Rebecca Phoenix

The Unusual Six: A Case Study of the Horner sisters in Victorian Women's Networking

Author: Rebecca Phoenix (history) 

Faculty mentor: Eric Ash


During the Victorian era in Britain, the academic and scientific communities expanded across the country and across the world. These communities connected people of different origin and discipline, yet it is the men in these communities who are remembered today. Where were the women in these fields? It is highly unlikely that a large segment of the population was simply absent from an expanding world and community. While there were certainly prominent women who made their work known, still many more women are found working in the shadows. This paper hopes to shed light on their function and interaction with various intellectual communities during this period by investigating the correspondence of the Horner sisters. These sisters, all daughters of famed Geologist Leonard Horner, produced academic works on a variety of subjects and conversed with a large intellectual network. Through examination of three out of six sisters' communications, the extent of that network and its effects on the communities becomes apparent. Their letters and journals display that these women acted as networking nodes between other female and male intellectuals in their field. These women acted as key networking agents while also producing their own work, essentially fulfilling a double service to research fields. It is apparent that women were always involved in the advancement of knowledge and vital to the health and effectiveness of intellectual communities even if their contributions were overlooked, stolen or hidden from public view. 

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Rebecca Phoenix: The Unusual Six: A Case Study of the Horner sisters in Victorian Women's Networking

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