It is often thought that George Eliot’s refusal to campaign actively for feminist goals indicates that she was no feminist. But there were several reasons that make the charge mute. She disliked dealing with practical matters, especially legislative ones. Proselytizing was particularly repugnant to her because she knew that her scandalous liaison with Lewes could only make her discussion of controversial matters a liability. Furthermore, she thought that the factors facilitating success were so complicated that one could say little that would be helpful to the aspiring woman. Actually, she thought of herself as an activist, “teaching the world through books.” Thinking that she could more forcefully present her views by maintaining the persona of a neutral observer in her fiction, she objected to the role of political activist, who presents ideas in her own person. Finally, as a shy woman who cared only for her husband and her writing, who was often ill, and who hated publicity, she had neither the taste nor energy for public life.

Author Biography

June Skye Szirotny has taught English at the University of Missouri, Stanford University, Queens College of The City University of New York, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her articles, one of which was reprinted in Feminism in Literature: A Gale Critical Companion, have appeared in several journals, including ANQ, English Language Notes, George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Studies, The George Eliot Review, Literature and Aesthetics, Notes and Queries, Studies in Short Fiction, Studies in the Novel, The Victorian Newsletter, and Victorians Institute Journal. She is currently completing a book on George Eliot’s feminism.