The Woman Who Did, written in 1893 wholly and solely to satisfy the author's conscience, was perhaps the most controversial book of the late 19th century. Certainly, it was a succès de scandale and a commercial triumph.
The heroine, Herminia Barton, chooses to live unmarried with her lover. When he dies, she endures many a trial for her beliefs - particularly after the stigma of bearing his child - being cast out from both families.
Unfortunately the Women's Movement, whose views the book purported to represent, rejected it as unhelpful to their cause - but the author was quite sure of his own intentions and the strength of his heroine's convictions. 'But surely no woman would ever dare to do so', said my friend, 'I knew a woman who did', said I, 'and this is her story.'
Public Domain (P)2007 Assembled Stories