Read The Match Girl and the Heiress by Seth Koven Online


Nellie Dowell was a match-factory girl in Victorian London who spent her early years consigned to orphanages and hospitals. Muriel Lester, the daughter of a wealthy shipbuilder, longed to be free of the burden of money and possessions. Together, these unlikely soul mates sought to remake the world according to their own utopian vision of Christ's teachings. "The Match GirlNellie Dowell was a match-factory girl in Victorian London who spent her early years consigned to orphanages and hospitals. Muriel Lester, the daughter of a wealthy shipbuilder, longed to be free of the burden of money and possessions. Together, these unlikely soul mates sought to remake the world according to their own utopian vision of Christ's teachings. "The Match Girl and the Heiress" paints an unforgettable portrait of their late-nineteenth-century girlhoods of wealth and want, and their daring twentieth-century experiments in ethical living in a world torn apart by war, imperialism, and industrial capitalism.In this captivating book, Seth Koven chronicles how each traveled the globe--Nellie as a spinster proletarian laborer, Muriel as a well-heeled tourist and revered Christian peacemaker, anticolonial activist, and humanitarian. Koven vividly describes how their lives crossed in the slums of East London, where they inaugurated a grassroots revolution that took the Sermon on the Mount as a guide to achieving economic and social justice for the dispossessed. Koven shows how they devoted themselves to Kingsley Hall--Gandhi's London home in 1931 and Britain's first "people's house" founded on the Christian principles of social sharing, pacifism, and reconciliation--and sheds light on the intimacies and inequalities of their loving yet complicated relationship."The Match Girl and the Heiress" probes the inner lives of these two extraordinary women against the panoramic backdrop of shop-floor labor politics, global capitalism, counterculture spirituality, and pacifist feminism to expose the wounds of poverty and neglect that Christian love could never heal....

Title : The Match Girl and the Heiress
Author :
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ISBN : 9780691158501
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 464 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Match Girl and the Heiress Reviews

  • Clare O'Beara
    2019-02-16 08:17

    Muriel Lester and Nellie Dowell are the subjects of this biography. Their tales are told against a well-presented, thoroughly researched backdrop of the 1890s and early 1900s in London and further afield. Muriel was well-off, the daughter of a ship-builder. Nellie was the daughter of a sailor who drowned at sea, so that she and her siblings were taken from their mother into a poorhouse until she could get employment with the match firm where her mother worked. Women were not able to earn as much as men and could not support a family. In her early twenties Nellie was sent by R Bell & Co, the firm, which faced strikes over low pay, bad working conditions and dangerous use of phosphorous, to make matches in New Zealand. The authorities here had read of the London working conditions and were determined not to allow such deplorable situations to arise, so Nellie was much better off. The firm saved by not exporting matches long distance, yet the materials to make them had to be imported from various countries. Muriel like many New Women of the time was educated, well-off, in no hurry to marry and raised with Christian values. She and others went out to investigate social conditions, working women, factories and disease. They spoke with journalists and encouraged unions. Muriel met Nellie when the worker returned to London via Scandinavia. She wrote Nellie's biography, leaning on the fact of her childhood having been stolen from her. The two women remained close friends and Muriel travelled widely and became famous, a friend of Ghandi and ardent campaigner for human rights and women's rights. This book is a great reflection of the wider times and while not a light read will draw in anyone who wants to know more about the changes in our modern world.

  • V. L. Craven
    2019-01-23 01:19

    The premise of Seth Koven’s The Match Girl and the Heiress sounds like the worst sort of contrived Victorian social commentary. Well-to-do young woman (soft white hands and all) gives it all up to venture into the slums of London and befriends a factory working match girl who, in her turn, idolizes her. Together, they try to change the world.It’s non-fiction, however, so I was very excited. It sounded like romantic friendship , which is one of my favourite topics. As is the Victorian era. So I thought, ‘real life romantic friendship in my favourite time period?’ Result!Alas, it was not to be. While the book was very well researched. It was, at times, dry even for an academic work. I learned a great deal about the way World War I shaped Britain’s view of pacifism and other social causes. And the rise and clash of different sorts of feminism was quite interesting. But other parts were something of a slog.The best sections (though few and far between) were analyzing the unequal relationship of the women–Muriel Lester (the heiress) and Nellie Dowell (the match girl), which were nearly perfect mirrors of the way well-meaning middle class whites in the U.S. try to help poor people, especially blacks in the present day. There’s a genuine desire to provide assistance but due to a lifetime of wearing the blinders of privilege they make mistake after mistake.Unfortunately, I can only recommend this for those specifically interested in class and social issues of the time. 3/5[I received a free copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

  • Nicole Overmoyer
    2019-02-02 02:32

    Reasons to pick up this book:1. detailed history of Victorian England, especially in relation to Poor Laws and charitable endeavors2. the contradiction of the poor girl (Nellie) and the rich girl (Muriel)3. a reality compared with the Victorian England fiction lovers know from Dickens & co.Reasons this book was not for me:1. little is known about Nellie, save for what Muriel later wrote so the parts about Nellie turn into long treatises on generalities2. the author seems to have trouble filling the gaps in the specifics as related to Nellie and Muriel, taking a wandering path from Point A to Point B3. it is extremely heavy on the Christianity of the time, and yet seems to pay little attention to it at the same time, possibly because it has to balance Catholicism and Protestantism in it's critiqueI received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest & original review.

  • Mandy
    2019-02-03 08:14

    Through the story of the relationship between poor match factory worker Nellie Dowell and middle-class Muriel Lester, Koven explores the colliding worlds of rich and poor in East London and the growth of Christian philanthropy in the 1890s and early 1900s. Against a backdrop of the beginnings of the labour movement and trades unionism, Christian socialism and pacifism, this is a fascinating account of the lives and times of a particular group of “do-gooders” who in all sincerity and with great conviction worked for better social conditions. Meticulously researched and based on many original documents, this is a scholarly and academic book, but accessible to the general reader and always readable. I certainly learnt a lot and was intrigued to find out about such indomitable characters as Nellie Dowell, who has now deservedly found a voice.

  • Diane
    2019-02-02 04:09

    From the Christian Science Monitor, 1/19/2015:"Koven's book so ambitious, both in terms of its scope...and it's execution...but [it] doesn't read like a self-serious doorstop of academic at the heart of of this excellent work is a engrossing, sensitive,and thoughtful story of history, theology,politics, and genuine love."

  • Susan
    2019-01-31 07:13

    It's pretty serious nonfiction but shows two perspectives on the late 19th early 20th century socialist-nonconformist-labor-pacifist-suffrage movements. Two close women friends, one poor, one upper middle class who worked together in the East End slums of London to improve conditions and bring about "heaven on earth".

  • Lesley
    2019-01-27 03:33

    Very good indeed.

  • Rose
    2019-02-08 03:30

    Some interesting information, impressive research, but much material is unintergrated into main narrative.

  • Joyce
    2019-02-07 00:28

    Reviewed in The Christian Science Monitor