‘Making Modern Girls: Alice Corkran and Victorian Girls’ Magazines’ – Beth Rodgers, Aberystwyth University
This paper will consider the ways in which girlhood was considered a new category of existence in the late nineteenth century. These ‘daughters of today’, ‘juvenile spinsters’ and ‘modern girls’, as the Victorian press variously termed them, occupying a borderland between childhood and womanhood, were seen to be inextricably connected to late-nineteenth-century modernity. The figure was not just a talking point, however: adolescent girls as a marketable readership were increasingly targeted by new books and magazines in the 1880s and 1890s. Indeed, the final decades of the nineteenth century witnessed a boom in the publication of girls’ magazines, such as the Girl’s Own Paper, Atalanta, and the Girls’ Empire. Many of these publications ran out of steam as the century drew a close, but in 1898 Alice Corkran’s Girl’s Realm appeared on the market, fashioning itself as the essential read for the most self-consciously modern of modern girls.
In this paper, I will use the under-examined Corkran and her magazine as a way of exploring what it meant to be a girl in the late Victorian period and how women editors played a role in shaping the modern girl. In doing so, I make the case for the significance of Victorian periodicals in the history of girlhood.
Beth Rodgers is Senior Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature in the Dept of English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University. She is the author of Adolescent Girlhood and Literary Culture at the Fin de Siècle: Daughters of Today (Palgrave 2016). With Alexis Easley and Clare Gill, she is currently editing Women, Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1830-1900, part of Edinburgh University Press’s forthcoming History of Women’s Periodical Culture series.
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