- Daughters of the Anglican Clergy: Religion, Gender and Identity in Victorian England by Midori Yamaguchi
As a group, the daughters of nineteenth-century clergymen have been overlooked by historians in favor of other—presumably more interesting or accomplished—groups [End Page 177] of women, such as suffragettes and members of religious orders. However, Midori Yamaguchi’s well researched and well written Daughters of the Anglican Clergy: Religion, Gender and Identity in Victorian England renders the previous invisibility of these women surprising. Considering them as a group reveals them to have been talented, productive women whose lives were affected by important societal trends, including the feminization of religion, the economic challenges of the latter decades of the nineteenth century, the growth of higher education for women, and, finally, the gradual decline of religiosity. While we know of famous individuals who were clerical daughters (including Jane Austen, Emily Davies, Eliza Lynn Linton, the Brontës, and Edith Cavell), we do not necessarily think of them as clerical daughters or understand how growing up in a parsonage shaped their lives and opportunities. Yamaguchi’s important contribution to the study of gender and religion is to show the significance of this shared experience for a group of women who, whether remembered or not, made important contributions to their communities and sometimes also to the larger world.
The book is divided into three main parts that follow the trajectory of a woman’s life. Part I, “To be Born in the ‘Religious Family Enterprise’,” focuses on childhood in a parsonage. Yamaguchi uses primary sources—including personal accounts, caricatures, and floor plans for parsonages—to show how the parsonage evolved, by the middle of the nineteenth century, from a humble private dwelling to a more substantial building, part of which was expected to be accessible to the parishioners. At the same time, the clergyman’s family took on a more public role, as the members were to demonstrate the holiness of matrimony and family life (especially against Catholic celibacy) and to perform charity work in the parish. Part II, “Her Father’s Flock: Clergy Daughters as Young Ladies,” discusses the work that young adulthood brought to clerical daughters once they had been confirmed and come out to society around the age of seventeen. At this point, their charitable work became more significant, and they were also expected to demonstrate skills needed by polite society, including the ability to entertain visitors with music and conversation. Here, the disparity between sons and daughters became even more apparent, as boys were commonly sent to boarding school and university, while their sisters were expected to remain at home to help with parish work. Part III, “The Clergy Daughters’ Mission,” focuses on the choices women made in adulthood, including the pursuit of paid or unpaid work and the choice between marriage or a single life. Here, the training provided by the experience of growing up in a clerical family is obvious in the multiple paths a woman could choose. A large percentage of clerical daughters married clergymen and continued to do the parish work they had been trained to do. Parish work was also an option for their unmarried sisters, who could live with a male clerical relative such as a brother or nephew. Others joined an Anglican sisterhood, did missionary work, or became teachers and writers. Perhaps because of their experience being denied the university education their brothers received, a significant number became involved in higher education for women, while others became scholars, scientists, nurses, or actresses—all careers for which their upbringing had prepared them. Part IV, “Coda,” is a study of two clerical families, the Bramston and Luard families, who were joined by marriage in 1860. The detailed account of the experiences of these families, and especially the daughters, shows in microcosm the themes developed in the book. [End Page 178]
Throughout this carefully expressed description of the lives of clerical daughters, Yamaguchi frequently cites individual experiences as...