The Darkened Room – Alex Owen

A fascinating study of the roles played by women as healers and mediums in late Victorian Spiritualism.


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Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989. Paperback, xxi+314 pages. New.

Subtitled Women, Power and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England, Alex Owen’s ground-breaking study of women’s roles in the Spiritualist movement in late Victorian England. Owen shows how Spiritualism offered female mediums a new independence and authority, and the potential to undermine conventional class and gender norms both in the home and in wider society. She also charts the struggles between the Spiritualist movement and the medical and legal establishment, and how some women were incarcerated in asylums due to their spiritual beliefs. Drawing on previously unexamined sources, Owen brings to life the Victorian world of theatrical apparitions and darkened séance rooms, the attitudes of both believers and skeptics alike, and brings a fresh perspective to the dynamics of gender relations in Victorian England.

The Darkened Room is an essential read for anyone interested in the history of Spiritualism, or the intersection between spirituality and gender.

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