Selections from Their Autobiographies

Examines extracts from the autobiographies of fifty-two nineteenth-century British women from across the social spectrum and their attitudes towards liminal female experiences.


“What we believe we know about iconic, real, and imagined Victorian women—Jane Eyre, Becky Sharpe, Dorothea Brooke, Claire Claremont, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Harriet Martineau, Margot Asquith, even Queen Victoria herself—is variously corroborated, corrected, critiqued, overturned, and given new life in a splendid collection of women’s texts.” – Prof. Gina Luria Walker, The New School

“This collection of life writings by fifty-two women of the Victorian period in Britain, assembled by author Abigail Burnham Bloom, is engaging, rich and varied. The volume opens with Dr. Bloom’s astute introduction addressing the inherent paradox of women, trained to be selfless, nevertheless writing about themselves. To navigate this apparent contradiction, the writers represented here developed forms and strategies that necessarily both reveal and conceal. Dr. Bloom examines the wide variety of strategies used by women in the long nineteenth century that allowed them to conform to some degree to the expectation that they redirect the reader’s gaze away from themselves. Few if any rebel against that taboo—that move was left to us in the 20th century. But as we read we see that each of these women left something of herself that allows us to observe an emotional truth about her as an individual, or to understand how others lived in other times, or to see our own lives and times better.” - Prof. Sandra Marie Donaldson, University of North Dakota

“Bloom’s collection of excerpts is distinguished by its breadth, depth, and variety. She has carefully and thoughtfully sifted through a large number of works in order to choose sections—most quite substantial in length—that best exemplify her selected themes, which include life stages (e.g. childhood, education) as well as topics (friendship, career, travel). Even those well acquainted with Victorian women authors will discover new voices here, in addition to familiar figures such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Harriet Martineau.” - Prof. Juliette Wells, Manhattanville College

Table of Contents

Preface by Gina Luria Walker
Introduction: Victorian Women’s Lives Revealed and Concealed
1. Childhood
2. Youth
3. Education
4. Coming Out
5. Marriage
6. Career
7. Family
8. Friendship
9. Religion
10. Travel