in 2014. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on the representation of the workhouse in nineteenth-century culture, with a particular focus upon periodical publications and visual material. Her most recently published article, ‘Dirt, Dust and Devilment: Uncovering Filth in the Workhouse and Casual Wards’, is available to read online at Victorian Network. A perusal of the December issues of the Illustrated London News or the Graphic is a gratifying pastime for anyone indulging a

Read more

Lauren Padgett, ‘Salt’s Mill, Saltaire: Brief History and Review’

Lauren Padgett is a PhD student at Leeds Trinity University, investigating representations of Victorian women in contemporary museums. She worked in local museums for four years; her first museum job, assisting with the redevelopment of textile galleries, fuelled her interest of the textile industry and Bradford’s textile heritage.  Saltaire, a model Victorian village (a few miles from Bradford’s city centre), has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 2001. [1] Saltaire was commissioned by Sir Titus Salt (1803 – 1876),

Read more

Vicky Nagy, The Essex Poisoning Cases 1846-1851

Vicky received her PhD in 2012 from Monash University. Her PhD focused on the social and legal representations of female poisoners’ femininity during the Victorian period. Vicky has been a lecturer at ELTE (Hungary), and researcher at Monash and La Trobe Universities. She is currently an Honorary Associate at La Trobe University and about to begin a new project looking at female criminality in Australia during the colonial period. Her book, Nineteenth-Century Female Poisoners: Three English Women Who Used Arsenic

Read more

Georgina Grant, Smoking and Respectable Femininity

Georgina is a Curatorial Officer for the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, based at Blists Hill Victorian Town. She has the responsibility of maintaining, developing and delivering the interpretation of the 52 acre site. Her role is varied, ranging from researching the history of canal vessels to installing Quaker costume displays and giving talks on a traditional Victorian Christmas. Follow Georgina @GeorgyGrant.  ‘I never saw a woman – not a basket woman or a gipsy – smoke before!’ Charles Dickens 1846

Read more

Clare Walker Gore, Adventures in Marble and Monochrome: Victorian Sculpture and Photography at Tate Britain

Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860 25 February – 7 June Sculpture Victorious 25 February – 25 May With its fabulous permanent collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Tate Britain always has an embarrassment of riches to offer the Victorian enthusiast, but its latest exhibitions are a further inducement to make the trip to Millbank if you can. Salt and Silver provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of early Victorian photography, bringing together ninety rare salted paper photographs from the mid-nineteenth

Read more