In this Book

The Ohio State University Press
summary
Appealing to audiences interested in the histories of medicine, women, gender, labor, and social policy, Beyond the Reproductive Body examines women’s health in relation to work in early Victorian England. Government officials and reformers investigating the laboring population became convinced that the female body would be ruined by gainful employment, making women incapable of reproducing a healthy labor force. Women’s work was thus framed as a public health “problem.” Poor women were caught between the contradictory expectations of the reproductive body, which supposedly precluded any but domestic labor, and the able body, which dictated that all poor but healthy people must work to stay independent of state assistance. Medical case narratives of female patients show that while official pronouncements emphasized the physical limitations of the female reproductive body, poor women adopted an able-bodied norm. Beyond the Reproductive Body demonstrates the centrality of gender and the body in the formation of Victorian policies concerning employment, public health, and welfare. Focusing on poor women, it challenges historians’ customary presentations of Victorian women’s delicate health. The medical case narratives give voices to poor women, who have left very few written records of their own.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright age, Dedication
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  1. Table of Contents
  2. p. viii
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. p. ix
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 1-12
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  1. Part 1. Contested Body Politics: Women, Health, and Social Reform in the 1830s and 1840s
  2. pp. 13-16
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  1. 1. The Reproductive Body, Part I: Women's Work and the Biology of Reproduction
  2. pp. 17-35
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  1. 2. The Reproductive Body, Part II: The Tasks of Social Representation
  2. pp. 36-56
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  1. 3. Gender, the Poor Law, and the Ambiguity of the Able-Bodied Worker
  2. pp. 57-72
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  1. Part 2. Living in the Body: Women's Experiences of Health and Illness
  2. pp. 73-76
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  1. 4. The Evidence of the Body: Poor Women and Medical Cultures
  2. pp. 77-95
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  1. 5. Testing the Reproductive Hypothesis: Women's Illnesses, the Environment, and Menstruation
  2. pp. 96-117
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  1. 6. Health and the Material Conditions of Home: Sanitation, Poverty, and Domesticity
  2. pp. 118-130
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  1. 7. "Rather a Hard Life": Domestic Relationships and Health at Home
  2. pp. 131-149
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  1. 8. "She Continued at Her Work": Negotiating Employment and Health
  2. pp. 150-175
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  1. Conclusion: The Politics of Women's Health and Work
  2. pp. 176-184
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 185-227
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  1. Select Bibliography
  2. pp. 228-246
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 247-256
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