‘she was soe stuborn that she would give me noe answer’

Standard

The many headed monster is running an online symposium on the Voices of the People (and see #voxpop2015 on Twitter) which is well worth your attention, and Anna Jenkin posted a number of responses on Twitter, musing on how the themes related to her research on early modern female killers. Between them, I found myself dusting off one of the more extraordinary cases from my PhD research (which I have mentioned here on the blog at least once before).

In March 1686, two women stood trial for murder by poison at the Denbighshire Great Sessions (NLW GS 4/33/3). Jane Foulke was accused of killing her husband; Lettice Lloyd of killing her son-in-law. The two trials were separate but the cases were closely connected, since Lettice had supplied Jane with the arsenic, and the poisonings happened less than two weeks apart.

Jane had considerably more to say for herself than most defendants accused of murder in the Denbighshire files. Not only was she examined twice (once by the coroner [excerpt 1] and once by local JPs [2]), but there is also a letter from her to the coroner (something I don’t recall seeing in any other 17th- or 18th-century Denbighshire homicide case) [3]. She admitted freely to having adminstered the poison to her husband; her words are mostly employed in exonerating herself (successfully: she was acquitted) and blaming Lettice for her predicament: “being brought into it by ye alurments of a wicked woman”.

Lettice, on the other hand, refused to say much at all. The coroner was so annoyed by her obstinacy that he made a specific note of it (again, extremely unusual): she “would give noe answer but that shee was mutch wrongd and was soe stuborn that she would give me noe other answer” [4].

We do however have some reports of her words from other witnesses, not least from Jane. “Lettice Lloyd tould [Jane] shee heard yt [Jane’s] husband was an angry cross man & that this [arsenic] would make him a little sick & make him vomitt & in a short tyme after make him better in condicion or better humor’d”. But perhaps the most startling was that of Lettice’s own daughter, Barbara, widow of her victim, creating an image of a monstrous mother-in-law: “[Lettice] said what doe you cry for, you shall have your choise of a husband if he dyes but you shall have noe mother but me, & thou shalt be a widow before a yeare comes about” [5]. Lettice was convicted and hanged.

There is really too much that could be said about this case. But if we’re thinking about ‘voices’ and ‘silences’ in the historical records: Do we really know more about Jane, who so willingly gave her version of events, than we do about Lettice, who ‘stubbornly’ refused to do anything of the sort? Jane portrayed herself as a dutiful wife who had been duped by a ‘wicked woman’ into unwittingly killing her husband; but she had obvious reasons to construct this narrative (and the extremely unusual interventions of the coroner as encouragement). Why did Lettice believe she had been so wronged; and what to make of her mental state of mind? More than a decade after I first encountered it, I still find the case equally fascinating and disconcerting.

(Interested? You can find my transcriptions here. Key excerpts below.)

Excerpts

[1] Examination of Jane Foulkes before John Mathews (coroner), 20 January 1686

[Jane Foulkes of Wrexham Abbot, widow] sayth that shee knoweth Lettice Lloyd by sight but sayth that shee never had any familiarity with her and that shee did not shee her this twelve month agoe shee saith that shee bought two penworth of poyson at widow Cheeveleys shop in Wrexham and that it is about a month agoe since shee bought one penworth of it and the other penworth shee bought this day fortnight (shee telling me that shee had it in her howse there upon I sent her with one of the constables forth, but shee could not finde it) but sayth that a woeman in the markett this day seven night did imploy her to buy the sayd two penorths of poyson but shee doth not know the woeman neither did the woeman any time after call for the poyson though shee had left two pence for that use with her and shee sayth that shee never bought noe poyson in her life time before shee sayth that the twelveth even her husband came whome from Mr Jones of Havod y Bwlch and comlayned to this examinant that he was not well and that he thougt he had an ague and shee absolutely denyeth to be noe time in company with Lettice Lloyd for a twelvemonth last past, shee sayth that her husband in the time of his sicknes complaint of his head and his syde and about his stomacke and hart…

[2] Examination of Jane Foulkes before three JPs, 28 January 1686

[Jane Foulks] saith yt on Tuesday night the fift day of January anno domini 1685 [1686] her husband Richard Foulks fell sick & so continued untill the Thursday night next following about eight a clock, at which tyme the said Richard dyed & being asked what shee gave him dureing his sicknes, shee confessd yt upon Wednesday morning, shee gave him about halfe three farthings worth of ratts bane (which shee had grinded small betwixt two stones) in a cupp of small beere, which causd him to vomitt, & on Thursday morning shee gave him three halfe peny worth of medridate & yt made him purge; & that night about eight a clock he dyed. Shee further confesseth, yt shee bought ye said three farthings worth of ratt’s bane of widow Cleaveley on Monday ye fourth of January instant & yt shee gave the aforesaaid ratt’s bane to her husband by ye advice of one Lettice Lloyd of Morton Anglicorum, & ye said Lettice Lloyd tould her shee heard yt her husband was an angry cross man & that this would make him a little sick & make him vomitt & in a short tyme after make him better in condicion or better humor’d & on ye said Thursday on which her said husband dyed, the sayd Lettice Lloyd came to her & shee tould ye said Lettice shee had given her husband ye poyson & yt he was very sick & was afrayd yt he would dye & had a minde to buy some sallett oyle for him, but the sayd Lettice Lloyd disswaded her from it; & tould her there was noe danger for it would onely make him purge & vomitt & ye said Jane Foulkes further confesseth yt ye said Lettice Lloyd on ye said seaventh of January did desire her to buy one peny worth of ratts bane for her; being ye day on which her husband dyed, and shee bought a peny worth of ratts bane & gave it to ye said Lettice Lloyd but ye said Lettice did not declare to her what shee intended to doe with it…

[3] Jane Foulkes to John Mathews, 26 February 1686 [note: Jane signed both her examinations with a mark, so she probably did not write the letter herself]

The bearer heerof telles yt you desir to know what the discourse was beetween Lettis lloyd & mee it was after this maner I mete with hir one Munday in ye chourtch yard & after renewing of our ould aquantanc shee asked mee how my husband did & shee said yt shee was glad yt hee was comen whom [home] if it wear for good for shee hard yt hee was very wicked & rude & I said yt hee was not soe but yt hee was as ceevell as most men but onely when hee had dranke too mutch strong drink & then shee asked mee what colling did hee follow when hee was in london & if hee had brought monies with him whom and I said hee brought noe monie with him but only what had borne his charges home then shee asked mee if hee were in good healath & if hee had noe distemper with in him self & I said hee had none but only hee did comeplain yt hee had mutch paine in his head & in his bones & limbes & could take littel rest in ye night by reason of these paines which hee had got by beeing a feeld keeper & lying out in ye could most nightes but I tould her yt hee was harty & could eat his meat well & shee said yt was nothing & yt hee would grow wors & wors in his distempers unless hee were purdged & vomitted & I said hee would take noe fizike then shee said yt shee had a freind yt had directed hir to a way with out mutch cost & yt it would doe him mutch good & make him more temprat and fare better in health & conditiones & I asked hir what it was shee said it was but a small matter & yt I might buy for one penie as mutch as hee had need of then shee named it & I said I shall not remember yt name & shee bad mee aske for a whit thing which was wont to bee put in yt which thay doe yus to give to rats & I said how can I aske for yt & yt I had noe ocation for any such thing & shee said I might aske it as for some freing in ye countree & I said I ame afraid it will doe my huband harme & shee said yt it would not but would doe him mutch good & yt shee had made triall of it one hir former husband & yt it had done him mutch good as long as hee lived after upon these hir eavell speetches to mee not any way thinking it would doe my husband any harm I thought to have had but half a peniworth of it but thay would not make a haperth of it soe I had three farthinges worth of it I did not yus it all I gave but part of it in some small drink god doth know I did not think it would doe him any harme but good according to hir speetches to mee I gave it to him one ye Wednesday morning & one ye Thirsday morning following hee was very sick wher upon I was mutch afraid I mete with hir yt Thursday in Wrexham & I wept to hir mutch & I said to hir yt I was affraid yt shee had caused mee to give yt to my husband which would doe him mutch harm & shee said was I soe simple to think yt hee must not bee sicke beefore it could worke & cleer his body & shee said hir life for hime it would doe him noe harm but good this is ye justest account yt I can give desiring your help & asistance in this my great trouble & affliction being brought into it by ye alurments of a wicked woman I rest a poor afflicted prisoner Jane Foulkes

[4] Examination of Lettice Lloyd before John Mathews, 19 January 1686

Lettice Lloyd being extamined to the perticulars that was sworn against her would give noe answer but that shee was mutch wrongd and was soe stuborn that she would give me noe other answer

[3] Examination of Barbara Morris, widow of Hugh Morris, before a JP, 2 March 1686

[Barbara Morris] sayth yt shee being with her mother Lettice Lloyd alias Lewis in the house at Gevellie about ye eleventh day of November last past, her said mother did discourse her about poyson & did then aske ye said Barbara what kinde of a thing poyson was, & would it swell being taken, ye said Barbara reply’d, shee did not know & asked her said mother why shee putt such questions unto her, ye mother reply’d agayn yt shee thought when poyson was taken by any one yt person would not possibly live, the said Barbara stayd with her mother at yt tyme till her husband came to her who stayed then there with his wife two nights, & on ye third day he went thence with his wife to Llangollen faire which was about ye said eleventh day of November aforesaid & yt morning being up before day his mother in law (called Lettice Lloyd alias Lewis as aforesaid) made him a possett of which hee did eate, leaveing some remaynder, but in ye way as he & his wife were rideing to ye said faire, he complayned to his wife yt he was not well & ye said Barbara sayes yt shee things shee did eate about two spoonfulls of ye remaynder of ye said possett & that shee was very ill after it and ye said Barbara further saith yt to ye best of her rembrance about ye beginning of Christmas last past shee being in her said mothers house, her mother asked her if anybody had tould her, her fortune ye said Barbara replyd (why) ye mother said there was a man yt tould me thy fortune, ye said Barbara answered how could yt be I being absent, ye mother so I tould thy age, & thereby thy fortune was tould me & further her mother asked her doest thou love[?] to be a widow upon yt ye daughter cryed then her mother said what doe you cry for, you shall have your choise of a husband if he dyes but you shall have noe mother but me, & thou shalt be a widow before a yeare comes about & upon ye eighteenth day of January last past the husband of ye said Barbara dyed

New Year, Old Stuff, Revamped: things in progress

Standard

1. Meet the new project, which also happens to be just about my oldest project: Gender and Defamation in York 1660-1700

The core of this is research I did way back in 1999 for my MA dissertation. It was the first archival research for which I had the use of a laptop, and I spent a couple of months transcribing cause papers in the old Borthwick Institute in the city of York (it nowadays has a much more modern home at the University of York), and creating a “database” of my 100 or so causes using the cutting-edge technology of 5 x 3 index cards.

The standard of the transcriptions was, well, about what you might expect of a student working for the first time in 17th-century legal archives, with a few months of beginners’ Latin and palaeography under her belt, and this put me off doing anything online with them for a long time. But I’ve been thinking about it on and off since the launch of the York Cause Papers Database in 2010 and subsequent mass digitisation of images. I’ve tinkered with the material from time to time, but not made much progress.

So rather than continue to keep it all under wraps until some mythical time in the future when it would be “ready”, I’ve decided to practise what I’ve been known to preach – put it online as a work in progress, and document revisions as I go along . Let’s see if putting it out there unfinished will help motivate me to get on with it at a slightly less glacial pace…

I’ve been following Michelle Moravec’s great ‘Writing in Public’ projects and her commitment ‘to making visible the processes by which history making takes place’. Well, the creation of historical data and digital resources is a process too, one that’s often obscured by the practice of launching finished projects with a great fanfare after months or years under wraps. Over in my paid job on the Digital Panopticon that’s something we’re aiming to avoid (watch this space…). So here goes!

The first stages of the project have involved making a useful resources: putting the causes into a database, linking through to the YCP database, keyword tagging, cross-referencing, and adding some links to background information. I’ve also put the data for the database and those crappy transcriptions on github.

Next steps:

  • get the uncorrected transcriptions into the database
  • start checking/correction (for those that have images available)
  • add more background resources (and integrate my existing defamation bibliography)
  • look at converting the thesis itself into a more web-friendly format, or perhaps turning it into shorter essays

Apart from finally sharing data I created such a long time ago, I hope this little project can do a number of useful things: showcase the York cause papers as a source, provide a useful resource for research into early modern defamation, slander, gossip and reputation, and encourage other researchers to do similar things with their old research stuff.

Repost: Of cats, rabbits and monstrous births

Standard

[Originally posted here, February 2005.]

A couple of blog posts about monstrous births in the early modern period over the last few days: Natalie at Philobiblon discussing Agnes Bowker (supposedly delivered of a cat-like creature in 1568), and Ephelia on Mary Toft (who was reported to have given birth to a large number of rabbits in 1726). Mary Toft’s case is the better-known, to us at first an amusing tale of a trickster; when we learn that she had genuinely suffered a miscarriage, perhaps a little less so. But there’s a wider cultural context to both cases.

Such stories were commonly reported in print: Cressy’s essay on Agnes Bowker refers to many of them, and there is a further chapter on monstrous births in his book.* He suggests that contemporaries explained them in a range of possible ways: freaks of nature or manifestations of divine power; judgements or punishments against individuals or communities; portents of coming catastrophes, or even of the end of the world. Or they could simply be treated as freak-show entertainment.

Very often, the cases are associated with the widespread belief that what the experiences of a pregnant mother – beautiful or shocking, but most often the latter – could physically imprint themselves on her unborn child. In the case of Mary Toft, it was reported that she

hath made oath, That two months ago, being working in a field with other women, they put up a rabbit; who running from them, they pursued it, but to no purpose: This created in her such a longing to it, that she (being with child) was taken ill, and miscarried; and, from that time, she hath not been able to avoid thinking of rabbits.

(Agnes Bowker, on the other hand, claimed to have had sex with a human lover and with the Devil in the shape of (at various times) a man, a greyhound and a cat. As Natalie says, she was very likely trying to cover up an abortion or infanticide.)

Herman Roodenburg’s detailed study of the phenomenon of the ‘maternal imagination’ in Holland** notes that pregnant women were warned to be particularly careful with animals (strange and frightening or maimed animals seem to have been particularly dangerous); other cases were associated with the sight of human ‘freaks’ at fairs, or mutilated beggars, or black people, or lunatics, with paintings or statutes of grotesque subjects. (Conversely, pregnant women were advised to hang beautiful paintings on their walls in order to have beautiful babies.)

Equally, it was common to see these events as manifestations of divine power, even in providentialist terms, as punishments for a community’s sins, or warnings of greater punishments to come if the population did not repent and reform. In the case of Agnes Bowker in 1568, it was a matter of considerable concern to government ministers that her case could be used by Catholic propagandists to undermine the still rather shaky Protestant regime of Elizabeth I.

By the 1720s, Mary Toft could still convince doctors (to begin with), and the possibility was accepted. Even before doubts crept in, there was controversy, although in terms rather different to those used during the 16th century.

People, after all, differ much in their opinion about this matter, some looking upon them as great curiosities fit to be presented to the Royal Society, &c. others are angry at the account, and say, that if it be fact, a veil should be drawn over it, as an imperfection in humane nature.

And within a few weeks, there were severe doubts about the truth of the story, Mary confessed, and a fraud prosecution was initiated (although she was released later without being tried). Even so, she still had her believers, at least among those who still saw such births in political and providential terms; and such beliefs did not really die out until at least the 19th century.

[links have not been recently checked]

Monstrous births
Monsters and prodigies (no longer available: Wayback)
Monstrous children in English Renaissance broadside ballads
Mary Toft and the rabbit babies
A cabinet of curiosities: Mary Toft
The rabbit woman (contemporary newspaper reports: the Mary Toft-related quotes above are taken from this page)
A wondrous tale: Agnes Bowker (extracts from the primary sources)
Early modern pregnancy and childbirth bibliography

………….

* David Cressy, Agnes Bowker’s cat: travesties and transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford, 2000).
** Herman W Roodenburg, ‘The maternal imagination: the fears of pregnant women in seventeenth-century Holland’, Journal of Social History, ?, 1988.

Repost: Women’s history and gender history: what and why?

Standard

Originally posted here (March 2005).

Some women have never lacked historians: usually unusual women of high social status (who had some influence on the ‘male’ political world): queens, mistresses of kings, that kind of thing: what Gerda Lerner called ‘compensatory history’. The goal of women’s history as practised today, however, is to attend to and assert the validity of the experiences and roles of many kinds of women; to challenge perceptions that these were somehow a) ahistorical (biologically determined, therefore unchanging) and b) unimportant, not Real History.

Still, it should be remembered that women’s history is not something invented in the 1970s. (At Oxford University around 1960, a young early modernist, Keith Thomas, offered a series of undergraduate lectures on the history of women. His colleagues found the idea bizarre; the students stayed away in droves. Yet it must have seemed practicable to him – and he was prepared to try.)

To stick with research since the 19th-century emergence of the academic discipline of history, the ‘first wave’ of western feminism was accompanied by important work on the history of women in the early 20th century: in Britain alone, for example, work by Eileen Power (medieval history), Alice Clark and Ivy Pinchbeck (women’s work), Ray Strachey and Sylvia Pankhurst (the women’s suffrage movement). Yet much of this was neglected for decades until the take-off of women’s history associated with the ‘second wave’ of feminism and, more broadly, with the expanding horizons of history writing from the 1960s. That brought research on an unprecedented scale, and with larger ambitions to achieve a fundamental rewriting of all History.

There have been a wide variety of approaches to the history of women, and nearly all have had to grapple with particularly acute problems of evidence and interpretation: discovering new or neglected sources, approaching old ones in new ways, often borrowing methods and techniques from other disciplines. The growth of social history, another challenge to the primacy of political history narrowly defined (states, rulers, governments) cannot be disentangled from this; it offered new methods and perspectives, and often emphasised subjects of key importance to women’s history. (This was true in the early 20th century as well as the 1960s and 70s, although what we’d now think of as social history was then usually called economic history; this was long before the statisticians got in on the act.)

Some key ‘second wave’ pioneers of women’s history, like Sheila Rowbotham, were socialists as much as feminists. But the relationship was not always an easy one; social history could all too easily continue to marginalise women. Labour history, for example, could be overwhelmingly masculine, narrowly focused on institutions; defining ‘work’ and ‘labour’ in particular ways, this kind of labour history tended to overlook the vital contributions of female labour, the variety and significance of the paid work that women have always done, and to entirely exclude any consideration of their unpaid work. And the relationship between Marxism and feminism was strikingly summed up as an unhappy marriage.

An important strand in women’s history has documented their struggles to win admittance to the ‘public sphere’ and to be placed on equal terms with men when it came to legal status, work opportunities, voting rights. This is a key constituent of what was dubbed ‘herstory': retelling history from women’s perspectives, aiming to recover women’s experiences, ‘women’s cultures’, to document a distinctive female past. Women had been, in Rowbotham’s words, Hidden from History, and it was time to put that right. It’s still going strong too! And it was, and still is, also often about personal reclamations of history far beyond the academy.

Still, while it went far beyond the biographical ‘women worthies‘ or ‘compensatory history’ type of approach, herstory still tended to focus on histories of exceptional women, forms of rebellion against patriarchal norms, whether ‘public’ political activism or ‘private’ feminine desires and friendships. And how were ‘women’s worlds’ to be related to the world of mainstream history? It was not so clear how this approach could (on its own) ever be more than a supplement to Real History, all too easily ignored or, at best, accorded a token presence around the margins.

There was another problem. Who were these ‘women’ in ‘women’s history’? White, middle-class women? Women are not all alike (and no woman is only a woman). What of the influence of class, race, religion, nationality, sexuality, other social/cultural group identities, on women’s historical experiences?

The identification of these issues fostered the rise of ‘gender history’. Gender, it needs to be noted, is a concept that can be used in more than one way. Sometimes, it can simply refer to studying the relationships between women and men, and the ways in which ‘gender roles’ are socially conditioned. But there is a more theoretical/intellectual history approach, associated with ‘poststructuralism’, and perhaps most famously formulated by Joan W Scott, who argued that gender was a key ‘category of historical analysis’, and that it was vital to study how ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ were culturally constructed in relation to each other in different societies. The category ‘women’ itself had to be deconstructed (as did that of ‘experience‘).

The enquiry was no longer so much ‘What did women experience, and what did women, do in xth century in y culture?’ but rather ‘How (and by what processes) in xth century in y culture did gender help construct distinct masculine and feminine meanings and identities?’ [link may be dead: try archive version if it doesn’t work]

This was both stimulating and controversial, for much the same reasons that poststructuralist or postmodernist theories applied to history have been stimulating/controversial more generally. But it was, perhaps, felt to be particularly threatening to a field of history that was relatively new and politically engaged:

The deconstruction of the term ‘women’ and the emphasis on the differences between women at the expense of what they have in common, denies the existence of women as a political category and as a subordinate class.

Other concerns about gender history focused on the decentering of women as its subject. The history of masculinities is a fast-rising field; some (like Joan Hoff) worried that this lets men take over centre-stage again and that women’s history will get lost in the process. (I personally think that Hoff did not help her cause by calling male feminists ‘Tootsie men’.) Others disagree with those fears (I agree with them). The new histories of men are not like the old history of men; histories of women continue to be written; the boundary between ‘women’s history’ and ‘gender history’ is not a clearly-defined one, and nor (as this blogger would attest) do these varying approaches exclude each other.

It is impossible to summarise what’s going on in women’s history or gender history right now; it’s just too vast and diverse. Just take a look at the TOCs of some main journals and you’ll soon see what I mean. I think that in my area, early modern social history, there is currently a particular interest in ‘agency’ – exploring the ways in which ordinary women lived their lives within the constraints placed upon them, survived, negotiated with the system for a better deal without rebelling against it – and how ‘practice’ related to ‘prescriptions’. We ask about both ‘experiences’ and ‘meanings’. There have been some marvellous recent studies of early modern English masculinities; of crime and gender; splendid surveys unashamedly about women; and textbooks that make no mention of women or gender in the title at all – but they’re in there.

I’ll leave you some links to explore, anyway.

And feel free to contribute in comments (or indeed to blog about this yourself?)…

… What’s the current state of affairs in your own subject areas? (Period, place etc)
… Thoughts on your own research/teaching practice
… What are your favourite books? Which do you think are the most important, must-read works for people interested in learning more about women in the past and/or about the development of women’s history? I may well put together a bibliography of some kind.
… Favourite online resources and blog posts

………

[See also this post on Alice Clark, working women’s historian]

[NB: none of the following links have been checked; many are likely to have moved or been taken down]

Gateways and general stuff

BBC Women’s history
SOSIG: Women’s history
History in Focus: Gender
About Women’s history
Women’s history teaching resources

Essays, debates, etc

Myth and memory: old passions, new visions
History, she wrote
The challenge of opinionative assurance
Raising Clio’s consciousness: the writing of women’s history in the US
Integrating men’s history into women’s history: a proposition
Leeds gender studies e-papers
A group of one’s own: filling the gaps in women’s history
To feel a part of history: rethinking the US history survey
Women’s History Review (all issues more than 2 years old are free to access)
Gender as a postmodern category of paralysis (by Joan Hoff)
Unravelling postmodern paralysis
Mistrials and diatribulations: a reply to Joan Hoff
A reply to my critics (Joan Hoff)
Women’s history and poststructuralism
Women’s history: continuity, change or standing still?
History, feminism and gender studies [try archive version if that link doesn’t work]
How did Women’s History Month come about?

Intersections: gender, history and culture in the Asian context
Recovery and revision: women’s history and west Virginia
Gendering modern German history: rewritings of the mainstream
Feminist knowledge (African women’s history)
Feminist history in Japan

Bibliographies, reading lists

Short bibliography
ViVa bibliography of women’s history
Feminist history bibliography
Annotated bibliography of feminist historical theory
Women’s history bibliography

Book reviews

Writing women’s history since the Renaissance
Gender in history
Worlds between: historical perspectives on gender and class

Courses, syllabi

MA in women’s history (Liverpool)
MA in Women’s history (Royal Holloway)
Women’s history, feminist history and gender history (course unit)

… And bloggers!

Women’s History of Philosophy (Siris)
The search for agency (East Asian history) (Muninn)
This one’s for Dr Crazy (student whines spark great discussion), (New Kid on the Hallway)
Women, studying of (The Little Professor)

Women’s History Month 2013: early modern women & gender

Standard

Happy International Women’s Day!

Digital Resources

You can of course, visit the Gender section of Early Modern Resources any month of the year, but I’ll highlight a few relatively new resources that wouldn’t have appeared in previous roundups here.

ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830: “an online annual publication that serves as a forum for interactive scholarly discussion on all aspects of women in arts between 1640 and 1830, especially literature, visual arts, music, performance art, film criticism, and production arts”.

Who Were The Nuns?: “A Prosopographical study of the English Convents in exile 1600-1800″.

The Poetess Archive: “a resource for studying the literary history of popular British and American poetry… late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century popular poetry was often written in what came to be designated an “effeminate” style”.

Women’s Studies Group 1558 – 1837: “a small, informal multi-disciplinary group formed to promote women’s studies in the early modern period and the long eighteenth century”.

Blogs

A few highlights from blogs tagged Gender at Early Modern Commons:

Good Gentlewoman: “the St John ladies and the people whose lives they touched”

his story, her story: “Medieval, Tudor and early modern women”

Jen Burke’s Blog: a lovely renaissance art history/culture blog

Women Writers, 1660-1800: “Exploring Authorial Adventures in the Long Eighteenth Century”, a very good students’ group blog.

Recent blogging

All the women we’ve never heard of: Women’s History Month (his story, her story)

Women’s History Month (In the Words of Women)

Beauty and the Pox (Early Modern Medicine)

Gender and the Newest Political History (The Junto)

Feminism and the Wives of Henry VIII? (Conor Byrne)

A few (good|bad) women

Frances Tradescant
Grizzell Apthorp: Widow, Employer, Property Owner
Agnes Bulmer: Poet of Methodist Experience
Elizabeth Bennet, shirt stealer? (1796)
Lady Mary Wroth – paving the way for women writers

Ada Lovelace Day: Women in the history of science, medicine and technology

Standard

Yesterday was Ada Lovelace Day 2011. The brief:

This Ada Lovelace Day on October 7, share your story about a woman — whether an engineer, a scientist, a technologist or mathematician — who has inspired you to become who you are today. Write a blog post, record a podcast, film a video, draw a comic, or pick any other way to talk about the women who have been guiding lights in your life. Give your heroine the credit she deserves!

I randomly collected links that I liked during the day on my Tumblr blog, but there were so many good historically-minded ones I thought I’d round them up here.

Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy

Five Historic Female Mathematicians You Should Know | Surprising Science

the ongoing saga of minouette: Madame Wu and the Violation of Parity
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997), Chinese-born American physicist

Ada Lovelace Day: Emmy Noether and Symmetry, Revisited « Galileo’s Pendulum
mathematician Emmy Noether (1882-1935)

Daughters of Urania | The Renaissance Mathematicus
17th-century female astronomers.

Medicine

For Ada Lovelace Day: Lucy Wills « Stuff And Nonsense
haematologist who discovered folate (folic acid)

Florence Seibert, PhD, receiving National Achievement Award from Mrs. Eleanor D. Roosevelt for her work on tuberculosis, 1944.

Technology

For Ada Lovelace Day: Jane Coe | Mercurius Politicus
Jane Coe, 17th century printer.

early modern women printers: an Ada Lovelace post » Wynken de Worde

Beulah Henry: “I invent because I cannot help it” « Public Historian
Prolific inventor Beulah Louise Henry (1887-1973).

For Ada Lovelace Day: Eleanor Coade – Georgian London
renowned artificial stone manufacturer and ceramic artist

Computing

Ada Lovelace and the Luddites. | Doing Good Science, Scientific American Blog Network

Longitude, ladies and computers – Board of Longitude blog
Mary Edwards, a ‘human’ computer

It’s Ada Lovelace Day! | AXON
Daphne Oram, electronic music pioneer

Don’t look for meanings, count mentions – PHP/ir
Karen Spärck Jones – natural language processing, machine translation, and search

Ada Lovelace Day: Sandra K. Johnson « Valerie Aurora
Parallel processing expert and first African-American woman electrical engineering PhD in the U.S.

Ada Lovelace Day: Susan Hockey « Bethany Nowviskie
a digital humanities pioneer and mentor

Sources and stories

Captivated by Science, Mathematics, and Imagination: An 18th Century Lady’s Commonplace Book

Early Modern Thought Online: The Blog: Learned Women in Early Modernity: Forgotten Sources

Pandora’s Breeches: Women, Science and Power in the Enlightenment by Patricia Fara « The Sleepless Reader
Book review.

Ada Lovelace Day
historical and personal perspectives from Ian Hopkinson

Ada Lovelace Day 2011: Telling Stories « Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth
including the WRENs who worked at Bletchley Park

Women’s History Carnival 2011, International Women’s Day Edition

Standard

Apologies: this was supposed to go up on 9 March, just after IWD, but work and life got in the way. Hope you enjoy it anyway!

Sources and Discussions

Women don’t always change channel when the bombs begin to fall | BBC History Magazine
Amanda Vickery looks at whether there really is a gender gap in historical programming: “bonnets for the women and battles for the blokes?”

Alchemy, Women and Data Visualisation
Sienna Latham writes on the role of data visualisation in her historical research on English women’s chymical activities during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Women’s history & Wikipedia’s gender gap
Shane Landrum commented on Wikipedia’s history coverage biases and did something about it: improving a women’s history article. He followed this up by setting up a WikiProject for Women’s History. Why not contribute something for Women’s History Month?

Exploring the History of Women – More on Documenting the Underdocumented
Melissa Mannon at ArchivesInfo lists some excellent online women’s history resources.

Women in the Arts and Professions

Fascinating Women: Nell Brinkley
From Edwardian Promenade, a post about the illustrator, Nell Brinkley, “one of the most popular and prolific of American illustrators” in the early 20th century’s “golden age of illustration”.

Madame de Sévigné
Mme Guillotine has a post about one of her literary heroines and personal influences.

Adventures in Feministory: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
LIndsay Baltus looks at Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s life and work (it’s not just the Yellow Wallpaper…).

Women First
The sex disqualification (removal) act of 1919 enabled women to enter the legal profession and the civil service and to become jurors: Philip Carter looks at six trailblazers.

An Uppity Dutch Master (part 1)
Judith Weingarten’s brilliant series of posts on Judith Leyster from last year (Part II; Part III).

Women and Science

Dangerous Curves: Maria Gaetana Agnesi
A wonderful post by Jennifer Ouellette, at Wonders and Marvels last year, about “the Walking Polyglot” who could speak French, Italian, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, German and Latin by the time she was 13, wrote a seminal mathematics textbook, and became a nun.

Lise Meitner
Milena Popova wrote about Lise Meitner, a pioneering female physicist who worked on the early development of nuclear fission, and highlighted the discrimination faced by women scientists.

Women and Science, Past and Present
Philippa Hardman explores a similar theme of women’s historical struggles to participate in science equally with men, focusing on Darwin’s female correspondents.

Queens and Heroines

The Many Guises of Marie Antoinette
Emily Brand at The Artist’s Progress explored how Marie Antoinette was represented in French caricature “from the first rustlings of revolution to her execution in 1793″.

A Woman Will Be King
Judith Weingarten explained how Queen Bōrān became the King of Kings, the first female sole ruler of Persia. She also has a post on The Uppity Queen Arsinoë II, “one of the feistiest Hellenistic queens ever”.

History Heroine: Susan Travers
Katrina Gulliver writes at Notes from the Field on a heroine of World War II.

Rebels and Troublemakers

On March 4, Remember the Grand Picket for Voting Rights
Ann Bausum posts on the protests for female suffrage by the National Woman’s Party. This post is just one from a month-long blogging project, Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month, with a series of posts from children’s authors and bloggers about famous women and events related to women’s history.

10 Things You Should Know About Clara Lemlich
Jewesses With Attitude posts on the life of Clara, a leader of the mass strike of shirtwaist workers in New York’s garment industry in 1909.

Live-Blogging Women’s History: March 3, 1913
Ms Magazine Blog is “live blogging” a series “this day in feminist history” posts throughout March: this chronicles a massive suffrage parade and pageant in Washington DC.

Tragedy

‘The Somersetshire Lady’ a 17thc Ballad
From Women in Medieval and Early Modern History, a sad story; it may be fiction but reflects the reality of the lack of control married women had over their finances and lives.

I Am a young Wife that has cause to complain,
Yet I fear all my sorrowful Sighs are in vain;
For my Husband he is an invincible Sot,
There is nothing he minds but the Pipe, and the Pot:
When a Husband he is a sad Spendthrift, you know
Then a Wife must sad Sorrow and Grief undergoe…

‘I Shall Have to Answer Before my Maker…’ Or: Amelia Dyer and the Baby Farming Trade:
The Victorianist writes on the life and death of Amelia Dyer, whose case “brought to light the abuses in baby-farming” and caused a Victorian scandal.

The South Cerney Tragedy
From Cotswold History Blog, this is the harrowing story of Mary Hannah and her children.

Material Lives

Celebrate Women’s History Month by Picking Up a Needle and Thread
Craftzine.com blog surveys two centuries of women’s sewing.

Women in the Business of Food
Australian Women’s History forum is focusing for WHM 2011 on women who made significant contributions to the history of food, in cooking or in education, science, or technology and challenged “perceptions about women’s unpaid domestic skills”.

Frederick Douglass’s Women: In Progress: Anna Douglass’s Bandanna
Leigh Fought is intrigued by an item of Anna Douglass’s wardrobe: “The red bandanna caught my attention. White women did not tend to dress like that. They wore caps and bonnets and hats. Go south, however, to Savannah, to Charleston, to plantations, and black women wore scarves around their heads”.

Fabric Samples from an Early New York Businesswoman
The New-York Historical Society Library Collections Blog highlights the records of the business of Mary Alexander, which “provide a glimpse into the life of a colonial NYC businesswoman”.

Farthingales & Vizards – Elizabethan Women & their Dress
Dainty Ballerina has a lavishly illustrated and detailed look at what Elizabethan women wore.

Mother’s Friend
The Quack Doctor brings us “a liniment that claimed to make labour a doddle”.

In Brief

And lastly…

For a little fun: Good Queen Bess from Hark, a Vagrant.

***

Thanks for nominations: Katrina Gulliver, Judith Weingarten, Margo Tanenbaum, Chris McDowall, and all the people who posted interesting links on Twitter!

There will hopefully be another Carnival later in the month to round up activity after IWD: I’m looking for a volunteer host (more info here)!

Women’s History Month, as an academic women’s historian

Standard

Women’s History Month is a great event, but one that tends to leave me feeling slightly dissatisfied. The thing is… so much of “Women’s History Month” looks more like “Women’s Biography Month”. And I’m not knocking that per se – I enjoy reading posts about heroines and rebels as much as anyone, they’re often good stories that deserve wider circulation, and it’s a good way to upset assumptions that women in the past didn’t do much of anything.

It’s just that after a while it starts to feel like a feminine mirror of a very old Great Dead Men approach to history. And, yes, I know the Great Dead Men still largely reign supreme in history writing and reading outside academic circles, and Women’s History Month is largely a popular history event not an academic one. So it’s not that surprising if a lot of it looks rather like the popular history of the other 11 months of the year, but with more skirts and less facial hair.

But I think it’s all the more important for academic women’s and gender historians to remember to do a bit more: this month is a great opportunity to show the world something of the breadth and variety of the knowledge produced by our years of sheer hard work in archives and libraries, and the richness and complexity of women’s – and men’s – pasts.