Villains, Victims, and Violets: Agency and Feminism in the Original Sherlock Holmes Canon

Villains, Victims, and Violets: Agency and Feminism in the Original Sherlock Holmes Canon

by Resa Haile, Tamara R. Bower


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Modern writers have reconsidered every subject under the sun through the lens of Sherlock Holmes. The overlooked subject is agency: the opportunities available to these women for independence and control. What we find all too often are the silences around them. And yet, these clients--villains, victims, and Violets--are pivotal in the world of Sherlock Holmes.

Perhaps more enigmatic than Holmes’ methods is what Watson sees: the woman in the shadows. Whether lady or lady’s maid, if she does speak, it’s often not recorded in her words. That was life for half the population of Victorian England. A woman’s role was written before she was born; it merely required her to don the starched white apron of a maid, or the rough, stained skirts of a "char"--who did the dirtiest of household jobs—or the fine silk gowns of a lady.

Enter Villains, Victims, and Violets to spy and report on these women in their darkest, most vulnerable moments. How does Irene Adler—pursued by a powerful king, and by Sherlock Holmes--outwit them both? Can Lady Hilda conceal the secret that only Holmes unravels? When Violet Hunter takes the last job offered before she loses everything, can Holmes free her and her doppelganger?

To understand Holmes’ world is to gaze unsparingly into the lives of its women: the villains and what drives them astray; the victims Holmes races to rescue; and the Violets, who make up the strongest characters from Holmes’ unforgettable cases. The authors pull back the curtain on their private spaces, revealing their "proper" place in a man’s world at the dusk of the 19th century and the dawn of the 20th.

Foreword by Nisi Shawl, noted Sherlockian and the James Tiptree Jr. Award-winning and Nebula-nominated author of the brilliant steampunk, feminist, Afrofuturist novel Everfair.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781627347266
Publication date: 09/15/2019
Series: A Studious Scarlets Society Anthology
Pages: 338
Sales rank: 352,152
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Resa Haile is a writer and an editor, and is the author of numerous Sherlockian essays, included in the About Sixty series and other publications. She has also had her poetry published in a number of journals.

Tamara R. Bower is an editor, a journalist, and an author whose essay about the amity of Holmes and Watson in "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" was included in the Sherlockian anthology, About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story is the Best.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Nisi Shawl ix

Introduction by Tamara R. Bower and Resa Haile xiii

I. Are Women Persons in the Victorian Era?

Unable to Save Herself: An Examination of Women as

Persons in Three Stories of the Sherlock Holmes Canon 3

Vicki Delany

Laura Lyons: Hounded by Victorian Ideals 13

Nicole Givens Kurtz

“Ladies’ Fancies Must Be Consulted”: The Women of

“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” 19

Resa Haile

“She Blessed the Hand”: The Case of the Defiant Daughter 29

Sonia Fetherston

Mary Morstan: The Victim Who Refuses 35

Michelle Birkby

A Powerful Victim: Mrs. Ferguson in “The Adventure of

the Sussex Vampire” 43

Lucy Blue

Never Knock Opportunity: Motive, Means, and Opportunity

in “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual” 49

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

The Bird Escaped: Myth in The Hound of the Baskervilles 55

Molly Carr

Mary Sutherland Under Sail 63

Leah Guinn

II. Examining Female Characters’ Need and Capacity

for Subterfuge

“A Matter of Love and Trust”: Subterfuge as Self-Defense

Among Women of the Canon 71

Jaime N. Mahoney

Thor Bridge in Gaslight: The Education of Miss Grace Dunbar 77

Leah Guinn

In Which Effie Munro Fulfills Her Own Prophecy 83

Emma Jane Holloway

Marriage à la Mode: The Adventure of the Bolting Bride 93

Diane Gilbert Madsen

“In a World of Foxes”: The Double Disappearance of Lady

Frances Carfax 105

Liz Hedgecock

More Than What He Made Her: Kitty Winter and the Rise of

the Fallen Woman in “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client” 119

Beth L. Gallego

“A Benevolent or Malevolent Agency”: Beryl Stapleton and

Laura Lyons in The Hound of the Baskervilles 129

Tracy J. Revels

III. An Interlude

Lady Hilda Revealed : A Retelling of “The Adventure

of the Second Stain” 141

Bonnie MacBird

IV. Restrictions and Allowances for Women in the

Most Important Matters: Love and Marriage

“I Am Not the Law”: Limits and Expansions for Women’s

Agency in the Sherlock Holmes Canon 161

Sylvia Kelso

Transgressions: Scandal in the Canon 173

Liese Sherwood-Fabre

The Accidental Murderess: Not Quite a Person,

Not Quite a Killer 183

Tamara R. Bower

“The Lady Was a Charming Correspondent”: Chivalry,

Cigars, and the Avenging Angel of “The Adventure of

Charles Augustus Milverton” 195

Mary Platt

Unapologetically Powerful: The Woman 209

Angela Misri

The Deadly Love of Maria Gibson 219

Jayantika Ganguly

Flora Millar: Precepts and Assumptions of the Danseuse 229

Abbey Pen Baker

The Veiled Detective 235

Michelle Birkby

Still Waters Run Deviant: The Scheming Librarian 243

Liese Sherwood-Fabre

V. An Examination of Women’s Ability for Choice

and Control in Crisis

A Canonical Lady’s Guide to Defense Against

Abuse and Blackmail 253

Katie Magnusson

Violet Smith: Almost the Heroine She Deserved to Be 259

Jennifer Petkus

Walking After You: Female Agency and the Male Gaze

in the Sherlock Holmes Stories 267

Hannah Drew

Betraying the Sisterhood: The Women of Thor Bridge 275

Geri Schear

A Winter’s Tale: How Kitty Winter Transcends the Stereotype

of a Wronged Woman to Become a Heroic Avenger 285

Charlotte Anne Walters

The Woman Who Beat Him: The Maid, the Governess,

or the Landlady 293

Amy Thomas

Bibliography 305

Index 311

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