The 'ungallant silence of the historian': Elizabeth Stone, Esther Owen and the art of needlework

Kathryn Ledbetter, Renn Edward Wortley

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    This essay explores the challenges of authorship for two women authors of important needlework books during the 1840s. Elizabeth Stone authored the first British history of needlework, the Art of Needlework (1840), and Esther Owen wrote an influential pattern book, the Illuminated Ladies Book of Useful and Ornamental Needlework (1844), but both women were powerless over their work when authorial mis-attribution and financial mismanagement hindered their efforts to engage in professional careers. Countless anonymous writers of needlework articles and guidebooks provided scholars with a treasure of textual artifacts that contain valuable cultural and historical information about women s lives, whether the women were readers, editors or writers. Yet the lack of specific bibliographical and biographical details about needlework books and their authors often frustrate adequate scholarly reappraisal. The tradition of anonymity and a general lack of respect for domestic women s art from publishers and contemporaries outside the woman s sphere created a dearth of archival material, and careless reviewers spurred mistakes and omissions that sometimes began as early as the first printing and continue from that moment until now. The careers of Stone and Owen serve as case studies of complications for women working in the writer s trade, and of problems encountered by scholars writing nineteenth-century women s history. ? 2014 Leeds Trinity University.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)261 - 277
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Victorian Culture
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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