Invisible Men
Fatherhood in Victorian Periodicals, 1850–1910

Claudia Nelson


“This study has been carefully researched, encompassing thousands of articles in nineteenth century magazines, and is beautifully presented. It is a vital source for anyone wanting a fuller view of the Victorian social order.”

“A gold mine for readers, bringing together a wealth of material on late Victorian and Edwardian paternity gleaned from an array of periodical sources.”
Prose Studies

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Invisible Men focuses on the tremendous growth of periodical literature from 1850 to 1910 to illustrate how Victorian and Edwardian thought and culture problematized fatherhood within the family. Drawing on political, scientific, domestic, and religious periodicals, Claudia Nelson shows how positive portrayals of fatherhood virtually disappeared as motherhood claimed an exalted position with imagined ties to patriotism, social reform, and religious influence.

The study begins with the pre-Victorian role of the father in the middle-class home —as one who led the family in prayer, administered discipline, and determined the children’s education, marriage, and career. In subsequent decades, fatherhood was increasingly scrutinized while a new definition of motherhood and femininity emerged. The solution to the newly perceived dilemma of fatherhood appeared rooted in traditional feminine values—nurturance, selflessness, and sensitivity. The critique presented in Invisible Men extends our contemporary debate over men’s proper role within the family, providing a historical context for the various images of fatherhood as we practice and dispute them today.

Page count: 344 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $30.95

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Claudia Nelson is a professor of English at Texas A&M University. She is author or editor of numerous books including Family Ties in Victorian England, The Girl’s Own: Cultural Histories of the Anglo-American Girl, 1830–1915 (Georgia), and Little Strangers: Portrayals of Adoption in America, 1850–1929, which won the Children’s Literature Association award for the best scholarly book of the year.