”A Singular Life” is a novel published in 1895 by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward. It was the fourth highest best-selling book in the United States in 1896. The book was published in a period when Americans were exploring how the teachings of Jesus Christ could be applied to daily life. Several books considering the question were published in 1890s. A Singular Life, in this vein, features a protagonist named Emanuel Bayard who pursues Jesus-inspired humanitarianism by forsaking ties to his orthodox church. Among Bayard's projects is positively influencing a prostitute named Magdalena (or ”Lena”) to become more respectable and use her talent for singing for a better purpose. When he suggests she pursue a new career, specifically household service, she balks and refuses the stereotypical domestic role and instead works for a gunpowder factory.
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward (1844–1911) was an early feminist American author and intellectual who challenged traditional Christian beliefs of the afterlife, challenged women's traditional roles in marriage and family, and advocated clothing reform for women.