"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.