This is a study of gender and power in Victorian Britain. It examines the contribution made by women to the public culture of the British aristocracy in the nineteenth century. It challenges the view that power and authority were predominantly masculine attributes and shows that a partnership of authority between men and women was integral to aristocratic life. The book is thus an important addition to the debate on `separate spheres'.
Dr Reynolds explores the roles of aristocratic women in estate management, patronage of churches and schools, and in caring for the poor and other dependants. She shows how women were at the heart of the local communities and institutions on which aristocratic power was based. The book goes on to discuss the realm of national politics, analysing women's participation in the electoral process, in Westminster-based political life, and at Queen Victoria's court.
Based on a wide range of previously unused archival sources, Aristocratic Women and Political Society presents a lively portrait of women's experiences and a corrective to the view of the upper-class Victorian woman as a passive social butterfly.
Acknowledgements ; Note on Names ; 1. 'The Lady at their Head': Women and the Landed Estates ; 2. 'The Business and Charities of the Parish': Churches, Schools, and Local Authority ; 3. 'Many to Take Care of': Charity, Philanthropy, and Paternalism ; 4. 'Aristocratical and Female Influence': Elections and Electioneering ; 5. 'Party' Politics: Metropolitan Political Society. ; 6. 'A Busy and Suspicious "Cabal" or "Head Housemaids"'? The Ladies of Queen Victoria's Household ; Conclusion ; Biographical Appendix ; Bibliography