Maureen Wright
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The making of a feminist: 1833–61
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This chapter addresses the first thirty years of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy's life, and new evidence of both her familial context and her ‘conversion’ to feminism at the age of seventeen. Wolstenholme Elmy's ‘private’ mind is more difficult to assess than the reformer's zeal which prompted her public labours. Her experience of double orphanhood was unique among the leading members of the mid-Victorian feminist movement. Elizabeth's feminism was constructed through what she would later term as ‘the stress of storm and strife’. The bitter family quarrels surrounding Elizabeth's yearning for higher education occurred at precisely the same time as she acknowledged the ‘iniquitous English law of sex slavery’ that enforced the loss of personal identity of every wife in the land. For her, the challenge to ‘sex slavery’ was the taproot on which all other causes were grafted.

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