Mairi Hamilton: Bursary Winner Report – ‘Everyday Matters: Writing Obscure Lives’

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I cannot overstate how happy I was to receive a research bursary from Women’s History Scotland in April 2018.

I used the bursary to cover the costs of delivering a paper at the academic conference, ‘Everyday Matters: Writing Obscure Lives’, which was hosted by the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson College, University of Oxford in May 2018. My paper explored how the surviving court records about a case of sexual assault can help to provide an insight into the everyday life of an individual woman in nineteenth-century Scotland. Having a platform to draw attention to the prevalence of sexual violence in women’s lives from a historical perspective was a real thrill for me. I originally conducted this piece of research for my masters dissertation and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to return to this material and rework it for a different context and format, thus sharing it with another audience.

Some of the court records Mairi has used in her research © Mairi Hamilton

I was very pleased with how my paper went, especially as it was my first time speaking at an academic conference. I managed to avoid disintegrating into a pile of nerves as I focused on trying to enjoy the experience in the moment and believe in the quality of my work. During the panel Q&A, members of the audience expressed genuine interest in my case study and my research more broadly, which was very encouraging. I now know how it feels to address an audience behind an engraved wooden lectern with an in-built microphone on a raised stage in an ornately wood-panelled auditorium with over a hundred seats on a topic I am deeply passionate about. I expect that I will never forget it.

At the conference  © Mairi Hamilton

The conference itself was extremely interesting. The papers were so thought-provoking that I felt privileged to be featured alongside them. By the end of the programme, my head was full of books to read, ideas to think over, and things to google. I made valuable contacts with scholars in my own discipline and connected with lots of lovely people. There were a number of moments throughout the conference when I felt overwhelmingly grateful for the generous support of WHS that made my participation possible.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to WHS for awarding me a research bursary. Not only was I grateful for the substantial financial support, but also for the panel’s belief in the value of my research, which has meant a great deal to me. Receiving a WHS research bursary personally feels like a huge achievement which I am immensely proud of.

Mairi Hamilton (Recipient of Women’s History Scotland Bursary 2018, University of Glasgow)