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Ann Veronica

Spectator, Ann Veronica

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a novel by H. G. Wells, published in 1909. In this novel of suburban rebellion Ann Veronica Stanley, a 21-year-old science student, refuses to accept her father's authority, leaves home, and looks unsuccessfully for work in London. She becomes indebted to Ramage, a businessman who tries to take advantage of her innocence, and falls in love with Capes, a married biology instructor. Meanwhile, her female mentor Miss Miniver introduces her to the suffragette movement. She takes part in an attempt to storm the House of Commons, and is arrested and imprisoned. Once released, she declares her love for Capes and frees herself from her other financial and emotional entanglements. Wells claimed to have been the first popular novelist to portray a sexually aggressive heroine who ‘fell in love, and showed it’, instead of waiting for the man to make the first moves. Certainly the book caused intense controversy, partly fuelled by the air of scandal surrounding its author at the time of publication. The Spectator denounced it as a ‘poisonous book’ undermining the institution of the family. Ann Veronica played a part in the history of women's liberation, despite Wells's hostile caricatures of the suffragette leaders, whose aims he regarded as too narrow. Later feminists have looked somewhat quizzically at what the American critic Freda Kirchwey called Wells's ‘Patented Feminism—Very Perishable’; but Ann Veronica's unaffected bluntness and her defiant rejection of the conventional forms of male domination and male posturing make this one of the most vibrant of propaganda novels.

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