Gender and Sexuality

Emma Abbott the pre-Madonna prima donna: extraordinary everyday lives of women in 19th century America
01 April 2016

Singing about California while wearing a cupcake bra, running a business, racing yachts around the world, writing and producing a TV show, telling jokes to millions of people, leading a political party, writing Nobel prize-winning fiction, looking for cures, performing surgery … the list of fun, incredible and important work that women do these days goes on and on. Ok, so we don’t all own a cupcake bra like Katy Perry, but we do have the ability to choose a career that we want and for most women work is a part of our everyday lives.

Guy Fawkes the Feminist
17 March 2016

Excuse me - late to the party, as always - but last week, International Women’s Day, the annual celebration dedicated to championing 50% of the population for 0.27% of the year, rolled around once again.

In need of some advice?
12 February 2016

I think it’s fair to say we probably all need a little advice from time-to-time and in this modern world there seems to be no shortage of professionals, books, websites and television shows to turn to when we need a little guidance. But this is by no means a modern phenomenon; guides offering advice have been circulating for centuries.

Fun, Sun and Summer Flings
07 September 2015

Summer in the northern hemisphere is drawing to a close and with it comes the end of peak holiday season. ‘Back to School’ advertisements and darker evenings remind us that the summer holiday is over, but it won’t be long until travel agents are persuading us to book next year’s dream getaway. To cheer myself up in the meantime I’ve been browsing holiday and tourism paraphernalia from the 1960s and dreaming of vacationing in a more glamourous age.

The Utter Ruin of Mary Musgrove Bosomworth
02 September 2015

Documents included in Colonial America cover daring feats of piracy, bloody wars, rugged expeditions through frontiers infested with ‘vigorous rattlesnakes’ and reams of legislation that ultimately shaped a nation. However, after hours spent tilting my head this way and that in an attempt to decipher the handwriting of various clerks, it has become clear that the lives of women within the Thirteen Colonies were of less interest to record keepers than politics and trade. A queen may have sat on the throne when English explorers first landed on the coast of Virginia, but the age of empire was, primarily, an age of withered, wigged, white men.

The Freed Slaves of the South
19 June 2015

While indexing the documents in our American History, 1493-1945 collection I found a curious printed book from 1915, entitled ‘Aunt Phebe, Uncle Tom and others’ by Mrs Essie Collins Matthews. This is a collection of character studies and photographs of freed slaves living in the South fifty years after abolition came into effect.

Eleanor Roosevelt's Universal Rights
04 June 2015

In the year that we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations, and the UK government questions Britain’s part in the European Convention on Human Rights, it is a poignant time to reflect on the formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Central to this was Eleanor Roosevelt who was already heavily involved in social justice and human rights by the time she became First Lady in the White House in 1933.

Equal Pay for Equal Work
27 February 2015

Through all the glitz and glam of the Oscars one part of the ceremony that has got everyone talking is Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech for her Best Supporting Actress award. She received huge support in the theatre audience (as can be seen in the reactions of the likes of Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez) and created a stir on social media as she demanded equal rights for women.

He-Men and Homemakers: Gender in Mid-20th Century Advertising
24 September 2014

Unfortunately Emma Watson throwing down the UN HeForShe gauntlet this week came too late for the male-dominated mid-20th century advertising industry. They were well aware that 75% of the buying power in America was held by homemaking women, so actively reinforced gender inequality, in fear that their industry would crumble without it.

Henry and Lucy Knox; a couple separated by the Revolutionary War
11 June 2014

Over the past couple of weeks I have been working with the Henry Knox collection held at the Gilder Lehrman Institute; a collection that looks at one of the key military figures of the Revolutionary War.

Channelling my Inner Wood Nymph: The Women’s Land Army in WW1
04 April 2014

After months of rain and grey skies we are finally seeing glimpses of a proper spring. New lambs are in the fields and my garden, which has resembled a muddy swamp for most of the winter, is now beginning to pop with colour. Even the chickens, who have sulked in their coop for months, have begun to lay again

The First Cut is the Deepest
07 March 2014

This page is taken from De Formatu Foetu, or, The Formation of the Foetus, a work by the Flemish anatomist Adrianus Spigelius that examined the female reproductive system.

Barbie: the formative years
03 January 2014

Nowadays, almost everything in the current market for children’s toys seems to require batteries; if it hasn’t got flashing lights, touch screens and loud electronic noises emanating from it, kids aren’t interested. A far cry from my own childhood when Gymnast Barbie (complete with co-ordinated gym bag, sweat-bands and multi-coloured leotard) was enough to keep me entertained for hours!

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