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The Feminine Public Sphere: Middle-class Women and Civic Life in Scotland, C. 1870-1914 (Gender in History) [Hardcover]

Megan Smitley

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Book Description

30 Nov 2009 0719079667 978-0719079665
This investigation of women's part in civic life provides a fresh approach to the 'public sphere', illuminates women as agents of a middle-class identity and develops the notion of a 'feminine public sphere', or the web of associations, institutions and discourses used by disenfranchised middle-class women to express their citizenship. The extent of middle-class women's contribution to civic life is examined through their involvement in reforming and philanthropic associations as well as local government. Feminist historians have developed increasingly nuanced understandings of the relationship between 'separate spheres' and women's public lives, yet, many analyses of middle-class civic identity in nineteenth-century Britain have conformed to over-rigid interpretations of separate spheres to largely exclude an exploration of women's role. By examining under-used Scottish material, new light is shed on these issues by highlighting the active contribution of women to in this process. Employing a case study of women's temperance, Liberal and suffrage organisations, this analysis considers the relationship between separate spheres ideology and women's public lives; the contribution to suffrage of organisations not normally associated with the Victorian and Edwardian women's movement; and the importance of regional and international perspectives for British history.

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Smitley's concept of a feminine public sphere is an original contribution to the growing body of work that challenges the ideology of separate spheres sharply divided by gender. Although the involvement of women in public action together with their self-representation has been highlighted before, Smitley makes space for women within the public culture of the civic elite, which urban historians, drawing on the early ideas of Jurgen Habermas, have depicted as male territory. Eileen Janes Yeo, Victorian Studies volume 54, No. 2 -- Eileen Janes Yeo. Victorian Studies volume 54, No. 2

About the Author

Megan Smitley is a former ESRC Post Doctoral Fellow, having attained her PhD in History and Economic and Social History from the University of Glasgow

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