Gender and Sexuality

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.
Beyond the Birds and the Bees: A reflection on Adam Matthew’s Sex & Sexuality resource
08 January 2020

In a world where Love Island shenanigans and “celebrity” sex exposés dominate headlines, and where “Netflix and Chill” requires no explanation, it’s difficult to imagine that the “Birds and the Bees” conversation continues to stand the test of time.

Human Rights and the Rights of Women
06 December 2019

December 10 is Human Rights Day; it celebrates the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations. Certain to find a grand celebration of the Declaration I delved into our resources but was instead side-tracked by a page from "Union Jack" in Service Newspapers of World War Two.

Suffragettes, Jelly & Roll Mop Herrings: Surprising Recipes from Food History
23 October 2019

Food & Drink in History: Module I is a treasure trove of culinary surprises, with a whole host of curious recipes.

‘Cracking on’ in the Eighteenth Century: Conduct Books and Courtship
26 July 2019

Love it or hate it, Love Island fever has undeniably swept through the nation for yet another summer and with the infamous dating reality show now gearing up to the final next week it seems appropriate to take a moment to step back in time and see how our eighteenth century predecessors went about ‘cracking on’.

Pride and Prejudice: 50 years since Stonewall
14 June 2019

The month of June is celebrated in countries around the world as Pride month. Events, parades and marches which were originally conceived as an annual commemoration of the Stonewall riots of June 1969 are today a celebration of LGBT acceptance and achievements, and a recognition of the continuing fight for rights and equality.

Extraordinary Instance of Female Friendship: Female Romance Before Gentleman Jack
07 June 2019

If you’ve switched on a television in the last month or two, you’ve likely caught a glimpse of Suranne Jones – all cheekbones, wry smile and top hat – embodying the character of ‘Gentleman Jack’. Anne Lister is one of history’s most iconic lesbian figures; her coded diaries shattered everything we thought we knew about nineteenth century “lesbianism” upon their rediscovery in 1933. Iconic female romances existed in Britain long before Lister’s notorious love affairs, however, and one such story can be found in our Defining Gender resource.

International Women's Day: Celebrating women
08 March 2019

International Women's Day is celebrated around the world, recognising women's achievements and promoting gender equality. It has working class beginnings, emerging from the strike of 1908 in New York, where 15,000 garment workers marched to demand workers rights and to protest their difficult working conditions.

Our Friend Angela Davis
01 March 2019

Spring has sprung here at Adam Matthew and as February draws to an end and March gets underway, we find ourselves dodging daffodils and rain showers at every turn. As well as a change of season, March 1st marks the close of (US) Black History Month and the dawn of Women’s History Month, two movements designed to promote figures marginalised by the traditional top-down historical narrative. With this in mind, it seems timely to share an intriguing propaganda piece about the African American woman and “enemy of the state” who toured Leonid Brezhnev’s USSR at the height of the Cold War.

The Moving Target - Marketing to Women in the 1970s
31 August 2018

Rena Bartos was named Senior Vice President at the J. Walter Thompson Company in 1977 and was an influential figure in the advertising industry. She was highly regarded for her pioneering work on marketing to women, a concept she called ‘The Moving Target’. ‘The Moving Target’ focused on changing perceptions of women in the 70s; it was designed to help advertisers recognise the shifting roles of the modern woman, encourage them to portray her more realistically in the media and sell to her more effectively as a consumer.

1931 vs. 2018: How Traditional is My Wedding?
19 July 2018

Wedding season is in full swing once again and in light of my own impending nuptials, I’ve decided to take a look back at a bridal etiquette leaflet from 1931 in Adam Matthew’s resource Trade Catalogues and the American Home to explore bridal traditions after months of being asked things like…

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