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Wayward Women (ePub)

Female Offending in Victorian England

P&S History > British History > Victorian History P&S History > Social History Women of History

By Lucy Williams
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 12.7 MB (.epub)
Pages: 178
Illustrations: 16
ISBN: 9781473844889
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.

As referenced by

Lancashire & North West magazine, January 2019

As referenced in further reading part of author article on London convicts and the online resources to help researchers learn about their lives

Your Family History, October 2017

Featured in 'Further Reading' section of author article on childcare options to our 19th century family members

Your Family History, April 2017

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

Your Family History, March 2017

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

As featured in

Western Mail

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

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

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

Essex Family Historian No.159

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

Your Family Tree Feb 2016

About Lucy Williams

Lucy Williams is a writer and historian with a Ph.D from the University of Liverpool. She specialises in the history of Crime, Women and Gender, and the Social History of the nineteenth century. She has spent the last four years researching the history of convict transportation to Australia as part of the Digital Panopticon project. Her other publications include Wayward Women: Female Offending in Victorian England, and Criminal Women 1850-1920.

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