WHS Annual Conference 2016- ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas & Practice’ – Report and Resources

[Images: top right © Scottish Women’s Aid Archive at Glasgow Women’s Library, bottom right © University of Glasgow Archive Services, DC127/22a]

Women’s History Scotland Annual Conference: ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas & Practice’

[Please see the ‘Resources‘ section below for access to some of the powerpoint presentations from the day and link to the audio on Soundcloud]

Conference Report – Hannah Telling

The annual WHS conference which examined the theme of ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas & Practice’, was held on Friday 9 September. Glasgow Women’s Library, recently lauded in the national press as ‘a treasure trove that shows how far feminism has come’, served as a fitting venue for this year’s event. At the completely sold out conference, delegates were treated to a host of wonderful papers, with themes ranging from the emergence of Women’s Aid to the feminist fashion of Doc Martens. The event concluded with the Sue Innes Memorial Lecture, delivered by the inimitable and inspiring Zoe Fairbairns.

After an introduction to Women’s History Scotland delivered by convenor Alison McCall, Tanya Cheadle delivered a paper on the late nineteenth-century feminist and socialist activist, Bella Pearce. Tanya’s paper talked of the ‘uneasy relationship between socialism and feminism in the 1890s’, as feminist social reformers attempted to navigate labour parties that were ‘first and foremost a man’s party’. Pearce’s feminist activism contrasted, in a perhaps unique example, with her unconventional faith. She became a devout disciple of a Christian sexual mysticism organisation, the Brotherhood of New Life, whose founder espoused the doctrine that ‘by denying sexuality, Christianity becomes sterile’. Tanya’s paper provided a fascinating insight into the relationships, activism and faith of one feminist reformer in late nineteenth-century Scotland.

Jane Rendall was next to deliver her paper, exploring female friendly societies in Scotland, c.1789-1830 and ‘the principle of Mutual Support’. Jane began her talk by discussing the role of ritual-based, religious and philanthropic societies and their growth in this period. Interestingly, whilst Jane had detected 1560 male friendly societies, only 66 female equivalents were discovered. These female friendly societies were concentrated in South West Scotland and were noticeably absent from the urban centres where the strength and influence of male trade predominated. Despite the limited number of female friendly societies, Jane revealed how such organisations helped to consolidate neighbourhood ties, provide recognition of women’s identities and allow members of all classes new experiences and opportunities.

Sarah Browne of the ‘Speaking Out’ project presented the final paper of the ‘Activism’ panel, examining the links between feminism and Women’s Aid in the 1970s and 1980s. Women’s Aid, which campaigned to end domestic abuse and assisted women seeking to escape abusive partners, emerged out of and became a testimony to the Women’s Liberation Movement. Sarah talked of how attention to the ‘Herstory of Women’s Aid’ allowed for a reclamation of women’s pasts, whilst providing opportunities for reflection on what had been achieved and what still needed to be done. Sarah reinforced the central tenet of Women’s Aid and indeed feminism – that the abuse of women was (and still is) central to women’s unequal position within society. In concluding, Sarah emphasised that whilst Women’s Aid is ‘always moving forwards’, the organisation’s roots in the Women’s Liberation Movement will continue to be acknowledged.

Georgia Mackay opened up the second panel on ‘Material and Visual Culture’ with a wonderful paper on Doc Martens and feminism. Georgia pointed out that Cinderella teaches us that ‘one shoe can change your life’, yet asked what happened when women rejected ‘overtly sexual’ sky-high heels for ‘kick ass heavy boots’, the Doc Martens. In a paper that explored the links between fashion and feminist subculture, Georgia explored the history of Doc Martens, whilst reinforcing the idea that ‘any item of clothing can be feminist if intended so by the wearer’.

Nel Whiting concluded the morning session with a paper that applied feminist methodology to portraiture, unearthing the subtle gender dynamics of David Allan’s The Family of the Earl & Countess of Hopetoun. Nel’s application of gender theory and close analysis revealed implicit power relations contained within the portrait. Nel argued that artwork reflected and replicated contemporary values and thus formed a key part of society’s discursive network, thereby demonstrates how analysing portraiture can be of great use to the researcher of eighteenth-century gender relations.

The editors of the 2nd edition of the ‘Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women’ gave an update on their progress after lunch, informing delegates that the volume will include 150 new entries of notable women throughout Scottish history.

In keeping with the theme of ‘Biographies’, Sarah Edwards delivered a paper on Dr Dorothy Meads, the principal of Bishop Otterly College. The paper included a history of the college itself, from teacher-training college to RAF base during World War II. Sarah talked about Dr Meads’ reforms and how she embodied the contemporary conceptualisation of female principal in this period – an amalgamation of feminine nurturer and masculine protector exhibiting quasi-parental control over the female students.

In the final paper of the day, Susan Batchelor presented an examination of the life and influence of Pearl Jephcott, whose pioneering sociological research privileged the experiences of ordinary young people in detailed and broad-ranging analyses. Susan showed how Jephcott utilised 1960s sociological approaches, yet also foreshadowed later developments, especially in the form of feminist epistemology in the 1980s. Susan concluded that ‘Jephcott was a sociology research pioneer, yet also a feminist research pioneer’.

The annual Sue Innes Memorial Lecture was delivered by Zoe Fairbairns, who began her lecture by thanking those who have worked so hard to keep Sue Innes’ name alive. Zoe’s wonderful lecture explored ‘Five Decades, Five Feminisms’, demonstrating the many developments that have been made in the pursuit of gender equality. Zoe took the enraptured audience through each decade, from the 1960s when feminism was yet to be named, to the challenges of the new millennium – terrorism, anti-feminist backlashes, the dangers of the internet-age and the continued prevalence of violence against women and children. Despite the work still to be done, Zoe’s lecture was ultimately celebratory. She said that ‘I would say that a lot has changed for the better, and that we, as feminists, should congratulate ourselves for our part in that’. Zoe cited greater representation of women in politics, the successful introduction of equal marriage, women in well-paid employment and men engaging in domestic duties as examples of the many developments achieved through five decades of activism and feminism. To rousing applause, Zoe concluded her lecture, and the WHS annual conference, using Sue Innes’ own words – ‘let’s go on making it work’. 


Resources

For those of you who couldn’t join us – click the relevant links below to access powerpoint presentations from some of the presentations on the day and the audio recordings on Soundcloud

PANEL 1: Activism

Tanya Cheadle, University of Glasgow – Bella Pearce / ‘Lily Bell’: Glasgow Feminist, Socialist and Christian Sexual Mystic – whn-glasgow-pp

Jane Rendall, University of York – ‘The principle of mutual support’: female friendly societies in Scotland c. 1789-1830 – rendall-glasgow

Sarah Browne, Heritage Project Co-ordinator, Scottish Women’s Aid – ‘Pledging our support to the seven demands of the Women’s Liberation Movement’: Feminism and the emergence of Women’s Aid in the 1970s and 1980s – brownewhspresentation

PANEL 2: Material/ Visual Culture

Georgia Mackay, University of Glasgow – The End of High Heels? Doc Martens and Feminism in the late 20th Century – the-end-of-high-heels

Nel Whiting, University of Dundee – A ‘voyeuristic fiction of candour’? Feminist Methodology and Portraiture 

PANEL 3: Biographies

Sarah Edwards, University of Strathclyde – Dr Meads and her wartime flock: the history and representation of Bishop Otter College at Bromley, 1942-45

Susan Batchelor, University of Glasgow – Pearl Jephcott and a Time of One’s Own – revisiting-jephcott-whs-conference-sb-080916

SUE INNES MEMORIAL LECTURE:

Zoë Fairbairns, Five Decades, Five Feminisms – http://www.zoefairbairns.co.uk/Sue_Innes_Memorial.pdf

Less than two days to go – WHS Annual Conference – ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas and Practice’, Glasgow Women’s Library, Friday 9 September

With less than two days to go until our fully booked conference at Glasgow Women’s Library on Friday (7th of September), we’re in full swing with the preparations!

Our new publicity postcards arrived today and all the final preparations will be completed tomorrow.

The event is fully booked and we’ve been overwhelmed by the response.

Hopefully you’ll already have registered and we’ll see you on Friday!

The event is free but donations are encouraged. 

To join WHS please click here

Here’s the full programme for the event for those attending – whs-final-feminisms-conference-programme.

If you can’t make it we’ll be tweeting @womenshistscot #whsfeminisms

Watch this space for a report on the conference.

***REGISTRATION OPEN*** WHS Annual Conference – ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas and Practice’, Glasgow Women’s Library, Friday 9 September

Images: top right © Scottish Women’s Aid Archive at Glasgow Women’s Library, bottom right © University of Glasgow Archive Services, DC127/22a

Women’s History Scotland are delighted to invite you to our annual conference – ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas & Practices’. We have a very exciting line-up of speakers exploring wide-ranging themes including feminist activism, material and visual cultures, and biographies.

Full programme – WHS feminisms conference programme

This year’s Sue Innes Memorial Lecture will be delivered at the conference by Zoe Fairbairns, entitled ‘Five Decades, Five Feminisms’.

Zoë Fairbairns first encountered the words ‘women’s’, ‘liberation’ and ‘movement’ side by side in the same phrase in 1969.  She was in the USA at the time, but couldn’t wait to hurry back to St Andrews University (from which she was taking a year out) and set up something similar. By the time she got back, feminism had already arrived. Together with fellow-student Sue Innes, and others, Zoë became a founder-member of the St Andrews University Women’s Liberation group.

Zoë is a novelist, short story writer, journalist and playwright. Her books include Benefits, Closing and Other Names. She co-authored the pamphlet ‘Saying What We Want:  Women’s Demands in the Feminist Seventies and Now’. She is a member of the Women’s Equality Party and the Fawcett Society, and is a Friend of the Feminist Library. She also meets regularly with a group of other women who were active as feminists in the 1970s and who want to continue raising their consciousness. She teaches creative writing at the City Lit in London, where she lives. Her website is at www.zoefairbairns.co.uk

The conference will be held at Glasgow Women’s Library. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Women’s History Scotland have decided to make this year’s conference as accessible as possible and so will not be charging a fee for attendance, but instead suggesting a donation to WHS on the day if attendees are willing/ able. All are very welcome and we look forward to seeing you on the 9th September!

REGISTER FOR FREE via eventbrite – ‘WHS Annual Conference: Feminisms, Histories, Ideas & Practices’

Any queries can be sent to whsconference2016@gmail.com.

WHS Annual Conference – Registration

Registration for the Annual Conference in Aberdeen is now open.
Details of the programme, conference fee and how to register is below. The Sue Innes Memorial Lecture is free.

Saturday 31 October 2015
St Nicholas Room, Town House, Aberdeen

Tea & coffee will be available in the St Nicholas Room from 11am.

11.45: Lindy Moore ‘On Creating the Kingdom of God on Earth: the Spirituality of Isabella Fyvie Mayo’.

12.05 : Elizabeth Ritchie ‘Isabella Fraser Sage – Life as a Minister’s Wife in the C18th Highlands

12.30: Women’s Heritage Walk, organised by volunteers from Aberdeen Women’s Alliance walk group. This starts and finishes at the Town House.

1.15: Lunch break – Please note there are a range of options for eating close to the Town House

There will be a small bookstall.

2.00: The Sue Innes Memorial Lecture, Lesley Orr – “To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in church and nation in 20thC Scotland

WHS AGM

Cost: £20 for the whole event. The Sue Innes Memorial Lecture is free.

To register, or for further details, please contact Alison McCall: womenshistoryscotland@gmail.com

2014 Conference Information

With the 2014 WHS Annual Conference Gender, Fitness, and Sport approaching, conference organiser Dr Eilidh Macrae has provided important information for anyone attending the conference, which is given below.

The conference this year is taking place in Dundee, at Abertay University on Saturday the 27th of September.

We are very pleased to be able to welcome Professor Charlotte Macdonald who will be giving the Sue Innes Memorial Lecture on Saturday Afternoon on Beautiful Bodies: Glasgow’s 1938 gift to women and to empire.

Provisional Programme 2014 Conference

2014 WHS Conference Registration Form

WHS-Membership-Form 2014

Accommodation and Travel details WHS 2014 conference

If you have any queries about the conference, please e-mail Eilidh:

WHSconference2014@outlook.com

 

 

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 WHSconference2014@outlook.com

WHS Call for Papers Gender Fitness and Sport September 2014

Annual Conference Orkney – Registration now open!

 

2013 Annual Conference

Centre for Nordic Studies, UHI, Kirkwall, Orkney

3-4 May 2013

 Making, Creating, Producing:

Historical Perspectives on Women, Gender & Production

Late registrations for WHS Annual Conference in Orkney are still being received.

We’ve received a large number of submissions to the Call for Papers early this year, resulting in parallel panels and a full programme. The Conference has a range of interesting papers on offer, from women and the land, to arts and crafts, knitting and lacemaking. We have speakers joining us from the Orkney and the surrounding areas as well as international speakers from Canada and Scandinavia. In addition, the Sue Innes Memorial Lecture this year will be given by Elizabeth Ewan (Research Professor of Scottish History, University of Guelph, Canada) with the title ‘Producing Women in Pre-Modern Scotland’, followed by a civic reception. The Conference Dinner on Saturday evening will be held at the West End Hotel.

See the provisional programme for more details (correct as of 24/4/2013)

Orkney Conference Provisional Programme

Registration

If you wish to attend, please fill in a Registration Form and send it by the 12th of April, along with a cheque to:

Laura Paterson, c/o History, School of Humanities, University of Dundee, DD1 4HN.

There will be a range of interesting papers on offer at this conference, reflecting a wide range of topics around the core theme.

Any queries can be directed to l.paterson@dundee.ac.uk

Orkney 2013 Registration Form

Orkney has been recently been named as the best island destination in the UK by users of the travel website Tripadvisor – so the conference is an excellent opportunity to visit!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-21941087

Conference 2012 – Guest Blogger, Morag Campbell 2

WHS Conference 2012

Morag Campbell, Open University and University of Dundee.

Blog 2

This year’s annual Women’s History Scotland conference on Women and Wellbeing: Historical Perspectives, brought together a splendid variety of participants and a correspondingly interesting selection of papers.  The subjects of the papers ranged from ‘baby farmers’ to missionaries, and from as far afield as Rhodesia, Spain, Canada and Nazi Germany; topics embraced birth control and eugenics, sexual wellbeing, mental health, pregnancy and childbirth; we heard women’s voices through letters and poetry, and just as poignantly through the letters of their husbands and families, hinting at women’s suffering, courage and determination.

The study of women’s history has necessarily encountered contradictory approaches as to how the subject of women could be written into a narrative dominated by the history of men. Many of the papers at this year’s conference examined women’s roles in relation to power structures and the society which constrained them, and their efforts to gain independence by the means available to them.  Linda Mahood introduced us to Eglantyne Jebb and her family, whose philanthropic activities, like those of many Victorian women, allowed them access, as educated women, to adventurous and also politically controversial activities otherwise denied to them by legal and social conventions.  Kirsten Elliott’s presentation on birth control clinics in early twentieth century Scotland gave an insight into women’s attempts to control their own fertility, and the opposition faced by the clinics themselves.  Joanna Geyer-Kordesch offered some challenging ideas on the nature of illness itself, and how women perceived their own recovery, or otherwise.

Lisa Pine showed us a near utopian vision of pre and post natal care in Nazi Germany, where women in need of rest and recuperation had the chance to relax on deck chairs in mountain resorts, while family at home were taken care of.   Women were seen as the nurturers of children, who were, after all, the bearers of the national future.  Their husbands wrote of the wonderful benefits of the scheme, and the glory of the nation.  The catch, of course, was that this idyllic opportunity was only available to those of ‘good hereditary stock.’ Not everyone eligible, however, was inclined to take up this offer. One suspects that many who did not, and who recoiled from the idea of handing their family over to another and  leaving their new baby to a wet nurse, may perhaps have been more perceptive and less compliant, and not likely to be regarded by the authorities as quite such an asset to the nation.

I feel I’ve learned a thing or two about attending conferences now and about getting the most out of them.  I’ve learned that the standard opening line for coffee time chat is, ‘Are you presenting a paper?’ and so no longer feel like a fraud when I have to say no.  I think I’ve learned the difference between a good and a bad PowerPoint, and the importance of presenters sticking to their allotted time.  And that the opportunity to mix with others interested in the same subject is just as valuable as the presentations themselves.

Coffee break discussions covered a wide number of topics – health care and midwives in early twentieth century Edinburgh, the medicalization of childbirth, the work of Orange women in maternal and child welfare, the role of Jacobite women, and female school teachers in Aberdeen.  It was also an excellent opportunity to test out my ideas for my dissertation topic, noting some useful suggestions and also potential pitfalls.

It was a little disappointing that there were two no-shows among the presenters, although in at least one instance this allowed time for some animated debate among the presenters.  On the whole, attending the conference was an extremely interesting and valuable experience, and definitely time well spent.  And in addition, it was a lovely excuse to spend some time in Edinburgh on a slightly rainy but otherwise glorious autumn day.

Conference 2012 – Guest Blogger Morag Campbell

WHS Conference 2012

Morag Campbell, Open University and University of Dundee.

Distance learning fits in well with full time work and family commitments, but it can be a lonely business.  Modern technology enables us to communicate with tutors and other students through online forums, webinars and online tutorials, but nothing beats face to face contact with like-minded people.

With this in mind, I’m very much looking forward to attending Women’s History Scotland’s 2012 Conference: Women and Wellbeing on October 12/13 in Edinburgh.  I’m currently studying the Open University’s MA in History, which is split into two modules – the first is an exploration of theoretical and methodological issues, followed by the study of four themes.  The end of module assessment (EMA) is effectively a dissertation proposal which students then go on to write up in the second module of the course.  I’m nearing the end of the first module, and looking forward to researching and writing my dissertation next year.

The focus of my dissertation will be constructions of female insanity in the mid-19th century, specifically in relation to social background.  I’ll be studying a group of patients admitted to Dundee Lunatic Asylum between 1835 and 1860 whose condition was attributed to the effects of childbirth and lactation.

By day, I work on a medical education journal, based at Dundee University, overseeing the peer review process from submission to production.  Although I’m a newbie at attending conferences, and I confess to being a bit nervous, I’m really looking forward to the experience and the opportunity to meet some like-minded people.