Library Dissertation Showcase

‘She is the civiliser, the purifier of life’: The extent of feminist and imperial ideology in the shaping of representations of women at the 1900 Woman’s Exhibition

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

This dissertation examines the representations of different races and classes of women at the 1900 Woman’s Exhibition at Earl’s Court, interrogating the extent to which the late nineteenth-century women’s movement and imperial ideology shaped these representations. This is the first study to consider the Woman’s Exhibition in depth and goes beyond considering it as a product of popular imperialism (though it certainly was), examining more closely the tensions that arose through adding a gendered element to the popular format of the Earl’s Court exhibitions. By virtue of examining its alignment with feminist values, this dissertation takes a women’s history approach, considering how women shaped the depictions on show, and, in discussing the representation of race, also draws upon post-colonial scholarship, considering the affirmation of British identity through the positioning of the colonial as an object of knowledge. It argues that the Woman’s Exhibition, as a commercial venture, secured its success through retaining its appeal to popular imperialism within the context of women’s work centred around the domestic space, using this as a means to highlight the white middle-class woman and her home as an ideal (in line with feminist thought) against which to measure the women of other nations.

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