Women against cruelty

Protection of animals in nineteenth-century Britain

By Diana Donald

Women against cruelty
Hardcover +
  • Price: £20.00
  • ISBN: 9781526115423
  • Publish Date: Oct 2019
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    eBook -
  • Price: £20.00
  • ISBN: 9781526115447
  • Publish Date: Oct 2019
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: eBook
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1544-7
    • Published Date: October 2019
    • Series: Gender in History


    This is the first book to explore women's leading role in animal protection in nineteenth-century Britain, drawing on rich archival sources. Women founded bodies such as the Battersea Dogs' Home, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and various groups that opposed vivisection. They energetically promoted better treatment of animals, both through practical action and through their writings, such as Anna Sewell's Black Beauty. Yet their efforts were frequently belittled by opponents, or decried as typifying female 'sentimentality' and hysteria. Only the development of feminism in the later Victorian period enabled women to show that spontaneous fellow-feeling with animals was a civilising force. Women's own experience of oppressive patriarchy bonded them with animals, who equally suffered from the dominance of masculine values in society, and from an assumption that all-powerful humans were entitled to exploit animals at will.


    'In her riveting and meticulously researched book, Diana Donald explores the complex relationships between women, gender and animal protection movements. She shows, with insight and compassion, what was at stake in the quest to change both attitudes towards and practices concerning animals. Weaving together accounts of women's activism, legal and political debates, controversies around vivisection and the roles of institutions, Donald is writing important and timely history about forms of empathy.'
    Professor Ludmilla Jordanova, Durham University

    'In a compelling and fascinating work, Diana Donald restores the words and deeds of 19th century women to the historical record-updating interpretations with a powerful and empowering narrative of the inseparability of animal advocacy, politics and gender.'
    Carol J. Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat and Burger

    'Rebuilding the pieces of a complex and stratified history in which were contained very different demands and sensitivities (political, religious, cultural), Donald highlights, on the one hand, how the natural convergence
    between women's rights and animal protection was the result of a hierarchical and patriarchal social system and, on the other hand, as "sympathy, compassion, and caring "became the basis" upon which theory
    about human treatment of animals should be constructed.'
    Ricerche di Storia Politica


    Prefatory note: The archive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
    1 Sexual distinctions in attitudes to animals in the late Georgian era
    2 The early history of the RSPCA: its culture and its conflicts
    3 Animal welfare and 'humane education': new roles for women
    4 The 'two religions': a gendered divide in Victorian society
    5 Anti-vivisection: a feminist cause?
    6 Sentiment and 'the spirit of life': new insights at the fin de siècle


    Diana Donald, now an independent scholar, is the author of Picturing Animals in Britain 1750-1850, and the prize-winning Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts

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