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Wayward Women (Paperback)

Female Offending in Victorian England

Social History The Victorian Era Women of History

By Lucy Williams
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 178
ISBN: 9781473844872
Published: 8th February 2016

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We most often think of the Victorian female offender in her most archetypal and stereotypical roles; the polite lady shoplifter, stowing all manner of valuables beneath her voluminous crinolines, the tragic street waif of Dickensian fiction or the vicious femme fatale who wreaked her terrible revenge with copious poison.

Yet the stories in popular novels and the ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ of the day have passed down to us only half the story of these women and their crimes. From the everyday street scuffles and pocket pickings of crowded slums, to the sensational trials that dominated national headlines; the women of Victorian England were responsible for a diverse and at times completely unexpected level of deviance.

This book takes a closer look at women and crime in the Victorian period. With vivid real-life stories, powerful photos, eye-opening cases and wider discussions that give us an insightful illustration of the lives of the women responsible for them. This history of brawlers, thieves, traffickers and sneaks shows individuals navigating a world where life was hard and resources were scarce. Their tales are of poverty, opportunism, violence, hope and despair; but perhaps most importantly, the story of survival in the ruthless world of the past.

A fascinating social history not only of female offenders, but of crime and class in Victorian England.

Your Family Tree Feb 2016

Through the use of an array of real-life cases, Lucy Williams exposes some exposes some colourful female Victorian criminals here.

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine May 2016

A very readable introduction to the fascinating, sometimes shocking and previously unexplored aspects of offending by Victorian females.

Essex Family Historian No.159

What shouldn't come as a surprise but inevitably does is that women were engaged in all types of criminal activity, and Wayward Women offers a series of real-life stories to illustrate the point. What gets driven very firmly home is just how brutal and ruthless life was in the past. People struggle to survive, there was little in the way of a safety net provided by the state, so you did whatever you had to do to survive. As Lucy Williams concludes, 'The tales of the theft, violence and disorder of Victorian women are remarkable, but at the same time somehow chillingly ordinary'.

Lucy Williams's enthusiasm for her subject is catching, her book is thoroughly enjoyable and informative reading.

Ripperologist, June 2016

This book takes a closer look at women and crime in the Victorian period. With vivid real-life stories, powerful photos, eye-opening cases and wider discussions that give us an insightful illustration of the lives of women responsible for them.

Antiques Diary, September-October 2016

As featured in

Western Mail

Whilst most family historians would be horrified if a relative or close friend were to be accused of a criminal offence, many would take a completely different view if an ancestor was to have been accused of such an act in the nineteenth century. A plethora of research opportunities would result from both the crime and the punishment, with these arising in both primary records and secondary sources such as newspapers.
The text is both interesting and informative, fully indexed, and for those who want to know more, is supplemented by a bibliography of further reading.

Federation of Family History Societies

Author article as featured in, on prostitution in England and Ireland

Your Family History, March 2017

About Lucy Williams

Lucy Williams is a researcher with a PhD from the University of Liverpool. She specialises in Crime, Women and Gender, and the Social History of the nineteenth century. She has spent more than five years researching and writing about female deviance. Wayward Women is inspired by her blog of the same name and intended for anyone interested in the history of women and crime.

Perfect Partner

Great Train Crimes Murder and Robbery on the Railways (Paperback)

Murder and robbery committed on the railways have long held a special place in British criminal history. Railways and trains create special conditions – and opportunities – for criminal acts. Two legendary large-scale robberies took place on the British railways – the Great Bullion Robbery of 1855 and the Great Train Robbery of 1963 – and these extraordinary episodes are often used as examples of the ultimate in criminal audacity. But as Jonathan Oates shows in this powerful selection of case studies, most railway crime is less sensational yet, in many ways, more revealing. He reconstructs…

By Dr Jonathan Oates

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