Rappoport ’00 Studies Gift Transactions of Victorian Women

Giving Women, a book by Jill Rappoport

In Giving Women: Alliance and Exchange in Victorian Culture (Oxford University Press), Jill Rappoport ’00 explores the literary expression and cultural consequences of English women’s giving from the 1820s to the First World War. During a period when most women lacked property rights and professional opportunities, gift transactions allowed them to enter into economic negotiations of power as volatile and potentially profitable as those within the market systems that so frequently excluded or exploited them.

Rappoport shows how female authors and fictional protagonists alike mobilized networks outside of marriage and the market by considering the dynamic action and reaction of gift exchange in fiction and poetry by Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Christina Rossetti as well as in literary annuals, Salvation Army periodicals, and political pamphlets. Through giving, women transformed the primary allegiances of their everyday lives, forged public coalitions, and advanced campaigns for abolition, slum reform, eugenics, and suffrage.

Rappoport’s study recovers the importance of gift exchange to Victorian literature and culture. It provides access to new sources through extensive archival research, including groundbreaking work on the early Salvation Army. The author shares original interpretations of frequently taught canonical works such as Jane Eyre, Cranford, Aurora Leigh, and “Goblin Market.” The volume also includes and discusses more than 25 rare images.

Rappoport is an assistant professor of English at the University of Kentucky.

David Low

David Low '76 writes about arts and culture for the Wesleyan magazine and Wesleyan Connection. He is associate director of publications in the Office of University Communications. He is also a published fiction writer. E-mail: dlow@wesleyan.edu