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Astrid Kulsdom

An Exception to the Rule: Ouida and the Woman Question


Not only an industrious novelist but also an avid contributor to several periodicals, Ouida (pseudonym of Louise de la Ramée, 1839-1908) wrote several essays on one of the main issues of the Victorian era: “The Woman Question”. “Female Suffrage”, published in September 1886 in the North American Review, “The New Woman” (1894), which she wrote in response to Sarah Grand’s “The New Aspect of the Woman Question”, and the posthumously published “The Woman Problem” (1909) all generated heated discussion and responses were often published in subsequent issues of the same periodical. Ouida’s hostile views on female suffrage and her aversion to the New Woman were obviously the topic of much debate, but this debate rarely focuses on the fact that Ouida shared many characteristics with the abhorred New Woman. An independent and opinionated woman who was not afraid to make herself be heard, Ouida never married, but befriended many influential men whom she invited to her salons in London and Florence. A survey of Ouida’s role in the Woman Question debate and a comparison of her literary identity and her personal life will provide a closer look at the (non-)conformity of Ouida’s life and work to contemporary values.

AsK, September 2012

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