Oscar’s Wild(e) Women and Their World

Michelle O’Connor
Trinity College Dublin

My paper aims to discuss the use of publication as a means for women
in the 19th century to assert their identity publicly in a world which
was persistently viewed as patriarchal. The Angel of the House is an
ideal which many scholars have used in their work on the Victorian
period, particularly in opposition to New Woman ideal which was
emerging in the latter half of the 19th century.

Literature has been widely regarded as a particularly ‘feminine’
or ‘female’ art form throughout its history, bolstered by the
growth of novels aimed at, and focused on, women. Likewise, journalism
was regarded as a masculine endeavour, one undertaken by men who had
the strength to work the long hours demanded by the urgency of news
publications. Journalism was public, it covered public events; novels
were fictional and private, emerging from the imagination of whomever
composed the story.

Cassell and Co., in attempting to keep up to date in the
ever-modernising world of periodical publication, began The Lady’s
World, in 1886. It floundered however, and in 1888 they contacted Lady
Jane (Speranza) Wilde’s son, the ever contemporary Oscar, in a bid
to have his insight and connections in the London literary sphere save
the magazine from failing utterly. He agreed to edit the periodical
provided the publication company would change the name and format of
the magazine to ‘better represent its audience’. The Woman’s
World had arisen from the ashes of its predecessor in 1888.

The Woman’s World was a periodical for the women who were interested
in current affairs, politics, and history. They were women whose
education went beyond that of the accomplishments, and the price of
the monthly issues (1 shilling) ensured its audience was a very
particular one. Therefore, by using The Woman’s World annuals 1888
to 1890, I will argue that publications, even those for a niche
audience, were a way for women to articulate not only their identities
as women, but likewise their political, educational and social

Newspapers and Periodicals in Britain and Ireland from 1800 to 1900