Slum Travelers: Ladies and London Poverty, 1860-1920

Slum Travelers: Ladies and London Poverty, 1860-1920

Slum Travelers: Ladies and London Poverty, 1860-1920

Slum Travelers: Ladies and London Poverty, 1860-1920

Synopsis

Late-nineteenth-century Britain saw the privileged classes forsake society balls and gatherings to turn their considerable resources to investigating and relieving poverty. By the 1890s at least half a million women were involved in philanthropy, particularly in London. Slum Travelers, edited, annotated, and with a superb introduction by Ellen Ross, collects a fascinating array of the writings of these "lady explorers," who were active in the east, south, and central London slums from around 1870 until the end of World War I. Contributors range from the well known, including Annie Besant, Sylvia Pankhurst, and Beatrice Webb (then Potter), to the obscure. The collection reclaims an important group of writers whose representations of urban poverty have been eclipsed by better-known male authors such as Charles Dickens and Jack London.

Excerpt

Each of the selections that follow is introduced by a short biography of its author and, often, information about the text’s immediate historical environment. I have made a point of adding very little of my own commentary on the texts themselves, which I know will be read in many different settings. the biographies are not uniform in length and style. I have actually given extra space to a few little-known women—such as Maude Stanley and Honnor Morten. For some authors, such as Agnes Foxwell and Florence Petty, I could find only a little information. the well-known figures, such as Beatrice Webb, are the subjects of many ample biographies and needed only brief overviews. in the “Further Reading” section following each biography and its notes, I have listed other works by the author as well as additional biographical sources. the bibliographic information is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather to give students a start in exploring an author whom they find interesting. I also have included brief explanations in brackets in some of the texts. My criteria for choosing these texts were so varied that no theme or issue will account for them: length of the piece, its readability for students, its genre, its date, and, in some cases, simply my fondness for a particular piece.

As this book’s anthology format is unusual, some information on how it is structured might be useful to readers. There are two listings of the book’s contents. the first is the table of contents, organized alphabetically by the author’s last name. the second is appendix 2, a list of the texts arranged by theme and designed to be useful to students and faculty members, and possibly also to general readers. in this list many texts appear more than once, because most of them fit into more than one category.

Monetary amounts appear frequently in these accounts of poverty, and many of the selections include detailed family budgets. the ancient mon-

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