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Economic Women

Essays on Desire and Dispossession in Nineteenth-Century British Culture

Edited by Lana L. Dalley and Jill Rappoport

Publication Year: 2013

Economic Women: Essays on Desire and Dispossession in Nineteenth-Century British Culture, edited by Lana L. Dalley and Jill Rappoport, showcases the wide-ranging economic activities and relationships of real and fictional women in nineteenth-century British culture. This volume’s essays chronicle the triumphs and setbacks of women who developed, described, contested, and exploited new approaches to economic thought and action. In their various roles as domestic employees, activists fighting for free trade, theorists developing statistical models, and individuals considering the cost of marriage and its dissolution, the women discussed here were givers and takers, producers and consumers. Bringing together leading and emerging voices in the field, this collection builds on the wealth of interdisciplinary economic criticism published in the last twenty years, but it also challenges traditional understandings of economic subjectivity by emphasizing both private and public records and refusing to identify a single female corollary to Economic Man. The scholars presented here recover game-changing stories of women’s economic engagement from diaries, letters, ledgers, fiction, periodicals, and travel writing to reveal a nuanced portrait of Economic Women. Offering new readings of works by George Eliot, Bram Stoker, Willkie Collins, Charlotte Riddell, and Ellen Wood, and addressing political economy, consumerism, and business developments alongside family finances and the ethics of exchange, Economic Women tells a story of ambivalence as well as achievement, failure as well as forward motion.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The scholars who contributed their work to this volume did so long before we could guarantee publication; we thank them for their enthusiasm, their generosity, and their patience. Sandy Crooms at The Ohio State University Press supported the project when it was still in its infancy, and we are very grateful to have had her encouragement...

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Introduction: Introducing Economic Women

Lana L. Dalley and Jill Rappoport

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pp. 1-22

In Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism, Robinson Crusoe is the prototype of “Homo Economicus.”1 King of his island, living (with the help of some scavenged English tools and materials) off of his own labor and that of Friday, Daniel Defoe’s shipwrecked hero exemplifies the traits of prudence, production, and power that made him the model of economic...

Part 1. The Ethics of Exchange

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1. Gentry, Gender and the Moral Economy during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in Provincial England

Kathryn Gleadle

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pp. 25-40

In recent years, scholars have challenged the narratives that long shaped our perceptions of middling women and their relationship to the emerging industrial economy of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In contrast to the picture painted by Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, who assumed a gradual, if complicated, decline in ...

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2. Women, Free Trade, and Harriet Martineau's Dawn Island at the 1845 Anti-Corn Law League Bazaar

Lesle Thorne-Murphy

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pp. 41-59

On May 8, 1845, the Anti-Corn Law League opened its grand London bazaar. The League staged its bazaar in Covent Garden Theater, completely transforming the theater itself into a replica of a Norman Gothic hall. The rows of chairs were removed. The orchestra pit was boarded over. A false ceiling and columns created the look of a stone hall with illuminated...

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3. Sacrificial Value: Beyond the Cash Nexus in George Eliot's Romola

Ilana M. Blumberg

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pp. 60-74

I n the early years of the decade that offered George Eliot her highest selling price for fiction, misers and thieves became central figures in her work. Silas Marner, Brother Jacob, and the lesser-known figures of Bardo and Tito in her 1862 Italian romance, Romola, all bear troubled relations to wealth. Economics and ethics are inseparable in these portraits,...

Part 2. Political Economy

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4. Florence Nightingale's Contributions to Economics

Mary Poovey

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pp. 77-96

Florence Nightingale was not an economist. A wealthy woman by birth, Nightingale tended to address the subjects we associate with economics primarily in terms of their social and moral implications: she was, for example, worried about poverty because she considered this a root cause of crime, not because she was interested in the rate of wages in the...

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5. The Cost of Everything in Middlemarch

Gordon Bigelow

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pp. 97-109

The first tremor that shakes Dorothea Brooke’s youthful absolutism, in the opening pages of Middlemarch, is an insight into the theory of value. She has been taught by her family’s “hereditary strain of puritan energy” to abjure the vanity of ornament, but when prompted by her sister Celia to look through the jewels left to them by their mother, she...

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6. Demand and Desire in Dracula

Deanna K. Kreisel

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pp. 110-124

In a now-classic analysis of economic themes in Dracula, Franco Moretti argues that the Count “lacks the aristocrat’s conspicuous consumption: he does not eat, he does not drink, he does not make love, he does not like showy clothes. . . . Dracula, in other words, is a saver.”1 While Moretti’s...

Part 3. Financing the Family

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7. "A pauper every wife is:" Lady Westmeath, Money, Marriage and Divorce in Early Nineteenth-Century England

Janette Rutterford

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pp. 127-142

Emily Nugent, the Marchioness of Westmeath, was one of the most famous and infamous women of her day. Pamphlets were written by her and about her as she attempted to separate from her abusive husband, fought his attempts to retain conjugal rights, and took him to court for maintenance payments and custody of her children. Her struggle to...

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8. Marriage, Celibacy, or Emigration?: Debating the Costs of Family Life in Mid-Victorian England

Erika Rappaport

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pp. 143-161

How shall men marry in these expensive days, when incomes diminish and outgoings increase?”1 This was a question on many men and women’s minds in the 1860s, or so it would seem to a reader of the liberal newspaper the Daily Telegraph. In the summer of 1868, this journal published nearly three hundred letters from readers, which the paper...

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9. "Absolutely Miss Fairlie's own:" Emasculating Economics in The Woman in White

Esther Godfrey

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pp. 162-176

Nineteenth-century literature abounds with stories of women’s struggle to secure their futures through fortunate marriages to wealthy husbands. Throughout the period, women lacked equal access to the law, education, or the workforce, and, unless women were independently...

Part 4. Women's Business

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10. "She'd give her two ears to know:" The Gossip Economy in Ellen Wood's St. Martin's Eve

Tara MacDonald

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pp. 179-192

In the above quotation, nineteenth-century author Catherine Gore bemoans the English public’s love of gossip, suggesting that what occurs in the privacy of Victorian households has overflowed into public journals and novels. The piece playfully chides the agents of gossip, but it is also an attempt, in the early years of the Victorian period, to come to ...

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11. Charlotte Riddell: Novelist of "The City"

Nancy Henry

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pp. 193-205

Canonical works of Victorian literature are critical of greed, corruption, and dishonesty in the Victorian business and financial world. Exposing these ills of capitalism is a hallmark of Victorian realist novels in particular, so that even while they uphold a middle-class, Protestant work ethic, they maintain a tone of disapprobation when describing or referring...

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12. A "Formidable" Business: British Women Travelers in the Colonial Medical Market

Narin Hassan

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pp. 206-218

Among its advice for proper clothing, meals, house furnishings, and the management of servants, the 1864 domestic guide The Englishwoman in India: Containing Information for the use of Ladies Proceeding to, or Residing in, the East Indies emphasizes the importance of a portable medical chest for successful travel. Suggesting that “for traveling...

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Afterword - And Forward: Economic Women in Their Time, Our Time, and the Future

Regenia Gagnier

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pp. 219-224

The theme of this volume, as stated by the editors in their introduction, recalls Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand, that “self-interested gain and mutual cooperation could be compatible; even as [women] pursued their own livelihoods, they also provided models for other women” (26). The volume begins with Economic Man as isolated individual Robinson...


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pp. 225-228


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pp. 229-238

Back Cover

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pp. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780814271193
E-ISBN-10: 0814271197
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814212363
Print-ISBN-10: 0814212360

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 5 line illustrations
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 870684347
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Economic Women