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Women, Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1830s-1900sThe Victorian Period$
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Alexis Easley, Clare Gill, and Beth Rodgers

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474433907

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474433907.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 01 December 2020

‘Welcome and Appeal for the “Maid of Dundee”’: Constructing the Female Working-Class Bard in Ellen Johnston’s Correspondence Poetry, 1862–1867

‘Welcome and Appeal for the “Maid of Dundee”’: Constructing the Female Working-Class Bard in Ellen Johnston’s Correspondence Poetry, 1862–1867

Chapter:
(p.153) 10 ‘Welcome and Appeal for the “Maid of Dundee”’: Constructing the Female Working-Class Bard in Ellen Johnston’s Correspondence Poetry, 1862–1867
Source:
Women, Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1830s-1900s
Author(s):

Suz Garrard

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474433907.003.0011

This chapter explores the significant role of the press in the cultivation of class-based networks of female readers. The essay takes for its focus the Scottish poet Ellen Johnston’s (c.1830–74) ‘conversations in verse,’ conducted with her working-class correspondents within the letters page of a Glasgow newspaper, the Penny Post (153). Writing under the pseudonym ‘The Factory Girl,’ Johnston was in fact a woman writing in her late twenties and thirties, which once again indicates the malleability of ‘the girl’ as a site of identification for female authors and readers alike. The poetic exchanges between ‘The Factory Girl’ and her working-class female correspondents demonstrate the radical potential of the letters page. As a space co-opted by female readers and writers for the development of ‘their own system of writing and mentoring,’ the letters page is here shown to have destabilised the ‘material and social limitations of class by enabling conversations between marginalised authors that would not have otherwise occurred’ (158-59). These intimate poetic exchanges in the public space of the newspaper are read as a political intervention through which women sought to ‘achieve upward social and cultural–if not economic–mobility’ (154).

Keywords:   Ellen Johnston, poetry, Penny Post, Scottish newspapers, social class, correspondence columns

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