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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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Gender, Anonymity, and Humour in Women’s Writing for Punch

Gender, Anonymity, and Humour in Women’s Writing for Punch

(p.351) 21 Gender, Anonymity, and Humour in Women’s Writing for Punch
Women, Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1830s-1900s

Katy Birch

Edinburgh University Press

Where existing scholarship on anonymity tends to focus on its liberating effects for women who wrote on ‘serious’ (masculine) subject matter, in this essay Katy Birch considers the transgressive possibilities that the obfuscation of identity created for female humourists. The female contributors to Punch (1841–2002) discussed in this essay are shown to have harnessed the practice of anonymity in order to circumvent the gendered dictates of comic journalism. In the contributions of May Kendall (1861–1943), for example, we see the deconstruction of the masculine triptych of science, humour, and brotherhood through the strategic deployment of anonymity, which accorded Kendall and other female humourists the authority to move beyond the social limitations imposed on them by their gender. Yet as Birch cautions, women writers’ use of the anonymous voice ultimately both imprisoned and emancipated them, not only in the sense that the practice ‘prevented these writers from receiving recognition for their work’ but also because anonymity did nothing ‘to combat the societal prejudice against female-authored comedy’ (p. 362).

Keywords:   Anonymity, Female humourists, Comic journalism, Punch, May Kendall, Science

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