Framing the Magdalen: sentimental narratives and impression management in charity annual reporting



Evans L & Pierpoint J (2015) Framing the Magdalen: sentimental narratives and impression management in charity annual reporting. Accounting and Business Research, 45 (6-7), pp. 661-690.

We analyse the annual report narratives, between 1801 and 1914, of the Edinburgh Magdalen Asylum, a reformatory for ‘fallen’ women. We aim to provide new insights by combining interdisciplinary perspectives: the work of Erving Goffman on stigma, asylums, impression management and framing, and writings on literary genres, in particular eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction. We also contribute to research on the annual report as source material for social history and to accounting histories of women. We find that the narratives were employed to discharge the directors’ accountability by portraying their work and the asylum as socially and economically useful, accounting for the inmates in their charge, securing funding and finding suitable employment for inmates after release. The narratives and their subjects were framed in accordance with conventions of sentimental novels and recurring literary plot structures. By creating a dichotomy between victims of seduction and ‘hardened’ prostitutes, the directors could manage expectations: not all Magdalens could be saved. On the other hand, this dichotomy allowed the directors to advertise their ‘product’ in the market for domestic labour: Case histories and personal narratives were presented to show that the remorseful Magdalen could become a docile domestic servant and productive citizen.

accounting history; Magdalens, narratives; literature; impression management; charities

Accounting and Business Research: Volume 45, Issue 6-7

FundersThe British Academy
Publication date31/12/2015
Publication date online11/11/2015
PublisherTaylor and Francis

People (1)


Professor Lisa Evans

Professor Lisa Evans

Professor of Accounting, Accounting & Finance

Projects (1)