Danger & Delight: Women and Consumer Culture in Mid-Century London & Paris


  • Amelia O'Mahony-Brady Trinity College Dublin


History of Consumer Culture, Fashion and Modernity, Mid-Nineteenth Century Gender and Sexuality, History of Shopping, Street Harassment, Mid-Nineteenth Century London, Mid-Nineteenth Century Paris, History of Shoplifting


The mid-nineteenth-century mushrooming of consumer culture sparked a transformation of London and Paris and bestowed newfound mobility upon its female inhabitants. Urban commercial spaces such as the nascent department store were billed as safe havens for the unchaperoned lady. In actuality, the Victorian public sphere symbolised a double-edged sword: it conjured up sites of delight that any class of woman could frequent, offering an overdue escape from the tedium of home, yet it also exposed them to unprecedented sexual danger; spawning incidents (downplayed as ‘street annoyances’ or ‘impertinences’) for which female victims were habitually blamed. Stretching from streetwalkers to the bourgeoisie, this essay explores the complex relationship between mid-nineteenth-century women and consumer culture in London and Paris.


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