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:  John S Cohen Room N203, 2nd floor, IHR, North block, Senate House

Time: Friday, 5.15pm

Autumn Term 2015
DateSeminar details
2 October Jill Liddington (CIGS/Leeds) and Elizabeth Crawford (Independent Scholar), Vanishing for the Vote: The Suffragette Boycott of the 1911 Census

Pat Thane (ICBH/King’s)

The seminar explores the significance of the 1911 suffragette census boycott. On the one hand, the census  was designed to provide accurate data to underpin much-needed health and welfare reforms. On the other, suffragette organizations incited women, all still unenfranchised, to boycott this census. They were urged either to evade the enumerator by hiding away in darkened houses; or to resist ~ defiantly inscribing ‘No Vote No Census’ onto their schedule.  Many women did indeed boycott. Yet many decided to comply and handed over a perfectly accurate census schedule. Based upon Jill Liddington’s Vanishing for the Vote (MUP, 2014), this seminar analyzes the ‘battle for the census’ arguments that raged across Edwardian  England in spring 1911, and is illustrated by individual schedules ~ which can still be read in the head of family’s own hand.


16 October Figuring Pictures and Picturing Figures: Early Modern Images of the Unborn Child and the Pregnant Body

Rebecca Whiteley (UCL)

How women in early modern England experienced and understood their bodies, especially in pregnancy and childbirth, has been a topic of great interest for historians in recent years. And while much has been done with a great range of textual sources, from court records and midwives’ account books to printed midwifery manuals, comparatively little sustained attention has been paid to images in this context.  Images of the pregnant body and the unborn child, especially ‘birth figures’ depicting possible fetal presentations, were commonly found in popular midwifery manuals in the late-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These images found a wide viewership among men and women, professional and lay, and they gave these viewers an entirely new vision of the inaccessible bodily interior.  Focussing particularly on female viewers, this paper will examine how these images can be understood to have both reflected and affected the ways in which contemporary viewers understood and visualised the pregnant body and the unborn child.


30 October Every woman's destiny is motherhood: Women and Work in Post-War Italy (1945-1970) [Postponed from an earlier date]

Pamela Schievenin (Glasgow)

Women in post-war Italy were presented with different interpretations regarding women’s work outside the house. The view promoted by the Catholic Church, which emphasised the maternal role of women and condemned female employment, appeared dominant. Yet women were also exposed to discourses which presented female employment as a positive and valid choice. This paper discusses these diverse models of femininity and traces how they evolved as the country moved towards industrialization and modernization. Through the lens of oral history, the paper also explores whether and to what extent women had the opportunity for constructing their identities outside the home and the family, how they negotiated their individual choices and social expectations, and how they reformulated their identities as working women.


13 November Keep Calm and Carry On: The Public Memory of Second World War Food Rationing and Gender History in the Imperial War Museum

Kelly Spring (Manchester)

There are almost daily reminders of the Second World War in some cultural form or another in Britain, including the recent popularity of the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ posters, rebroadcasts of Dad’s Army on television, and yearly commemorations and celebrations. Continual depictions of the war in modern-day media are often shaped along the lines of a sexual division of labor, projecting hegemonic masculinity and domestic femininity. Margaretta Jolly suggests such a division is replicated in museums like the Imperial War Museum, depicting different war histories for men and women. Taking Jolly’s research as my starting point, this paper assesses recent presentations of war in the IWM to determine how gender history is being configured in twenty-first century public settings. Specifically, the paper examines the Imperial War Museum’s representations of food rationing in the ‘Ministry of Food’ exhibition (2010-2011) and the ‘Horrible Histories Rotten Rationing’ big picture show (2013-2015) to investigate if a gender division exists within these displays on rationing. It argues that wartime roles associated with food rationing are not fixed gender constructions within public memory, but complex and fluid configurations that result from the confluence of personal and situational contexts.


27 November TBC