Publication Details

Crozier-De Rosa, S. 2009, 'Marie Corelli's British new woman: A threat to empire?', The History of the Family, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 416-429.


At the height of the British Empire, England was in the midst of major social, economic and moral upheaval. The roles and status of middle-class women were particularly affected by many of these changes. In turn, as the gap between idealism and ‘reality’ grew, the validity or usefulness of Victorian notions or ideals of womanhood increasingly came under attack. Arising from this commotion was the figure of the late Victorian and Edwardian ‘New Woman.’ Her appearance provoked further confusion and ambiguity about gender that had repercussions for empire. This paper addresses the way in which the role of English women in sustaining the British Empire intensified the social pressures on them in the metropole. It examines the threat to nation and empire represented by the New Woman by looking at how she was presented to the rapidly growing general reading public at the end of the nineteenth- and beginning of the twentieth century. This is achieved by looking at the bestselling novels of Marie Corelli, a phenomenally popular turn-of-the-century author. Corelli's novels repeatedly affirm that the New Woman represented the threat of ‘modernity,’ that she was a danger to ‘civilisation’ and therefore to British imperialism. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



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