Category Archives: Books

Books Feminism History London Women's history

Notes from British Boarding Houses in Interwar Women’s Literature: Alternative Domestic Spaces by Terri Mulholland

p. 3 “Women living in boarding houses are diverse characters. They are not only widows and elderly spinsters, they are also younger working women, such as T.S. Eliot’s ‘typist home at teatime’ in The Waste Land, who must make her room serve as both bedroom and living space, with her ‘food in tins’ alongside her ‘drying combinations’. They may inhabit similar rooms, but their experiences are very different. There is Miriam Henderson, a young dental secretary, in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage (1915-67_ series, embracing her independent life and her own ‘triumphant faithful latchkey’ and Mary Datchet in Virginia Woolf’s novel Night and Day (1919), an active member of the women’s suffrage movement who is portrayed working with purpose in her single room. They provide a sharp contrast to the middle-aged and unnamed protagonist of Storm Jameson’s novella A Day Off (1933), who lives a precarious life of uncertainty, waiting for money from her lover to pay the rent on her bed-sitting room. Boarding house rooms and the men who pay for them are also features of Jean Rhys’s interwar novels, where her female protagonists not only occupy spaces outside the family home, they also enact roles outside the domestic ideal, merging the boundaries between the wife in the house and the prostitute on the street. There are also the women who run boarding and lodging houses, as depicted in Stella Gibbon’s novel Bassett (1934), who experience the conflicts between the home as both commercial and family space. A common theme throughout all these novels is poverty; even those in paid employment struggle to make ends meet on their meagre salaries.”

“Life for women in Britain between the two World Wars has been retrospectively defined by its contradictions: increasing independence and greater opportunities outside the home, contrasted with a dominant ideology which maintained that a woman’s place was firmly within the familial structure. Census data for England and Wales shows the number of single women over the age of 25 increased from around two million in 1911 to over two and a half million by 1931, far outnumbering the number of single men whose numbers had not even reached two million.”

p. 8 “Between 1861 and 1911 female clerical workers in London increased from 279 to 569,850. There were around five million female workers at the beginning of the century making up 29 per cent of the total workforce…. Accommodation for the professional woman included the Ladies Residential Chambers on Chenies Street (built in 1888) and York Street (built in 1892) and Sloan Gardens House (built in 1889), which was run by the Ladies’ Associated Dwellings Company. However, these … had a long waiting list. They were also relatively expensive: the Chambers ranged in price from 30 to 90 pounds per year making it too expensive for the majority of working women. Sloane Gardens House was more affordable at 10 shillings per week for an unfurnished room, compared to between 18 and 25 shillings per week in a private ladies’ boarding house. In an article in The Contemporary Review in 1900, Alice Zimmern suggested that a woman would need to earn at least one pound per week to afford around 15 shillings on board an lodging and suggests that: “The lady who earns less presents a problem for the wages rather than the housing question”.

p. 126 “Writing in 1937, the American Mary Ellen Chase observes how on early Sunday evenings the streets of Bloomsbury ‘are punctuated by Americans traversing the distance from their rooms in boarding-houses and a hundred small hotels to the nearest red pillarboxe3s to post their Sunday letters home’.

p. 128 “For those women without the money to socialise in the more affluent circles, the metropolis did not necessarily foster the supportive community of expatriates they had envisaged. The New Zealand writer Jane Mander made a frugal living as a writer and editor in interwar London nad had a wide circle of acquaintances, but her compatriot Robin Hyde did not thrive in her new environment, and her ill health, depression and lack of money led her to commit suicide in her Kensington boarding house in 1939 … As Louise Mack herself acknowledged …”There are three grades of homelessness in London – Boarding-house, Apartments, Flat. If you live in Boarding-houses you cannot be known. If you live in Apartments you can go and see your friends. If you have a flat your friends can come and see you.”

p. 130 “Nancy Wake, an Australian who became famous for her work as a member of the French Resistance during the Second World War, travelled to London in 1932 and took up residence in a ‘cheap boarding house’ on the Cromwell Road. Like many of those growing up as part of the British Empire, Wake’s initial reactions to England, and particularly London, were mediated through the representations absorbed in childhood that had become as familiar to her as actual experience .. grown up in Australia singing a rhyme about Big Ben: I am Big Ben/Hear what I say/All other clocks/Get out of my way”. The implied message of British domination in this childhood rhyme was adopted unquestioningly by wake once she was in London. London’s history ‘made Sydney look infantile in comparison’ and Wake ‘felt a little sniffy when she gazed back on the tired old life she imagined her friends and family must be living in Sydney’.

Books

Louise Mack An Australian Girl in London

Sara Jeannette Duncan An American Girl in London

Louise Closser Hale An American’s London (1920)

Books Environmental politics History Politics

Notes from A Global History of Literature and the Environment

p. 37

Mencius (372-289 BCE)

“If nets of fine mesh do not enter pools and ponds, there will be more fish and turtles than we can consume. If axes enter the hills and forests only at the proper times, there will be more wood than we can use.

p. 88 “Olympian 7 should be read as a foundation text in environmental literary history because it provides an early example of the dominant narrative of the Euro-masculinist West, which has largely viewed geological and biological phenomena as feminine objects fit for subjugation and exploitation. Pindar… reproduces systemic violence against the female in his representation of Rhodes as voiceless female, who seemingly would not have even come into existence had Helios not needed a possession wherewith to assert his status in relation to his fellow elite Males, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon.”

p. 93 “The earliest Maya literature to have survived the Spanish Conquest … particularly the Popol Vuh, attempts to explain the origins of chaotic nature as the first in a series of unsuccessful stages of creation leading ultimately to an agriculturally centres world of predictable cycles of life, death and regeneration, mediated by humans. Those aspects of nature that are independent of human intervention, such as the animals that inhabit the untamed forest, represent chaotic wilderness that constantly seeks to reclaim cultivated land.

Books Environmental politics Politics

Notes from The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy by Michael McCarthy

p. 71 “A major concern, however, is not only what China’s frenzied growth is doing to its own environment, but what it is also doing to environments beyond its borders …600 million of its people, nearly a tenth of the world’s population, live in river catchments which drain into the Yellow Sea, mean that the pressure to reclaim tidal flats along its coastline is irresistible, and it is proceeding with ever-increasing rapidity. .. a report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2012 makes clear… Since 1980 China has reclaimed no less than 51% of all its coastal wetlands (this includes habitats such as mangroves and sea grass beds) and South Korea 60% (of a much lower base).Of the key areas of tidal mudflats on which the shorebirds of the flyway depend, around the Yellow Sea as a whole, 35% has already gone and the remainder will go soon.. regarded by environmentalists involved as a wildlife catastrophe in the making, indeed, it is already happening, with the bird populations starting to fall. Observed rates of decline of waterbird species of 5 to 9% a year,’ says the IUCN report, ‘are among the mighest of any ecological system on the planet.’.. The future of 50 million wading birds, and let it be said, of coastal fisheries on which thousands of people depend, are having by a threat … the East Asia/Australiasia Flyway has a poster species. The spoon-billed sandpoper is not only one of the most charming of birds… it is also one of the rarest, and has long been at the top of the wish-to-see list of many birders… Breeding only in Chukotka, the Siberian province in Russia’s far north-east, it winters 5.000 miles away around the coastlines of Burma and Bangladesh, dependent like the other waders of the flyway on the Yellow Sea stop-over.. In 2008, with the entire population now thought to be under 200 pairs and falling at the rate of 26% a year, it was listed as Critically Endangered.”

p. 75 “Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Victorian Jesuit …

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wilderness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet;

Let live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Books Early modern history Women's history

Notes from A Day At Home in Early Modern England: Material Culture and Domestic Life 1500-1700

p 76 “The house in Stratford-upon-Avon where Tomas Hicox lived with his wife, Elizabeth, in 1611 epitomises the most striking trend in town … Here, cooking took place in the hall, and the buttery was for messier domestic tasks requiring more space. Elizabeth’s working morning might have begun at the ‘newe building’ at the back of their reasonably well-appointed house in Henley Street.. where firewood was stored for the kiln (for malt-making) and there was an ‘utinge vate’ for soaking barley for malt. From here she might have gone to the buttery, but rather than finding pewter or other items for serving food there she would have found the large open vessels for washing and brewing and some spinning-wheels in addition to her frying pan. She would have to take the pan into the hall, where her other pots and posnets (small metal cooking pots), kettles and dabnets (cooking utensils) were kept, around the only source of heat in the house. Here she could prepare a meal, using perhaps the Martinmas beed and the six flitches (sides) of bacon, smoking above the fire in preparation for winter.”

p. 78-9 “From the second half of the 18th century and through the 17th century, the variety of cooking and dining vessels increased as ranges of high-quality vehicles intended for cooking, serving and storage were produced by English potteries … types of object that had always been available to the elite in metal, and were now manufacturer in pottery for the first time, such as posset pots and large flanged dishes. The main innovations were in decorative wares, and the most rapid specialisation was in smaller cooking vessels, such as pipkins and skillets, or chafing dishes, which gave a gentle heat suitable for delicate dishes, and permitted cooking without lighting a main fire. All show a rapid process of specialisation that marks this period out as unique… distinctions of social practice could be made with new goods.

p.84 “Harvest failures were a feature of the 1590s and the first half of the 17th century was characterised by ‘sharp shocks of cereal shortages’ ‘that came cyclically, every seven years or so … had two other important knock-on effects on the production of meals: the consumption of many more vegetables, and the preservation of foodstuffs for much longer periods of time… Richard Gardiner, a burgess and dryer of Shrewsbury, who wrote Profitable instructions for the manuring, sowing, and planting of kitchin gardens. Very profitable for the commonwealth and grealy for the helpe and comfort of poore people, published in London in 1599. Addressing his fellow townspeople, Gardiner expresses his hope that the ‘vaine, fruitless and superfluous things may be taken out of good Gardens and sundry good commodities, to pleasure the poor planted therein’ – the commendatory poem lists these as carrots, cabbages, parnsips, turnips, lettuce, beans, onions, cucumbers, artichokes and radish, along with herbs…. This kind of extra growing space was crucial to provide food security and to develop the palate for savoury items that was emerging across the period. … meat and fish had always been preserved, new and improved techniques were being extended to fruit and vegetables.”

p 143 “Any early modern account book reveals a complementary pragmatic attention paid to locks and keys .. John Hayne, who kept a book detailing his household expenses and some elements of his business as an Exeter cloth merchant … when he began to make improvements to his new accommodation … an immediate priority was to regulate the movement between spaces … for the outside, he paid for two iron bays and stays to the courtilage (or courtyard) door and the ‘pack door’ (perhaps the door through which packs entered and left the premises) and a spring catch to the latch on the fore door (the door to the street). Inside, he paid for a new lock and key to the chamber door and for mending its patch, for a lock and key to the parlour chamber, and for a Dutch lock and key and two hasps for the great press there, presumably with his valuables in it. Finally, he paid to mend the lock of the closet… His servants were apparently able to move freely between commercial and shared domestic spaces.”

p. 154 “From the 1580s onwards, nests or frames of boxes began to appear in inventories… highly literate men had a professional need for such items of furniture, but the inventories such the developing textual elements of business transactions obliged some merchants and traders to think in the same terms … also apparently retained, in smaller numbers, admittedly, by wives carring on their husband’s business in some form or another… Joan Crisp of Sandwich, landlady to the various occupants of the house next door to the Three Kings, for instance, kept a nest of boxes in the chamber over her parlour.”

p. 159 “In Warwick in 1604, for example, around 20 different trades were being pursued in the town, but a petition of 1694, following a significant fire, listed nearly 50 different occupations, and they are ones that show the influence of the gentry tastes that sustained them: watchmaker, stationer, bookseller, confectioner, smiths, a clockmaker and a mimner”

p’ 159 “Joan Thirsk, in her pioneering book on import substitutes, has shown how locally manufacturer objects before Elizabeth’s reign were of a quality suitable only to serve local needs, so that more discerning customers looked abroad for domestic goods. By the end of the 17th century … the projects that had become established local industries included many key domestic manufeatures such as cooking pots, frying pans, knives, nails, pins, glass bottles, earthern pots and copperwares. Studying the imports of drinking-glasses into London, Godfrey argues that, after 1630 – the moment at which he says drinking-glasses became common in middling-status inventories – ‘English-made glass supplied the market entirely.’”

p. 173-4 “Boarding out was often part of the lifecycle of the middling identity, in which, first as an apprentice or a schoolboy, later in retirement or semi-retirement, a man might live in the houses of others. Giles Pooley, a London wholesaler, for example, ‘ broke up howse keeping’ in April 1653 and went to live with a business associate, Robert Carter, paying £20 a year for food and lodging and £8 for clothes. His daughter, his apprentice and his horses were also boarded out in different places across the city. John Gerrard of the parish of St Helen in Worcester, gentleman, 58 years old, states in his deposition about a will-making that at his wife’s decease he gave all his goods to his daughter so that he now lives only by his pen. Living in part of a house was also common for female relatives after the death of the head of the household.”

p. 175 “The silence and darkness of a space recently deserted [the shop] as activity moves towards the kitchen and parlour gives opportunity for those wishinhg to be alone.. [Burlingham, Worcestershire] “a smith’s shop hear the churchyard. Hulett, “drawing neare unto the sayd shop heard a great bustlinge and puffing and bloweinge” of a couple .. one of whom was Treble’s servant. John junior suggests the permeability of the space to sound by adding what Hulett heard next: ‘when the plaintiff had done what he could he asked her how shee liked it and [she] answeared ‘well yenoughe’.” [[Hardly a ringing endorsement!]]

p. 193 “small purchases of good form a kind of recreation – a series of what we would see as ‘snacks’ bought and consumed with friends… the majority of these purchases are of preserved fruit and confectionary: the most significant categories are figs and raisins, followed by comfits, cakes and marchpane… Cocks may well have bought these foods from street vendors, and the dried fruit from local grocers, whom we know he patronised for other goods, or purchased them from the inns whence the wine came. Their high sugar content suggests an expansion into leisure activities of the sweetness of middling meals.”

Books History Women's history

Notes from The Roman Street: Urban Life and Society in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Rome

p 35

“it is worth noting that the character of a single street varied markedly: it could literally be a matter of night and day. After the sun went down, what light was present filtered out of streetside buildings, such as taverns, which cut visibility and the safety it afforded in cities without a standing police force. Juvenal’s narrator Umbricius articulates Roman anxieties about nocturnal passage. He constructs a scene in which a sleepless, drunk thug picks out her prey on the dark streets “But however high on wine and burning with young blood the man may be, he steers well clear of the fellow with the scarlet cloak, who is surrounded by a long line of bodyguards plus plenty of torches and bronze lamps. But me, as I return home escorted only by the moon or a sad little candle that demands my constant attention – me he despises. Hear how the pathetic brawl starts – if you can call it a brawl when you do the beating and I just take it.”

p, 65 “Because of Roman practices of slavery and adoption, exposed or destitute children may have been absorbed into households more frequently in Roman cities than in others renown for their street children, such as Mexico City or Bangalore. Nevertheless .. poor youth on the street were likely very common … Outside city walls, some took refuges in tombs or used them as parts of huts or lean-tos… the Theodosian Code is … suggestive. It required lean-tos abutting public or private buildings to be torn down because they posed a risk of fire, narrowed streets or infringed on porticos.”

p. 159 “How could you distinguish certain classes of people and their virtues and vices from the way they moved? In the broadest terms, those who were most suspect such as cinaedi (sexual deviants) were identified by their excessive motion … their natural nearing compelled their arms and fingers to move too much, and their necks and sides to rock back and forth.. too much movement was read as a shortcoming in moral steadiness

p. 161 “the decided severity of house facades in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Their aesthetic of austerity and lack of frilly adornment held meaning precisely by showing very little … an architectural and decorative demonstration of, or at least aspiration to, the self-restraint appropriate for elite self-presentation in the public sphere… the street frontage of commercial properties was generally more extravagant and commonly employed the figural decorations that houses routinely shunned.”

p. 188 “Direct textual evidence for the position of doors during the day is scarce, but what survives suggests the practice of leaving house doors open was routine… Leaving one’s access door open usually required positioning a guard at this critical threshold.. also probably a sacrifice limited to Romans of a certain financial level, which made door-opening a social marker in itself. But the way that this act made interior architecture visible to the street provided more opportunities for scoring social points ”

p. 270 “Nineteen electoral endorsements are painted across this section of wall… Fourteen messages name no endorser but the other five intriguingly list women as endorsers. Four women individually support candidates: Maria, Zmyrina, Aegle and Asellina.. female enforsements represent a mildly widespread practice, with about 50 posters. Women’s inscriptions follow similar patterns to endorsements by named men … there is no ‘female way’ to enter the political fray….. scholars have woven the various threads present into elaborate tapestries. They picture a bar owned by Asellina because she has the Latinate name and becomes the titular head of a collective presentation. And they imagine the women as foreign workers, possibly slaves, who furnished food, drink and perhaps sex… although the women’s routine is largely lost, the material evidence allows us to stitch together some sense of their interactions. first, the space on the ground floor is very restricted, especially behind the counter, which likely put the women in close contact with one another and with customers, who may have spilled onto the extensive sidewalk or headed upstairs. The bar’s wide entryway granted the women a view and perhaps knowledge of the neighbourhood’s workings. For instance, if the huge entryway next door preceded a sizeable house, then the women probably knew much about its activities by watching its denizen’s comings and goings, by catching up with its dependents over a glass of wine, and by hearing sounds emanating from its doorways and courtyards. Similar with a grand residence and smaller house across the street. in the latter, an industrious doorkeeper seems to have looked back across the street while carding wool. In other words, even if these barmaids were stationary, they soaked in much.”

Books Early modern history Feminism Women's history

Notes from Women and the Pamphlet Culture of Revolutionary England 1640-1660 by Marcus Nevitt

p. 36 Katherine Chidley desired “to develop a much more finely nuanced view of the reciprocal dynamics of pamphlet controversy than Edwards and other polemicists of the period: she eschews the annihilative rhetoric and rhetorical dead ends of textualized violence. Thus her own texts do not feature as ‘gloves’ thrown scornfully in the face of an implacable opponent, but betray, as will be shown, a pacifistically dialogical perception of the pamphlet form and the agency involved in early modern pamphlet exchange. Thus in entitling her response to Antapologia as A New Yeares Gift .. To Mr Thomas Edwards; That he may breake off his old sins in the old yeare, and begin the New yeare, with new fruits of Love, she binds herself not to a masculinist rhetorical system of incisive printed assertion and its counter, but to a very different series of reciprocal obligations, as inherent in gift exchange…

p. 37 “inevitably going to be perceived as disruptive and transgressive. However, the sheer violence of the responses from the likes of Woodward and Goodwin, men who were, relatively speaking, her religious allies, requires further explanation. … some women could write controversial religious literature in this period that was met (at least initially) with praise rather than opprobrium. However, the prophetic modes of writing by women like Anna Trapnel, Elizabeth Poole or Mary Cary afford them protection which is denied Chidley because of her generic choices … Chidley writes animadversion… an extremely common form of pamphlet writing which proceeds through the absorption, reconfiguration and rebutal of other printed texts and images.”

p. 41 “her inclusive manipulation of animadversion’s and humanism’s first principles (that truth must be attained through dialogue) actually has its roots in a pro-toleration position which was daringly egalitarian and sought to uphold the fundamental democratic rights of virtually all citizens and believers irrespective of wealth and social status … While Chidley was as virulently anti-Catholic as the next 17th-century puritan, she was, nonetheless, relatively unusual in her persistent assertion that: “Jews and Anabaptists may have a toleration also”.

p. 45 “Agency for Chidley, as it was indeed for Trapnel, is thus fundamentally dependent on a willingness to stress the presence of others in the creative process. Her animadversions open up the confines of the genre by downplaying the importance of the individual, combative author-hero in favour of a complex exploration of the multiple agencies required to make pamphlet dialogue and (as importantly) religious toleration work.”

p. 59 “Women’s weeping has become a symptom of, as well as an appropriate reaction to, the current crisis… 17th-century parliamentarians and republicans were not slow to notice that women formed an integral part of the royalist symbolic economy at the time of the regicide, and they were quick to accord them a passive status in their own political world. Alongside republican masculinism, many male-authored, non-royalist pamphlets discuss the nature of the trial and execution of Charles in terms whereby anti-monarchism and antifeminism appear to be almost synonymous. Thus, according to Milton, those who mourned the death of the king were not only the ‘blockish vulger’ of ‘the Common sort’, but were also predominately female. Hence he draws parallels with the Iliad’s ‘captive women’ who ‘bewailed the death of Patroclus in outward show’ but were actually grieving for their own enslaved condition.”

p. 93 “Elizabeth Alkin, or ‘Parliament Joan’ as she was frequently labelled by male contemporaries, is one woman who significantly problematizes the prevalent notion of an all-male civil war news press. … p. 1010 “in the climactic year of 1649, at about the same time as Elizabeth Poole was making her appearances before the General Council of the Army, Alkin .. became a book trade informant, searching out unlicensed or seditious presses for the authorities. In July of that year, A Perfect Diurnall, makes reference to ‘one Jone (a clamerous woman) whose husband was hang’d at Oxford for a spire, & she sometimes employed in finding out the presses of scandalous pamphlets’.

p. 105 “between 21 June 1650 and 30 September 1651 Alkin involved herself in the publication of ten issues of different newsbooks.”

p. 121 “On the Sunday morning of 17 July 1652 at a chapel in Whitehall not far from the tavern which was the scene for Anna Trapnel’s The Cry of a Stone, Oliver Cromwell’s chaplain, Peter Sterry, ascended the pulpit to begin his weekly sermon before a congregation packed with dignitaries, soldiers and statesmen. .. I saw at one end of the Chappell a great disturbance among the people … in the midst of a crowd a Woman … continually withholds the unspeakable horror, the ‘monstrousness’ of a solitary, semi-naked ‘mad’ woman in a chapel full of armed guards. The newsbooks of the following week were quick to recycle the incident … all other newsbook accounts corroborate the woman’s nudity but flesh it out with various other details . A Perfect Account therefor informed its readers not only that a woman ‘stripped herself quite out of her cloathes in Church’ but also that she ‘cried out, Resurrection I am ready for thee’ and was accordingly ‘committed to custody’. The woman’s direct speech and the authorities ‘examination and exemplary punishment’ of her are also recorded in .. The Faithful Scout, and Mercurius Britannicus confirms the woman’s words but concludes its coverage of the event with a lamentation of the fact that the woman escaped ‘without any known Mulct [punishment]” … a London-based Scottish writing master called David Brown.. outraged at the possibility that the incident might have gone unpunished, penned a scurrilous pamphlet inveighing against the actions of the woman and any who might be inclined to sympathize or support her … the only further clues that the pamphlet provides as to the woman’s identity is the single statement that she is ‘a bold woman of about 30 years old, sober in her speech.”