Giving Women: Alliance and Exchange in Victorian Culture

Paperback | January 16, 2014

byJill Rappoport

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Altruism and self-assertiveness went hand in hand for Victorian women. During a period when most lacked property rights and professional opportunities, gift transactions allowed them to enter into economic negotiations of power as volatile and potentially profitable as those within the marketsystems that so frequently excluded or exploited them. They made presents of holiday books and homemade jams, transformed inheritances into intimate and aggressive bequests, and, in both prose and practice, offered up their own bodies in sacrifice. Far more than selfless acts of charity or suresigns of their suitability for marriage, such gifts radically reconstructed women's personal relationships and public activism in the nineteenth century.Giving Women examines the literary expression and cultural consequences of English women's giving from the 1820s to the First World War. Attending to the dynamic action and reaction of gift exchange in fiction and poetry by Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Elizabeth Gaskell, andChristina Rossetti as well as in literary annuals, Salvation Army periodicals, and political pamphlets, Rappoport demonstrates how female authors and fictional protagonists alike mobilized networks outside of marriage and the market. Through giving, women redefined the primary allegiances of theireveryday lives, forged public coalitions, and advanced campaigns for abolition, slum reform, eugenics, and suffrage.

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Altruism and self-assertiveness went hand in hand for Victorian women. During a period when most lacked property rights and professional opportunities, gift transactions allowed them to enter into economic negotiations of power as volatile and potentially profitable as those within the marketsystems that so frequently excluded or explo...

Jill Rappoport is Associate Professor of English at the University of Kentucky.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.68 inPublished:January 16, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019936494X

ISBN - 13:9780199364947

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Table of Contents

IntroductionI. Women GivingII. Gifts of WritingIII. Organization of the BookPart I: Balanced Accounts1. Literary OfferingsI. Benevolent Books, Receptive ReadersII. Gifts of FreedomIII. Alliance and Exchange2. Fictions of Reciprocity in Jane Eyre and Aurora LeighI. Jane's InheritanceII. "An[other] Undowered Orphan"III. Blind Economies3. Conservation in Cranford: Sympathy, Secrets, and the First Law of ThermodynamicsI. The Science of GivingII. Secrets in CirculationPart II: Much Obliged4. The Price of Redemption in "Goblin Market"I. Sisterhood "Beyond the Reach of Any Remuneration"II. Lizzie's Silver PennyIII. The Safest Investments5. Service and Savings in the SlumsI. "Lower Still": Sacrifice and Sistering the SlumsII. Cupboards, Chairs, and ConversionIII. "Coming Down" in order to Rise Up: Risk and AssetIV. Writing the Slums6. The Give and Take of "New-Woman" EguenicsI. Consuming Women, Selfish MothersII. Bio-AltruismIII. The Sacrifice of MotherhoodEPILOGUE Homemade Jams and Militant Martyrs: Politics of Generosity in Campaigns for Women's SuffrageI. Appealing for the VoteII. Dying for the VoteIII. A Politics of GenerosityWorks Cited