Mary Tobin

Defense Date


Graduation Date



Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Susan K. Howard

Committee Member

Frederick Newberry

Committee Member

Laura Callanan


commodification of women, cultural materialism, history of feminism, marriage law and customs, marriage market


Mary Hays's Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796) and Mary Wollstonecraft's Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman (1798) demonstrate the futility of educating women, given Britain's law of coverture; they expose the impracticality of ideal women presented in Jean Jacques Rousseau's Émile (1762) and James Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women (1766); and they demand educational parity between the sexes. Although novelists throughout the nineteenth century revisit and reshape all four authors' ideas, by 1895 in Jude the Obscure, when Sue Bridehead fails to achieve sexual equality despite enjoying educational parity, Thomas Hardy concludes that educating women remains futile.

This cycle begins when Emma and Maria fail to embody ideals from Hays's Appeal to the Men of Great Britain in Behalf of Women (1798) and Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). In Belinda (1801), Maria Edgeworth fictionalizes her Letters for Literary Ladies (1795) and Practical Education (1798), rejects educational parity, and combines autodidacticism with experiential learning. Susan Ferrier rejects Rousseau and Wollstonecraft but modifies Fordyce's ideal woman in order to achieve her optimal women's pedagogy in Marriage (1818). Charles Dickens, in Dombey and Son (1846-1848), meshes Rousseau's Sophy with the feminine ideal from Sarah Stickney Ellis's conduct books. Charlotte Brontë's Villette (1853) juxtaposes Ellis's ideal women's education with Wollstonecraftian models from Alexander J. Scott's Suggestions on Female Education (1849) and an anonymous review of Sarah Lewis's Woman's Mission (1839). In Phineas Finn (1867-1869) and Phineas Redux (1873-1874), Anthony Trollope counterposes Ellis's and Lewis's feminine passivity against Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon's Wollstonecraftian feminine agency in A Brief Summary, in Plain Language, of the Most Important Laws Concerning Women (1854) and Women and Work (1857). In Jude the Obscure, Hardy refutes Millicent Garrett Fawcett's desexualized Wollstonecraftian feminism in her 1891 introduction to A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and confirms the futility of coeducation wherever convention ignores legal reform.

Today, the gender wars continue to echo the advice found in nineteenth-century conduct books and novels, offering few fresh contributions. We have far to go before we indeed "have it all"--true educational, legal, professional, and social equality between the sexes.