Odd women?

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

Author: Emma Liggins

Women outside marriage between 1850 and the Second World War were seen as abnormal, threatening, superfluous and incomplete, whilst also being hailed as ‘women of the future’. Before 1850 odd women were marginalised, minor characters, yet by the 1930s spinsters, lesbians and widows had become heroines. This book considers how Victorian and modernist women's writing challenged the heterosexual plot and reconfigured conceptualisations of public and private space in order to valorise female oddity. It offers queer readings of novels and stories by women writers, from Charlotte Bronte, Elisabeth Gaskell, Ella Hepworth Dixon and Netta Syrett to May Sinclair, Radclyffe Hall, Clemence Dane, Winifred Holtby and Virginia Woolf. This interdisciplinary study tracks diverse representations of the odd woman in fiction and autobiographical accounts in relation to the rise of feminism. It illuminates singleness in the context of the suffrage campaign, women's work, sexual inversion and birth control as well as assessing the impact of the First World War. It draws on advice literature, medical texts, feminist polemic and articles from the new women's magazines. Developing debates within queer theory about gender non-conformity, heteronormativity and relationships between women, this genealogy of the odd woman shows how new conceptualisations of female singleness and lesbianism troubled, and ultimately transformed, social norms.

Abstract only
Log-in for full text

    • Full book download (PDF with hyperlinks)
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1048 319 38
Full Text Views 582 59 6
PDF Downloads 371 50 4