Ella Hepworth Dixon

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Ella Nora Hepworth Dixon (1857–1932) was an English writer, novelist and editor. Her best-known work is the New Woman novel The Story of a Modern Woman,[1] which has been reprinted in the 21st century.[2]

Life and writings[edit]

Ella Hepworth Dixon was born on 27 March 1857 at Essex Villa, Queens Road, Marylebone, London. She was the seventh child in a family of eight born to the Yorkshireman William Hepworth Dixon (1821–1879) and Marian MacMahon Dixon, who came from Ireland.[3] William was an editor, and literature and the arts were valued in their house for boys and for girls. His position also brought a circle of writers and thinkers to the house, including Geraldine Jewsbury, T. H. Huxley, Richard Francis Burton, Lord Bulwer Lytton, Sir John Everett Millais, and E. M. Ward.

Dixon received an outstanding education for a young woman at her time, studying briefly at Heidelberg, as well as painting in Paris. In 1888, she accepted Oscar Wilde's offer to become the editor of The Woman's World. She also edited the magazine The Englishwomen from 1895.[4] Among her other works (under the canting pseudonym Margaret Wynman) was My Flirtations,[5] described by the American bibliophile Robert Lee Wolff as "a lively and catty series of sketches of [Dixon's] beaux, including the homosexuals, whom she virtually so identifies."[6]

The Story of a Modern Woman (1894) is described by academic Gail Marshall in the Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English (1999) as "a harrowing account of a woman's attempts to survive economically and emotionally when left alone after her father's death. A tale of valiant and unrewarded courage, the novel's only hope for redemption is in women's helping each other to survive in a society which is founded on the 'acquiescent feminine smile'."[7] The Bloomsbury Dictionary of English Literature (1997) considers it "one of the most moving of the New Woman novels."[8] It was translated into French, and also led to the nickname the "New Woman" for its author.[9]

Literary socializing took up much of her time, but she continued to write stories and articles. One Doubtful Hour was a collection of stories,[10] and As I Knew Them autobiographical.[11] Her one-act play The Toy-Shop of the Heart was produced in London in 1908. She died in London on 12 January 1932 at the age of 74.[12]


  1. ^ London: W. Heinemann, 1894.
  2. ^ "The Story of a Modern Woman." Ed. Steve Farmer. Broadview Literary Texts: Toronto, 2004 ISBN 1551113805.
  3. ^ ODNB entry by Nicola Beauman. Retrieved 25 July 2013. Pay-walled.
  4. ^ See British Library Main Catalogue, also the source for the other bibliographical information. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  5. ^ London: Chatto & Windus, 1892. Illustrated by J. Bernard Partridge.
  6. ^ Quoted in the Jarndyce, London, booksellers' catalogue Women Writers R–Z (2012).
  7. ^ Retrieved 25 July 2013 from Credo Reference
  8. ^ Retrieved 25 July 2013 from Credo Reference
  9. ^ ODNB entry.
  10. ^ London: Grant Richards, 1904.
  11. ^ London: Hutchinson, [1930].
  12. ^ ODNB entry.