Reminder: WSG seminar January 2022

The fourth seminar of the year takes place on Saturday, 29 January 2022 (GMT).

This seminar will take place on Zoom. Please be aware, you must be a member of the WSG to gain access to the Zoom sessions. The links are distributed through our WSG mailing list 24-hours before the event. Becoming a member means you will be able to attend the Zoom and in-person seminars for the 2021-2022 season.


Phil Winterbottom

“By cash paid herself”:

 Women as clients of London’s banks from the Restoration to the 1780s

 The story of the development of banking in England has mostly been framed as the history of banks and bankers. With a few notable exceptions, this has been a male story.

Banks could not have emerged and developed in the 17th and 18th centuries without clients with financial needs which the banks could meet. A significant number of those clients were women, and examination of their collective identity and experience can offer new insights into female financial literacy, agency, and attitudes to risk, prudence and security.

This paper forms part of my doctoral research, which focuses on the agency of banking clients, both male and female, between the Restoration and the 1780s and seeks to identify trends over time in the composition of the banks’ clientele and how those clients accessed and shaped the emerging services of bankers. I am combining analysis at the macro scale, using a large dataset derived from bank client account ledgers, and the micro scale, comprising client case studies based on individual client bank account records and their personal papers. My research aims to establish why individuals began, and continued, to trust banks and bankers, and to assess how client behaviour was shaped by social, familial, political, economic, occupational and geographical factors and networks. My thesis will contribute to recent debates on the role of personal networks, modernisation and institutionalisation within the financial sphere and to establish whether over the period of study there was a shift in client-banker engagement from primarily personal relationships of obligation, based on character and mutual trust, to more formal and contractual interactions.

This paper presents an analysis, and case studies, of female client engagement with London’s banks across of the period of my study, and demonstrates that in late 17th and 18th century England women approached banks with needs which varied widely both in nature and scale. Their engagement with banks certainly differed in some ways from that of men, but this paper will demonstrate that many women demonstrated a willingness and ability to use banks to meet at least some of their financial needs, and that their business was welcomed by the banks.

Brenda M. Hosington

Two Seventeenth-Century English Women Translators of French Prose Fiction

The two women featuring in this talk are Susan Du Verger (1610- c. 1655), born into a London Huguenot family but later a convert to Catholicism, and Judith Man (b. 1621), the young daughter of Peter Man, solicitor to the Earl of Strafford. The French works of fiction they translate are short stories, a moralistic novel, and a romance. In 1639, Du Verger translated selections from two collections of short stories by the French author Jean-Pierre Camus, which she translated under the titles Admirable Events and Certain Moral Relations. She followed this two years later with Camus’ novel, Diotrephe, or, An Historie of Valentines, that demonstrated the folly and tragic consequences of sexual misconduct.  Judith Man’s chosen text was a romance by Nicolas Coeffeteau, which she entitled An Epitome of the History of Faire Argenis and Polyarchus and published in 1640. Contrary to Camus’ Diotrephe, it focussed on the power of love, extolled feminine virtue and constancy, and ended happily.  In my talk, I shall say something about each of these translators, comment on any remarks pertaining to gender that they make in their dedications, and briefly discuss the translations in question.

Alannah Tomkins

“I helpt to nurse”: care work by Georgian spinsters, 1780-1820

This research, which is emphatically work in progress, aims to consider nursing activity in domestic settings by women who were not explicitly being paid for their attendance on the sick.  It contends that unmarried adult women formed a pool of nursing labour that was little acknowledged, but which could be critical for the support of elderly parents, lateral kin, and other people’s children.  It draws on a small cohort of diaries, letters and memoirs written by women living in England, chiefly Elizabeth Ham (1783-1859), Ann Porter (c.1750-1814) and Ellen Weeton (1776-1849).

All three women had different sorts of struggle for financial independence, and took on work as governesses, teachers or companions at some point in their lives.  They wrote in different ways about what their own nursing work comprised.  Porter also published a children’s story about what nursing work should be.  These narratives permit a discussion around the care work reported by the women who performed it, when compared with the stereotype of the pre-reform nurse devised exclusively by outside observers.

None of the three women writers would have described themselves exclusively as sick-nurses, yet their behaviour (and arguably the ubiquity of people like them) contribute to a more subtle and less pejorative understanding of ‘old maids’ and domestic nursing before the era of nursing reform.  They also offer some indications as to why care work could be unduly denigrated.

Eliska Bujokova

Matrons, Housekeepers and Nurses: Food Provision and Power Relations in Glasgow’s Early Nineteenth c. Hospitals

The evidence of female managerial staff in Glasgow’s hospitals tells a story of women’s work, participation in the medical environment as well as prominence within the structures of institutions of growing importance. They also, however, reveal the true source of the power exercised by these women employed as matrons, housekeepers and head-nurses. Food provision, preparation and distribution were the key responsibilities of female managers and were central to their position in the establishments. It was their responsibility over the diets of patients as well as staff that underlined their importance to the hospitals’ running and strongly resembled a position occupied by mothers, housewives and housekeepers within households. Furthermore, diet management was seen as related to both care and cure and it is this intersection of the two within women’s unpaid domestic work and its paid counterparts that this paper explores. Therefore, while focusing on the overlap between women’s paid and unpaid work, it investigates the seeming innateness of women’s association with food, care, and provision within and without the home. It aims to extricate the normative framework of this phenomenon and how it could transcend into the individuals’ social status as well as their negotiating power in the workplace.

For further information, see our seminars page.  To join the WSG, see our membership page.

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