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By Kristine Swenson

 

In Medical girls and Victorian Fiction, Kristine Swenson explores the cultural intersections of fiction, feminism, and medication in the course of the moment 1/2 the 19th century in Britain and her colonies by means of taking a look at the advanced and reciprocal dating among girls and medication in Victorian tradition. Her exam facilities round certain although similar figures: the Nightingale nurse and the hot girl surgeon. The clinical ladies within the fiction of Elizabeth Gaskell (Ruth), Wilkie Collins (The lady in White), Dr. Margaret Todd (Mona McLean, scientific Student), Hilda Gregg (Peace with Honour), and others are analyzed with regards to nonfictional discussions of nurses and girls medical professionals in scientific guides, nursing tracts, feminist histories, and newspapers.
Victorian anxieties over sexuality, illness, and ethical corruption got here jointly so much again and again round the determine of a prostitute. notwithstanding, Swenson takes as her concentration for this quantity an opposing determine, the clinical lady, whom Victorians deployed to wrestle those social ills. As symbols of conventional lady morality proficient and reworked by means of the hot social and scientific sciences, representations of scientific ladies prompted public debate surrounding women’s schooling and employment, the Contagious illnesses Acts, and the well-being of the empire.
At a similar time, the presence of those knowledgeable, self reliant girls, who bought money for acting projects characteristically assigned to household girls or servants, unavoidably altered the that means of womanhood and the positions of alternative girls in Victorian tradition. Swenson demanding situations extra traditional histories of the increase of the particular nurse and the lady healthcare professional through treating as both vital the improvement of cultural representations of those figures.

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Most important for Gaskell’s redemption plot, by her nursing Ruth is absolved of past sin in the eyes of the community, and the shame of Leonard’s illegitimacy is wiped away: “From that day forward Leonard walked erect in the streets of Eccleston, where ‘many arose and called her blessed’” (430). Just how embedded the purified Ruth is in a middle-class domestic ideology is revealed by Gaskell’s choice of Bible passage here. 29 In effect, the novel’s progressive social narrative is complete when Ruth is reintegrated into the Bensons’ domestic sphere after the epidemic is over: “Miss Benson would insist upon making Ruth lie down on the sofa.

H. Welch, Public Health in Theory and Practice, 27; Ackerknecht, “Anticontagionism,” 576; Rosenberg, “The Cause of Cholera: Aspects of Etiological Thought in Nineteenth-Century America,” 333–34. 22 Medical Women and Victorian Fiction Disease, and particularly fever, had long been associated with immorality. But anticontagionism asserted a direct causal link between the two: the “filth” of immorality not only generated fever, but “immoral” persons were predisposed to it; “moral” persons were largely immune to it and could treat it in others.

Rev. 23. Nightingale, “On Trained Nursing for the Sick Poor,” 312. 26 Medical Women and Victorian Fiction Benson is likewise “shocked” by the “want of moral courage” and the “overt act of guilt” of Bradshaw’s son Richard, who had forged Benson’s name on an insurance policy and embezzled its value (406, 411). Appropriately, though, Benson’s greatest wrath is reserved for Ruth’s seducer, Bellingham/Donne: “Men may call such actions as yours, youthful follies! There is another name for them with God,” he tells him, “I thank God, you have no right, legal or otherwise, over the child.

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