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Title: The early feminists : radical Unitarians and the emergence of the women's rights movement, c.1831-1851
Author: Gleadle, Kathryn Jane
ISNI:       0000 0001 0830 164X
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1993
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This thesis redefines the origins of the nineteenth century women's rights campaigns in Britain. Contrary to the existing historiography, which argues that the Victorian feminist movement began in the 1850s, this thesis demonstrates that a vibrant feminist cadre actually existed during the 1830s and 1840s. Previously neglected, this remarkable community of writers, lawyers, artists and reformers established both the ideologies and personnel networks which were to determine the nature of the women's rights campaigns of the coming decades. The seeds of this early feminist movement must be sought within contemporary Unitarianlsm - a denomination whose Influence upon Victorian culture is shown to have been widely underestimated. The radical views on women and the woman question, promulgated by the Unitarian minister, William Johnson Fox and his associates in the 1830s, led to a bifurcation in the Unitarian movement. Fox and his circle began to develop the distinctive ideological creeds which, it is argued, distinguishes them sufficiently for a new term in Victorian radicalism to be coined - the "radical Unitarians". The radical Unitarians were an active, imaginative group who sought to transform Industrial society. Central to their visionary agenda lay the elevation of women's position. They embarked upon a number of campaigns:- to reform women's legal position; to secure female suffrage on the Chartist agenda; to tackle the problem of prostitution; and to launch a unique, feminist experiment in adult education. Originally a small and frequently maligned coterie, by the 1840s many radical unitarians were beginning to assume a more prominent position within contemporary culture. This, it is argued was a vital precondition to the growth of the wider feminist movement, and also sheds new light upon the role of progressive debates on women within early Victorian discourse.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: British Academy
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HQ The family. Marriage. Woman