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Charting the life and career of needlework instructor and periodical contributor Matilda Marian Pullan (1819-1862), this essay demonstrates the importance of examining Victorian women writers' professional trajectories in the context of their private lives. Biographical research reveals a profound disconnect between the middle-class discourse of domesticity and respectability that Pullan adopted in public and the unconventional circumstances, events, and choices that shaped her private life. Pressed to generate her own income, Pullan cleverly responded to the market demands of the mid-Victorian periodical press by becoming one of its most prolific contributors of needlework patterns. A quintessentially feminine accomplishment, needlework enabled Pullan to support herself through early widowhood, illegitimate birth, and spousal separation without losing her genteel status.