January 2014 – Guest Blogger Alison McCall

Once a month for the coming year and hopefully beyond, WHS will have a guest blogger write a post about themselves and their work. Kicking us off is Alison McCall, our newly elected Convener who tells us about herself, her research and her relationship to Women’s History Scotland. She looks forward to the coming year which has a number of landmark events for her research and career, and in her family life. If any Women’s History Scotland members would like to write a short blog post for the website, please send an initial inquiry to the e-mail address in the ‘Contact Us’ Section.

Hello, I’m Alison McCall.  I became a member of WHS (or Scottish Women’s History Network, as it was then) in May 2002, and attended my first conference, Gender, Families and Relationships in Scotland in November that year.  It was brilliant! Joining WHS and going to that conference were two of the best things to happen in 2002.  Admittedly, the bar for “best things” was set pretty low, as 2002 was the year of the chickenpox, as first my son, then my daughter, then my son for a second time, and then I went down with it; chicken pox at 38 is no joke!

My main academic interest is in women with careers in Victorian Scotland.  Most of the women I have studied have been teachers, a profession which has left a plentiful and rich variety of original source material. However, I am also interested in nurses, clerks, journalists and translators.  During the past twelve years this has proved an ideal subject for conferences. There are few topics which don’t, in some way, relate to Victorian career women.   A side interest is in the life and work of poet and translator Elizabeth (Bessie) Craigmyle (1863-1933) who was a trained teacher and probably Scotland’s best Victorian lesbian poet. Please get in touch if you’d like to read some of her poems.

Having joined WHS with a BA in history from the Open University, I have since completed an M.Litt in Women, Culture and Society and I am currently working on the minor revisions to my PhD thesis.

Through WHS I became involved in the Women of Scotland project.  If anyone hasn’t seen the website, may I encourage you to do so.   http://womenofscotland.org.uk/  This is an exciting project to record and map memorials of all varieties, from large (Helensburgh being the largest so far) to small.  These memorials are linked to biographies of the women they commemorate; women from all parts of Scotland and spanning many centuries.  There are currently over 400 memorials recorded, but there are many, many more to be discovered. I assume that it’s only a matter of time until the site reaches it’s 1000th memorial.

I’m also currently part of a group creating a Women’s Trail for Aberdeen; I hope that the initial trail is just the start of a series of trails, but meanwhile the first trail is being launched on 8 March.

I love archives and the thrill of reading words in faded ink.  If Yankee candles ever bring out a “fusty book” scented candle, I will be one of their main customers.  However, I also love the feeling of being surrounded by history; walking down streets where generations have walked before; past schools where women have taught, into churches where they have worshipped, and graveyards where they have mourned.   My son says that if he ever goes into therapy, he will describe a childhood in which no pleasant family outing was complete without reading at least one gravestone.

2014 is going to be a momentous year for me;  in date order 2014 will include; silver wedding anniversary,  the publication of my son’s first book,  50th birthday, all-being-well graduating with my PhD,  my daughter starting University and finally the WHS Annual Conference!


1 thought on “January 2014 – Guest Blogger Alison McCall”

  1. Alison, your story is the reason WHS was invented! We always hoped to inspire, encourage and support research into women’s history in Scotland and you have not only justified our existence but succeeded to such a degree that you are now running the show! I hope other budding women’s and gender historians are inspired (ad join WHS).

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