Utopian visions of evolution and race in feminist fiction and activism: some preliminary reflections on Catherine Spence, Henrietta Dugdale and other late nineteenth-century Australian writers
Building on international scholarship that has demonstrated the importance of utopian fiction within early western feminism, this article presents some preliminary reflections on the first two feminist utopian novels published in Australia, Henrietta Dugdale’s A Few Hours in a Far-off Age (1883) and Catherine Spence’s A Week in the Future (1888-9). While these novels are relatively well known as significant early feminist texts, they have not been the subject of any focussed scholarly analysis. Closer reading reveals that the feminist futures presented in these works were fundamentally based in evolutionary and proto-eugenic theories. Paradoxically, then, these visions relied on biological determinism. They also reflected a racially exclusive worldview. When situated alongside other feminist non-fictional writing and activism, these texts are thus particularly suggestive in terms of understanding how ‘race’ operated within Australian feminist thought and activism in this period.
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