Seminars

The Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 seminars take place on Saturdays in autumn and winter at the Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, London, WC1N 1AZ, starting promptly at 1pm and finishing at 4pm. Doors open at 12.30pm, and there is a break for tea, coffee and biscuits halfway through the session. The Foundling is a wheelchair accessible venue, and directions for getting to the Museum can be found here, including for those who are partially sighted. Seminars are free and open to the public though non-members will be asked to make a donation of £2 for refreshments. Those attending the seminars are welcome to look round the museum before or after.

The WSG invites 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, be it history, literature, art, medicine, music, theatre, religion, economics, sexuality, and so on.  Early career and independent scholars are particularly welcome.  We put out a call for papers every February through August on sites like bsecs.org.uk, but if you would like to be considered as a speaker please contact the Seminars Organiser, Carolyn Williams.

Non-member attendees including speakers are strongly encouraged to join WSG, and can do so here.

Current programme: 

Saturday 17 August 2019. Extraordinary ‘Creative’ Summer Session. Chairs: Yvonne Noble & Louise Duckling

Sara Read: The Gossips’ Choice: drawing on the case notes of midwife Sarah Stone in Historical Fiction
This presentation discusses the development of a ‘practice-as-research’ creative writing project, in which I have written a full-length novel using some of the case notes of Sarah Stone, whose A Complete Practice of Midwifery, published in 1737, as the basis for some of the episodes within. Her text suggests the author was an assertive and competent midwife, often called upon in difficult cases to remedy the poor treatment of less experienced birth attendants. In the course of the research and writing I identified a number of different questions, such as how to depict a character based on Stone’s practice, who, like her, was married to an apothecary, but who was not the same woman. While Stone is a fascinating, inspirational figure, I wanted my midwife protagonist to have her own voice and character. Details of labour and childbirth are often skimmed over in historical fiction or based on long-standing stereotypes, and I wanted to use my skills as a researcher into early modern reproductive health to show that the picture was more varied, and that while some treatments might seem alarming to a modern reader, they were based on the best practices of the time.

Kim Sherwood: Fictionalising historic figures.
Kim Sherwood is an award-winning novelist. Her debut novel, Testament (riverrun, 2018), explored the impact of the Holocaust on three generations of a family, from 1944 to the present day. Kim is now writing her second novel, which reaches further back, to the eighteenth century. She has also been writing about the eighteenth century as Writer in Residence at Exeter Library, specifically looking at the works of Elizabeth Montagu and Elizabeth Carter in the Rare and Early Printed Books Special Collection. In this workshop, Kim will demonstrate and discuss how the historical record evolves into fiction, with particular regard to fictionalizing historic figures such as Frances Reynolds and Hester Thrale. Kim will also offer creative exercises that will help us explore and reflect as a group on the role of imagination in historiography (no previous creative writing experience required).

Caroline DouglasSpectre of a Woman
The history of photography has long been crafted in such a way that many of the living, breathing participants of its earliest period are written out. Principal among them are women. We are only now coming to terms with how photography was gendered from its very inception. Photography’s close association with the female body has been accompanied by the historical erasure of the agency of actual women: their hands, thinking and self-activity that helped shape the medium through its fin de siècle phase. This paper explores the history of women in early photographic practice through the case study of the C18th pioneering Chemist Elizabeth Fulhame and the C19th voiceless subject Elizabeth Johnstone Hall – a ‘Fishwife’ and one of the world’s first photographic subjects to be presented as art. Spectre of a Woman will be a presentation of my latest practice-led research, using re-enactment and montage as a method to explore the ethics and possibilities of recovering some of early photography’s ‘unknown women’.

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Upcoming programme:

Saturday 21 September, 2019. Chairs TBC

Saturday 23 November, 2019. Chairs TBC

Saturday 18 January, 2020. Chairs TBC

Saturday 21 March, 2020. Chairs TBC