History (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Robert Batchelor


Scholarship of the first wave of feminism often neglects to address the fact that despite the efforts of the campaigners for women’s rights, it was men of influence that eventually changed British law in favor of the feminists’ agendas. Jeffrey Hantover’s concept of “masculine anxiety” can be applied to the study of this period in history to explain the motive of these men to grant women’s rights. Divided into four chapters, this thesis explores masculine anxiety in the context of the women’s rights movement between 1860 and 1920. The first chapter compares the private and public parameters of Victorian masculinity by comparing the literature of English author George Eliot and the writings of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The second examines the legal changes in terms of sex crime and regulation between 1860 and 1890, made as a result of this anxiety rather than an attempt to protect women. The third section uses the 1888 murders of Jack the Ripper as a case study to demonstrate the lingering masculine anxiety after the early legislative changes and the need for further changes to rid men of their masculine guilt. The final chapter, using the letters of World War I soldiers and the sexuality theories of Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein, argues that the emergence of psychology at the turn of the twentieth century as well as World War I changed masculinity in a way that freed men from this anxiety. This change, alongside a change in femininity, eventually resulting in the granting of women’s suffrage in 1918.