Not 'All Ridges and Furrows' and 'Uncroquetable Lawns'

Croquet, Female Citizenship, and 1860s Domestic Chronicles

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 University of Nebraska–Kearney beisselheamp@unk.edu
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Croquet took fashionable circles in England by storm in the 1860s and 1870s and then suddenly disappeared, replaced in large part by the new sport of lawn tennis. When interest in croquet rekindled in the 1890s, croquet found itself transformed into a 'safe' old-fashioned game that didn't threaten domesticity or women's supposedly established positions. Such a view, this article argues, belies the revolutionary potential of croquet and the debates over women's duties as good citizens, wives, and mothers that surfaced in the 1860s among those who grappled with the idea of croquet mallet-wielding women and girls. Through a consideration of works by Charlotte Yonge, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), and Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (1868), along with discussions of croquet and womanly duty on display in periodicals and manuals, this article explores the symbolic status of croquet and the ways in which the surrounding discourse uses it to advocate for a national notion of female citizenship dependent on 'womanly' duty even while offering critiques of manners, morals, and social order frequently dependent on 'womanly' ideals.

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