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Aristocratic Women and Political Society in Victorian Britain$
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K. D. Reynolds

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198207276

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198207276.001.0001

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‘Aristocratical and Female Influence’: Elections and Electioneering

‘Aristocratical and Female Influence’: Elections and Electioneering

(p.129) 4 ‘Aristocratical and Female Influence’: Elections and Electioneering
Aristocratic Women and Political Society in Victorian Britain

K. D. Reynolds

Oxford University Press

Female influence in the electoral arena was indirect. Nevertheless, aristocratic women exerted considerable influence over the polls, as owners of property and as the friends and relatives of candidates. In some instances, their very femininity could be enlisted in support of a candidate. The conjunction of feminine and aristocratic patronage was as considerable in political affairs as in charitable matters. From an early age, aristocratic women were brought up to expect to participate in the elections of fathers, brothers, and friends. Although the aristocratic woman continued to exert influence in elections throughout the period, it was impossible for them to follow the example of the duchess of Devonshire in the manner in which they chose to exert that influence. After the French Revolution, the aristocracy was more cautious about risking its position, and aristocratic women conducted themselves differently as a consequence.

Keywords:   female influence, unreformed elections, electoral system, electorate, duchess of Devonshire

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