Another condescending feminist wants to learn us that our view of Georgian womanhood is all wrong:
Sexual favours, swearing and drinking – why everything we think about 19th century women is wrong
The imminent adaptation of Emma, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, which happily promises to be more searingly comic than most, nevertheless presents the cast of usual suspects: pretty, well-heeled young ladies destined for romantic entanglement; meek female subservients; faintly ludicrous old spinsters. It’s the model of Georgian womanhood we’ve come to feel comfortable with.
It’s an embarrassing piece. Apparently we all think that all nineteenth-century woman, all of them, are like the genteel upper-class women in elegant Jane Austen-style novels. But wait ‘ til you hear the amazing news that this genius has discovered — not everyone in the nineteenth century lives like they’re in an Austen novel! Apparently there were rude and badly-behaved lower class people in the nineteenth century! Hard to believe, I know, but she has compelling evidence. And she says that there were women convicts too, and get this — they didn’t always have their little finger uplifted when they drank tea. In fact, some of them behaved damnably:
The year is 1821 and the John Bull, a female convict ship, is sailing its disputatious cargo from Cork to Port Jackson – now better known as Sydney Harbour.
Charged with maintaining their welfare, the surgeon-superintendent Dr William Elyward has spent weeks recording the challenges he has faced in his remarkable journal – which I recently uncovered in the course of my research. It is a warts and all insight into the women on board: some fight with the sailors on deck; others offer sexual favours in return for tobacco; some hide in chests to skip Church in favour of drinking; many spew forth streams of “obscene language”.
Scoff ye not, it’s all real. None of us knew anything about this, did we? We all thought bad behaviour had been invented in the jazz age. We all thought that every woman in the nineteenth century lived respectable lives in country mansions. But we now we have to adjust our simple little minds, for finally we have some real history.
Next thing you know we’ll be discovering that not everyone in the medieval period was a knight on a holy quest.