WOMEN of VICTORIAN SUSSEX
Their Status, Occupations
and Dealings with the Law 1830~1870
"The research is meticulous."
"A beautiful and informative book."
"Scholarly and immensely readable."
"Gives the reader a real feel for how women lived."
"A fine reference book
worthy of a place on any historian’s book shelf."
"Not your average history book."
"Helena has a passion for accuracy and an eye for detail
that will keep the reader spellbound."
"Adds a new lustre to the re-discovered history of women."
"Reveals a forgotten world of daily struggles against appalling injustice – tragic, brave, stubborn, desperate and comic. It is an untold story of English society brought to life in vivid and shocking detail."
Helena Wojtczak examines the lives of women living in Sussex around the middle of the 19th century. The book explores their status, their work and their dealings with the law and by letting the facts speak for themselves builds up a devastating critique of a profoundly unjust and hypocritical society.
What makes this extraordinary book so enjoyable is the wealth of entertaining anecdotes which reveal the astonishing double standards of Victorian society. In fact on virtually every page the reader is delighted by a surprising piece of information, or a delightful way of illustrating it.
This book contains many tales of appalling conditions endured, of little lives lived bravely against all the odds. Perhaps aware that her material could become too harrowing for the reader, Miss Wojtczak is careful to keep the tone light. Sometimes this seems strained – a discussion of crinolines and bloomers appears unexpectedly after an examination of infant mortality – but on the whole it is the very resilience and ‘strong-mindedness’ of the women that provides the light relief.
If we had been given this to read at school, instead of the dry-as-dust textbooks that made every history lesson an opportunity for a nap, Britain would be full of keen amateur historians. For this is history at its best – a rich canvas swarming with life: surprising, fascinating, heart-warming and above all, very, very readable.
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Well researched, scholarly and immensely readable, it provides a vivid account of life lived by women in Sussex that is comprehensive and typical of the lives of women all over Britain in the nineteenth century.
It is also beautifully illustrated with pictures, press cuttings and advertisements which make the stories told so real and immediate.
This book is a classic and should be read by all those who have an interest in women and women's rights, since it provides a perfect background to modern studies.
The Rt. Hon Tony Benn
This book is not only for women readers. As a man I found it a fascinating insight into the lesser known areas of Victorian life and society which normal history books gloss over.
This is not your average history book as it manages to combine real and, in many ways, unique view of history with a good read, and even a few laughs.
Many and varied occupations are covered in some depth and they throw a fascinating light on both the role of women over many generations and their former subservience in a dominant male society.
The reader is able to truly understand the emergence of the women’s liberation movement and can only wonder that it took so long to surface.
A most useful and well-researched publication. The book is essential reading for those who wish to study early social conditions as part of their family or local history.
Bitterne Local History Society Magazine.
Helena has a passion for accuracy and an eye for detail that will keep the reader spellbound.
This is a fine reference book and worthy of a place on any historian’s book shelf.
The research is meticulous and presented in a way that is extremely easy to understand.
The author’s skilful use of contemporary newspaper reports makes this book compulsive reading for anyone with an interest in local and regional history.
This book deserves detailed study. Wojtczak fills her pages with real, live women, not always chaste and subordinate but often tough and resourceful and always interesting…
A delightful read as well as an informative one. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in family and women's history and women's role in commerce in the past.
Open History, the Magazine of the Open University History Department.