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May SinclairRe-Thinking Bodies and Minds$
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Rebecca Bowler and Claire Drewery

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474415750

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474415750.001.0001

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Dolls and Dead Babies: Victorian Motherhood in May Sinclair’s Life and Death of Harriett Frean

Dolls and Dead Babies: Victorian Motherhood in May Sinclair’s Life and Death of Harriett Frean

Chapter:
(p.156) Chapter 8 Dolls and Dead Babies: Victorian Motherhood in May Sinclair’s Life and Death of Harriett Frean
Source:
May Sinclair
Author(s):

Charlotte Beyer

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474415750.003.0009

This chapter examines representations of mothering, class, and maternal affect in May Sinclair’s 1922 novel Life and Death in Harriett Frean, paying particular attention to the critique of social constructions of motherhood articulated in the novel. The discussion focuses specifically on social and cultural constructions of femininity and class and the portrayal in Sinclair’s novel of mothering practices and the (in)visibility of maternal figures. As part of my investigation of Sinclair’s critique of the social construction of motherhood, I examine her portrayal of the maternal in relation to class and marital status. Here, my chapter focuses on what I see as Sinclair’s couched portrayal of the controversial practice of baby-farming. I argue that baby farming is implicitly referred to in Sinclair’s Life and Death of Harriett Frean, through the figure of Harriett’s maid, Maggie, and the fate of her baby born outside wedlock. My chapter demonstrates that Sinclair’s portrayal of this topic foregrounds the hypocrisy at the heart of Victorian constructions of femininity and motherhood, and forms a central part of her critique of class and social inequality for women.

Keywords:   motherhood, babies, baby farming, maternity, women, maternal

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