The Odd Women

The Odd Women

by George Gissing
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The Odd Women by George Gissing

Five odd women - women without husbands - are the subject of this powerful novel, set in Victorian London, by a writer whose perceptions about people, particularly women, would be remarkable in any age and are extraordinary in the 1890s. The story concerns the choices that five different women have to make and what those choices imply about men's and women's status in society and relationship to each other.

Alice and Virginia Madden, suddenly left adrift by the death of their improvident father, must take grinding and humiliating "genteel" work. Terrified of sharing their fate, their younger sister Monica accepts a proposal of marriage from a man who gives her financial security but makes her life wretched.

Interwoven with their fortunes are Mary Barfoot and Rhoda Nunn, who are dedicating their lives to training young women in skills they can use to support themselves. Their broader aim is to help free both sexes from whatever distorts or depletes their humanity - including, if necessary, marriage. Into their lives comes Mary's engaging and forceful cousin Everard Barfoot, and as he and Rhoda become locked in an increasingly significant and passionate struggle, Rhoda finds out through the refining fire what "love" sometimes means and what it means to be true to herself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781495437090
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 02/05/2014
Pages: 310
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Arlene Young is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Manitoba. Since receiving her PhD from Cornell University she has published widely on British and American nineteenth-century fiction.

Table of Contents

A Note on the Text
George Gissing: A Brief Chronology

The Odd Women

Appendix A: Contemporary Reviews

  1. Glasgow Herald 20 April 1893
  2. Saturday Review 29 April 1893
  3. Athenaeum 27 May 1893
  4. Pall Mall Gazette 29 May 1893
  5. Nation (New York) 13 July 1893
  6. Illustrated London News (Clementia Black) 5 August 1893

Appendix B: Attitudes Towards Women and Marriage in Victorian Culture

  1. Sarah Ellis, from The Daughters of England (1842)
  2. Alfred Lord Tennyson, from The Princess (1847)
  3. Coventry Patmore, from The Angel in the House: “The Rose of the World” (1854)
  4. Thomas Henry Huxley, from “Emancipation—Black and White,” Reader (20 May 1865)
  5. John Ruskin, from “Of Queens’ Gardens,” in Sesame and Lilies (1865)
  6. John Stuart Mill, from The Subjection of Women (1869)
  7. Mona Caird, from “Marriage,” Westminster Review (1888)

Appendix C: Debate over the “Woman Question”

  1. Grant Allen, from “Plain Words on the Woman Question,” Fortnightly Review (October 1889)
  2. Bernard Shaw, from “The Womanly Woman,” The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891)
  3. Eliza Lynn Linton, from “The Wild Women: As Politicians,” Nineteenth Century (July 1891)
  4. Eliza Lynn Linton, from “The Wild Women: As Insurgents,” Nineteenth Century (October 1891)
  5. Mona Caird, “A Defense of the So-Called ‘Wild Women’,” Nineteenth Century (May 1891)
  6. From “Character Note: The New Woman” Cornhill Magazine (October 1894)
  7. Nat Arling, “What is the Role of the ‘New Woman?’” Westminster Review (November 1898)

Appendix D: Women and Paid Employment: The Limitations of Aspirations and the Actualities

  1. Charlotte Brontë, from Shirley (1849)
  2. From “The Disputed Question,” English Woman’s Journal (August 1858)
  3. Evelyn March Phillips, from “The Working Lady in London,” Fortnightly Review (August 1892)
  4. Clara Collet, from “The Employment of Women,” Report to the Royal Commission on Labour (1893)
  5. Frances H. Low, from “How Poor Ladies Live,” Nineteenth Century (March 1897)
  6. Eliza Orme, from “How Poor Ladies Live: A Reply,” Nineteenth Century (April 1897)

Appendix E: Conditions of Work for Men in the White-Collar Sector

  1. James Fitzjames Stephen, from “Gentlemen” Cornhill Magazine (March 1862)
  2. B.O. Orchard, from The Clerks of Liverpool (1871)
  3. Charles Edward Parsons, from Clerks: their Position and Advancement (1876)
  4. Thomas Sutherst, from Death and Disease Behind the Counter (1884)
  5. H.G. Wells, from Kipps (1905)
  6. H.G. Wells, from Experiment in Autobiography (1934)

Appendix F: Map of London (1892)

Selected Bibliography

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