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  • Published: 3 Aug 2016
  • DOI: 10.4324/9781138641839-HOF14-1


  • Abstract
  • Women in the spiritualist context
  • Victorian women and spiritualist practitioners
  • References

Women and Victorian Spiritualism

Department of English, French and German, University of Málaga, Málaga, Spain


This article examines the powerful position that female spiritualist practitioners acquired in the spiritualist movement, and its association with the Women’s Rights Movement. Woman-centred spiritualism allowed women ample space to examine and subvert Victorian gender norms. In particular, the séance or dark circle transgressed conventional behaviour and facilitated gender and social change. The female medium, and her trance, the state that allowed her to speak with the dead, were under male scrutiny by medical professionals, who equated them with illness and deviance, thus interpreting both the female body and the state as having a pathological source. In the 1980s cultural historians’ work was instrumental in unearthing the forgotten story of female spiritualists. Even though other recent approaches to Victorian spiritualism have provided a more nuanced perspective on spiritualism as being diverse and heterogeneous, it cannot be denied that ‘[t]he occult was, after all, a female affair’ (Kontou 2008: 280).