Dispossessed Women: Female Homelessness in Romantic Literature

Melissa Hurwitz, Fordham University


“Dispossessed Women” examines the status of homeless women in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century literature, with special attention to both the cultural assumptions and aesthetic power that accrued to these figures. Across the Romantic era, vagrant women were ubiquitous not only in poetry, children’s fiction, novels, and non-fiction, but also on the streets of towns and cities as their population outnumbered that of vagrant males. Homeless women became the focus of debates over how to overhaul the nation’s Poor Laws, how to police the unhoused, and what the rising middle class owed the destitute in a rapidly industrializing Britain. Writers in the Romantic period began to treat these characters with increasing realism, rather than sentimentalism or satire. This dissertation tracks this understudied story through the writing of Mary Robinson, Maria Edgeworth, Hannah More, Robert Southey, and William and Dorothy Wordsworth.

Subject Area

Literature|British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Hurwitz, Melissa, "Dispossessed Women: Female Homelessness in Romantic Literature" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10281988.