A study of poor women in 19c Northumberland, showing how their poverty was exacerbated by their gender and by prevailing attitudes towards women.
In what ways did gender influence the shape of poverty, and of poor women's work, in Victorian England? This book explores the issue in the context of nineteenth-century Northumberland, examining urban and rural conditions for women, poor relief debates and practices, philanthropic activity, working-class cultures, and `protective' intervention in women's employment. The way in which cultural codes were constructed around women, both by those who observedand imagined them and by the women themselves, is investigated, together with other related contemporary discourses. While looking closely at the north-eastern context, the book's broader themes have important implications for debates within feminist history and theory. The author argues throughout that close attention to the links between material conditions and cultural representations of women both illuminates the intricate dynamics of working-class femininity and forces a reappraisal of the gendered nature of poverty itself in Victorian life and imagination.
JANE LONG is currently lecturer in women's studies at the University of Western Australia.