Spirited Pioneer: The Life of Emma Hardinge Britten Dissertation

thesis or dissertation chair

fiu authors

  • Howe, Lisa A


  • Emma Hardinge Britten’s life encompassed and reflected many of the challenges and opportunities afforded to women in the Victorian world. This dissertation explores the multi-layered Victorian landscape through the life of an individual in order not only to tell her individual story, but also to gain a more nuanced understanding of how nineteenth-century norms of gender, class, religion, science and politics combined to create opportunities and obstacles for women in Britten’s generation. Britten was an actor, a musician, a writer, a theologian, a political activist, a magazine publisher, a spirit medium, a lecturer, and a Spiritualist missionary. Taking into account her multiple subjectivities, this dissertation relies on historical biography to contextualize Britten’s life in a number of areas, including Modern Spiritualism and political and civic engagement in the second half of the nineteenth century in Britain, the U.S., and Australia.

    The dissertation is organized thematically in a quasi-chronological manner. Time frames overlap between chapters, as Britten travels from the realm of politics to that of science and to religion. Each chapter reflects this transformation of Britten’s multiple intellectual and spiritual engagements, including performance, religion, politics and science.

    Emma Hardinge Britten challenged, whether consciously or not, gendered expectations by attaining a presence in a male-dominated public. Even though her life and accomplishments pre-date the New Woman of the fin de siècle, Britten established a successful career and her life creates a foreshadowing of the larger movements to come. She was an extraordinarily politically active woman whose influence reached three continents in her lifetime and beyond.

publication date

  • November 13, 2015


  • Emma Hardinge Britten
  • Spiritualism
  • Victorian Britain
  • Victorian United States
  • biography

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)