Reminder: WSG seminar February 2022

The fifth seminar of the year takes place on Saturday, 26 February 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.

Speakers:

Brianna Robertson-Kirkland. The platonic vs the romantic relationship in the music room: Venanzio Rauzzini and Elizabeth Gooch

Yasmin Solomonescu. Women, Rhetoric, and Rhetorical Theory

Carolyn D. Williams. Images of female benevolence: versions of Lady Bountiful from Dryden’s Eleonora to Jane Austen’s Emma.

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

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.

Speakers:

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.

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.

Speakers:

Phil Winterbottom. “By cash paid herself”: Women as clients of London’s banks from the Restoration to the 1780s

 Brenda M. Hosington. Two Seventeenth-Century Women Translators of French Prose Fiction

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

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

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

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.

Speakers:

Phil Winterbottom. “By cash paid herself”: Women as clients of London’s banks from the Restoration to the 1780s

 Brenda M. Hosington. Two Seventeenth-Century Women Translators of French Prose Fiction

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

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

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

Reminder: WSG seminar November 2021

The third seminar of the year takes place on Saturday, 27 November 2021 (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.

Speakers:

Nora Crook

During the first part of the twentieth century, Mary Shelley’s editing of the work of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, after his death, was widely considered to be, together with the writing of Frankenstein, one of her two major achievements (indeed, her only two achievements worth remembering). In the last fifty years her work has undergone a major reclamation. Her other works have been brought back into print, and there have been at least four major biographies. She has emerged as a major woman of letters during the years 1820–1840, while Frankenstein is the most taught novel at university level.  Her role as editor, however, has tended to recede into the background, almost as an embarrassment. While it is commendable that she is no longer esteemed above all as the piously devoted literary widow, this recession has had the regrettable consequence of obscuring the remarkable nature of her achievement, in a climate where it was uncommon for a woman to be an editor at all, let alone to be given the task of editing the work of a major British writer, and, in this case, solely by herself. Sara Coleridge, daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge is the only nineteenth-century British woman editor whose work is comparable to hers.

I begin with an overview of the different kinds of editing open to women during the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, including that of editing the remains of a dead author (usually father, husband, or female friend). I then turn to the difficulties under which Mary Shelley laboured, first in gathering up her husband’s scattered manuscripts, the enmity of her father in law, the libel laws that prevented her publishing an uncensored version of her husband’s poems, and attempt an assessment of her place among women editors of the nineteenth century.

Amy Solomons

‘A book is either the best treasure, or the greatest evil’: The Circulation and Readership of Conduct Literature in National Trust Libraries, 1680-1830.

Women’s reading was a highly policed, social experience in the long eighteenth century. The period, characterised by Amanda Vickery (1998) as a ‘dramatically expanding culture of female literariness’, saw a rapid rise in women’s access to and engagement with print material. Attitudes towards women’s reading were contradictory, suggesting that their reading was expansive and thought provoking, but that their reading experiences were highly controlled and regulated. Conduct literature responded to these anxieties through an emphasis on women’s reading, education, manners and behaviour.

Through an analysis of the National Trust’s library collections and the ESTC, this paper explores both the circulation and readership of thirty conduct literature titles published between 1680-1830. While scholarship on women’s education has long cited conduct literature, few studies have sought to examine the reception to prescriptive texts. Through a mixed methods approach, this paper shifts focus from a theoretical to a practical perspective. A statistical analysis of the ESTC allows this study to chart the prominence of conduct literature based on number of editions. This numerical evidence is then used alongside examples of material use of books in National Trust libraries to comment on female readership and responses to conduct texts.

Amy Prendergast

‘a means of my doing better’: Eighteenth-Century Diary Writing as a Tool for Individual Improvement

Although defined and interpreted in multiple ways, ‘improvement’ is generally understood as the opposite of revolution, as a project undertaken for ‘gradual, piecemeal, but cumulative betterment’.[1] Whether a person was striving for individual or social improvement, their method was one characterised by regularity and steadiness, eventually producing an aggregate. Such a process perfectly corresponds with the genre of the diary, with its individual entries accumulating over time to produce a final text. Built upon autonomous though interconnected entries, the diary form was an ideal one to employ in order to partake of this ethos of slow progress, and to facilitate any scheme based on gradual and cumulative development. Drawing in particular on two diaries from Ireland – that of the aristocratic Anne Jocelyn, the Countess of Roden (1797–1802) and Mary Mathew, the independent unmarried daughter of a Munster Church of Ireland landowner (1773–74) – this paper aims to explore how we might consider diaries as an unexplored aspect of the ethic of improvement, demonstrating also how these female diarists drew upon but challenged the discourse of improvement, and contribute to a larger tradition of improvement writing. Women in this period were frequently the target audience of manuals, conduct books, and literary collections with ‘improvement’ in the titles, designed to initially create and then reinforce polite ideals of femininity, rather than improve the individual person. These improvement diaries depart from such intentions, instead representing self-care interventions that see these women privileging ideas of individual betterment. Inclusion of such diaries places women at the centre of improvement projects rather than as peripheral actors, and transforms our understanding of their participation in improvement culture.

[1] Paul Slack, The Invention of Improvement: Information and Material Progress in Seventeenth-Century England. Oxford: OUP, 2015, 1.

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