Independent women in public life in Salisbury in the second half of the nineteenth century

Howells, Jane Elizabeth. 2007. Independent women in public life in Salisbury in the second half of the nineteenth century. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines the presence of independent women in the public life of a provincial cathedral city during the second half of the nineteenth century. In Victorian Salisbury women were running enterprises, promoting education for girls, applying publicly for employment, voting in municipal elections, and were participants in philanthropic and social organisations. They were members of the commercial and professional classes, and were a visible part of the life of the city.

After an introduction, the 1852 local exhibition provides a framework for the economic, social, political and cultural characteristics of Salisbury. Spinsters, wives and widows were engaged in retail and other businesses. Most, though not all, were occupied in traditional 'female trades' but even so they established a public presence in the economy. Caring professions became an employment option, and women's roles within institutions such as schools and the Infirmary are investigated. Women who did not need to earn became involved in philanthropy, and also enjoyed pastimes that took them out of their homes. Some women expressed their independence in the political arena. In Salisbury this was done slowly and cautiously, but by the early 20th century women were elected poor law guardians, and were actively debating the issues surrounding women's suffrage.

Census enumerators' books, the local newspaper, trade directories, and municipal and institutional records, with occasional personal and business material, are the sources used. Similar ones are available and accessible for other places; this work provides an exemplar from which to build a picture of English provincial society. The wives, widows, sisters and daughters of Victorian Salisbury were ordinary women; displaying the rich tapestry of their lives makes a significant contribution to local history scholarship.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Victorian Salisbury, gender, class

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Date Deposited:

07 Jul 2020 14:48

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 14:34


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