Amazons, Science And Common Sense: The Rule of Women in Elizabeth Corbett’s New Amazonia

Issue: Vol 5, No 1: Summer 2013
Pages: 65-81
Author(s): Christina Lake (University of Exeter)
Citation: http://www.victoriannetwork.org/index.php/vn/article/view/46

Abstract

Elizabeth Corbett’s New Amazonia: A Foretaste of the Future (1889) imagines what the late-Victorian world would look like if it were run by women. Inspired by the Women’s Penny Paper, a pro-suffrage journal devoted to showcasing women’s writing and interests, Corbett used utopian fiction to explore an alternative to the patriarchal values of Victorian England. The women of New Amazonia live in a future Ireland where their freedom from restrictive clothing and other limitations imposed on women has turned them into seven-foot-tall athletic goddesses. The highest posts in the all-female government are reserved for a cadre of celibate women and reproduction is controlled through Malthusian measures and eugenics. Corbett sees a combination of science and common sense as being the key to the health and prosperity of the New Amazonians. In this study I will explore the appeal of scientific progress to late Victorian feminists, and the role of science in shaping hopes for an improved society. I will argue that rather than being a utopian dream, Corbett’s vision for an alternative Ireland was grounded in her experiences as a wage-earner and suffrage campaigner, and in her involvement in the alternative women’s subculture built up around the Women’s Penny Paper.



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