A Kirkwood Community College professor is lending her expertise to a book about support given to the poor in the 19th century. The book, “Victorians and the Case for Charity: Essays on Responses to English Poverty by the State, the Church and the Literati,” (McFarland & Co., Inc., Publishers, 2013) is due out this fall.
Renee Schlueter, Ph.D., a Kirkwood English professor, published a chapter entitled “No Friend like a Sister: Christina Rossetti’s ‘Awakened Conscience’ and Advocacy for the Fallen Woman.” The chapter doesn’t focus on the oft-critiqued Christian salvation of Rossetti’s poetry, but instead on her ministry to aiding outcast women.
“It’s surprising to me that this celebrated poet doesn’t get recognition for her charitable works for women,” said Schlueter. “There’s been little attention paid to her involvement in political campaigns and in her commitment to redeeming the lives of destitute women.”
The book, a collection of writings by 19th century history and literature professors from around the country, features a variety of historical and literary responses on topics as diverse as children in the mines, workhouses, religious institutions and prostitution. Schlueter said each contributor was given considerable latitude in exploring the various subjects and the 19th century approaches to helping the poor and those in need of charitable services.
“The book honors specific educators, theologians, economists, writers, nuns, businessmen and politicians, many of whom were eccentric crusaders for the cause of social justice,” said Schlueter. “We hope the social problems and social solutions posed in this text will inform and challenge others today who face parallel challenges. Maybe we can contribute to a better, more just society by heeding the cry of the poor.”
Coming from a family of poets, Rossetti was an English poet best known for her children’s and devotional poems. Her most widely known work is “Goblin Market,” a poem Schlueter used to draw many of her conclusions.
“In reviewing her social agency, her letters and her acclaimed ‘Goblin Market’ poem more closely, it becomes possible to reclaim Rossetti as a sister savior, one who provides contemporary feminists with a model for female advocacy,” said Schlueter.