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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Victorian Factoids update

This may not be specifically a factoid question, but it seems to me to be worth drawing attention to the problems with trying to compile statistics on such matters as the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and numbers of prostitutes in Victorian Britain, so I have added some comments about this to the page on my website.

The most recent update to that (some months ago) was to elaborate on the causes for scepticism about the claims for Victorian doctors masturbating women as a treatment for hysteria and the introduction of the vibrator for this purpose.

I'm not routinely posting here my minor updates every week or fortnight just to ensure that lists of conferences and other forthcoming events in history of sexuality, women's history, and matters Victorian are current and as up to date as I can make them.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Recent post to the Wellcome Library blog

Investigating responses to AIDS in the late 1980s about 2 rather small, but interesting, collections of material produced by social surveys ancillary to their digital records (which are at Qualidata).

In other news, The Life and Times of Stella Browne: Feminist and Free Spirit appears to have been released by I B Tauris, as it's reported as in stock by and The Book Depository.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Something else on my dance-card

The Birth of the Birth Control Clinic
Friday 11th March 2011
Part of the IHR@90 events
ST274/275, Stewart House
Organised in conjunction with the University of Exeter

In 1921 Marie Stopes opened the first of her pioneering birth clinics. Her work and its legacy and the subsequent history of family planning are explored in this one day-conference organised in conjunction with the University of Exeter.

Topics to be covered include Dora Russell, maternity provision in colonial India and the history of contraception. Speakers include Lesley Hall (UCL), Kate Fisher (Exeter), Stephen Brooke (York, Canada) and Sarah Hodges (Warwick).

For further information, please contact Registrations open on 31st January 2011
Draft Programme

10.00:         Registration and Coffee

10.15:         Welcome and Introduction

10.30:         Lesley Hall (Wellcome Library), Situating Stopes, or putting Marie in her proper place

11.30:         Coffee

11.45:         Contexts      

                    Stephen Brooke (York, Canada), Dora Russell and Marie Stopes title tbc
                    Sarah Hodges (Warwick), Married Love among Madras's Neo-Malthusians
                    Anne Bergin (NUI, Maynooth), From the Wop to the Bed: the modernisation of midwifery from handy woman to the professional midwife in Ireland, c.1800-1900.

1.00:           Lunch

1.30:           Suzanne Klausen (Carleton), Marie Stopes and birth control in South Africa

2.30:           After Stopes

                    Lara Marks, Panacea or Poisoned Chalice? A History of the Contraceptive Pill
                    Tania McIntosh (Nottingham), Methods and beliefs: family planning in Sheffield and Nottingham, 1925-35
                    Amanda Raphael (Queen Mary University of London), The history of natural childbirth title tbc

3.45:            Tea

4.00:            Christina Hauck (Kansas State), ‘Our Ostriches’: a birth control play by Marie Stopes title tbc

5.15:             Reception

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Attending the following event

Regulating Sex, a seminar on sex and regulation at the British Academy in London on 1 February 2011 from 1400 to 1700:
The seminar focuses on the regulation of sex in relation to three key areas: media, labour and the internet.
* Laura Agustin, author of Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry (2007)
* Yaman Akdeniz, author of Internet Child Pornography and the Law (2008)
* Martin Barker, author of The Video Nasties (1984), Ill Effects: The Media-Violence Debate (2001), and The Crash Controversy (2001)
Julian Petley, author of Censoring the Word (2007) and Censorship: A Beginner’s Guide (2009) will introduce and chair the event.
The seminar is organized by the AHRC funded Onscenity research network. If you would like to attend, let Feona Attwood know before 20 January:

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Claire Langhamer, Women's Leisure in England, 1920-60 (2000)

Perhaps not terribly directly relevant to the SG&SC revision, except for the chapter on young women and courtship. Extremely useful in more general ways for thinking about the gendering of certain activities, and the extent to which women after marriage were supposed to be other-directed and get their pleasure from serving others  (and  even when they did go out on pleasure-excursions these were for the actual benefit and enjoyment of husband &/or children, not to mention the kinds of holidays that were not restful at all for the mother of the family). And of course issues of public/private - women's leisure taking place in odd moments in the home or on the doorstep. A thought about the equation of women gossiping = idle women wagging tongues, versus what appears to have been the case that women were performing this social activity in the course of doing other things - over the back fence as neighbours hung out washing or while sitting on the doorstep peeling potatoes. Which says rather a lot about the invisibility of women's work!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Wide floats our banner

This looks like a bit of a blink and you'll miss it exhibition in Bradford:

“Visible Voices: The Art of Women’s Protest” at the Pop Up art space in Bradford 14-28 January. This exhibition brings together over 30 iconic banners and other art of protest created by women over the past 100 years.  Women’s protest art has uniquely encouraged, rallied and dared us to both imagine and work towards building a more peaceful world.  This is a rare opportunity to see The Peace Museum’s substantial collection of peace banners on public display and is not to be missed.

The exhibition draws exclusively from the collection of The Peace Museum, which holds possibly the largest collection of peace banners in the UK. The exhibition also includes film footage and oral history excerpts from Thalia Campbell, who hand-sewed many of the iconic banners which sent a message of peace throughout the world during the 20-year Peace Camp at Greenham Common. The exhibition also includes a series of exquisitely embroidered textile pieces which document life and struggles with police at Greenham Common Peace camp*, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Visible Voices highlights the continuing allegiance between women in the struggle to build a more peaceful world.

*Alice Stewart, whose papers I completed cataloguing last year, was a supporter of the camp, gave expert epidemiological evidence on the effects of radiation in court on behalf of the protesters, and (well into her 80s) helped organise a Women's Rock Concert in support.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Another forthcoming event

The Population Investigation Committee: Its history and influence over the last 75 years

An afternoon symposium to celebrate the launch of the historical archives of the Population Investigation Committee at the Wellcome Library.
Friday 18 February 2011, 14:30-18:30
Wellcome Trust Conference Centre,
183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE

Attendance is free and open to all but advance registration is required as places are limited. Please register by emailing

Dr Edmund Ramsden (University of Exeter): The history & origins of the PIC
Christopher Langford (London School of Economics and Political Science): David Glass and the PIC
Prof. Michael Wadsworth (Medical Research Council): Setting up the 1946 Birth Cohort Study
Prof. Ian Deary (University of Edinburgh): The Scottish Mental Surveys of 1932 and 1947
Prof. Richard Smith (University of Cambridge): Revisiting the Demography of the British Peerage
Dr Lesley Hall (Wellcome Library): Placing the PIC in the context of the archival record
Followed by questions and discussion

For further information see

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Research award: John "Bud" Velde Visiting Scholars Program

I was a beneficiary of this scheme in the autumn of 2007, when I spent a very productive month delving into the correspondence of H G Wells (and am still assimilating all the material and trying to follow up the numerous leads therefrom - so far I've produced a couple of papers drawing on this research, one forthcoming in The Wellsian and one available as a podcast - but there are a lot more places it could go).

Another collection of interest there (though rather too N American focused for my specific purposes) was the papers of Ewing C. Baskette, lawyer, librarian and bibliographer. Includes 19th century speeches, letters and manuscripts on cases dealing with anarchism, the Centralia case, communal living, syndicalism, socialism, the International Workers of the World, freedom of expression and censorship. Lots of rare pamphlets and ephemera.

The John "Bud" Velde Visiting Scholars Program
The Rare Book & Manuscript Library
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


The Rare Book & Manuscript Library annually awards stipends of $3,000 to scholars and researchers, unaffiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who would like to come and spend a month or so of study with our materials. 

The research strengths of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library are manifold. Comprehensive collections support studies in printing and printing history, Renaissance studies, Elizabethan and Stuart life and letters, John Milton and his age, emblem studies, economic history, and works on early science and natural history. The library also houses the papers of such diverse literary figures as Carl Sandburg, H.G. Wells, William Maxwell, and W.S. Merwin.

For further information about this program, how to apply, and to find out more about The Rare Book & Manuscript Library, please visit our Web site at:

Monday, 10 January 2011

Rebecca Jennings, Tomboys and Bachelor Girls: A Lesbian History of Post-War Britain 1945-1971

A few thoughts emerging from reading this (useful source for the revision of SG&SC, though I've come across some of the material elsewhere, e.g. the stuff on the Gateways club, and the Arena 3 group). I thought the discussion of the 'bachelor girl/career woman' was interesting, though I wonder if there was also a way in which career women who were not merely in the workforce for a few years until they snared a husband, but not necessarily lesbians, were constituted as sexually dangerous (rather than pathetic, 'frightened of commitment', etc). They were outside the normative domestic heterosexual ideal, and I have a feeling that they figure as potential sexual predators and threats to marriage in fiction of the day. Though one would have to do more analysis of advice literature, women's magazines, journalism in general as well as media representations to see how far this was so. Attitudes to the unmarried woman dedicated to professional advancement might additionally have been inflected by whether this was in a traditionally all or predominantly female milieu like teaching (in which possibly the dried up spinster motif persisted?) or entering 'a man's world'.

In the discussion of Arena 3 and the group around and the dissociation from club culture and butch presentation, I was very much reminded of Matt Houlbrook's account of the post-War reformist homosexual trend and its expressed antipathy to cottaging and camping it up and flamboyance. In both cases there seems to have been a class element (middle versus working, though it's perhaps more generally to do with respectability rather than a strict class divide), but also what seems to be a significant commitment to disconnecting same-sex desire from unorthodoxy in gender presentation. As well as the whole 'what goes on in private should not be a matter for public concern/interference' dynamic.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Putting it about

Have just been beefing up my profile, lists of publications and research interests/areas of expertise on the Women's History Network website. Given that there are an increasing number of media enquiries getting forwarded via the WHN mailing list, I might as well have the information on that site to refer people to (or for them to spontaneously find).

There really is more and more extremely useful stuff on the WHN site generally: lists of conferences and events, including the activities of the various regional networks, member publications, forthcoming women's history related programmes on TV and radio, links to related sites. Okay, it's not quite the one-stop shop for everybody's women's history needs (not that anything could be), but it's a very useful point of departure.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Thinking in advance

There's a new website for Women's History Month, which is not until March, but it's worth having time to think about this in advance rather than being surprised by it every year. This year, in particular,  it's the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and the 40th anniversary of the first Women’s Liberation Movement march in London. I must see if I can think of something to mark it.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


Made a somewhat more extensive post on the Naomi Mitchison Library series over at Ambling Along the Aqueduct (since Aqueducistas are probably a target audience for matters Mitchison).

And since Dame Rosalind Paget came up as the ODNB Life of the Day today, I knocked out a blog post for the Wellcome Library blog about her to draw attention to our holdings of her papers. And because I always like to draw attention to the numerous female reformers of nursing and related professions in the nineteenth century who were not the rather over-exposed Florence, who did not singlehandedly change the face of nursing. (NB I even managed an allusion to Eva Luckes in the post.)


Aqueduct Press are currently offering my short biographical and critical introduction to Naomi Mitchison at $9 instead of $12.

Am currently reading Mitchison's short study of Anna Comnena, which she wrote for what sounds like a very interesting 1920s series of 'Representative Women', though I've never seen any of the others (but will be looking out for them now). This work has just been republished by Kennedy and Boyd, which I discover is producing The Naomi Mitchison Library Series under the general editorship of Professor Isobel Murray, and also Naomi Mitchison - Essays and Journalism under the editorship of Moira Burgess. Given how annoyingly difficult it is to obtain much of Mitchison's enormous oeuvre, this is an excellent initiative.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Tidying up

With the help of the link validator at at, I've done some updating and tidying up of pages on my website: there are now updates - in terms of current links replacing the outdated ones and noting of sites which appear to be defunct or on hiatus at
Useful Links: History of Sexuality
Useful links: Women's History
and Victoriana
I've also added some gratifying pre-publication quotes from eminent authorities in the field about my biography of Stella Browne (scheduled to come out on 31st of this month) to my Stella Browne page