Tickets still available for the WSG Portraying preganancy tour: 11am, 15th February 2020

Karen Hearn, curator of the new exhibition at the Foundling Museum ‘Portraying Pregnancy’, will be giving the WSG a tour on 15th February, at 11am.

There are still a few places left if any member would like to join us.

The event is free, though there is a cost to enter the museum, which will be at a concession rate for the group, and free for Art Fund members. Feel free to go earlier to see the exhibition and join the group in there for the tour.

We are also planning to have lunch afterwards for anyone interested. This will be at Cosmoba Italian restaurant at 12.45 p.m. Their menu is available here: http://www.cosmoba.co.uk/. 

The address is: 9 Cosmo Pl, Holborn, London WC1N 3AP

Please contact Miriam for more details, to book and to confirm for the lunch by 31st January, at the WSG email address: wsgpostbox@gmail.com.

Miriam will be in contact shortly with those already on the list.

BSECS 2020: Heroines, Hoops, Heels, Witches & Ghosts: Femininity & the Natural, Unnatural & Supernatural. Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 Panel

This year at the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies annual conference, the Women’s Studies Group were represented by three fantastic panellists: Tabitha Kenlon, Alison Daniell and Carolyn D. Williams. The session was chaired by Yvonne Noble. This panel was well attended and allowed for a lively discussion, closely linked to the papers. Below is the panel proposal, which provides a little more detail with regards to the overall idea for the panel and the individual papers.

This panel considers different ways in which ideas about the natural, unnatural and supernatural on the one hand, and the characteristics and capabilities of women on the other, can become ambiguous and complicated when brought into contact with each other.

Dr Tabitha Kenlon, in ‘A Handbook for Heroines: Acting the Part in Northanger Abbey’, invokes performance theory to argue that Jane Austen’s heroine, by refusing to adhere to all the rules presented to her by conduct manuals, draws attention to the performative elements of ‘nature’. Although conduct manuals assured readers that women were naturally disposed to certain activities and temperaments, writers nonetheless felt obliged to remind women to behave in ways that, if truly natural, should have required little effort. In this respect they were not so different from the Gothic novels that Catherine found so delightful, and whose popularity gave concern to anxious moralists. She must adjust her own actions to fit the story she is really in, while learning to distinguish between malicious deception and required social performance.

Alison Daniell’s ‘Of False Hair, Bolstered Hips and Witchcraft: The Regulation of Women’s Bodies and an Act of Parliament that Never Was’ discusses the Matrimonial Act 1770 (or, as it is more commonly known, The Hoops and Heels Act 1770), which ostensibly permitted husbands to divorce wives who had seduced and betrayed them into matrimony by using perfume, make-up, heels and other commonplace beauty aids; the wives were also to ‘incur the penalty of the laws now in force against witchcraft, sorcery, and suchlike misdemeanours’. It is a fake: it was never passed, or even debated, by Parliament and its provisions do not exist anywhere in law. Yet it is referenced in a number of academic publications and has been quoted, re-quoted and published in newspapers across the globe for over 175 years. This paper analyses possible legal sources for its provisions and discuss some of the cultural factors associating women’s power over men with witchcraft and a mutable female body. It will also suggest a more prosaic origin for the myth than the emotive combination of witchcraft and divorce we know today.

In ‘”Overcome by the horror of the piece”: Women and Ghosts on the Eighteenth-Century Stage’, Carolyn D. Williams considers some cultural, gendered and theatrical implications of Sarah Siddons’ belief that in Macbeth, Act III, scene iv, when Banquo’s ghost twice appears to Macbeth at a banquet, Lady Macbeth sees it too. Critical opinion has generally opposed her view of this episode, despite contemporary evidence that she made it work on stage. The presentation will conclude with some brief workshopping of a few key moments in the banquet scene, and of one line in Act V, scene i, the sleepwalking scene, once offered as self-evident proof that Siddons’ views were untenable, but which could take on additional, and powerful, resonance if these views are respected.

WSG Bursary 2019-2020 Award Winners

Happy New Year to all our readers. We are pleased to be able to announce the winners of our two bursaries.

Anna Jamieson, Birkbeck was awarded the £750 prize to continue researching in the Fellowes archives in the Norfolk and Huntingdonshire Record Offices as part of her project ‘Spending and Shopping: Women’s Experience in the Eighteenth-Century Madhouse’.  Congratulations Anna!

The joint award with the Foundling Museum of £500 went to Alexis Wolf, Birkbeck.  Alexis will use the award to fund research in the Foundling archives as part of her project ‘Women Nurses and Inspectors of the Foundling Hospital, 1750-1830’. Congratulations Alexis!

Details of our 2020-2021 award scheme will be announced later in the year.

Reminder: WSG seminar January 2020

The third seminar of the year takes place on Saturday 18 January. Seminars take place at the Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, WC1N 1AZ, starting promptly at 1pm and finishing at 4pm.  Doors open at 12.30.  The Foundling is a wheelchair accessible venue, and directions for getting to the Museum can be found here, including those for the visually impaired.  All seminars are free and open to the public, though refreshments will cost £2 to those who aren’t WSG members.  Those attending the seminars are welcome to look round the museum before or after.

Saturday 18 January, 2020. Chairs Angela Escott and Miriam al Jamil
Charlotte Young: Women’s involvement in Canterbury sequestrations, 1643-1650 [WSG Bursary winner, 2019]
Carol Stewart: Penelope Aubin’s The Noble Slaves and the Politics of Opposition
Anne Stott: Princess Charlotte of Wales: gender and the “reversionary interest”
Katherine Woodhouse: “Madam Smith says, what shou’d the Captain do with such a wife as me who can only sit with a book in her hand”
Anna Jamieson: Madness Exhibited: The Margaret Nicholson Scandal

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

DEADLINE TODAY!: WSG and Joint WSG / Foundling Museum Bursaries for 2019 now open

In 2016 to celebrate its 30th anniversary the Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 began a bursary scheme. This year WSG pleased to offer two bursaries: one of £750, and one of £500 jointly with The Foundling Museum.

The WSG bursary is offered to an early career researcher*, independent scholar or PhD student who is a member of the WSG and the bursaries are intended to support research in any aspect of women’s studies in the period 1558-1837. The joint WSG / Foundling Museum bursary is also offered to the Foundling Hospital Research Forum (FHRF).

For further information about the bursary, and to apply, please download the application form.  The deadline for applications is 30th November 2019.  Applicants will be notified of the outcome by January 2020. For further information on membership, see here.