Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Philip Harling


Five Reform Acts passed over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries gradually increased the size of the British electorate. Negotiations over lowering property, rent, and lodging restrictions led to new Acts that slowly increased the number of Britons deemed worthy to vote. This dissertation examines the extent class and gender were relevant to those negotiations of British citizenship over the course of those five Acts. The project scrutinizes the language used in Parliamentary debates, political pamphlets, and political correspondence to reconstruct the constantly-changing conceptualization of the ideal citizen’s gendered identity in Britain and Europe. This project illuminates the rhetorical battles between the political elite and those who desired admittance to the franchise. The language surrounding those battles highlights the contradictory reasons why certain male and female populations were denied admittance. By examining all these Acts together, this project provides new insight into Parliamentary reform as a political event where the unfixed ideas of Victorian femininity and masculinity can be viewed and assessed in the context of political power.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)