Female redundancy, widowhood and the mid-Victorian heroine
in Odd women?
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This chapter demonstrates how debates around redundancy, the old maid and the surplus woman in the 1850s began to create a prototypical spinster heroine. The Victorian widow in fiction and autobiography in the mid-Victorian period can be seen to operate as a disruptive, contradictory presence, often bound by her affinity to the figure of the aunt, as illustrated in autobiographical writing by Margaret Oliphant. Advice literature for women and discussions in the feminist press are used to mobilise queer readings of the clever daughter, female communities and the attractions of 'imaginary widowhood' in Gaskell's Cranford, Bronte's Villette and the lesser-known novels of Charlotte Yonge.

Odd women?

Spinsters, lesbians and widows in British women’s fiction, 1850s–1930s

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