Women of The Gin-Shop
Above: Detail. The Gin-Shop. Illustrated by George Cruickshank. 70 x 59 cm.
Industrial production required a better-educated worker. The reformist
movements that spawned Sunday schools in the late 1700s began this process of education that was codified
with the compulsory education act at the end of the 19th Century.
Industrialized changes in working conditions
also included the need for a more sober employee. A version of Temperance Society member George Cruickshank's
"The Gin-Shop" (detail at right) was
included in the illustrations for Dickens' Sketches of Boz.
Illustrated prints, or "wallpaper," adorned the windows of coffee shops where penny magazines were sold.
A more literate person could read aloud the text modeled on the nursery rhyme cadence of "The House that
Jack Built" as a sort of street performance joining the criers plying wares.
Print sellers also provided such items to rent by the day. This particular publisher,
S.W. Partridge and Co., sold "Illustrated Wall-Papers" in a packet of 12.
was an extremely prolific illustrator. His productions in books, prints and periodicals number in the
thousands. His work was also featured when he served as the editor of Comic Almanack through mid-century.
The Gin-Shop print employs two popular tropes of the Victorian female: The Pious Poor Wife of
a Drunkard and the Pampered and Indifferent Business Class (i.e. Shopowner's)
(click on the detail above for an expanded view)
The Three Classes
This Sensation Magazine cover is a study in class and gaze. The arrangement of female bodies in relation to one another and
to the viewer reflects the unspoken interactions and tensions between classes and viewer and viewed. Class status is indicated
by the pound, shilling and penny abbreviations at the bottom of the cover but is codified by each woman's posture, position and
Detail. Sensation No. 3 Wednesday, March 7, 1877.
London 30 x 22 cm. boxwood engraving
(click on detail)
From the aristocrat's indifference to the middle-class female's "model" posture and central position, to the poor
woman's wary, direct and "immodest" stare, the formal arrangement of these bodies reflects the
received "common knowledge" of the era. The idealized beauty of the poor woman also serves as a
fantasy for male viewers who were certainly aware of both the occasional and occupational prostitution
that was a common feature of a poor woman's existence during this era in industrialized London.
The Uses of Ridicule
The middle class could also ridicule the foppery of the upper classes,
as in this illustration in Fun.
The fop seems to be set apart, both by his design and the young ladies'. The advertisement above his head plays off his
The middle-class females repudiate rather than seek to
emulate the assumed excesses of the aristocracy. Throughout the era the middle class established an identity for
itself exemplified by industry, sensibility and moral correctness.
In this cartoon,
the industrialization that created a powerful middle class is, itself, mocking the affectations of the aristocracy.
Fun Magazine, from which this cartoon is derived,
was a response to Punch, as were many magazines of the time. The year of this publication, 1870, was
also the year in which the magazine was taken over by George and Edward Dalziel.
brothers were influential and prolific engravers and publishers involved in book and periodical illustration. In addition to Fun,
the Dalziels acquired Judy in 1872. Judy was as conservative as Fun was bohemian. Judy was also the
home of Ally Sloper.
Click on the titles below for additional images:
The Law for the Rich and Poor. Broadsheet. 28.5 x 45 cm.
Comic Almanack For 1874. "High Life Below Stairs"