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My Research

'Appropriate Fields of Action': The Female Philanthropist and the Parochial Sphere in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture

Literary representations of female philanthropy challenge the separate spheres dichotomy that we continue to associate with nineteenth-century literature and society, as the work of the philanthropic heroine instead depicts a diversity of social spaces located between the family home and the worlds of commerce and politics. These social spaces - one of the most important being the parish - are represented as highly receptive to the influence of middle- and upper-class women by the writers of my study, thereby demonstrating how female authors could formulate the geography of their fictions to support their participation in contemporary social debate.

  • Chapter One: 'We consider our own parish as our more appropriate field of action': The Parochial Philanthropy of Hannah More

Texts: Hannah More's Coelebs in Search of a Wife (1809) and Henry Thompson's The Life of Hannah More: with Notices of her Sisters (1838)


  • Chapter Two: 'Extravagant Day-dreams': Charlotte Bronte and Elizabeth Gaskell

Texts: Charlotte Bronte's Shirley (1849) and Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857) and My Lady Ludlow (1859)

  • Chapter Three: Expanding the Parochial Sphere: Charlotte Yonge and George Eliot

Texts: Charlotte Mary Yonge's The Clever Woman of the Family (1865) and George Eliot's Middlemarch (1871)

  • Chapter Four: 'Citizenship lies in the participation of each individual for the good of the community': Mrs Humphry Ward's Empowered Parochial Philanthropy

Texts: Mrs Humphry Ward's 'An Appeal Against Female Suffrage' (1889), Marcella (1894) and Sir George Tressady (1896)

  • Conclusion: Two Views of Shirley

Texts: Mrs Humphry Ward's Introduction to the Haworth Edition of Shirley (1899), Clara Collet's 'Through Fifty Years: The Economic Progress of Women' (1900) and Winifred Holtby's South Riding (1936)










Hannah More