Infidel feminism

Secularism, religion and women's emancipation, England 1830-1914

By Laura Schwarz

Infidel feminism


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9728-7
  • Pages: 264
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £18.99
  • Published Date: March 2015
  • BIC Category: Modern History, Religion, History, Social & cultural history, History of religion, HISTORY / Social History, RELIGION / History, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Humanities / History of religion
  • Series: Gender in History


Infidel feminism is the first in-depth study of a distinctive brand of women's rights that emerged out of the Victorian Secularist movement. It looks at the lives and work of a number of female activists, whose renunciation of religion shaped their struggle for emancipation. Anti-religious or secular ideas were fundamental to the development of feminist thought, but have, until now, been almost entirely passed over in the historiography of the Victorian and Edwardian women's movement. In uncovering an important tradition of Freethinking feminism, this book reveals an ongoing radical and free love current connecting Owenite feminism with the more 'respectable' post-1850 women's movement and the 'New Women' of the early twentieth century.

This book, newly available in paperback, will be invaluable to both scholars and students of social and cultural history and feminist thought, and to interdisciplinary studies of religion and secularisation, as well as those interested in the history of women's movements more broadly.


An illuminating read'.
June Purvis, THE, 21st March 2013

"In sum, this book is a fascinating read, and a rigorously written history of a radical women's movement. As such, it merits reading, and inclusion into our studies of feminism and women's movement in Victorian times."
(Sneha Krishnan, Wolfson College, Oxford, LSE Reviews, 20/11/2013)

"Infidel Feminists makes an important, thorough and very compelling contribution to our understanding of the richness and diversity of both religious culture and feminism in the nineteenth and early twentieth century."
(Alison Twells, Sheffield Hallam, Women's History Review, 03/10/2013)

"This important work is long overdue"
(Dr Edward Royle, University of York, Reviews in History, 14/11/2013)

Infidel Feminism establishes with great clarity the significance of this 'substratum of feminist identity' to the wider Victorian women's movement...As such it deserves to gain an appreciative audience amongst both scholars of Victorian feminism and historians of Victorian religion. deserves to gain an appreciative audience amongst both scholars of Victorian feminism and historians of Victorian religion.


1. Freethinking Feminists: women in the Freethought movement
2. Counter-Conversions: Freethinking feminists and the renunciation of religion
3. Preachers of Truth: Women's activism in the Secularist movement
4. Infidel Feminism: Feminism in the Freethought movement
5. Freethinking feminists and the women's movement
6. Freethought and Free Love? Marriage, birth control and sexual morality
Select bibliography


Laura Schwartz is Assistant Professor of Modern British History at the University of Warwick

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