1st Edition

Model Women of the Press Gender, Politics and Women’s Professional Journalism, 1850–1880

By Teja Varma Pusapati Copyright 2024
    270 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book offers the first extended account of the mid-century rise of ‘model women of the press’: women who not only stormed the male bastions of social and political journalism but also presented themselves as upholders of the highest standards of professional journalistic practice. They broke the codes of anonymity in several ways, including signing articles in their own names and developing distinctly female personae. They proved, by example, women’s fitness for conventionally masculine lines of journalism. By placing Victorian women’s serious, high-minded journalism firmly within the context of ‘the widening sphere’ of female professions in mid-nineteenth-century England, the book shows how a wide range of women writers, including leading Victorian feminists and female reformers, contributed to the professionalization of women’s authorship. Drawing on extensive archival research and close analysis of a wide range of printed texts, from Victorian newspapers and periodicals to autobiographies, memoirs, and fiction, this book elucidates several aspects of Victorian women’s journalism that have been previously ignored: the market interest of the feminist English Woman’s Journal; the ability of women like Eliza Meteyard and Frances Power Cobbe to write consistently on serious social and political issues in mainstream periodicals; Harriet Ward’s astonishing reportage from the war fields of South Africa; and Harriet Martineau’s reports on Famine-devastated Ireland and her role as a transatlantic commentator on American abolitionism. The study also offers the first focused account of the figure of the female professional journalist in Victorian novels, showing how these texts move away from the dominant myth of the author as a solitary genius to present the female journalist as a collaborator who adapts her writing to fit various newspapers and periodicals, and works closely with male editors and peers. In examining the rise of the Victorian woman writer as a serious social and political journalist, this book adds to current critical understanding of female political expression, authorial agency, and cultural authority in nineteenth-century England.

    List of Figures

    List of abbreviations

    Note on References






    1     Feminist and Professional: The English Woman’s Journal                                             


    2     Living on Political Journalism: The Early Careers of Eliza Meteyard and Frances Power Cobbe


    3     Writing from the Field: The Female Foreign Correspondent                                         


    4     Writing Women: Fictional Representations of the Female Journalist                            


    5     Conclusion                                                                                                                      






    Teja Varma Pusapati is an Associate Professor of English at Shiv Nadar Institution of Eminence, India. Her articles have appeared in Victorian Periodicals Review, Women’s Writing, and Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies.

    This work makes an immense contribution to the growing body of sophisticated work on Victorian journalism. Focusing on the rise of the female journalist as a significant social and political commentator, Pusapati explores the various practices and strategies employed by women writers to facilitate this development. Backed by extensive archival research, the book offers fascinating case studies of various authors, from well-known figures such as Harriet Martineau and Frances Power Cobbe, to little-known writers such as Elizabeth Meteyard and Harriet Ward. Ranging across diverse periodical forms, from the explicitly feminist English Woman’s Journal to the United Services Magazine where Harriet Ward filed her reports of colonial warfare, the book brings a wonderfully fresh eye to bear on Victorian journalism more generally, and on the ways in which women carved out significant roles for themselves within this male-dominated world.

    -Sally Shuttleworth, University of Oxford, UK

    In this brilliant study, Pusapati draws upon extensive archival research to illuminate the history of women’s social and political journalism from the 1850s to the 1880s. In the process, she sheds fresh light on the pioneering careers of familiar writers such as Harriet Martineau as well as lesser known authors such as Eliza Meteyard and Harriet Ward. Pusapati's study is also notable for its ground-breaking exploration of women's roles as feminist journalists, mainstream political journalists, and foreign correspondents. Her book is required reading for anyone interested in the history of authorship and Victorian women's writing.

    -Alexis Easley, University of St.Thomas, USA

    In this important book, Pusapati persuasively reorients understandings of nineteenth-century British political writings through her sustained attention to the work of largely understudied women political journalists, ‘model presswomen’ operating across a variety of press formats and press modes. Pusapati insists on reading this work as ‘journalism’, anonymous, pseudonymous, and signed, and deftly navigates these differently constructed writerly positions to show how women developed agency and cultural authority through the press. This is a significant scholarly study that situates serious-minded, politically motivated, professional women writers in longer histories of political journalism and the evolution of nineteenth-century authorship. It will be of particular interest to anybody working on social and media history, gender, and the nineteenth-century periodical and newspaper press.

    -Fionnuala Dillane, University College Dublin, Ireland