Trollope Society Oxford Conference 2023
Women in Trollope

The Trollope Society Conference will be held at Somerville College, Oxford from Friday 1st September to Sunday 3rd September 2023.  The theme of the weekend will be ‘Women in Trollope’.  This will be a wonderful opportunity to stay in the beautiful city of Oxford and experience its architecture, history and culture while staying in Somerville College which is easily accessible from the city centre and by public transport.

Somerville College was founded in 1879 as Somerville Hall, one of its first two women’s colleges. Among its alumnae have been Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Dorothy Hodgkin, Iris Murdoch, Vera Brittain and Dorothy L. Sayers. It began admitting men in 1994. In 1964, it was among the first to cease locking up at night to stop students staying out late.

Conference Programme

We are delighted to announce the full conference programme.

Friday 1st September

2.30pm – Arrival of delegates and registration

From the College Lodge you will be directed to the Brittain Williams Room for registration and for residential delegates to collect keys and room details.

3.00pm – Refreshments, tea and coffee

Brittain Williams Room

3.30pm – Welcome

Flora Anderson Hall
Dominic Edwardes, Trollope Society Chair and Susan Cooper, Trollope Society Honorary Secretary

3.40pm – What should a woman do with her life?: Trollope and Women

Flora Anderson Hall
Professor Dinah Birch CBE
Trollope’s thinking about women shifted over the course of his career, as he encountered views that challenged conventional models of gendered identity, and grew more sympathetic to women’s struggles with constraints that limited their options. And yet he never abandoned the traditional idea that a woman’s happiest destiny was that of wife and mother. His representations of these tensions are intimately bound up with the views on money and work that are central to his fiction, and they reflect the ambiguities that underlie his complex identity as an ‘advanced conservative Liberal’. His conflicted thought still has much to offer contemporary debates on women’s life choices.

4.40pm – Intriguing Women and their Friendships in Trollope

Flora Anderson Hall
Dr Ellen Moody
I will discuss women characters who act, think, and feel in unexpected ways, who cause controversy. My first central pair are Clara Amedroz and Mrs. Askerton (The Belton Estate). I will dwell on Clara’s refusal to give up her friendship with Mrs. Askerton, a woman who fled an abusive husband and lived with him before her husband died. I’ll move to the women characters, Matilda, Lady and Hetta Carbury, Marie Melmotte, Georgiana Longestaffe (with Julia, Lady Monogram) and Mrs Hurtle (with Mrs Pipkin and Ruby Ruggles) in The Way We Live Now and Lady Mabel Grex (with Miss Cassewary) in the unabridged The Duke’s Children. I will be showing how viewing these women from the vantage point of their relationships with one another reveals more about the inner lives and decisions of all these women, how the books treat the hard psychological and iconoclastic realities of their lives – and the structures of all three books than the usual concentration on their relationships with the male characters of the books and male-drive plot-designs allows.

6.00 – 7.00pm – Residential delegates dinner

Dining Hall
A canteen style dinner will be served between between 6.00 – 7.00pm for residential delegates.

Saturday 2nd September

8.00 – 9.00am – Residential delegates breakfast

Dining Hall
Breakfast will be served between 8.00 – 9.00am for residential delegates.

9.30am – All the Single Ladies: Women, Autonomy, and Alternate Households in the Novels of Anthony Trollope

Flora Anderson Hall
Professor Linda C McClain and Professor Allison Tait
In a recent report, “Love Matters,” the archbishops of Canterbury and York said that “single people must be valued at the heart of our society.” This statement, a modern call to value those living outside of marriage, represents a reminder that marital ordering is not the only social ordering. Speaking to this point, Trollope’s novels depict—along with their many marital households—a robust set of curiously female, nonmarital households that vary in form but include widows living on their own or with children, unmarried sisters, female companions coordinating their daily lives, and marriage-resisting “old maids.” This paper considers the presence and operation of these households and the kinds of social orderings Trollope imagined as available to women outside of marital ordering.

10.30am – Refreshments, tea and coffee

Brittain Williams Room

11.00am – Lily, Glencora, Ayala, and Isabel: Female Desire and Women’s Rights in Anthony Trollope’s Novels

Flora Anderson Hall – Zoom recording
Professor Deborah Morse
Anthony Trollope created memorable desiring heroines in Lucy Robarts (Framley Parsonage, 1861), Lily Dale (The Small House at Allington, 1864), and Ayala Dormer (Ayala’s Angel, 1881). In the late 1870s during the fierce struggle for women’s rights, on the cusp of the 1882 Married Women’s Property Act, Trollope embodied this ideal heroine in American Isabel Boncassen (The Duke’s Children, 1880), who is based upon Trollope’s close feminist friend Kate Field. Isabel marries Silverbridge after making her vision of marriage on “terms of equality” as clear as her longing for him, asserting the right to choose a marriage which promises both erotic fulfillment and equality.

12.00 noon – Women and Money in Trollope

Flora Anderson Hall
Mark Green
W.H. Auden said that ‘Of all novelists in any country, Trollope best understands the role of money. Compared with him, even Balzac is too romantic.’ Trollope is also noted for the accuracy and depth of his portrayals of women. Yet woman in the nineteenth century were severely constrained by both law and custom in their financial affairs. Most of Trollope’s writing career, let us not forget, was in the era before the passage of the first of the Married Women’s Property Acts in 1870 which went some way to redressing this disadvantaged state of affairs and he did not live to see the implementation of the 1882 Act which further changed the situation of women.
Did Trollope capture accurately Victorian women’s dealings with money in his novels and did he observe any of these changes in legal status?
The talk will consider not only independent women with control of their own business affairs but also the more domestic business of making a good marriage, which has been described as the archetypal career of a Victorian woman (whether she be in search of a rich husband to support her, or in possession of a fortune of her own and the object of matrimonial pursuit by men in search of access to those funds).

1.00pm – Sandwich lunch

Brittain Williams Room

2.30pm – ‘Let Women Rebel’?: Anthony Trollope and the ‘Woman Question’

Flora Anderson Hall
Elizabeth Cantrell
How feminist was Anthony Trollope? Where critics do not find Trollope entirely wanting, they nevertheless tend to find him not an obvious representative for Victorian feminism. This talk will put a contrary case; not an entirely radical case, but one that tries to draw a warmer, more positive picture of Trollope’s respect for and encouragement of women’s aspirations for a freer public and personal life than was commonly available to them.

3.30 – 4.30pm – Good Girl/Bad Girl: Female Roles in Late Trollope

Flora Anderson Hall
Dr Nicholas Shrimpton
Trollope was interested in the Women’s Rights, or Feminist, movement of his era. But he was also interested in women’s rights (and wrongs) in a different sense: the assessment of what constitutes good or bad female behaviour. Can you forgive her? This paper will consider his treatment of the matter in his later novels, with especial attention to the characterisation of Alice Vavasor and Glencora MacCluskie in Can You Forgive Her?, and Arabella Trefoil and Mary Masters in The American Senator.

6.30pm – Conference Dinner Reception

Brittain Williams Room
Reception with prosecco for residential delegates and those attending the Conference Dinner.

7.30pm – Conference Dinner

Dining Hall
We are keeping the conference dinner informal. There is no seating plan, delegates are welcome to sit with whoever and wherever they like. We suggest that smart-casual dress would be appropriate.
Delegates with special dietary requirements should place the card included in their delegate pack on the table for the information of the catering team.
Delegates and guests attending the Conference Dinner are invited to prepare a Trollope reading of up to three minutes. Submissions will be drawn from a hat and we will get through as many readings as we can in around 25 minutes.

Sunday 3rd September

8.00 – 9.00am – Residential delegates breakfast

Dining Hall
Breakfast will be served between 8.00 – 9.00am for residential delegates.

By 10.00am – Check out of rooms

Brittain Williams Room
Residential delegates should hand in their room keys by 10.00am. Luggage can be left in the Brittain Williams Room.

10.00am – Trollope’s Griseldas or Too Much Obedience

Flora Anderson Hall
Virginia Grinevitch
There are two eponymous Griseldas in Trollope’s novels, as well as several other places where “a Griselda” or “not a Griselda” describes a woman’s character or behaviour. Nineteenth century readers would have recognized that “Griselda” described an uncomplainingly obedient woman. Anthony Trollope’s female characters are just as prominent, unique, and three dimensional as his male characters, but to find real happiness, a woman needed to be just the right amount of a Griselda. Referencing primarily the characters of Griselda Grantly and Miss Mackenzie, this talk explores the question “Just how obedient to her ‘lord and master’ should a woman be?”

11.00am – Refreshments, tea and coffee

Brittain Williams Room

11.30am – On Not Being Naughty

Flora Anderson Hall
Professor Helen Small
‘I will not allow that I am indecent’, Trollope protested, after Thackeray rejected Mrs General Talboys for the Cornhill Magazine on the grounds that it was too naughty for the magazine’s audience. He pointed in his defence to numerous examples of women ‘not as pure as they should be’ in the fiction of contemporaries, including Thackeray himself. This paper will explore how variously Trollope negotiated the morality of the literary marketplace, with particular focus on the relationship between immorality in fiction and the immoralities recorded in the contemporary newspaper press.

12.30pm – Panel session

Flora Anderson Hall
The conference speakers will join a panel session to answer written questions submitted during the conference before opening up the discussion to the floor.

1.00pm – Closing remarks

Flora Anderson Hall
Dominic Edwardes, Trollope Society Chair

1.15pm – Sandwich lunch

Brittain Williams Room

Download a map of Somerville College

Somerville College Map

Delegate options

Booking for delegates has closed.


You can cancel anytime before 1 July 2023 and receive a 100% refund. We regret that we cannot give a refund for cancellations made after this date as the Society will incur the full costs of your place.


Address: Somerville College, Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6HD