Masters Studentship in Gender History

Please see below for information about a one-off studentship for undergraduates hoping to take a taught postgraduate course.

“The studentship is open to international applicants as well as home students, and covers the equivalent of UK/EU fees and comes with a stipend of £10,000.

If you know of any talented undergraduates seeking opportunities to undertake a taught masters programme en route to a PhD, with an interest in gender history, please could you bring this to their attention?

Further information can be found here:

The deadline for applications for the studentship has just been extended until 18 July.”

May 2014 – Guest Blogger Rose Pipes

Having heard from a ‘newby’ Steering Committee member last month, we now hear from Rose Pipes, long-term Steering Committee Member and keeper of the membership database.

1998 was the year when WHS, then called Scottish Women’s History Network, was resurrected after being dormant for a time, and I was one of the women who went along to the first meeting. Not being a history graduate, I would never have considered going but for the determined encouragement of the late Sue Innes, who in her typically generous way insisted that my local history publications and background in publishing were good enough grounds for getting involved. And how glad I am that Sue’s will prevailed. It’s been an immensely rewarding sixteen years, with plenty of good projects, lots of enthusiastic members and ideas, lasting friendships formed, and great conferences all over the country, from Shetland and Orkney to Dornoch and Aberdeen.

For me, the highlight of my time on the steering committee was acting as co-ordinating editor for WHS’s first major publishing project – The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women – for which Sue Innes, Siân Reynolds and Elizabeth Ewan were the joint academic editors. The project was a huge undertaking, but despite many obstacles along the way – not least Sue’s illness then death – we managed to bring it off and to remain close friends, thanks in no small part to much support from others in the Network.

Directly and indirectly, the Dictionary has spawned all sorts of unexpected spin-offs for me: the Women of Scotland memorials project; talks and films relating to women in the Dictionary; lectures on (Dictionary) women of Orkney at the annual Orkney International Science Festival; talks about the book to various groups; contributing biographies to art and other exhibitions, and so on. Most recently I have been helping Helen Kay (a WHS member) with her research into the life and work of Chrystal Macmillan, another Dictionary entrant, focusing on her legal career. This in turn has led to my writing an article on Macmillan’s work as a barrister, and next month Helen and I will join others at Durham University for the first of a serious of workshops around the UK to share ideas about women’s contribution to ‘legal landmarks’ – possibly resulting in a book of essays.

After that, who knows? If Helen MacDonald’s computing know-how works its magic, I may yet be released from my WHS duties as keeper of our membership database. Sixteen years is probably long enough. Any takers?

April 2014 – Guest Blogger Emily Flaherty

This month’s Guest Blog comes from a first year PhD student and new WHS member, Emily Flaherty. Emily has recently been elected onto the steering committee as well as getting absorbed in her thesis – we look forward to Emily’s contributions to WHS in the future as well as seeing the results of her research!

Hello, I’m Emily Flaherty. I recently joined WHS after starting my PhD at the University of Glasgow in September 2013. I’d spent the previous year studying for an MSc in Gender History at the University of Edinburgh so had attended the 2012 conference, Women and Wellbeing. It was a fantastic event that introduced me to many of the women’s history projects currently being undertaken in Scotland and encouraged me further to pursue my own research interests!

My main academic interest has always been the Women’s Liberation Movement; I’ve studied local WLM groups from Bolton, Manchester and Glasgow as part of my undergraduate and MSc degrees. It came as no surprise that I wished to continue this line of research for my PhD. I’m currently researching a number of local groups and campaigns that prioritised issues of work-based struggle throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

I’ve spent a lot of time at the Glasgow Women’s Library over the past six months; working with national WLM publications such as Spare Rib, Wires and Red Rag. These magazines can offer fascinating insight into the activities and priorities of the WLM and feature some articles on the activities of the Scottish movement. Spare Rib for example, introduced a feature called ‘On the Road’ in the late 1970s after accusations of it being London-centric. Each month a different local group had the opportunity to report its activities and campaigns. Edinburgh and Glasgow Women’s Centres were both featured and listed numerous campaigns from across the cities – from the Family Allowance Campaign to numerous National Abortion Campaign groups. The Glasgow Women’s Library also holds many publications produced by the Scottish WLM, such as the Edinburgh WLM Newsletter and Nessie: A Radical and Revolting Newsletter from Scotland. It’s great to be able to include so many Scottish writings and examples in my research and demonstrate the energy the movement had in Scotland! The GWL is a great place to work and I’m lucky to have such a friendly and welcoming archive as my base for research.

Since moving to Glasgow and starting my PhD, I’ve been welcomed into a number of groups not least WHS. I look forward to my second WHS conference and getting to know other members over the course of 2014!

WHS Conference 2014 – Gender, Fitness and Sport

The Call for Papers for the Annual Conference is now released. The theme of the conference is Gender, Fitness and Sport.

The conference will be held at the University of Abertay, Dundee on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th of September 2014. Professor Charlotte Macdonald has been confirmed as the keynote speaker for the Sue Innes Memorial Lecture on the Friday evening. More information on registration will be released nearer the time.

Please address any questions or send paper proposals to Eilidh Macrae on the dedicated conference email address

WHS Call for Papers Gender Fitness and Sport September 2014

March 2014 – Guest Blogger Elizabeth Ritchie

This month we hear from Elizabeth Ritchie who lectures at the Centre for History at the University of the Highlands and Islands. Her particular interest is the social and cultural history of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Highlands although she has recently been working on a project about Scottish emigrant women in rural Canada. If you like this post you might be interested in the local history blog Elizabeth edits:

The ‘dreadful hard work’ of Nancy Smibert in Upper Canada

Agnes, or Nancy, Smibert was talked into emigrating from the Borders first to Pennsylvania and then to Upper Canada (today’s Ontario) by her husband, a master weaver from Innerleithen.  A grueling overland trip to the old growth forests of London Township with four children was followed by James breaking his leg.  The last of the hundred pounds they had brought from Scotland evaporated and the two horses died so they sold the waggon and almost all their ‘bed and body clothes’.  Road building work paid for a deposit on a hundred acres as James singlehandedly felled enough trees to build a log house and plant in Spring 1819.  Without the assistance of friends or family,Nancy gave birth to Marion.  Between housework and childcare duties Nancy would have  organized the children to stack and burn the smaller bits of brush James cleared, and to plant the 4 ½ bushels of potatoes and Indian corn (maize) that was their first crop.

 Melons, watermelons and cucumbers meant they didn’t go hungry.  Such food would be new to Nancy but she discovered the vast crop of 500 thirty to hundred pound pumpkins which grew among the corn made a type of molasses and a sauce which made their usual fare of potatoes and bread more appetizing.  It may have been the next spring they learned how to tap maple trees and they made a year’s worth of sugar in the two week window.  Despite their efforts, it was impossible to be self-sufficient in these early years.

Money was necessary but neither James’ forest clearing nor Nancy’s household work produced cash.  James had been a master weaver and Nancy could spin and sew so they invested in a flock of sheep which grazed in the woods.  Despite occasional losses to a wolf, this method cost little. Nancy had meat for the table, tallow for candlemaking and wool.  Woolen cloth would bring in cash.  Nancy and the children probably carded as her husband worked outdoors during the day then built the loom and wove in the evening.  Spinning would certainly have fallen to Nancy with the help of the children.  The thread James wove was fulled, dyed, and dressed at the mill.  Nancy made clothes.  James wore ‘coarse cloth trousers, waistcoat, and surtout, of home manufacture, dyed a dark reddish brown by the produce of the butternut tree, and ornamented with well worn brass buttons.’  The rest of the fabric was sold to neighbours and the Smiberts pocketed as much as two dollars a day.  Although James took all the credit for cloth manufacture, it was the family’s ability to keep most elements of cloth production in-house through Nancy’s skilled labour and the unskilled labour of the children that maximized their profit.

Like spinning, the very dailyness of food preparation means most women’s work is rarely mentioned in letters or farm diaries.  Working with food was not half an hour’s cooking over the oven and fifteen minutes washing up, with an hour’s grocery shopping each week.  Cattle were milked, hens fed and eggs collected each morning.  Churning butter and cheese was physically demanding.  Stores were laid in for winter.  The Smiberts’ log house had ‘numerous festoons of dried fruit which hung from the ceiling’, the produce of the orchard James planted in the 1820s. Nancy doubtless rounded up the children in late summer to cut apples in pieces and string them onto threads to hang in the warm kitchen.  One of her boys had a mechanical turn and, probably fed up with endless apple processing, he invented a peeling device.  Food was a vital element in the family economy not simply for fuelling the labour of its members, but in order to participate in the informal economy of neighbourhood ‘bees’.  One day ‘we had a great many men and oxen collected … to clear a piece of land by rolling the logs together in large heaps, and then setting fire to them.’  Bees were a reciprocal method of doing big jobs which required more manpower and equipment than one family could provide.  Food and drink were vital to their success so Nancy, her daughters and daughters in law would spend several days preparing vast meals for the men.  Unlike the heroic efforts and clear masculine achievement at a barn raising or logging bee, the ordinariness of food preparation means the considerable female skill and labour involved usually remains invisible.

 By the mid 1830s the family farm was on a secure footing.  The Smiberts had two hundred acres, a house, a pair of horses and a selection of livestock.  For the previous ten years or so the older children had been contributing to the family economy.  William and young James had taken over the farm management and heavy work while Betsy was, ‘a stout well-grown woman’ with responsibility for poultry and dairy.  She produced butter and cheese from their five cattle for family use.  Her flock contained ‘many geese, turkeys and guinea fowls’. Nancy probably passed this work on as she had her hands full after the birth of baby Margaret, and in order to train Betsy in running a household before her marriage in 1836.

 This sort of delegation freed Nancy up when there was a new baby and when her naturally ‘delicate constitution’ gave out in the mid 1840s.  Visits to Dr Anderson from Aberdeen were of no avail and she was largely housebound.  She did little jobs around the house and the rest of the time sewed and knitted stockings.  Despite her daughters easing her burdens,Nancy died in 1855, aged sixty.  Despite all the family memorabilia being focused on her husband, enough clues about this reluctant emigrant peep through to appreciate Nancy’s lifetime of productive and reproductive work that made the Smiberts a prosperous family of farmers in mid nineteenth century Upper Canada.

February 2014 – Guest Blogger Lynn Abrams

In the second Guest Blog post from Women’s History Scotland steering committee members, we welcome Lynn Abrams who talks about forthcoming events for those interested in women’s history and recent successes of Women’s History Scotland members.

In the last few weeks I have been regretting agreeing to present quite so many papers on various aspects of women’s and gender history, especially given that they require new research and in some cases some very careful tiptoeing around. Last year I rashly volunteered to give one of the lectures in the University of Glasgow’s ‘How British is Scotland?’ series, a public event in partnership with The Herald newspaper. It was important, I thought, to devote one of these lectures to gender. I still think this but my initial ideas for the talk – comparisons between women’s position in England and Scotland in the past, some thoughts on gender roles and so on – were soon jettisoned as I realised the impossibility of the approach and the political hot water I could be jumping into – in this year of the referendum (there you go, I’ve mentioned the elephant in the room). So, taking the cowards way out I have alighted on Scottish women and internationalism. Not an especially original topic I know and WHS members have already made some important contributions on this very topic, but hopefully it will enable me to broaden the perspective and think a bit about Scottish women’s various and compatible identities. If that is copping out, so be it! At least it got me a day in the Women’s Library @ LSE to research the International Council of Women. After the surroundings of the original Women’s Library this new incarnation is, at least at present, a little disappointing (and cramped) but at least the collection stayed in one piece and it was gratifying to see the place so busy (be warned – book your seat in advance).

Also coming up are a talk at a workshop in St Andrews that Elizabeth Ewan and I are organising on Scottish Masculinities in which I’ll be speaking about a 20th Century masculine life very far from the hard man stereotype; a paper on a panel at the Berkshire conference of Women’s Historians in Toronto in May which will be re-thinking Gluck and Patai’s classic Women’s Words; and last but definitely not least, my very own inaugural lecture at the University of Glasgow which I hope many WHS members will attend in sisterly solidarity! I am looking forward to that one.

But it’s not all about me! A recent highlight was the publication of Rosi Carr’s first book on Gender and Enlightenment Culture in Eighteenth Century Scotland which started out as a PhD at the University of Glasgow. Rosi has gone on to greater things but in May we will be launching the book in its natural home in Glasgow (the home of Adam Smith though sadly no female enlightenment figures which is what Rosi’s book is all about and the cover image brilliantly portrays) with Jane Rendall attending to make it official. It is one of the most gratifying things about being a PhD supervisor to see your students publish their books and get jobs. Rosi is not the first of illustrious women’s and gender history graduates of Glasgow – she follows the trail of Megan Smitley and Katie Barclay – and I’m sure there will be more. Tanya Cheadle recently successfully defended her thesis on Sexuality in fin-de-siecle Scotland and there must be a book and a film in that!


Happy Women’s History Month!

Happy Women’s History Month to all members and potential members of Women’s History Scotland! We hope you have a great month filled with exciting events on women’s history (plug: see the Dundee Women’s Festival, the Dundee Science Festival for info!) and with great bounds forward in women’s history research!


Dundee Arts Cafe Event – Esther Breitenbach

An additional event which will be of interest to Women’s History Scotland members is a talk by Dr Esther Breitenbach, University of Edinburgh, at a Dundee Arts Cafe event at the cafe in McManus Galleries, Dundee on Tuesday the 4th of March 2014 between 6 and 7pm. The event is free and there is no need to book, but you’re recommended to arrive early to avoid disappointment. Please contact staff at the Arts Cafe at Dundee University (available on their website) with any questions about this event.

Esther will be partly talking about the Documentary History which was published last year and was edited by Esther and other committed WHS members.