(1) ‘Her first duty’ – beauty, morality, and the gilded cage / (2)‘To maintain vigour’ – population, fitness, and race / (3) ‘The song of the skirt’ – raw nature and fashionable conduct / (4) ‘Good breeding’ – combatting the decline of the population / (5) ‘The hand that rocks the cradle’ – scientific mothers and strong babies / (6) ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ – health, habit, and domestic economy / (7) ‘We do hereby authorise and require’ – contagion, public health, and a return to home. / Synthesis / Bibliography
In Home, Nature, and the Feminine Ideal Elaine Stratford presents a lucid and eloquently written account of the ways in which bodies shape, and are shaped by, geographies of the interior and empire. This powerful book beautifully illustrates the connections between feminine embodiment, home, and nature in the Anglophone world during the long nineteenth century. With compelling attention to periodical press as well as other formal and populist texts (a collaboration with the archive), Stratford charts the mechanisms of life and place. She explores national and imperial ambitions as they are entangled and folded through bodies, home, nature, communities, settlements, regions, colonies and territories. The book reveals deep insights into intricate biopolitical assemblages of gender, race, and class. Empirical gems - beauty; health; fashion; moral and social progress; scientific motherhood, domestic economy, public health and bad smells – cause the reader to pause, reflect and rethink notions of progress and reform. This stunning book will be an invaluable resource across the social sciences and humanities.— Lynda Johnston, Professor of Geography, University of WaikatoStratford's efforts in this book are valuable and thoughtprovoking.The strongest element of the work is the impressive depth, breadth, and mastery of the archival research Stratford has engaged in, and her ability to animate these voices from history to illuminate how the themes of home, nature, and the feminine ideal were embedded in spatial constructions.This is a monograph worthy of consideration by scholars and graduate students in the field of historical, feminist, and critical geography, as well as for those interested in the construction of nature, environmentalism, public health, and discourses of governmentality. While it leaves some explanation to be desired at times, this book provokes deep thought and brings together a wide range of scholarship within history and geography.— Carolyn Thompson, Southern Connecticut State University; Journal of Historical Geography
Engaging with an impressively interdisciplinary body of knowledge, Stratford seems to be as comfortable with history as she is with geography, philosophy, or literature... It takes great skill to weave together and maintain a sense of cohesion within a book that traverses more than a century of time, three far-flung countries, and the diverse themes of beauty, childhood, education, fashion, fertility, fitness, health, housing, menstruation, migration, motherhood, racism, sex, and more. Stratford displays her scholarly dexterity and sophistication in managing to create a compelling central narrative amidst this heterogeneity and complexity... Academics are often exhorted to be ‘interdisciplinary’ these days, although sometimes this term is invoked in a rather token fashion. In these pages, Stratford manages to genuinely straddle and bridge multiple disciplines. She commences her introduction with a cartographic metaphor, and indeed the ensuing pages navigate many disciplinary fields... I am confident that this book will have broad appeal to scholars and students working across these disciplines and beyond.
Stratford argues that the body is not simply a backdrop to political events and ideas; it is a crucial site where norms of culture and gender and even empire are made and remade. Home, Nature, and the Feminine Ideal is a superb book that is avowedly geographical in its Foucauldian exploration of gendered social norms and the relationship between bodies and territories.