There may be a recession but not in the women business. Our shelves are overflowing with encyclopedias devoted entirely to women, while women’s conditions are chronicled in every century down to our own. Indeed I must declare a modest family interest. Ms Fraser is working on ‘Seventeenth Century Woman’, Ms Billington has published A Woman’s Age, and I am in the midst of reading The Company of Women. With all this going for them, women must surely be well on the way to finding that holy grail of the twentieth century – their identity. If however they have still some distance to travel, this impressive short guide to forty years of girls’ history (1870-1910) will help them forward.
Not that Carol Dyhouse’s social study is feminist propaganda or dedicated to anything but the digging out and collating of Victorian and Edwardian fact and theory. It is full of sharp quotations from what might be called the women’s bloodstock stables of the modem age: the memoirs of Naomi Mitchison,