Ella Phillips

University of Strathclyde

Rescue Narratives in Contemporary and Mid-to-Late Nineteenth-Century Scotland: The ‘Fallen Woman’ in Legal and Literary Cultures

My thesis combines law, literature, history and critical feminist theory to argue for the continuing influence of narratives and counter-narratives of ‘rescue’ in mid-to-late nineteenth Century Britain on legal and activist discourse today. ‘Rescue’, in this context, can be defined as the act(s) of an agent, or group, working to move an individual or group from sex work into another profession, or to rehabilitate individuals or groups perceived as ‘fallen’ due to having engaged in sexual activity outside marriage.

My research will explore narratives of ‘rescue’ in law, with particular attention paid to the quasi-legal reformative homes established to ‘rescue’ and reform penitent women in the nineteenth-century. Alongside archival legal research into these homes, my research will explore the depiction of the ‘rescue’ narrative in fiction, autobiography, poetry, newspaper and periodical literature, with special attentiveness to sources by working-class women.