History seminars at the IHR

Women's History

Convenors: Dr Kelly Boyd (IHR), Dr Anna Davin, Dr Lucy Delap (ICBH/KCL), Dr Amy Erickson (Cambridge), Dr Laura Gowing (KCL), Prof Clare Midgley (Sheffield Hallam University), Prof Janet Nelson (KCL), Dr Krisztina Robert (Roehampton), Prof Pat Thane (ICBH/KCL), Prof Cornelie Usborne (IHR/Roehampton)

For enquiries relating to this seminar please contact Kelly Boyd: k.boyd at blueyonder.co.uk

Venue:  Past & Present Room, 202, on the second floor

Time: Friday, 5.15pm

Summer Term 2015
DateSeminar details
8 May 'This is the language of rebellion, Madam': Representing Women's Rights and Independence during the Age of Revolution, 1760-1790

Lisa Cody (Claremont McKenna College)

This paper analyzes references to women’s rights within marriage and the household during the period of the American Revolution. In the 1760s and 1770s, English satirists, caricaturists, and pamphleteers used marital drama, including stories of adultery, divorce, and women’s household authority as political metaphors. The paper contextualizes this rhetorical discussion by examining how husbands, wives, and witnesses described interpersonal relations and emotions in the household in marital disputes during the same period. Both British archival materials, including depositions, evidence, and allegations from the consistory courts, and popular literature and imagery appear to register heightened expectations for women’s rights within the household and marriage. The paper will explore the seeming paradox that such nascent discussions about gender rights did not result in political or legal progress for women, but instead were symbolically used to represent men’s political disenfranchisement at home and in the colonies.


5 June Regulating Men and Regulating Women: Conflicts over Temperance and Prostitution in the 1890s

Anna Clark (Minnesota)

In 1890s Auckland and Liverpool, the police spied on two different illicit activities. Both were seen as contaminating morals and encouraging crime. Moralists thundered against Auckland’s decadence and denounced the miscreants roaming Liverpool streets. Reformers demanded that offenders register with the police, and the worst would be confined to large institutions for treatment.  In response, the police often closed down these haunts of vice, but resisted a more systematic repression. One of these activities was female prostitution, and the other male drinking.  Although we think of temperance as a musty old-fashioned movement, in the 1890s its advocates portrayed it as modern and the issue could determine elections both in New Zealand and Britain. The advocacy of the regulation of female prostitution and male drinking raised constitutional issues, however, leading to the argument that the right to control one’s body--to sell sex or drink--did not suit the modern age. However, other reformers – a strange coalition of libertarians and utopian socialists--protested that state intervention would allow the police to violate the constitutional rights of British subjects. Neither side really recognized how young people’s new form of sociability was transforming urban streets.