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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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By the Fireside: Margaret Oliphant’s Armchair Commentaries

By the Fireside: Margaret Oliphant’s Armchair Commentaries

(p.379) 23 By the Fireside: Margaret Oliphant’s Armchair Commentaries
Women, Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1830s-1900s

Valerie Sanders

Edinburgh University Press

In this essay, Valerie Sanders considers the spatial limitations imposed on female writers by male editors, specifically in relation to the late journalism of Margaret Oliphant. Sanders explores the gendered dynamics of women writers publishing work in the press without an accompanying, genuine signature. The ‘grey-haired woman by the fireside’ persona Oliphant assumed for her series in the St James’s Gazette and the Spectator served an emancipatory function in her final years as a journalist in the 1880s and 1890s (p. 391). Making the most of the ‘spatial freedom’ she earned after a long career writing for periodicals, Oliphant’s canny experiments with personae facilitate the expression of ‘idiosyncratic views in opinionated language,’ without danger of recrimination (p. 390). Yet Sanders is also careful to remind us that the professional perspicacity and freedom of voice demonstrated in these late columns come after five decades of writing for Blackwood’s without the security of a ‘formal and continuing contract for regular contributions’ (p. 379). For Oliphant, negotiating a space for her work in the masculine sphere of journalism was not without its difficulties, given that Victorian women rarely, if ever, had access to the press on the same terms as their male counterparts.

Keywords:   Margaret Oliphant, St James’s Gazette, Spectator, Fireside, Women’s spaces, Blackwood’s

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