A painting of a Victorian woman in green dress looking up to heaven with her hands clasped together. She sits at a table by the window and on the table is a half made shirt.

What's On

Online Talk: Song of the Shirt

With fingers weary and worn,

   With eyelids heavy and red,

A woman sat in unwomanly rags,

   Plying her needle and thread—

      Stitch! stitch! stitch!

Thomas Hood wrote the famous poem The Song of the Shirt (1843), in response to a newspaper report about a widow and seamstress named Mrs Biddell who was forced, like many seamstresses of her day, to work for a pittance on which she could barely survive. So how can the poem help us better understand Elizabeth Gaskell’s popular novel Mary Barton? Victorian public opinion was both shocked and titillated by reports that seamstresses might be forced into prostitution by poverty. How were these concerns reflected in contemporary literature? Dr Ingrid Hanson looks at the figure of the seamstress, the reality of destitution and Victorian sexual politics in this insightful talk.

Image: Anna Elizabeth Blunden, ‘For Only One Short Hour’ (1854). Credit: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

Part of the Mary Barton season

Tickets £5

These events are a highlight of my year.‘ Visitor to previous event.

Wednesday 4 October, 7-8pm

The talk will be approx 45 mins long, with time for a short question session afterwards.

**Refer to your e-ticket for joining instructions and links. Please check your spam/junk mail for ticket. This talk will also be recorded and all ticketholders will receive a link to the recording via TicketSource after the event.**

You can also support the House by buying a copy of Mary Barton from our online shop via this link.

If you have any questions about this event, please see our Frequently Asked Questions.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is run by Manchester Historic Buildings Trust (charity no. 1080606) and all money gained through private tours, talks, room hire and ticket sales goes towards the ongoing maintenance and running costs of the House. If you would like to support the House with an additional donation you can do so via this link.

4th Oct 2023

7pm - 8pm

Talk, Talks

And we've got a house. Yes! we really have

Elizabeth Gaskell, 1850