Olive Schreiner and the Dream of Labour

Ruth Livesey

in Socialism, Sex, and the Culture of Aestheticism in Britain, 1880-1914

Published by British Academy

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780197263983
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734731 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

Olive Schreiner and the Dream of Labour

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On her arrival in London in the early 1880s, Olive Schreiner became a regular visitor to many socialist clubs and debates and developed her interest in the movement hand in hand with her pursuit of the ‘Woman Question’. This chapter explores Schreiner's feminist works, ‘The Woman Question’ (1899) and Woman and Labour (1911), in the context of her exchanges with the socialist Karl Pearson and her good friend Eleanor Marx. In the latter work, Schreiner adopts and revises the rhetoric of manly artistry familiar from Morris's works: a revision that defines women as virile labourers rather than ‘sex parasites’. Meanwhile, it was in her creative collection of allegories and fragments, Dreams (1890), that she insisted upon the autonomy of the aesthetic as an ideal that transcends gender divisions.

Keywords: Olive Schreiner; socialism; feminism; Woman and Labour; The Woman Question; Eleanor Marx; Karl Pearson; Dreams

Chapter.  13370 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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