Of late, the Virgin Mary has become somewhat fashionable in academic circles. This prominence reflects her long-lasting cultural influence as an international historic and spiritual figure.
In the two decades since Margaret Rossiter’s first volume on Women Scientists in America (1), there has been a steady series of books which have investigated the place of women in science, seeking to discover if and where they existed, the nature of their of their contribution and the reasons why for so often and so long there has been a perceived disjuncture
The Surplus Woman is an important contribution to a growing international literature on the history of single women. Its chief strength is its affirmation of marital status as a central category of analysis for historians.
In 1886 the Glasgow Prayer Union (GPU) remembered in their customary prayers a woman across whom one of its ‘ladies’ had come. She had been ‘found lying very drunk near Cattle Market with young infant’. Concerned for the infant’s life, the unnamed philanthropist (not a word Smitley uses) takes the child to the nearby police station, ‘where the woman was also taken’ (p. 44).
In her most recent publication, Felicity Nussbaum masterfully explores the relationship between the celebrated actresses of the 18th-century English stage and the changing economic and social mores of the period.
Midst the foe, and the stranger she seeks not renown
She courts not their smiles, and she heeds not their frowns
Could she only impart unto childhood and youth
The science of God, of religion, and truth... (p. 110)
Chocolate, writes Emma Robertson in the introduction to her monograph, ‘has been invested with specific cultural meanings which are in part connected to … conditions of production’ (p. 3). At the heart of this study is a challenge to existing histories:
Deborah Simonton’s Women in European Culture and Society: Gender, Skill and Identity from 1700 purports a ‘straightforward agenda – to explore European women’s relationship to their culture and society since about 1700’ (p. 1).
The poor Victorians, they’ve been constantly rebuked for their sexual repression by daring rebels. Somehow, these rebels became the archetypes of Victorian culture – such as the beloved Pre-Raphaelites.
‘I am what you would call a Fallen Woman, but I assure you I did not fall – I was pushed’ (Faber, p. 336).