WSG seminar series 2020-21

The Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 is pleased to announce the speakers for their seminar series 2020-21. The first five sessions, in September,  November, December, January, and February and will be delivered on Zoom and the last two sessions, in March and April 2021, may  be delivered as an in-person meeting at the Foundling Museum as well as on Zoom. All meetings will start promptly at 1pm BST/GMT* (with arrivals from 12.30 onward to allow for necessary preparations and administration). We aim to finish by 3.30pm.

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September 19, 2020*
Stephen Spiess: Reading Strumpets: Thomas Heywood, Sexual Epistemology, and the Making of English Whoredom
Sonia Villegas Lopez: Female Libertinism in Gabriel de Brémond’s Transnational Oriental Fictions.
Anthony Walker-Cook: Descending into the Underworld with Mary Leapor and Sarah Fielding.

November 21, 2020
Rocio Martinez: To defend a princess’s rights to her father’s throne: Maria Theresia of Austria and the protestations against her renunciation of the inheritance of the Spanish Monarchy.
Avleen Grewal: Vathek: Gaze, Disorientations and Policing Identity.
Eva Lippold: Marriage and Magic Swords: Mariana Starke’s Factual Fairytale.

December 5, 2020
Daniel Beaumont: Melancholy and Despair among Early Modern English Women: A case study of Hannah Allen’s Satan’s Methods and Malice Baffled (1683).
Julie Vig: Women and martiality in the Sikh literature of early modern Punjab.
Micheline White: Queen Katherine Parr’s Gift Books and the Exercise of Royal Power.
Valerie Schutte: Popular Literature at the Accession of Queen Mary.

January 23, 2021
Megan Shaw: Looking towards a cultural history of Kathleen Villiers, Duchess of Buckingham (1603-1649).
Gillian Beattie-Smith: Catherine Helen Spence: a consideration of her feminist and transnational agency.
Kate Stephenson: Lawyers, Débardeuses and Pages; Women Masquerading as Men.

February 20, 2021
Sarah Ailwood: ‘In justice to myself’: Legal and Textual Subjectivities in Eighteenth-Century Women’s Memoirs.
Daisy Winter: “I who am but dust”: mortal fear in Elizabeth Delaval’s ‘Memoirs and Meditations’.
Valentina Aparicio: Maria Graham’s Journal of a residence in Chile (1824): a transnational community of women.

March 20, 2021
Cheryll Duncan: ‘Much want of judgment’: new evidence concerning the singer Jane Barbier.
Maria Clara Pivate Biajoli: Understanding Current Readers’ Reception of Jane Austen through Fan Fiction.
Francesca Saggini: Frances Burney, Dramatis Persona.

April 17, 2021*
Yvonne Noble: The Poetry of Anne Finch.
Tabitha Kenlon: Find Yourself in a Book: Reading Heroines in Eighteenth-Century Gothic Novels.
Miriam al Jamil: The Grand Duchess of Tuscany’s Birth Days: Weary and Waiting at the Florentine Court.

*Please note that the September and April meetings are BST, and the rest are GMT.

For further information including abstracts, see our seminars page, or contact the organiser Carolyn D. Williams.  To join the WSG, see our membership page.

The Women’s Studies Group (1558-1837) CALL FOR PAPERS 2020-2021 SEASON

The Women’s Studies Group (1558-1837) are please to announce our call for papers for the 2020-21 season is now live. Please consider presenting at one of the WSG seminars. Further details are below and on our website:

The WSG is open to men, women and non-binary people, students, faculty and independent scholars. We invite members old and new to offer papers formal and informal, as well as works-in-progress, on any topic related to early modern and long eighteenth-century women’s and gender studies, including (but not restricted to) history, literature, art, medicine, music, theatre, religion, economics, and sexuality.  Early career and independent scholars are particularly welcome. Since we usually have 3 or 4 papers in a session, papers should be restricted to a maximum of 20-25 minutes, to allow plenty of time for general discussion afterwards.

All meetings for the 2020-2021 season will start promptly at 1pm GMT (with arrivals from 12.30 onward to allow for necessary preparations and administration). We aim to finish by 3.30pm.

The dates are as follows:

Saturday 19 September 2020*

Saturday 5 December 2020

Saturday 23 January 2021

Saturday 20 March 2021

*Please note that the September meeting is British Summer Time, and the rest are GMT.

Our seminars usually take place at the Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, London, WC1N 1AZ. For the 2020-2021 season, however, the first two sessions, in September and December 2020, will be delivered on Zoom. Zoom will also be used for the last two sessions, in January and March 2021, though these may also be accompanied by meetings at the Foundling.

For more information about the society and its activities, including how to join, please see our website at https://womensstudiesgroup.org

Please reply by 17/7/2020 to Carolyn D. Williams at cdwilliamslyle@aol.com 

Great explorations: a fictional midwife and fictions of ideal women by Louise Duckling

Following on from the arrival of WSG’s anniversary volume in paperback format, Louise Duckling introduces new books launched by two of its contributors: Sara Read and Tabitha Kenlon.

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On an autumnal evening last September, a small crowd gathered at Harris & Harris Books in Clare, Suffolk, for one of its popular Author on the Stairs events. Gillian Williamson and I had been invited to talk about WSG’s anniversary book, Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558–1837, which had recently been released in paperback format.

As one of the book’s editors, I wanted to convey the scope and originality of our authors’ contributions in my talk. Therefore, I chose to address the question: why had so many of the women featured in the book been left out of the historical record? I considered how women’s history was constructed (and gendered) in Victorian biographical dictionaries, using our ‘bookend’ queens Elizabeth I and Victoria as opening case studies, before introducing some of the women whose lives are explored in our anniversary volume.

This approach led neatly into Gillian’s talk about her chapter on the Gentleman’s Magazine. Gillian eloquently described how the magazine constructed ideas of gender in the eighteenth century, specifically referencing the emergence of obituaries in its pages. The obituaries were used by Gillian (with some brilliant flashes of humour) to show how femininity was framed in the Gentleman’s Magazine, while also providing glimpses of a less-neatly gendered society.

There was an opportunity for the audience to ask questions and handle some of our original source material – an 1866 edition of a female biographical dictionary and an early volume of the Gentleman’s Magazine­. We enjoyed lively discussion and hospitality, in the perfect setting of an independent bookshop. Reflecting on this evening, in such an intimate and sociable environment, it is clear we were very fortunate. For anyone releasing a book right now, any ‘in-person’ events or celebrations will have to wait. This is exactly the case for two of our book’s contributors, whose latest work has been published during the lockdown.

The first of these new books is by Dr Sara Read, who specialises in cultural and literary representations of women, reproduction and medicine in the early modern period. Sara played a pivotal role in the WSG book, serving as both co-editor and contributor, with her chapter focusing on The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie (1622) by Elizabeth Clinton and highlighting views around childcare and breastfeeding. In her latest work, Sara continues to draw upon this rich subject knowledge, while venturing into new territory: the genre of historical fiction.

In her excellent debut novel, The Gossips’ Choice, Sara has created an atmospheric world for her protagonist, the midwife Lucie Smith. The book has been described as a seventeenth-century version of ‘Call the Midwife’, as we follow Lucie’s cases during the plague year of 1665. It is a beautifully crafted and impeccably researched novel, drawing upon a wide range of historical sources. For example, some of the events in the book are inspired by A Complete Practice of Midwifery (1737), the memoir of midwife Sarah Stone. This approach provides authentic detail to a vividly imagined and compelling story.

The second new book release is by Dr Tabitha Kenlon. Tabitha’s research concentrates on eighteenth-century British novels, theatre, and conduct manuals. In Exploring the Lives of Women, Tabitha’s chapter provides a close reading of a single text, exposing the confused rhetoric in the cautionary pamphlet Advice to Unmarried Women (1791) written by an anonymous clergyman. Tabitha also contributed one of the two poems in our book, ‘Gretchen’s Answer’, which follows similar themes by exploring the consequences of “when society tells women how to think, how to act, how to feel” (Exploring, p. 98).

Tabitha’s first monograph continues this investigation. In Conduct Books and the History of the Ideal Woman, Tabitha shows how the longest-running war is the battle over how women should behave. This is an exceptional study, being the first of its kind to provide a trans-historical approach: expanding upon previous period-specific studies, Tabitha considers the persistence (or alteration) of the female ideal over six centuries. Tabitha’s brilliant close readings of a wide range of texts are superbly executed and entertaining, making the book highly accessible to the specialist or general reader. It is a powerful book, written with compassion and flashes of anger, in an elegant and witty prose.

Until we can all meet to celebrate, congratulations to Sara and Tabitha for producing two great books. Full reviews of both publications will appear on this website in the coming months: watch this space!

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The Gossips’ Choice by Sara Read is published by Wild Pressed Books for £12.

Conduct Books and the History of the Ideal Woman by Tabitha Kenlon is published by Anthem Press for £80 (hardback) and £25 (ebook). Please ask your institutional library to buy a copy. A 20% discount is available to WSG members.

Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558–1837, the anniversary book by WSG, is published by Pen & Sword Books for £19.99 (hardback), £12.99 (paperback) and £5.20 (ebook).

Please support your local independent booksellers if you can. Harris & Harris Books is currently offering a delivery service.

Summer Online Seminar, 1230-1530, Saturday, 20 June 2020

We have rescheduled the previously cancelled March seminar. The session will now take place via Zoom. If you would like to join the session, please consider becoming a WSG member. Full details and abstracts can be found here.

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1230-1530, Saturday, 20 June 2020

(via Zoom – the link is only available to WSG members)

Lindy Moore: The Scottish Schoolmistress in the Eighteenth Century

Alexis Wolf: Women and Mentoring in the Late Eighteenth Century: Mary Wollstonecraft, Margaret King and Mary Shelley

Rachel Eckersley: Female benefactors to dissenting academies in England

Catriona Wilson: “Some attention to those female members”: Feminised monarchy in the first exhibition of Kensington Palace’s State Apartments, 1899

Chair: Gillian Williamson
Assistant Chair: Angela Escott
Zoom Host: Brianna Robertson-Kirkland

Upcoming Publication: Princesses Mary and Elizabeth Tudor and the Gift Book Exchange

This fall my second monograph, Princesses Mary and Elizabeth Tudor and the Gift Book Exchange, will be published with ARC Humanities Press in the “Gender and Power in the Premodern World” series. The monograph was meant to be published this summer, but due to the current pandemic, it is at the press awaiting copy-editing. The press plans to re-open in August. I actually presented portions of the first chapter at the Women’s Studies Group meeting on 30 January 2016.

This primary focus of this monograph are the four manuscript dedications that Princess Elizabeth wrote to Henry VIII, Katherine Parr, and her brother Edward, that accompanied her four pre-accession gift translations. It is clear that to fully understand these dedications, Elizabeth’s work cannot be separated out from that of her sister Mary. The dedications must be examined by themselves, as well as alongside the New Year’s gift-giving tradition in which she gave them both her and Mary’s youthful translations, and how her dedications and translations came to be represented after she completed them. Comparing dedications, then, is another way to compare their pre-accession experiences of Mary and Elizabeth, a time period for both women which is largely ignored for their later years as queen.

Importantly, rather than treating the pre-accession translations of Elizabeth and Mary as separate and not equal, this study examines them together, as Mary and Elizabeth undertook some of their translation at the exact same time. I show that Mary’s translations need to be considered as important as Elizabeth’s translations, and how in fact, Elizabeth’s translations were of little importance at the time she created them.

This study re-evaluates important literary achievements made by both princesses before they became queens. The first chapter is an analysis of the book dedications that were given to Princesses Elizabeth and Mary to show how Elizabeth’s dedications were part of a genre that used supplication and modesty to make a personal connection with the recipient of the dedication. The second chapter concentrates on Mary’s translations. Unlike those by Elizabeth, neither had an accompanying dedication and she did not give either as New Year’s gifts. The third chapter is the crux of my interpretation of Elizabeth, offering an examination of her four dedications alongside an explanation of the texts that they accompany. I suggest that Elizabeth had to give Henry, Edward, and Katherine Parr translated texts with dedications to prove her loyalty and show her desire not to be demoted from the royal family again. To greater emphasize the singularity and importance of Elizabeth’s dedications, the fourth chapter examines extant New Year’s gift-exchange information for the years in which Elizabeth gave her translated manuscripts to her relatives. The final chapter concentrates on the printed publications of Elizabeth’s translation of Marguerite of Navarre’s Le Miroir de l’áme pécheresse.

Valerie Schutte

Valerie Schutte is author of Mary I and the Art of Book Dedications: Royal Women, Power, and Persuasion (2015). She has edited or co-edited four collections on topics such as Mary I, Shakespeare, and queenship. Her personal website is https://tudorqueenship.com/.