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Secularism, religion and women's emancipation, England 1830–1914

This book studies a distinctive brand of women's rights that emerged out of the Victorian Secularist movement, and looks at the lives and work of a number of female activists, whose renunciation of religion shaped their struggle for emancipation. Anti-religious or secular ideas were fundamental to the development of feminist thought, but have, until now, been almost entirely passed over in the historiography of the Victorian and Edwardian women's movement. In uncovering an important tradition of freethinking feminism, the book reveals an ongoing radical and free love current connecting Owenite feminism with the more ‘respectable’ post-1850 women's movement and the ‘New Women’ of the early twentieth century.

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Feminism in the Freethought movement

The Secularist movement was home to a distinctively Freethinking brand of feminism, which viewed Christianity as the primary cause of women’s oppression. Freethought ideology prompted a re-definition of womanhood which could lead to far reaching and radical suggestions for transforming woman’s role in society. Secularists’ renunciation of religion necessarily entailed a rejection of the notion of

in Infidel feminism
Open Access (free)

Feminism is one of the most recent ideologies to emerge, although its origins can be traced far back into history. We examine its historical roots and identify and discuss the different forms of feminism that have developed over the last two centuries. We then link feminism with other ideologies and conclude with a critique and assessment of feminism in the modern world

in Understanding political ideas and movements

This book generates a critical framework through which to interrogate the way in which religious feminists have employed women's literature in their texts. This is in order that both the way we read literature and the literature we read might be subject to scrutiny, and that new reading practices be developed. Having both the critical and constructive agenda, this is a book in two parts. The first part locates the study of the use of women's writing by religious feminists in a much wider frame than has previously been attempted. In the past individual religious feminists have been criticised, often publicly and loudly, for the use they have made of particular literary texts. Having critically surveyed previously unacknowledged constraints under which religious feminists read women's literature, the second part of the book explores how the work of women poststructuralist thinkers and theorists can enrich the reading practices. It offers alternative models for an engagement between literature and theology. Julia Kristeva is best known within the academy for her unorthodox application of Lacanian theory to contemporary culture. Her work challenges religious feminists to reassess the utilitarian approaches to literary texts and enquire into whether these might have a more powerful political role when their status as literature is recognised and affirmed. The book elucidates Luce Irigaray's thinking on sexual difference and also demonstrates its significance for feminist religious readers.

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First wave feminism involved a fierce battle of ideas over religion – a battle which was itself crucial in the creation of modern understandings of religion and secularisation. Freethought was thus a significant current in the women’s movement, existing alongside and in competition with the Christian values that dominated it. The Woman Question became a key ground upon which Christians clashed with

in Infidel feminism
Marriage, birth control and sexual morality

Charles Bradlaugh were tried for the publication of Charles Knowlton’s birth control pamphlet, Fruits of Philosophy. Their highly publicised trial saw the re-emergence of many of the same tensions and arguments in the Secularist movement that had arisen over the publication of Drysdale’s Elements. The relationship between Neo-Malthusianism and feminism was not a straightforward one, and it was their support for birth control

in Infidel feminism
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-feminists, Christians and Freethinkers battled over who had women’s best interests at heart. Such contests were fundamental to the development of feminist thought in England, but have been almost entirely passed over in the historiography of the women’s movement. This book examines these debates and offers the first ever in-depth study of ‘Freethinking feminism’ – a distinctive brand of women’s rights discourse that emerged out of the Secularist movement during

in Infidel feminism
From Madonna to Ally McBeal

M410 HARRIS TEXT.qxd 20/7/06 11:35 AM Page 34 Phil's G4 Phil's G4:Users:phil:Public 2 The end(s) of feminism(s)? From Madonna to Ally McBeal Defining terms: the feminine, feminist, postmodern feminism and postfeminism In an overview of the field since the 1970s, the editors of Feminist Television Criticism state that ‘feminist television criticism has not adequately conceptualised its own meanings for feminism, but instead has mirrored the “common sense” meanings of feminism that circulate in both popular and academic cultures’. As they indicate, this

in Beyond representation

7 Nationalism and feminism I remember that period as very, very rich. You share, you debate . . . We were very young, very brazen . . . We talked about the issue of sexuality, and within sexuality, the issue of masturbation . . . And we made posters, and put them up in the neighbourhood. I’m amazed! The things we did! [laughter]. (#10, b. 1957) I think all the women in the nationalist left are feminists. And all the new generations what are joining are feminist women. But I think we still haven’t found the main point. This is unfinished business. (#16, b. 1958

in Women and ETA

the grass. Feminist theologians are not alone in their eager appropriation of literary resources. Feminism is a peculiarly literary movement and many of the intellectual and political leaders of the women’s struggle have been celebrated writers (e.g. Mary Wollstonecraft, Alexandra Kollontai, Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf). These women found in literature an accessible space in which it was possible to critique contemporary practice and engage in the imaginative construction of alternative worlds. Works of literature written by women thus form an important

in Literature, theology and feminism