The Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 is now taking its summer break. It will resume in September when you should check back here for news of its seminars, upcoming book, and the annual bursary.
And it you’d like to become a member, right now is the best time – membership runs from September to September each year. The WSG is a supportive international community of scholars interested in women’s and gender studies in the early modern period and long eighteenth century. As a member, you’ll be added to our listserv, hear about the seminars first, be able to apply to our bursary, get discounts on the annual workshop and the opportunity to go on our summer trip.
Annual subscription fees for those in the U.K. are £18.00 (waged) and £15.00 (student and unwaged), and for those overseas, £15.00 (waged) and £12.00 (student and unwaged). Forms can be returned to WSG’s Treasurer by email or by post, or in person at WSG seminars and the workshop. See you in September!
The Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 is a small, informal, multidisciplinary group formed to promote women’s studies in the early modern period and the long eighteenth century. Since it was established in the 1980s, the group has enabled those interested in women’s and gender studies to keep in touch, to hear about one another’s research and publications, and to meet regularly to discuss relevant topics.
We organize regular weekend seminars and an annual workshop at the Foundling Museum, where members can meet and discuss women’s studies topics. We can also offer advice and opportunities to engage in activities that increase opportunities for publication, or enhance professional profiles in other ways.
For our 2017-18 seminars, we invite papers related to any aspect of women’s studies: not only women writers, but any activity of a woman or women in the period of our concern, or anything that affects or is affected by women in this period, such as the law, religion, etc. Male writers writing about women or male historical figures relevant to the condition of women in this period are also a potential topic. Papers tackling aspects of women’s studies within or alongside the wider histories of gender and sexuality are particularly welcome; so are topics from the early part of our period. We would also welcome how-to presentations for discussion: examples of suitable topics would include, but are not limited to, applying for grants, setting up research networks, becoming a curator, co-authorship, using specialised data, and writing about images. These would be particularly appropriate for our December 8 meeting, as would accounts of new research and publication projects from members of all levels of experience. Papers should normally be 25 minutes or under, but will have a maximum of 15 minutes on December 8, to allow time for some celebratory revelry. The seminar dates are:
Saturday 29th September, 2018, 1-4pm
Saturday 8th December, 2018, 1-4pm. ‘Women’s Studies 1558-1837: 2018 and Beyond’, celebrating the launch of WSG’s 30th anniversary book, Exploring the Lives of Women 1558-1837.
Saturday 26th January, 2019, 1-4pm
Saturday 30th March, 2019, 1-4pm
The full address for the Foundling Museum is 40 Brunswick Square, London, WC1N 1AZ. It is a wheelchair accessible venue. We are allowed into the room at 12.30pm to give us time to sort out paperwork and technology, but sessions will run from 1-4pm. So please arrive a little early if you can.
The WSG is open to men, women, and non-binary people, students, faculty, and independent scholars, all of whom are invited to join our group and to give papers.
This year our summer trip was organised by WSG member Miriam al Jamil and we went to the National Portrait Gallery’s Heinz Archive and Library, where staff had organised a sumptuous display of prints and other material all related to gender and women’s studies in the early modern period and long eighteenth century. WSG member Susan Schonfield went along and here reports on the day:
Twelve WSG members and friends visited the Archive and Library where the Curator of the Gallery’s Reference Collection, Paul Cox, had put out material for us to view. As an example, he had been asked by Miriam al Jamil, who had organised the visit, to show what the archive and Gallery held on the Chevalier d’Eon (1728-1810). Several prints and a copy of the one oil portrait (on loan to a Berlin museum) gave an indication of the wealth of material available to researchers and students.
Paul gave a short talk on the life of the Chevalier. He included explanations of the different print techniques used, e.g. stipple and intaglio, and mentioned the various sources of the prints, including contemporary scandal sheets. The Chevalier had been a soldier, diplomat and spy for Louis XV, and was famously a cross-dresser, living from 1786 as a woman. To complement D’Eon’s story, Paul had also looked out what the archive held on Hannah Snell (1723-92), a woman who had passed for a man to serve as a soldier and sailor; one print portrait of Snell was probably taken from a real-life sitting, and certainly her resourceful character was evident. After the talk, we had time to look more closely at the individual prints and ask questions.
Our second speaker was Carys Lewis, an Archivist at the collection, who spoke about the acquisition of portraits of women, as well as work by women artists. The first Annual Report of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), founded in 1856, was in 1858 and listed 57 portraits acquired, five of which were of women. Carys also took us through some of the problems of provenance and previous incorrect attributions; some of the prints shown to us still had not had their sitter identified. We were also privileged to see the first Director of the Gallery, George Scharf’s sketchbook, with his own drawings of copies of prints and his notes on the colours of the works he’d sketched. The archive holds a collection of the 17thC artist Mary Beale, together with her husband’s diary, where he affectionately records what she was working on. Again, after the talk, we had the opportunity to look at the prints more closely, gently handle the sketchbook, and ask questions.
The Archive is open for study by members of the public Tuesdays to Thursdays, from 10.00am to 5.00pm, by appointment. The staff are most helpful and friendly. This is a real treasure trove, and several members of the group expressed the intention of returning for a visit to help them with their research.
After final questions and thanks, we went round the corner to an Italian restaurant for lunch, a pleasant social occasion.
Thanks Susan, for writing this report. And thanks too, to Paul and Carys of the NPG for organising the visit. Captivated by this post? Support the NPG’s work by becoming a member of the gallery. Want to learn more about the history of gender? Join the WSG.
As an Early Career Researcher, it is often difficult to access bursaries and grants for research. Visiting archives and undertaking other forms of research for the completion of articles, monographs and other publications that are so necessary to secure postdoctoral employment can therefore be extremely difficult. In December 2016, I was delighted to be awarded the Women’s Studies Group 30th anniversary bursary for my research on female servants in early modern England. This was the first year that this £500 bursary had been awarded and I am pleased to hear that the group have been able to award two more grants this year.
The award was granted for me to undertake archival research for the preparation of my monograph, Female Service in Early Modern England, which is based on my doctoral thesis. This thesis explored the experiences of around 500 female servants recorded in the church court depositions of the dioceses of Exeter and Gloucester (covering today’s counties of Devon, Cornwall and Gloucestershire). These diocesan courts were charged with enforcing morality and discipline in early modern society. Witnesses from across the social spectrum were asked to provide evidence of what they had seen or heard in relation to illicit behaviour such as adultery and inter-party disputes including defamation and broken marriage promises. Their depositions are almost unrivalled in the detail they provide of both the everyday and the extraordinary. Few other sources allow the study of female servants’ experiences, nor can they offer such rich detail of their lives. Through a female servant’s account of the events she had witnessed, we learn details of her employment, her age and residence history as well as the type of work she performed, the spaces in which her life played out and the interactions she had with her employers, neighbours and friends.
Over the course of 2017, I made trips to the London Metropolitan Archive and Somerset Archives to gather additional source material from their collections of ecclesiastical court depositions (covering London and Somerset respectively). I am still analysing this new data but it appears that these two archives will provide snapshot information of approximately 250 additional female servants. Prior to receiving the bursary, I also collected data from the diocese of Winchester court (covering Hampshire and the Isle pf Wight), amounting to an additional 126 female servants. Although the evidence is at times fragmentary, the monograph will explore the working and social lives of at least 800 English women employed in service between 1550 and 1650.
The monograph breaks new ground by challenging several deeply-entrenched tropes within the scholarship of early modern female service. Analysing service from demographic, geographical, economic and social perspectives, this book demonstrates the variety of experiences of female service that extended across the life-cycle and challenges its conception as a rigid institution designed to regulate youth. It presents a richer, more textured picture of female service, moving beyond its conceptualisation as domestic. It highlights the various forms of work they performed and the range of relationships they forged beyond the household. The book demonstrates the important role that women in service played in the early modern community, makes an important intervention in early modern British social history and raises fundamental questions about how historians understand women, community and work.
Thank you, Charmian, for this WSG bursary report, and for the insight into the journey from PhD thesis to monograph. For more information on Charmian’s job while she’s writing up her book, namely the Women’s Work in Rural England, 1500-1700 project at Exeter University, click here.
WSG member Helen Draper, with Dr Carol Jacobi of Tate, will be co-convening the session ‘In/visibility and influence: the impact of women artists and their work’ at the Association for Art History Annual Conference 2018.
The session’s themes are biography and reputation, legacy and longevity, and the artists include Artemisia Gentileschi, Elisabetta Sirani, Angelica
Kauffmann, Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal, Elizabeth Butler, Ethel Walker, Louise
Joplin, Isabel Rawsthorne, Frances Hodgkins (below), Vanessa Bell, Eva
Hesse, Lee Lozano, Anne Truitt, Anne Schille, Pauline Boty, Kristin Jones,
Paula Rego and Adriana Varejão, and Judy Chicago (filmed in conversation).
AAH 2018 takes places 5-7 April 2018 at the Courtauld Institute and King’s College London. For further information, including registration, please see the AAH website.