Paying for Principles: Women and the Politics of Translation Work, 1880–1900

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This article explores the dual role of translation work as remunerative and political labour for economically self-reliant women involved in activism in the late nineteenth century. Home-based freelance translation was a convenient profession for educated women, but the work was often underpaid, precarious, and demanding. As this article will show, translation work could also be explicitly politicized. Growing socialist networks developed an international press that allowed paid work to be combined with the dissemination of political ideas and texts across borders. Three case studies, of Eleanor Marx, Clementina Black, and Regina Zadek Bernstein, give an insight into translators’ relationships with their work and the place they gave themselves in the texts they produced. The article considers the importance of these women’s socio-political beliefs, their international activist networks, and their professional and intellectual independence in their attempts to unite the remunerative and activist aspects of their work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-536
JournalWomen's Writing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Global nineteenth century
  • Translation
  • Periodicals
  • Political press
  • Intellectual labour
  • Women’s paid work


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