Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Michael Galchinsky

Second Advisor

LeeAnne Richardson

Third Advisor

Paul Schmidt


Throughout the mid-nineteenth century, literary representations of replacement maternal figures helped normalize forms of surrogate motherhood within Victorian childrearing and caregiving structures. Through cultural and literary study, this dissertation articulates the dialectical relationship that developed between fiction and society as maternal norms developed and shifted. Through an analysis of advice texts and the social influence of Queen Victoria’s performance of maternal norms, this work expands previous understandings of how motherhood came to be imagined and idealized in the early years of Victoria’s reign. It then demonstrates how literature highlights the need to revise and expand prevailing understandings of maternity. Next, it reveals how fictional surrogate mothers establish power to overcome the threats they pose to social, familial, and maternal constructions. It ultimately demonstrates that surrogate mothers help revise maternal norms by playing integral roles in enhancing the future prosperity of the middle and upper classes of England. By unmooring motherhood from biological constraints, fictional surrogate mothers call into question the intrinsic nature of dominant maternal norms and open up spaces for female social agency.