Negotiating Victorian Feminism: Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s Short Fiction

Manuela MourãoOld Dominion University
Vol. 20, No. 1 (Spring 2001), 57-75

This essay helps correct the neglect of Anne Thackeray Ritchie’s nonfictional and fictional representations of women in favor of her introductions to books by her father, William Makepeace Thackeray, and her short lives of male writers. Ritchie never openly embraced a feminist identity, but this essay analyzes Ritchie’s cautious critiques of and attempts to erode Victorian ideologies of marriage and domesticity in her short fiction of the 1860s and 1880s. Ritchie explores alternatives to traditional Victorian realism so as to diffuse her indictment of Victorian ideologies of marriage and thus avoid the appearance of strong opposition. Interestingly, this essay uncovers in Ritchie some anticipatory modernist methods that enable precisely the indirection essential for Ritchie to negotiate her dual position within Victorian culture. Focusing on how Ritchie uses her short fiction of the 1880s to revisit situations and themes in her stories of the 1860s, this article claims that Ritchie systematically chose subtler critiques that allowed her to negotiate between a strong feminist stance and the Victorian gender ideologies to which she was expected to conform.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]