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Beckie Rutherford

RHS Centenary Fellow 2022 - 2023

Beckie is a historian of gender, sexuality and disability in modern Britain. She is currently completing her PhD thesis entitled ‘Disabled Women Organising: Rethinking Agency within British Liberation Movements, 1976-2000’ at the University of Warwick.

Beckie's Research

Beckie studied at the University of Oxford before joining the History Department at Warwick as a postgraduate in 2017. Drawing extensively on print culture and oral history, her doctoral research explores the life stories of disabled women and their relationships to liberation movements in twentieth century Britain. It engages with the different ways in which disabled women understood themselves and their lives as ‘political’, and traces how this was tied to the growing politicisation of disability more broadly. Her thesis illuminates the neglected histories of three grassroots disabled women’s groups, plus the pioneering work of disabled women artists and writers. Collectively, these case studies demonstrate the connection that disabled women’s communities and projects had to the broader landscape of liberation politics. 

Historians of feminism, racial justice and LGBTQ+ movements are already historicising the concept of intersectionality and the tensions surrounding the development of identity politics. They have also attended to narratives of success and failure, the role of allies, and conflicts over inclusion/exclusion within the historical record. This scholarship has been invaluable to Beckie’s research and she aims to both enrich and develop these avenues of enquiry by foregrounding disabled women’s narratives. Overall, her thesis advocates a creative understanding of activist histories, accounting for the agency and diversity which continues to animate disabled women’s social and political organising today.

Beckie has previously been commissioned by the British Library and is keen to pursue further public engagement opportunities both during and after her fellowship.

‘"We moved together, we breathed together": disabled women on stage in 1980s Britain’, Social History Society Research Exchange (2022 prize winner)
‘"I Started a New Life When I Joined Gemma": Disability, Community, and Sexuality in Gemma Newsletters, 1978-2000’, in Tracey Loughran, Daisy Payling and Kate Mahoney (eds), Gender, Subjectivity, and "Everyday Health" in the Post-1945 World (Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2023).