Gender and Sexuality

Isabella Bird: Explorer or Exploiter
14 July 2021

This guest blog was written by Edward Armston-Sheret, a PhD candidate at Royal Holloway’s Department of Geography. As part of the collaboration between the Royal Historical Society and Adam Matthew Digital, Ed, and a number of other early career researchers, were awarded a twelve-month subscription to Adam Matthew Digital’s collections of digital primary sources. Ed used Nineteenth Century Literary Society to access the material on Isabella Bird, such as the letters mentioned in the blog below:

Isabella Bird is remembered as a pioneering woman traveller. She went to and through every continent except Antarctica and wrote best-selling books on her journeys. Bird was also one of the first women admitted to the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) in 1892. Studying her life and travels can draw attention to the often ignored role of women within Victorian geography. But there is a danger of ignoring the people who made her journeys possible.

Call the Midwife! Birth Through the Generations of the Mass Observation Project
10 March 2021

“In a pandemic, babies don’t stop coming” commented a midwife from Bradford Royal Infirmary in a 2020 BBC interview. It’s a simple statement, and one which resonates with the prosaic incongruity of everyday life in the midst of so much uncertainty - there seems no better time than women’s history month to turn to narratives regarding this constant of human experience in the 1993 directive on “Birth” from the newly released Mass Observation Project Module II: 1990s.

I’m Coming Out: Personal Stories from The National Lesbian and Gay Survey Collection
26 February 2021

Perhaps one of the most personal experiences LGBTQ+ people face is the decision to come out (or not) and, inevitably, each person has their own story to tell. Here are three of them from a 1995 directive titled ‘All About Out’.

Gentleman Jack: The Diaries of Anne Lister
05 February 2021

In this blog we consider how the history of human sexuality and gender identity can be explored through the diaries of historic lesbian figure, Anne Lister (1791-1840). Published with Handwritten Text Recognition software, the manuscript material is now searchable for the first time.

Self-Expression, Community and Identity: Remembering Stonewall
03 February 2021

Sex & Sexuality: Self-Expression, Community and Identity publishes this week from Adam Matthew Digital. A follow-up to the first module which published in January 2020, this second module presents documents that focus on the lived sexual experiences of individuals, activism within the LGBTQ+ community, the criminalisation of sexuality between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries as well as the devastating HIV/AIDs crisis among other major events within LGBTQ+ history. One such event, and a flashpoint in LGBTQ+ history, is the Stonewall riots which started on 28 June 1969 and continued throughout the following days.

Don’t Die of Ignorance: Mass Observation and the AIDS crisis
29 January 2021

In an episode of Russell T. Davies’s new drama It’s a Sin, the protagonists, a group of young gay men, cluster round the television in their battered but cheerful London flat. Crammed on to the sofa, they have obviously anticipated this moment. But what they are watching isn’t 1986’s latest, now nostalgic, primetime hit, but a new government advertisement.

Domestic Science: Revolutionising the Salad
14 October 2020

When I first started working on the Food & Drink in History resource, I immediately became obsessed with molded jelly salads. This food fashion fascinates me, so I leapt at the chance to dig deeper.

Eliza Leslie: A Publishing Powerhouse
25 September 2020

This month we’ve been celebrating the release of two resources: Children’s Literature and Culture, and the second module of Food & Drink in History. I was lucky enough to work on commissioning documents for both titles, and one of the best parts of my job is making connections between our resources – connections across history.

“In Serious Verse”: the politics and poetics of Caroline Norton’s A Voice from the Factories
26 August 2020

In a time when women could not govern democratically, Caroline Norton mobilised the power of poetry to mount political campaigns – and successfully reformed the legal rights of women in the process.

Spenser's Brienne of Tarth
14 August 2020

The release date for Winds of Winter is still unknown, and Game of Thrones finally went down in (literal) flames last summer, but if you’re missing your annual dose of fierce queens, morose knights and fiery dragons, look no further than Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.

Fashioning the frontispiece: The role of clothing in the travel narratives of Isabella Bird
03 June 2020

This special guest blog was written by Edward Armston-Sheret and Innes M. Keighren of Royal Holloway, University of London, to celebrate the launch of Nineteenth Century Literary Society.

At first glance, Isabella Bird (1831–1904) was an unlikely candidate for the role of intrepid explorer. She stood just four feet eleven inches tall and, from a young age, suffered from a debilitating spinal condition that necessitated frequent periods of rest. Nevertheless, Bird travelled the globe, visiting - among other destinations - Hawaii, Japan, Korea and Tibet. In spanning the globe, and in challenging the physical limits of her body and societal expectations of her gender, Bird became one of the most celebrated 19th century women travellers and published numerous travel narratives with John Murray. While much has been written about Bird’s remarkable achievements as a traveller, comparatively less attention has been given to the role that dress played in how Bird chose to represent herself in her published accounts.

A Moment on the Lips: The Dark History of America’s “Radium Girls” from American Indian Newspapers
23 April 2020

In 1984, a periodical from the Navajo Times announced plans for a major cleanup effort at the site of a former paint factory located just 84 miles west of Chicago. In addition to neutralizing the potential dangers of a long abandoned industrial compound, the principle reason for this initiative was to mitigate the alarming levels of ionizing radiation emanating from the property. Looming larger than the factory itself, this periodical also provides a glimpse into the tragic story of the “Radium Girls,” laborers for the company who fell victim to gross industrial negligence and later became the faces of a movement for change.

20 March 2020

While we all face uncertainty about what to expect from the coming weeks and months, I wanted to use this blog to end this week on a lighter note and highlight some of the fantastic content I was able to find sitting on my sofa.

Love in a ‘green old age’: the octogenarian romance of Mrs Piozzi
14 February 2020

Writers in the long eighteenth century were not kind to the elderly; in a culture fond of classical learning, age – particularly the age of a woman – was often euphemised with Ciceronian nature metaphors. A young woman was in flower-like bloom, bright and beautiful, while an elderly woman was considered to have wilted and faded away. However, many women resisted this trope, rebelling against it as they aged through a sheer refusal to wilt. One such woman is the remarkable Hester Piozzi, who proves to us all that there’s no such thing as too old for romance.

Brass Orchids: Sex and Relationships in Samuel R. Delany
31 January 2020
This January marked the 45th anniversary of Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany’s science-fiction masterpiece telling the story of ‘the Kid’, an amnesiac author lost in the terrifyingly surreal city of Bellona. Sexuality, relationships and sex are central to the narrative of Dhalgren and Delany’s other fiction; and the recent publication of Sex and Sexuality inspired me to write today about this most intriguing of classic science-fiction authors.
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