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Thursday 1 June 2023

I suppose these days one would call this being cancelled

Have been reminded by the currently notorious case of the chemical weapons expert who was disinvited from speaking on his sphere of expertise at a government conference because of his opinions on the government expressed on social media, of a fairly trivial instance where an invitation I had received to speak at a conference was rescinded on grounds which did seem to me at the time had a flavour of 'moral panic', (I don't think the term 'woke' was much in general use at the time, but I suspect that there was a fear that I would introduce a certain, ahem, 'wokeness' into my presentation.)

(I realise this also falls rather apposite to the inception of Pride Month 2023...)

I have a minor area of expertise in the history of women in medicine in the UK, developed largely through having had to do with relevant archives over a significant period of time, leading to organising exhibitions of same, doing promotional work via lectures, etc etc. In 2013 I was approached by a rather staid heritage body preparing a major conference for 2014 - one of many celebrating the notable centenary falling in that year - to present on - actually I cannot remember after all this time whether it was just women docs or women health professionals more generally (e.g. the Almeric Paget Massage Corps) in World War I. To which I said yes, as it fell within the general remit of my duties as an archivist drawing attention to the materials in our collections.

Early in 2014 I was to give a presentation at the Florence Nightingale Museum on 'Passions Between Women in Victorian Britain' (to which I had been persuaded by the then curator). 

I think it was when this was in the process of being publicised that I received a rather nervous phone-call from the organiser of the conference indicating that concerns had been expressed and they would therefore rather I did not participate in their event. I had not in fact intended to introduce any speculations about, e.g. the relationship of Louisa Garrett Anderson and Flora Murray, as I felt I had quite enough material on, you know, the amazing and undervalued contributions women made to medical care during the Great War in the teeth of official hostility.

I hope they found someone else to speak on this important topic.

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