Books History Women's history

Notes from You Daughters of Freedom

P. 50 “When a plump Protestant Irishwoman stepped of an immigrant ship at the Port of Adelaide in December 1879, there was nothing to suggest that she would rewrite the rules of the political world. Mary Lee, 58 years old, recently widowed and mother of seven, had sailed to Australia on domestic business: to care for her critically ill son John. But he died soon after she arrived, and Mary, unable to afford the passage home, was struck… within 10 years she had become a star gladiator in the largest arena she could find: votes for women… [Adelaide] more women earning money from prostituion per capita than in any other Australian city, and thousands more providing cheap labour for Adeliade;s rapid industrialisation… Mary Lee was in no doubt that only women’s suffrage would improve the social and economic position of women.”

P. 62 By 1897. There were organised and effective suffrage societies operating in all colonies bar Tasmania .. the convergence of feminism and Federation produce the perfect storm for democratic reform.. In South Australia, at least, women would be able to vote in the Federal referendum”

P. 110 

Vida Goldstein after her visit to the US “vowed to help our English sisters and American cousins in their struggle for freedom… Our chief care will be to use our right of suffrage that the men of other nations will soon want to follow the example of Australian champions of women’s enfranchisement. … You want, and must have, the support of the rank and file of working people.. That is how we got it in Australia.”

P. 136 1903 first federal election “Press, public and parliament alike had to admit that the experiment had been a success. Female electors had come out in great numbers. There had been no discord at polling booths and no more than usual in homes. Women had voted in about the same numbers (proportionately) as men, which was not as exhilarating as it sounds, Vida Goldstein had to admit, given there had been a small voter turnout: 1.7 million voters had registered on the rolls, and only 900,000 went to the polls… female electors had not been moved by some great impulse to cast their ballots in a block and hence sweep the polls. Women had largely voted along class lines, not gender lines. It was widely acknowledged that the women’s vote had increased the Labour vote… women who earned their own living and women in country areas were far more likely to actually vote compared to the city toffs… their presence as electors had changed political culture irrevocably.. Alfred DEakin .. added ‘women’ to his standard salutation ‘Men of Australia’. Others observed that not only was the language of citizenship more superficially inclusive, but some politicians had also needed to quickly change their policy stripes… Ida Husted Harper, reporting for the Washington POst, noted that what Australia had just witnessed was the most important event in the history of the world movement towards woman’s suffrage.

AT the NZ general election of 1908, David McLaren’s Independent Labour League won 3% of seats. Canada didn’t even have a federal Labour party until 1917. When it came to Labour’s electoral strength, Australia was in a league of its own….

P. 308

13 April 1910 .. Labor won 49.97% of the primary vote, a stunning increase on the 18% it mustered in 1901 and 36% in 1906… the first time that an openly socialist government had been elected to govern in its own right anywhere in the world. It had campaigned on three discrete virtues: moderation, respectability and competence. … an Englishman, who had recently returned from Australia and watched the elections … reported that voting in the southern colonies was a pleasant family affair … Women’s part in politics is taken as quite natural, the man wrote… They do not neglect their husbands’ meals, nor are they in any way unwomanly in appearance.”

.. Vida received 54,00 votes, an impressive 25% share, but it was not enough.”

P. 322 “Muriel found that her Australian audiences were as enchanted by her account of her time in gaol as any British reading public would be – and she milked it. After recalling the night of her arrest for obstruction, she would step offstage, only to reappear dressed in full prison garb ,,, described in fine detail the tiny, foul-smelling cell it its wooden shelf and sleeping may, its small ventilator clogged with dust… concluded her hairiraising description of her incarceration with the revelation that she had come out of gaol a wiser woman. She kept her eyes and ears open, vigilant for danger but also revitalized for social reform. If Muriel Matters was ever lukewarm in her commitment to helping British women win the vote, prison had set her on fire.””

P. 325 “For Muriel the impeccably well-connected and respected Vida was the key that would unlock the halls of power. She would not have to chain herself to any railings to get a hearing in the big house. After all the picketing and deputations and rallies and rushing and interrupting required to get close to a politician in England, the openness and proximity of Australia’s MPs was a revelation to Muriel. The ease with which the Australian woman can approach the politician and have their wants attend to, she reflected, is conclusive proof of the power of the woman voter. … Muriel: small and fair, 33, cabinet-maker’s daughter, raised in the bush and public schooled, an aspiring actress turned political street fighter. Vida had used nothing but constitutional means to push forward the case for women’s political equality. Muriel had gone to extraordinary lengths to break rules. … Both were described by the press as having the saving grace of humour and a brain of masculine strength. They got along like two peas in a politically charged pod.”

P. 366 by the end of her tour of the United States in October 1910, Dora had seen enough of the faux-philanthopy of American millionaires – with their lavish bequests to institutions to keep present competitive conditions where they areand prevent the workers demanding  radical upheavals – to be convinced that it was capitalism that must be fought (in tandem with sexism) if the world’s social problems were ever to be solved.”

P. 378 “Now Vida knew why Muriel had put herself at great personal risk to stage her most famous militant protest. To Vida, standing behind that iron trellis in the Ladies Gallery, the grille represented the smallness of the English mind, a symbol of British contempt for Woman, the mother of the race… She’d been bred a democrat, and a feminist one at that. The grille was quite simply galling.”

P. 396 April 2, 1911 Census Day

“In Sheffield, Adela Pankhurst and Helen Archdale hosted a mass evasion in Helen’s home at 45 Marlborough road. A total of 57 people sheltered in the eight-room house on 2 April, including one male and 48 female visitors.”

P. 406 “White women were safe in their political rights while in Australasia, but when they left the sanctuary of the antipodes, they were again vulnerable to a precipitous loss of status. Once in England, Australian women were no longer voters – as Nellie Martel, Muriel Matters and Dora Montefiore had been pointing out at every opportunity for the last five years. But their was a further dilemma. In Australia, laws had been passed to safeguard the British subject status of Australia’s married women. Customarily, a woman assumed the nationality of her husband upon marriage, just as her name, children and property became his. In 1903, urged on by campaigns run by the Women’s Political Association and other female-led lobby groups, the Naturalisation Act 1903 created equal nationality laws for men and women… But should an Austalian woman marry a non-British national… and live with im in England, under the British Naturalisation Act she acquired his legal identity and automatically lost her right to British subject status. It was like being transported back to the days of the femme covert

P. 408 “The Australian and New Zealand Women Voters’ Committee… the first time that Australia and New Zealand joined forces in an acronym representing Australiasian kinship. Two sister dominions joined by the political pre-eminence of their female citizens. They would be the ANZWVC… Sir John Cockburn’s wife, Lady Sarah Cockburn, was the founding president. She and her husband had been active suffrage campaigners since moving to London from Adelaide in 1898, when John became agent-general of South Australia. Lady Anna Stout came forward as the heavyweight from New Zealand… the founding objective of the committee was formulated and affirmed: “To watch over the interests of Australian and New Zealand women under Imperial legislation, and to promote their welfare generally from this side of the world. To help forward the Women’s Movement in every part of the British Empire.”

June 17, 1911 “the Greatest Procession Known in History” – the Women’s Coronation Procession

P. 448 “the fact that Andrew fisher’s wife was marching at the head of a continent of Australian women – behind the official Coat of Arms of Australia, in a WSPU-sponored rally – was an incontrovertible no=confidence motion in the British government.”

P. 458 “To Bermondsey, a densely populated working-class borough two miles from the City where, in August, the factories emptied s 15,000 female workers went on strike. The Bermondsey Women’s Uprising, as it became known worldwide, was attributed to the combination of the usual appalling pay and conditions and the effects of the long, hot summer. Spoiled food, rising infant mortality, a general air or irritability and fed-upness. And a mood of female defiance. These women – who weren’t unioned – took to the streets, marching together with banners and a sense of industrial solidarity”… the streets were now their streets. They expected more and better. Prominent among the organisers who came in to lend moral and organisational support was Muriel Matters.”

P. 466 “Andrew Fisher is remembered now for saying that Australia would follow Britain into war until the last man and the last shilling. Who recalls that he also told a captive London audience that a true democracy can only be maintained honestly and fairly by including women as well as men in the electorate of the country?

Or that two weeks later his wife would march..

“Seen in this context, Gallipoli, with its militarist narrative of youthful sacrifice, not youthful optimism – was not the birth of the nation. It was the death of the nation we were well on the way to becoming.”

Books History Politics Women's history

Notes from How Was It For You: Women, Sex, Love and Power in the 1960s by Virginia Nicholson

P. 89 – 1962

“Pain, humiliation, pride, regret, liberation, confusion: for women they were all part of the package, at a time when the sands were shifting fast, and a tide of sexual change was threatening to submerge the familiar moral landscape. 

And – here too – bias, intolerance, hatred, exclusion and injustice came with the deal. It wasn’t till later in the decade that someone found a word that summed up these attitudes: sexism.”

[Pauline M Leet, who contributed a paper entitled ‘Women and the Undergraduate’ to a student forum held in a Pennsylvania college, appears to have originated the term ‘sexism’, in November 1965.”

P. 105

Cuban missile crisis

“Sophie’s sense of apocalyptic hopelessness is echoed in many other accounts, such as that by Zena, a Cardiff schoolgirl:

“I was 14 at the time.. Someone burst into the classroom, exclaiming ‘Russia and America are at nuclear war!” In the hubbub that followed, I sat silent and can now recall the desolation I experienced that my family and friends (and I) would perish, with lives unlived and words unexpressed…”

P. 190 1965 “the traditional understanding of of sin and virtue was on the wane. The rising motion was that centuries of guilt, repression, shame, prohibition, stuffiness and double standards were being replaced by a new age of honesty, openness, spontaneity, empowerment and sexual freedom. In the era of op art, and the Wilson government’s ‘white heat’ of technology from which would emerge a newly forged Britain, the new freedoms appeared to be correspondingly black, white and streamlined.”

P. 192 “The Knack, also 1965, starring Rita Tushingham, was the tawdry, slapstick tale of Nancy, an out of town ingenue who became the object of desire for three misogynistic flatmates. The films ends with a disturbing sequence in which Nancy is portrayed as an unhinged singleton having rape delusions; the blokes, of course, are merely having ‘a bit of fun’. ‘Girls don’t get raped unless they want it,’ said one of them. The Knack’s director won the 1965 Palme d’Or at Cannes… Woody Allen’s hugely successful male wish fulfilment screenplay for What’s New, Pussycat? – a fantasy about a man besieged by lust-crazed females who all want to trap him into marriage – could have won an Oscar for its commodification of women.”

P. 193 Shrimpton’s public appearance at the Melbourne races, bare-legged in a mini-dress with no hat or gloves, provoked a press furore”

P. 210

“A glance through almost any generic women’s magazine mid-decade reveals the social aspirations of the mainstream middle-class wife… dinner parties were a minefield of taste and taxonomy: what cutlery to use for your avocado vinaigrette, which glass to drink your whisky from, what to talk about; how to serve coq au vin, trifle or Camembert with crackers… social rigidities were as coagulated as the chocolate mousse… Since it was first introduced into the UK in 1962, the Tupperware party had been a fixture on the young-wife circuit.”

P. 220

Jenny Diski; “Most women who lived through the early and late Sixties whether as political molls or psychedelic chicks can recall that they were mostly of ornamental, sexual, domestic or secretarial value to the men striking out for radical shores. The Left was never known for its willingness to embrace gender equality, but no more were the ‘heads’ r the entrepreneurs of the counterculture.”


The culture of male control was not confined to rich, powerful celebrities. The divorce courts highlighted extreme cases like that of a Mr Kenneth Cox who objected strenuously when his wife Dorothy became involved with a local Girl Guide and Brownie group. Having already prohibited Dorothy from getting a job, the dictatorial Xoc now refused to let her anywhere hear the Girl Guides. He also tried to force her to have sex. But both parties’ pleas for a divorce on the grounds of cruelty were rejected by the judge. Male jealousy and ownership of women were seen as legitimate.”

P. 222 “The journalist Virginia Ironside… “For women, it was absolutely grisly… I remember the sixties as an endless round of miserable promiscuity. It often seemed easier and, believe it or not, more polite, to sleep with a man than to chuck him out of your flat.’ And worse was to come. But in 1965 there was no solidarity, no channel and no vocabulary with which to express discontent. The sexual power struggle was still in its infancy.”

P. 257

“Far from being a hotbed of clever talk about feminism and the sisterhood, social life at university was … a cut-and-thrust competition to attract men. Sophie felt alienated by the idea of equality for women: … I thought about women as rivals and enemies and I actually thought that women were slightly inferior. The cool people to be with were the men. I didn’t want to be hanging around with a load of women…. I learnt to be quite good at pretending to be stupider than I was. So, I could still get high grades, and at the same time I could flirt with the blokes and seem unthreatening.”

P. 263 Juliet Mitchell wrote The Longest Revolution when she was 25 years old… draws on historical, anthropological and sociological strands of Marxist thinking to question and explain women as workers, as family members, as mothers, as partners and as fully contributing human beings: one half of the human race. Women were not, she reminded her readers, a minority, but fundamental to human existence… The ‘true’ woman and the ‘true family are images of peace and plenty: in actuality they may both be sites of violence and despair.”

P. 360 “The starry, romantic egotisme-a-deux of the 1960s is permeated with the ideal of coupledom… By the mid-1960s, 96% of women aged 45 were married. Almost half of those women had found a husband by the age of 21. And the days of parental intervention in their daughters’ choices were over, with comedienne Joyce Grenfell catching the 1969 mood: “Daddy and I are delighted that you are going to marry a middle-aged Portugese conjurer, darling. Bur are you sure he will make you happy?”

P. 409 1970 “the Family Planning Association finally changed its rules to allow contraceptive advice to be given to unmarried women. They also, in 1970, commissioned the poster that brought fame to everyone concerned, portraying a man in a jersey whose repentant expression and swollen tummy hardly needed its inspired caption: “would you be more careful if it was you that got pregnant?”

At the beginning of the decade, nearly 60% of girls who had been asked their opinions of pre-marital sex in a psychological survey considered that it was ‘Always wrong’. By 1970 that figure had dropped to under 15%.


Notes from Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon

p. 147 What we must make an effort to understand is what and how it is possible for the popular classes to think of the conditions under which they live sometimes as tying them necessarily to the left, sometimes as self-evidently placing them on the right. A number of factors need to be taken into account: the economic situation, both local and global, of course; transformations in the nature of work and the relations between individuals that these transformations create or undo; but also, and I would be tempted to say, above all, the way in which political discourses, discursive categories, play a role in shaping the process of political subjectivication. Political parties play an important role here, even perhaps a fundamental one, because, as we have seen, it is by way of them that people who otherwise have no voie can speak – by way of spokespeople who speak on their behalf, but also in their place. the role of parties is fundamental because organised discourses are what produce categories of perception, ways of thinking of oneself as a political subject, and also define one’s ways of conceiving of one’s own “interests” and of the ways of voting that correspond

p. 160 Learning to be studious, to be scholarly, with all that involves, was a slow and chaotic process for me: the discipline required – both of body and of mind – is not something one is born with. It takes time to acquire if you are not fortunate enough for that acquisition to have been encouraged in you since childhood without you even being aware of it… What was a matter of course for others was something I had to struggle with day after day, month after month, working anew each day to find ways of organizing my time, of using language, of relating to others, that would transform my very person, my habitus. The process would place me in an increasingly awkward position within my family, to which I returned each evening. .. in order not to shut myself out of the educational system – or to be expelled from it — I had to shut out my own family, the universe from which I came. There was really no possibility of holding the two worlds together, of belonging in any easy way to both of them.”

p. 166 “Friendship cannot escape from the laws of historical gravity; two friends are still two incorporated social histories that attempt to co-exist. And so sometimes in the course of a friendship, no matter how close, two classes come into conflict with each other, simply as the effect of the intertia of the habitus involved. .. when you spend time in bourheois circles, or simply with ordinary middle class people, it is often simply assumed that you come from the same background. .. middle class people always address you as if your existential and cultural experiences have been the same as theirs. .. When my father died, one of my close friends to whom I mentkioned that I wasn’t going to be attending my father’s funeral, but that I noneytheless had to go to Reims to see my mother, made the followign observation: “of course. In any case you will have to be there when the lawyer reads the will.”… What will? Good heavens! As if anyone in my family drew up their wills with their lawyers. What, precisely would they be leaving to anyone… All my parents had were some meager savings, painstakingly accumulated over the years, and deposited in an account at a savings bank… as far as my mother was concerned, that money belonged to her, since she and my father ‘put it away’ tgether, setting aside a portion of their earnings that really would have come in handy for other basic thinsg in life. The idea that this money, their money, would have to be passed on to anyone other than her, even if it was to her children, seemed inconceivable and unbearable to her.”

p. 173 “people from less advantaged classes end up believing that they are gaining access to what has previously been denied to them, whereas in reality, once they have that access, it turns out to mean very little, because the system has evolved and the important and valuable place to be has now shifted somewhere else. … This is what Bourdieu calls the ‘displacement [translation] of the structure.’What has been labelled a ‘democratization’ is really a displacement in which, despite all appearances, the structure perpetuates itself, maintains itself with almost the same rigidity as in the past.”

Books History Women's history

Notes from Elite Women and the Agricultural Landscape, 1700-1839, by Briony McDonagh

p. 25 “there is considerable uncertainty about the actual scale of women’s property ownership. A handful of studies have used rentals and leases to examine female landholding within small groups of manors or parishes. Jane Whittle, for example, demonstrated that female tenants rarely made up more than 10% of landholders on her four north-east Norfolk manors in the 15th and 16th century. Other studies of medieval landholding suggest that women made up between about 12 and 18% of tenants. Amanda Capern has demonstrated that women – most of women were widowed or single – made up 15% of leaseholders on the Jervaiux lands in North Yorkshire between 1600 and 1800, while Sylvia Seeliger has suggested that female tenants held up to 1/5 of the land in many Hampshire parishes between the mid-16th and mid-19th centuries. Yet far less is known about the proportion of land owned – as opposed to tenanted – by women.

It is exactly this deficit that the remainder of the chapter sets out to remedy, exploring the issue of women’s landownership using a large sample of date from the parliamentary enclosure awards.

p. 26/7 “of the 250,000 acres catalogued here, almost 26,000 acres were owned by female landowners, that is 10. 3% of the land in the sample owned by a woman, either alone or jointly with one or more other parties. Female landowners were, moreover, a relative commonplace within rural communities up and down the country. As the data makes, clear, not only was more than one in 10 acres owned by a woman, but female landowners existed in the vast majority of the sample parishes….it seems likely that somewhere in excess of 3 million acres in England were owned by women in the later 18th century and more than 6 million acres in Great Britain as a whole. The tally of female landowners – great and small 0 almost certainly ran into the tens of thousands and perhaps reached upwards of six figures.”

p. 40 While the involvement of middle-class women in business accounting has been increasingly acknowledged in recent years, the contribution of elite women to estate accounting has received far less attention. Yet some elite women kept very detailed estate accounts, rentals and ledgers. One such woman was Lady Elizabeth Dryden, a moderately wealthy widow who managed the Canons Ashby estate in Northamptonshire between 1770 and 1791. Despite an avowed dislike of writing letters, the accounts are written in her hand and cover the entire period of her management. In one book she recorded her annual outgoings against her yearly income, including her tenants’ rents and the sums she raised from the sale of underwood, bark and hay from the home farm and woods. Another book for the same period was organised by tenant rather than by year, and recorded the rents paid to her on a half-yearly basis, along with various memoranda concerning their tenancies. Her writing became increasingly untidy as she grew older … we know from a letter written to her niece that she suffered a stroke in 1790 and the shaky, almost illegible handwriting of the final year’s entry demonstrates that she wrote it after her stroke. This is testimony to Dryden’s sheer determination to record and audit the estate finances, but also definitive evidence that she kept her own accounts rather than relying on her steward.”

p. 41 “Elizabeth Hood of Butleigh Wootton (Somerset) kept the accounts for her modest estate not just as a widow but also as a young unmarried woman and a wife. Aged just 18, Wood inherited the Wootton estate from her father John Periam (d. 1788) and later married Alexander Hood, a captain in the Royal Navy who was killed in command of the HMS Mars six years later. The estate was a relatively small one: in 1806 the rentals brought her just over £1,000 a year, plus smaller sums for bark, corn and livestock and regular dividends from her funds in stocks. The core of the estate inherited from her father amounted to no more than 600 acres in 772, but Hood spent more than £11,000 purchasing land and houses in the neighbourhood, and her son’s portion of the estate amounted to nearly 1,700 acres in 1846. She was thus at the lower reaches of the gentry. .. Entries in the account book suggest that she had begun to keep the accounts prior to her father’s death in late 1788 … probably reflects her father’s failing health, but presumably also the desire by an elderly estate owner  – Periam was then 74 – to ensure his young heiress knew how to manage the estate… Her only brother had died before her own birth and Hood was brought up as the heiress to the estate, but we can only guess exactly what lessons her father provided for her. She was sent to Wells School from the age of 10 .. sometime later Hood wrote on the front cover of the account book, perhaps reflecting the lessons taught her as a young women:

Keep your accounts clear,

Throughout the year;

Let no mistake be made,

Either in paying, or pay’d.”

p. 79

“Lady Elizabeth Monoux was said by Arthur Young to be responsible for introducing improvements following the enclosure of wastes and warrens on an estate belonging to her husband at Sandy (Bedfordshire). The parish was enclosed in 1804 under an act of 1798, and both the act and the award recognised Sir Philip Monoux as the landowner. Yet [Arthur] Young attributed the improvements to his wide, noting that Sir Philip’s estate was ‘entirely under the management of Lady Monoux, who takes much pleasure in husbandry’. She had planted several parcels of the newly enclosed warren with oats and achieved excellent yields with the need to marl, limr or manure the land. In the previous year, Young also reported that she was growing Lucerne on portions of the the new enclosures, again with good results. The Lucerne was used as fodder for horses and was said to be ‘a very fine crop’ which over 20 weeks produced a yield valued at more than £9 n acre after the labour. Young praised ‘the agricultural talents on the intelligent farmeress” and her “very great exertions”.

p. 89 Elizabeth Illive, wrote at least one article for the Annals of Agriculture. “Also known as ‘Mrs Wyngham’, Ilive was the mistress of the third earl of Egremont, chatelaine at Petworth House (Sussex) and later countess of Egremont. Her origins are obscure and nothing is known of her early education, though she certainly had access to the large library of agricultural periodicals at Petworth House and probably also discussed agriculture with the earl – himself a keen agricultural improver – and his many visitors. In her 1797 article in the Annals, she described her experiments growing potatoes on land she had rented, making a careful study of the effect different methods of planting had on yields. Her work was underpinned by rigorous scientific method and demonstrated the value of planting the shoots removed from the chitted potatoes. The article appeared anonymously, the earl apparently having refused to allow her name to appear, though it is unclear if this was because of her gender or her unusual social position as his live-in mistress. [Arthur] Young commented specifically on Ilive’s piece, noting that she as an ‘ingenious lady’ and the article was ‘highly satisfactory, and proves clearly that the method detailed is of real importance.

The potato trials were not Ilive’s only scientific venture. Young – a regular visitor of the earl’s – also brought her equipment for the laboratory at Petworth House and taught her how to use it. In early 1796 she wrote to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce describing a new method of using levers to raise large weights. Her letter – which included both a diagram and a model – outlined how the workmen on the estate ‘all approve of it very much,’ though she also hinted there had been some laughter at Petworth about her invention, at least initially. Her letter was apparently well received at the Society and the Mechanics Committee awarded her the silver medal in May 1796, the first woman to receive a medal from a scientific section of the Society, though others had previously won for Polite Arts. She was by then heavily pregnant with her seventh child and did not receive the medal in person, instead nominating the Society’s president Samuel More to collect it for her.”

p. 118 The most substantial programme of activities aimed at improving the lives of the poor was probably that undertaken by Elizabeth Prowse at Wicken (Northamptonshire) from the late 1760s onwards.. involved in a range of charitable activities both on her estate and beyond it. Some of this giving was irregular and ad hoc. Examples include providing five of her tenants with medicine after they were bitten by a rabid cat in 1776, helping one of her gardeners get sober and repay his debts, and finding apprenticeships and jobs for her coachman’s seven children when he suddenly left after being discovered ‘making money in what he had no right to do so’. She also made small gifts of money and clothes to villagers, local children and unnamed paupers, all of which were recorded in her pocket expenses. Such charitable acts were primarily reactive rather than proactive, but Prowse was also involved in a number of philanthropic projects which aimed to improve living conditions and educational achievements amongst the poorest Wicken residents in a much more systematic way… while undoubtedly a committed agricultural improver… Prowse was neveretheless uneasy about some of the things her predecessors on the estate had done in the name of progress. She was also aware that the social and economic costs of enclosure and estate improvement were often borne disproportionaely by the poorest in society. Her religious upbringing, staunchly Anglican beliefs and contacts with London Evangelicals and anti-slavery campaigners though her brother Graville Sharp no doubt played a part in shaping her attitudes towards farming, improvement and the poor, as did a close reading of Nathaniel Kent’s General View of the Agriculture of the County of Norfolk. Like Kent – whose Hints to Gentlemen of Landed Property she bought in 1775 and whom she probably met in Fulham in the winter of 1791 – Prowse seems to have recognised agricultural labourers as the very ‘nerves and sinews’ of rural society without whom ‘the richest soil is not worth owning’.

“Soon after acquiring the estate, Prowse embarked on a programme of repairs and improvements to the estate cottages. She paid for the cottages to be rethatched and glazed, and may also have installed water pumps in some of the cottages, as she did in the tenant farms … Prowse was paying for the cottagers’ children to attend a school in the village from at least 1768. She may have founded the school and certainly contri8buted significant sums to the running costs: in the mid-1770s she spent more than £30 a year on the schoolmasters’ wages along with clothes and shoes for the children, which together accounted for between about a third and a half of all spending in the cottage accounts. There were then at least 12 ‘charity boys’ in attendances, as well as several girls who were taught to make lace and cloth.. Prowse was also involved in establishing an early Sunday school at Wicken, which was first held in the spring of 1788. .. she continued to support both the day and the Sunday schools postmortem with the gift of a share in the Grand Junctions Canal Company, which by the 1830s contributed about £10 a year to the running costs.

p. 119 “Prowse … was concerned to provide locally available and affordable foodstuffs to her tenants … very little of the produce from the home farm was sold at the market. Instead, most of it was used in the house or sold locally, either to the village butcher or direct to the tenant farmers and labourers… sold meat and cheese to the poor at a subsidised price.. She sold a beef cow to the poor every winder at 2d a pound and in 1783 gave them the meat for here ‘it having been a hard winter for them’. She also sold firewood from the estate woodlands to the village poor, presumably again at a subsidised rate. Much of this activity was focused in the winter months, when conditions were at their harshest. Importantly, this was also the season Prowse spent in London and it is clear that she sought to improve conditions for the poor even whilst in the capital, something which Jessica Gerard argues was unusual amongst country-house women whose charitable hand-outs were not normally a year-round benefit to the rural poor.”

p. 123 “elite women .. might actively involve themselves in parliamentary politics, whether by controlling voters on their estates, by directly canvassing for particular candidates or by hosting political meetings and debates. One of the most straightforward ways … was to canvas their tenants and attempt to control their votes, either by only installing tenants whose political allegiance was already known or by evicting – or threatening to evict – those who voted against their wishes. Anne Lister worked hard to try to establish an interest at Halifax, suggesting names for Tory candidates to the head of the local selection committee, directly canvassing voters – both by letter and in person – and refusing to let her land to anyone but ‘blue tenants’. ”Regardless of their sex, most landowners expected to direct their tenants’ votes. Yet the moral case for tenants complying with the landowner’s wishes was arguably greater in the case of propertied women: as Lister wrote in her diaries, the tenants of properties women were doubly obliged to vote with their landlady, who was herself unable to vote and whose political views ‘would otherwise not be represented at all’.

Books History Women's history

Notes from Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War

p. 34 It is, moreover, notable that women appear to have played a significant role in literature and learning throughout the period, whether as recipients of complex and challenging Latin works, such as Aldhelm’s twin work in both prose and verse on virginity, sent to the nuns of Barking, or as teachers of ppetry and producers of their own verse, such as Eadburh, abbess if Minister-in-Thanet (d. 751) and her younger contemporaries Leofgyth and Berhtgyth, both of whom have left poems associated with Boniface’s mission to Germania. Powerful women in the late 7th century also fostered learning and literature in the north, notably Abbess Hild of Whitby (614-680), whose monastery was the setting, Bede says, of the first Christian poetry in traditional Old English metre, by the illiterate cowherd Caedmon. Bede is uncharacteristically shy  about asserting that Caedmon reported his first faltering verses to Hild herself, and it seems likely that the supposed event took place in the time of her successors, Eanflaed (d. c. 685) or Aelflaed (654-714), respectively the sister and niece of King Aldfrith of Northumbria (r. 685-705), who himself had a well-documented interest in verse in several languages, including both Latin and Irish.”

Books Environmental politics History Politics Women's history

Notes from Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day

Fascinating, broad-ranging study

p. 67 “Aristotle … the crucial contrast between ancient and modern here is one of approach, not invention, as the Politics expounds an essentially ‘open’ form of population thinking, which emerged from a world comprising a multiplicity of autonomous city-states of varying size and constitution, unlike the ‘closed’ model of the 19th-century European nation-state. Fertility and mortality, the two cornerstones of modern demography, play a minor role in Aristotle’s considerations because, for him, mobility and shifting patterns of membership were the main shapers of any community.”

p. 71 “Plato decreed that his ideal polis should contain 5,040 citizen farmers, male heads of landed households….Aristotle’s Politics … took exception to the size of Magneia’s population. The territory required to sustain such a multitude of people is impossibly vast, he alleged. But Aristotle’s objections .. were not just practical. A key point of his programme is that in measuring the greatness of a polis, biggest is not best. Greatness is about happiness and prosperity, which is produced by effectiveness, not numbers.”

Exhibit 3

“one of the most influential and enduring ideas in the history of generation and reproduction: that one’s birth circumstances can shape the course of one’s life. This powerful and alluring concept developed in Babylonia and eventually spread far across Eurasia thanks to influential proponents such as Ptolemy in the Roman Empire, al-Biruni in the medieval Islamic world and Sacrobosco in the Latin West .. Babylonian scholars began reading the gods’ intentions in the night sky in the third millennium BC. For around 2,000 years after that, celestial divination was exclusively a method for ruulers to check that their actions and intentions met with divine favour; the gods did not concern themselves with the fate of individuals. However, in 484BC, the Persian king Darius severed royal ties with the Babylonian intelligentsia after a political revolt, and scholars had to find new clients, new sources of income and prestige. Over the next few decades, a radical reconceptualization of the night sky took place that enabled individual destinies to be foretold. The two earliest extant horoscopes both date to 410BC, and by 400BC, give or take five years, the constellations on the eclipse – the path of the moon – had become 12 zodiacal signs of exactly equal sizes. They bear essentially the same names today as they did then.”

p. 253 In the era before the 19th-century rise of national statistics, we find a conception of population that was more attentive to the heterogeneity of sub-populations and its importance. Early modern population thinking did not standardize populations, nor pretend to treat them equally. Distinctive histories and political, cultural and religious differences were recognized to shape what numerical information should be collected, on which groups, and its interpretation. From the 16th or the early 19th century, balancing the heterogeneity of memberships making up the population of a state was a fundamental ground of the form and legitimacy of government, and of arguments for democracy…it reminds us of a fruitful way of thinking about aggregate properties of societies and states, different from the one we now take for granted. Its open, bottom-up reasoning about human numbers focused on how sub-populations are formed, sustained and compromised in relation to others and to wider forces.”

p. 321 “forceps, according to Aveling, prompted a sudden increase in man-midwifery, including lecture courses on obstetrics for male practitioners, lying-in hospitals staffed by men; and men attending route births. The boom was swiftly met by criticism, often centred on the threat to women’s modesty… upon closer examination cannot bear the full weight of the shift from female to male birth attendants. Sarah Stone, practicising in Bristol in the 1720s, complained about all the anatomically trained man-midwives in business. “For dissecting the Dead, and being just and tender to the Living, are vastly different.” The Chamberlens had no disciples in the city in this period, so forceps were not the reason that Bristol matrons started routinely hiring man-midives. Second, man-midwives did not always advocate the new technology.. Third .. the Camberlen family mobilized not one new technology, but three: the Vectis, the filley and the forceps… Wilson suggests that the most fundamental shift was not technological but mental: the idea that a surgeon had a role in the delivery of a living baby.”

p. 332 – suggests part of a shift of a number of professions from female to male, e.g. alewives, as economic opportunities developed and also “a somewhat peculiar version of a bigger project: the Enlightenment attempt to improve the life chances of mothers and babies.”

p. 345 “During the 18th-century debates about population, doctors, clergymen, mathematicians, government bureaucrats and others developed methods which drew on a wide range of public and private records to quantify features of populations. These numerical techniques were part of a general effort to ameliorate suffering and death, and they stimulated comparisons, which in turn contributed to the new statistical idea of population and the role of reproduction in determining its size. At the beginning of the 19th-century, in the wake of the French Revolution and Malthus’s Essay, governments began to institute civil registration of births, deaths and marriages, as well as regular census, thus providing more uniform and inclusive accounts of the national population.”

p. 633 “Often misread as a technological determinist who overstated the role of biological sex difference in her call for ‘control of human fertility’, Firestone is more accurately understood as a theorist of consciousness. Among the first to articulate the principle that reproduction is neither outside history nor inside the body, Ifrestone argued that the social organisation of reproduction, rather than biological destiny, determined not only female but human potential.”

p. 635 Far from becoming free individuals within a new economy of contractual labour, modern science and medicine reinforced women’s subjugation to a sexual division of labour allegedly based in natural fact. Activities which have never been inherently debilitating – pregnancy is not a disease, childcare can be shared and maternity if not incompatible with paid employment – were redefined for many (not all) modern women in terms of biological destin6y, thus justifying their sequestration as wives and mothers within the timeless sphere of domesticity.”

p. 637 “from a feminist point of view, the possibility of theorizing identity, status, classificatory systems, kinship, ritual, language and group organisation as social technologies offered the important possibility of accounting for reproductive causality by means other than physiology… social organisation not only plays a causal role in the determination of reproductive outcomes, but must be seen as constitutive of reproductivity itself.”

p. 350 “The story of the ‘nuptiality valve’ in western Europe before 1850 is now familiar, with a sizeable component of women’s reproductive capacity under-exploited or unexploited because of the relatively late age of marriage, and a significant number of women never marrying. It has frequently been asserted that this nuptiality pattern acted as a safety vale in the creation of demographic homeostasis… if mortality is assumed to have been unstable… nuptiality must e the principle ‘driver’ of fertility. France in the period c. 1650-1800 exemplifies such n interrelationship. A demographic equilibrium continually re-established itself, despite disturbances large initiated by epidemics… for much of the late 17th and 18th centuries, the number of hearths in the Paris basin barely changed at all… demographers use the concept of an agricultural holding or craft workshop as fulfilling a function analogous to that of a territory in a bird population in which a new breeding pair I allowed to establish itself only once a next is vacated”