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‘ABSOLUTE AND LEGITIMATE NECESSITIES’: FEMALE QUAKER READERS IN YORK, C. 1885-1925

Shaw, Sarah R (2013) ‘ABSOLUTE AND LEGITIMATE NECESSITIES’: FEMALE QUAKER READERS IN YORK, C. 1885-1925. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

ABSTRACT This thesis focuses on communities of female Quaker readers in York c.1885-c.1925, and makes three interrelated arguments. In a corrective to current historiography on late-Victorian and Edwardian Quakerism – which tends to concentrate on Friends’ entrepreneurial activities, politics, reform work, and social activism – the thesis reveals that engaging with artistic culture, and more specifically literature, was an important component of the belief, identity and practice of turn-of-the-century Quakers. In so doing, the thesis challenges Marxist accounts of the rise of literary studies by demonstrating that literature came to complement rather than replace religion in late-Victorian and Edwardian society. Focussing on the reading practices of female Friends, the thesis also contends that in an era prior to female enfranchisement reading was a significant means by which women cultivated a sense of citizenship. The introduction situates York’s female Quaker readers within the context of Quaker historiography, gender theory, and reader history, and shows how the assembled archival material can be used to develop, and problematise, these broader narratives. The subsequent chapters explore the relationship between reading, education and citizenship at the Mount School, with particular relation to the school diaries of Hannah Hodgkinson (1869-1958) and Gertrude Nicholson (1869-1955); reveal how the work of the neglected educationalist and literary critic Lucy Harrison (1844-1915) positions Quaker readers at the centre, rather than the margins, of the national cultural imagination; and details how the minute books of York Friends’ Sewing Meeting (1906-1927) demonstrate the ways in which private reading practices feed into public philanthropic and political activities. The thesis maintains that the practice of reading what is termed ‘imaginative literature’ performed an important social function for York’s female Quaker community, enabling female Friends to develop collective forms of belief and identity through which Quaker women might become integrated and prominent members of society.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Mrs. Sarah R Shaw
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2013 09:37
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2016 01:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4660

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