By Emelyne Godfrey (auth.)
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Extra resources for Femininity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature and Society: From Dagger-Fans to Suffragettes
2). ] to be addressed by unknown men in the streets of London’ (PMG, 22 Femininity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature and Society 30 July 1887, p. 2). Another male contributor argued that some ladies liked to chat (PMG, 30 July 1887, p. 2) and at the same time, it was also impossible to stop men from ogling at women (PMG, 21 July 1887, p. 3). However, as Wells indicates, women cannot choose who will pursue them. One example is given of a near-rape, prevented by a scream and the subsequent intervention by a police officer (PMG, 27 July 1887, p.
While the conditions which the two women witness – hard bugridden beds, the inability to wash and eat sufficiently – are in themselves humbling enough, it is through their treatment as women that their descent down the social scale is apparent. Men working on a barge attempt to call the women to them. To modern eyes this seems a fairly harmless experience, yet to a middle-class woman it was deeply shocking. The men would never have spoken so freely to them had they not been wearing old bonnets and shawls.
On the Street 25 The horror in her narrative continues to grow. If attempting to kiss her friend is not bad enough, Higgs learns he has the key to their room. Thankfully the wardress takes her under her protection. In a lodging house, a ‘powerfully made’ man, who looks ‘cruel and lustful’ makes Higgs avert her gaze but he continues to stare at them (Glimpses into the Abyss, p. 100). At the gate of another lodging house, another man begins to talk ‘in a familiar and most disagreeable manner’ and propositions her.