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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 1999
  • Online publication date: March 2010

12 - Shot out of the canon: Mary Ward and the claims of conflicting feminism


Was the novelist Mary Ward a purveyor of outmoded ideas about womanhood? That was the widespread perception reflected in a cartoon on the cover of Votes for Women in July 1914. The cartoon's headline announces, “Time to Shut up Shop.” Beneath these words appears a dress shop whose name we read backwards through the window: “Mrs. Humphrey [sic] Ward – Modiste.” The lady representing Mary Ward wears a ruffled, presumably hooped skirt, representing Victorian styles; displayed behind her are a nearly identical dress, several enormous bonnets, and a cage-like set of skirt hoops. The harsh-featured Ward figure shows a large, beribboned bonnet to a pretty woman dressed in a slim-profile dress representing the latest style. The caption below reads:

woman of to-day: “Surely you don't expect me to put up with any of these!” mrs. humphry ward: “I am sorry we have nothing newer. This style of thing gave every satisfaction – fifty years ago.”

The message is clear: Ward's ideas about women are as outdated as fifty-year-old fashions.

The woman who inspired this caricature was by 1914 nearly as well known for leading the National Anti-Suffrage League as for writing novels. Upon publication, six months later, of Delia Blanchflower, her novel about the suffrage movement, most critics – like critics today – readily labeled the politics of the book and its author “anti-suffrage.”