chapter  2
8 Pages

The subject of Woman

These debates concerned women's legal status and rights, particularly within marriage; women's role within the family; and their wider social role - their participation in the world of work and public affairs, and their place in a gradually developing democracy. The debates on the Woman Question (or the Woman Problem) were instigated and orchestrated by the demands made by, or on behalf of, women for the widening of their sphere, and by resistance to those demands. All shades of opinion supported their case by appeals to a particular definition of 'woman' or 'womanliness'. This definition was extremely fiercely contested in the decades upon which this study focuses, and in succeeding sections I shall look at the women's sensation novel and the New Woman fiction in relation to two distinct moments of articulation of this contest.