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Mrs Grundy's rebellion: Margaret Oliphant between orthodoxy and the new woman

Heilmann, Ann ORCID: 1999. Mrs Grundy's rebellion: Margaret Oliphant between orthodoxy and the new woman. Women’s Writing 6 (2) , pp. 215-237. 10.1080/09699089900200064

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Known for her strong opinions on Thomas Hardy's writings and her condemnation of what she dubbed the “Anti-Marriage League” among turn-of-the-century writers, Margaret Oliphant seems more of a reincarnation of Mrs Grundy than a hesitant women's advocate. Yet although she came down on the side of establishment morality, some of her later nineteenth-century newspaper articles and especially her fiction, with its strong central female characters, challenge Victorian sex-role stereotypes and suggest that Oliphant occupied an ambiguous, fluid position. Exceptional for women of her time in terms of her earning power and phenomenal writing output, Oliphant was unusual, too, in that she maintained, single-handedly, a steady string of children, relatives and male adults. In her ambivalent and shifting position on women's rights she could be seen as a representative of the older generation of “respectable” Victorian middle-class women who, as a result of personal experience, became more sympathetic to some of the aims of the women's movement as the century came to a close, while clinging to the strict moral code of an earlier age and remaining firmly opposed to the sexual liberalism of the fin de siècle.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
ISSN: 0969-9082
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2022 10:33

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