Feminist Literary Reviews & Features
Feminism, Gender, and the Literary Scene in Time and Tide, 1920-1929
by Victoria Kennedy
Literary reviews with a feminist slant were part of Time and Tide right from its inaugural issue in May 1920, and feminist literary criticism developed to become one of the central and most visible aspects of the paper. Literary reviews were written by prominent authors and suffragists alike, including Rose Macaulay, Vera Brittain, and Cecily Hamilton. One also finds a great deal of cross-over between fiction and non-fiction, with literary reviewers mixing the genres they review, and contributors penning both non-fiction and short-fiction for the newspaper. With increasing regularity, the individuals featured in the “Personalities and Powers” column were literary or theatre figures, and reviews and feature articles focused on many female literary figures. Some of the most frequently mentioned women writers in the 1920s include Edith Wharton, Katherine Mansfield, Olive Schreiner, Rebecca West, and Clemence Dane. There are also features and reviews on women writers from previous centuries, including Frances Burney, Jane Austen, Dorothy Wordsworth, Charlotte Bronte, and George Sand. In these sorts of reviews and articles, one can see Time and Tide working toward a critical understanding of feminism and women’s literary history.
There are also notable male literary contributors, including George Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley, Alec Waugh, D. H. Lawrence, and Algernon Blackwood. Shaw, in particular, was a central male figure for the paper. In an early issue, he published an essay called “Woman Since 1860” in which he traced the gains that feminism had secured for women over 60 years. Reviews of productions of Shaw’s plays were often featured in the theatre column.
Yet while the literary scene was a very prominent site for reflections of gender politics, it should be noted that not all of the opinions expressed in Time and Tide are what we would recognize as “feminist” today. Not only are there some instances of blatant anti-feminist sentiment, but there are also articles and reviews that more subtly suggest that women writers and artists are inherently inferior to male ones (see Naomi Royde-Smith’s “Craftswomanship” on 6 March 1925, for instance). Anne Doubleday’s theatre reviews are particularly interesting to read for what they reveal about the tensions between feminist politics and shifting understandings of morality and the different “natures” of the sexes during the 1920s. Doubleday often visibly struggles to reconcile a belief in women’s rights with issues like divorce and sexuality, which challenge her sense of morality.
While this index is by no means exhaustive, it does, we think, provide an illuminating glimpse into the artistic interests of this political paper. Time and Tide serves as an example of the ways in which art functions as a site for the playing out of political discourses and shifting ideologies. Additionally, this selected bibliography of feminist literary features from Time and Tide demonstrates how rich a resource historical periodicals are for literary studies.
In our current academic climate where interdisciplinarity is a major buzzword for research, Time and Tide provides an opportunity for scholars to examine the relationships between feminist politics and various art forms. It also provides a record of what writers and readers in the period thought about their contemporary artists—views which are sometimes different from those we espouse today.
Using the Index
Due to the number of literary figures featured and referenced in Time and Tide, it would have been unwieldy to create an index of references by name. Instead, we offer a chronological index of annotated entries demonstrating the kind of feminist literary criticism that appeared in Time and Tide in its first decade. Readers searching for information on a particular author are encouraged to use CTRL+F to search the index. Authors are, wherever possible, listed using their full names. In addition, pseudonyms are followed by the individual’s birth name in square brackets in order to enhance the searchability of this database. Researchers might also find it fruitful to search for keywords, such as “divorce,” “marriage,” “mother,” “suffrage,” “war,” etc.