This essay will attempt to analyse the following three texts: Jessie Boucherett, 'How to Provide for Superfluous Women' (1869), Harriet Martineau, 'The Autobiography' (1877) and Richard Redgrave, 'The Poor Governess' (1843). In addition the essay will endeavour to compare and contrast these three texts, explaining how they help to understand the lives of single women and ideas about spinsterhood in the nineteenth century.
The idea of superfluous women originated from the 1851 census which showed that the population of Great Britain was roughly 18 million; with approximately 405,000 more women than men. The census also illustrates that between 29% and 35% of women aged 25-35 were single. These women came to be referred to as 'superfluous women' or 'redundant women’, this resulted in many essays being published discussing what, specifically should be done with them.
Boucherett’s argument in ‘How to Provide for Superfluous Women’ was based upon argument by William Rathbone Greg who had released an earlier essay detailing his idea of what should be done with superfluous women. His principal idea was to transport the redundant women to where he claimed they were needed, countries overseas such as Canada and Australia. His ultimate goal was to build an emigration scheme which would have been immense involving sending 500,000 women overseas; which he estimated, would involve approximately 10,000 ships. (Levitan 2008: 359-360)
In the article, 'How to provide for Superfluous Women', Boucherett argues that the real issue of superfluous women was the supply and demand of certain groups of people, not their numbers.
Boucherett's aim was to make single women more 'useful’ to society, not to merely transport them from one place where they were not wanted to another. What’s more, Boucherett hoped that improving education and opening up more careers to women would “put an end to superfluous women altogether, by converting them into useful members of society”. (Boucherett...