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Hidden Hands
Working-Class Women and Victorian Social-Problem Fiction

By Patricia E. Johnson

Tracing the Victorian crisis over the representation of working-class women to the 1842 Parliamentary bluebook on mines, with its controversial images of women at work, Hidden Hands argues that the female industrial worker became even more dangerous to represent than the prostitute or the male radical because she exposed crucial contradictions between the class and gender ideologies of the period and its economic realities.

Drawing on the recent work of feminist historians, Patricia Johnson lays the groundwork for a reinterpretation of Victorian social-problem fiction that highlights its treatment of issues that particularly affected working-class women: sexual harassment; the interconnections between domestic ideology and domestic violence; their relationships to male-dominated working-class movements such as Luddism, Chartism, and unionism; and their troubled connection to middle-class feminism.

Uncovering a series of images in Victorian fiction ranging from hot-tempered servants and sexually harassed factory girls to working-class homemakers pictured as beaten dogs, Hidden Hands demonstrates that representations of working-class women, however marginalized or incoherent, reveal the very contradictions they are constructed to hide and that the dynamics of these representations have broad implications both for other groups, such as middle-class women, and for the emergence of working-class women as writers themselves.

Patricia E. Johnson is an associate professor of literature and humanities at the Pennsylvania State University-Capital College at Harrisburg. Her articles on such authors as Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, and George Eliot have appeared in SEL, Mosaic, Studies in the Novel, and Victorians Institute Journal.

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Paperback
978-0-8214-1389-0
Retail price: $24.95, S.
Release date: September 2001
Rights:  World

Hardcover
978-0-8214-1388-3
Retail price: $55.00, S.
Release date: September 2001
233 pages
Rights:  World

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