Social Scientist or Philanthropist? The Bedford Centre’s time-travelling interviewer meets Louisa Twining in 1859


Louisa Twining c. 1906

From the perspective of our time Louisa Twining (1820-1912) is a dull subject – a pious philanthropist, worthy but no longer relevant, and not a scientist of any kind.  There are probably a number of reasons for this. Neither of her memoirs, the first published in 1880 and the second in 1893, reflect the passionate concern and outrage on behalf of individuals which colour her early writings. Most scholarly references to her life and work are based on these. The name of the organisation which she founded – the Workhouse Visiting Society – does not convey today her revolutionary vision. She was a Christian Socialist, for some reason today not given similar credit to the atheist or agnostic varieties. The few visual images we have of her show a severe, unsmiling lady growing stout in retirement – enough said!

However, the issues she addressed so incisively in the 1850’s are still with us today in the social care scandals of the last twenty years. Let’s travel back 159 years, and meet the women in question:

Aged thirty-nine, Louisa is a woman on fire.  Over the last five years she has published a series of pamphlets containing searing critiques of our  approach to housing and feeding those who cannot earn enough to live outside the workhouse – the frail, disabled or demented old, the disabled, unskilled or unsocial younger people, and their children.  Last year she established the Workhouse Visiting Society to act as a national network for people engaged in improving the lives of workhouse residents, and has now become a recognised part of a national debate.

When we meet in Bradford she had just delivered her second speech to the recently-formed National Association for the Promotion of Social Science. Miss Twining’s comprehensive and incisive grasp of her subject was based, at the beginning of her career, on listening to workhouse residents, particularly women with age-related infirmities and unable to earn their living any longer and now (reluctantly) spending their final years in the infirm wards. She tells me that she was most struck by three aspects of the workhouse regime which together acted to demoralise and reduce the individual.

Firstly, if there is no-one in whom residents can confide, petty abuses of power on the part of the staff can quite quickly become regular and serious abuses.  She tells me of one lady who brought with her just one possession – a teapot – but was immediately told by the admissions officer no personal possessions were allowed, and he subsequently destroyed her beloved teapot.  Secondly, she says, imagine how people lose their faculties when there is no-one who calls them by their name, or recalls with them the events and celebrations of life outside the workhouse walls.  Both of these ills could be ameliorated by even the most amateur and approachable (female) visitor.

Lastly, boredom and lack of purposeful employment demoralise people – women as well as men – who have worked their whole lives in a trade which has kept them, and often a family too, in respectable lodgings. Why is it not possible, she asks, for people to be allowed to work at a bench, with their tools, even if they are no longer able to work sufficiently fast or accurately to earn a living? Or, I suggest, to be useful in some other way such as teaching the workhouse children a useful skill?  But such facilities are not provided and the management segregates residents by age, gender and class of resident.

Miss Twining’s ideas concerning workhouse visitors have taken a truly revolutionary turn:  visitors, she suggests, should be female because, yes, middle-class women can afford to undertake such activities at no financial cost to the taxpayer. They therefore have time to listen, to befriend and to encourage.  But they should be trained, and work in a co-ordinated manner, sharing information amongst themselves about the operation of the institution and its staff. Ideally they should work in partnership with a responsible management, to introduce small changes to the regime which will deter abusive staff and residents, and provide a more humane refuge. When I ask whether such a partnership might be in operation somewhere she says no, nor is she hopeful it will be in her working lifetime.  I tell her not in my lifetime either. We agree that the obstacles such as mistrusting reformists, defensiveness, dislike of hearing a woman analyse an issue and reluctance to adjust systems to suit individuals cannot be underestimated.

Once the Workhouse Visiting Society was launched, however, Miss Twining began to hear of the experience and initiatives of other ‘social workers’, mostly women, in her field and has turned her attention from this vision.  Her lecture today focused on the work needed to educate and protect children in the workhouse, and to prepare them for working life on the outside. She tells me of predatory employers prospecting the workhouses for female workers who are just about to leave for life outside. The girls, aged between eleven and thirteen, who are especially sought are those who have no friends or family to “give any trouble”.  Since the girls have no practical skills or experience of work, they are both vulnerable and liable to fail in these jobs. In a few years they are back in the workhouse, on the adult wards, and at risk. We can do better, she says, and one senses that this is where her energies will be spent in the next few years.

Louisa Twining’s earliest campaigning pamphlets from 1855 and 1857, published anonymously, have now been identified and accredited.  Pamphlets by other women are still unattributed, to which Twining referred to in her 1859 speech to the NAPSS.        

Johanna Holmes is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Royal Holloway.  She has a previous career advising government and the voluntary sector on social housing and youth homelessness.


Women in UK Higher Education: Visibility, Foremothers, and Role Models

Victoria 1

Edith Morley (pictured above) was the first woman to be appointed Professor in Britain in 1908, and yet more than a century later woman still have a visibility problem in UK Higher Education.

Although there is near gender parity at undergraduate level and a proportional dominance of women in postgraduate populations, women are subject to an impossible sliding scale: numbers diminish and visibility falls the higher the level of employment.

The proportion of professors who are women in UK universities has reached almost 25%, according to the latest statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). But the numbers of women professors is actually declining at some institutions.

This imbalance significantly increases amongst vice-chancellors or principals, where women constitute only around 18%. The exclusion of women from these prestigious and highly visible leadership roles makes it harder for women to follow. After all, if you can’t see it, how can you be it?

Women have been marginalised and omitted throughout history, and this trend extends to those pioneering women who were first to break through the ranks of universities as closely guarded male institutions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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Scholar and suffragette Edith Morley (1875–1964), who became Professor of English Language at University College, Reading, was labelled ‘difficult’, and suffered gender-based discrimination throughout her career. Millicent Mackenzie (1863-1942, pictured right), appointed Professor of Education at what is now Cardiff University in 1910, was subject to a significant gender pay gap.

Our own foremother at Bedford College, Dorothy Tarrant (1885-1973, pictured below), achieved first-class honours in Classics at the University of Cambridge, but like many women at the time was not awarded a degree (pictured below). Tarrant taught at Bedford College from 1909 to 1950, becoming Head of Department and the first woman Professor of Greek in 1936. She was also the first woman President of the Classical Association, and the first President of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies.

Victoria 3These women really were trailblazers, and yet our foremothers and their path-breaking achievements are nearly forgotten.

The importance of recognising the struggles and achievements of our foremothers and promoting positive role models is a central concern of the Women’s Classical Committee UK (WCC). Established in 2015, the WCC is an organisation dedicated to supporting women in Classics (broadly conceived), and promoting feminist and gender-informed perspectives within the discipline.

This type of women-centred promotion is essential on a gendered playing field that is far from level. All-male edited volumes, editorial boards, and conference panels are still common. A ‘manference’ held in March 2018 at Stanford University featuring thirty white men starkly demonstrates this imbalance.

But issues of visibility and representation can be more opaque. In Classics in the UK nearly twice as many men as women are employed as a professor. Nearly three times as many Classics Departments are led by a man rather than a woman. More than four times more men than women who are Head of Department are employed at professorial level.

Victoria 6

Our learned societies are not led by women. Since its inception in 1903, the Classical Association has had as many presidents named John as women (8). The Hellenic Society has had 38 presidents since 1879, three of whom have been women. Out of 93 Fellows of the British Academy for Classical Antiquity, 15 are women. This means that when we look up, we are not seeing women.

The WCC is dedicated to improving the visibility of our foremothers past and present, highlighting their struggles and successes for the benefit of successive women and men in higher education. We have achieved this through #WCCWiki, an initiative designed to reverse the gender bias on English-language Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the largest and most influential source of information in the world. It is the fifth most visited website in the world, and it is read by almost 500 million people every month.

But Wikipedia’s gender bias really bites: fewer than 15% of Wikipedia editors are women, and only one in six of its 1.5 million biographies are about women. That slant is even more apparent when it comes to Classics: an estimate in 2016 found that only 7% of biographies of Classicists featured women.

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#WCCWiki encourages people to come together to edit out Wikipedia’s gender skew. We’ve created or edited around 200 pages, including those for the pioneering American Classicist Grace Harriet Macurdy, Classical archaeologist Jocelyn Toynbee (pictured left), and more contemporary role models like Averil Cameron, Jennifer Ingleheart (below, left), and Donna Zuckerberg (below, right). #WCCWiki is an example of direct activism that is effective, instant, and accessible to everyone with an internet connection.

Rather than sitting on our hands and relying on the deceptive myth of progress, by remembering the struggles and achievements of our foremothers we can shine light on progress made so far, and areas that are yet to change.

Profile photo Olivette O (1) (1) (1) (1)History was made in 2018 when Olivette Otele (pictured left) was promoted to Professor at Bath Spa University; she is the first black woman Professor of History in a UK university. But equality in terms of race, gender and ethnicity in UK HE is far from being achieved.

By illuminating positive women role models that benefit everyone we can support the women following our foremothers, making higher education a fairer and more inclusive environment where women are allowed to succeed, and can be seen doing so.

By Dr Victoria Leonard

For Victoria’s research, see here and here. You can follow Victoria on Twitter @tigerlilyrocks. For more information about the Women’s Classical Committee (UK), see here, and follow @womeninclassics on Twitter.


Women’s Rights and Suffrage from 1866 to Today: New Online Course


Dr Mari Takayanagi, senior parliamentary archivist, discusses the Representation of the People Act with Citizens project officer Claire Kennan

The centenary of the Representation of the People Act in February this year, which gave some women the vote for the first time, has provided us with a great opportunity to look back at women’s struggle for rights and equality. Over the course of this year, these acts have been commemorated at local, regional and national levels. There have been exhibitions, lectures, and statues to celebrate the tireless work of women suffrage campaigners.

Royal Holloway has played its part too, delivering its own successful programme of events to celebrate the centenary and its own connections. The Bedford Centre’s summer conference entitled, Education, College Women and Suffrage: International Perspectives, formed part of the College’s activity and provided a welcoming forum for the latest academic thinking and research. However, as the centenary year draws to a close, opportunities to engage with and learn about the suffrage campaign remain.

On Monday 12th November, Royal Holloway’s free online course ‘Beyond the Ballot’ relaunches on FutureLearn, following its successful first run in February. Developed in partnership with UK Parliament, and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the course examines the history of women’s rights and suffrage from 1866 to today.

Over four weeks the course places the women’s suffrage campaign into the broader context of the fight for equality, both before the vote was granted and after it was partially secured in 1918. But the story doesn’t stop there! The course continues the narrative right up to the present day, finishing by asking current female MPs for their views on remaining barriers to equality.

We look beyond the familiar story of the Pankhursts and the militant campaign of the Suffragettes to give due attention to the peaceful, law-abiding efforts of the Suffragists and some of the forgotten organisations like the Actresses’ Franchise League. By the end of the course we hope that every learner will know their suffragist from a suffragette.

Learners will also get a chance to consider the position of the suffragettes within popular consciousness and see how this memory has been constructed. The subject of suffragette militancy is also covered, and we allow our learners to draw their own conclusions as to whether it could be classed as terrorism. And as Dr Fern Riddell reminds us: ‘we have to see our history in its totality…. a half-history serves no one.’

Beyond the Ballot isn’t your standard university course, it is a free open online course on the Futurlearn platform. As such it is designed to be accessible to everyone and we’ve taken steps to make the content as engaging as possible through documentary style interviews with experts, the chance to look at original sources, and fun features like polls and quizzes.

Participants can learn with experts in their field, including our very own Dr Stella Moss and Dr Alex Windscheffel and archivists, academics and curators from Parliament, The National Archives, and The Women’s Library Collection at the London School of Economics. It also gives learners the chance to explore unique documents and artefacts central to the story of women’s suffrage. The course is packed with links to extra content allowing learners to explore and research the topic further.

We hope the course will inspire people to find out more about women’s history, whether that’s taking another short course, visiting their local museum or archive, or attending one of the many fantastic events or exhibitions which are taking place across the country.

Finally, from the controversy over the pay gap to the #MeToo movement it’s clear from today’s headlines that women’s rights are a still a live issue. So, if you’re interested in learning more about the women’s suffrage movement or women’s fight for equality more broadly, please sign-up to ‘Beyond the Ballot’ and help contribute to this ongoing discussion.

Steven Franklin is a Citizens Project Officer. The Citizens project is led by Royal Holloway, University of London, and charts the history of liberty, protest and reform from Magna Carta to the Suffragettes and beyond.



The Great War and Women’s Sporting Emancipation


Convalescing soldiers play cricket at Harefield Military Hospital with English and Australian nurses, c. 1916 (Courtesy of Barts Health NHS Trust Archives)

As the Women’s World Twenty20 starts on 9 November, the first international cricket tournament since England’s remarkable victory in front of a packed Lord’s crowd last year, it also coincides with centenary commemorations for the end of the First World War. On first glance these two events appear unconnected. Historians have, quite rightly, widely celebrated the influence of the Great War on women’s political and legal emancipation, but these discussions have often overlooked the impact it had on cultural and bodily freedom. As women’s sport has been included in these commemorations, did it also contribute to women’s liberation during wartime and after?

If we look at news headlines, the rapid emergence of women’s team sports seems a recent phenomenon. Women’s cricket, for example, was in steep decline after the mid-1950s, but in the last ten years it has become one of the fastest growing sports in the UK. In 2013 there were nearly 600 clubs and over 60,000 women playing the game, figures that have certainly been surpassed since then, and this level of growth has been matched by other women’s sports. Twenty years after women were first admitted as members of the Marylebone Cricket Club, a deeply symbolic moment, England bowler Anya Shrubsole became the first woman to appear on the front cover of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, ‘the Bible of Cricket’, and the England side won the Sports Personality Team of the Year Award 2017.

However, this surge in participation is not without precedent. The First World War played an important role in encouraging – and allowing – women to play sport. Around 1.66 million additional women entered paid employment during the war, but they often entered the sports field too. Many employers promoted sport as a ‘moral’ pastime for their new workforce, and women were given new opportunities previously only available to men. Near Gretna in Scotland, the largest munitions factory in Britain organised regular football and hockey matches for its (mostly female) 11,000-strong workforce. Other factories up and down the country provided fields, equipment and facilities for netball, gymnastics, tennis, and swimming too. Sport became a defining feature of factory culture.


The most famous women’s football club of the interwar period pictured in 1921 (National Football Museum)

Women’s voluntary services also promoted sport, often playing with injured servicemen as ‘open-air treatment’ was believed to speed recovery and strengthen bodies. At Harefield Hospital in west London, limbless veterans played with nurses to alleviate boredom. Members of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps were encouraged to play sports in France with convalescing soldiers as this was believed to have a good influence on morale following a mutiny in 1917. Lack of adequate equipment, space or clothing was no deterrent, and for many working-class women this was their first opportunity to play team games as an adult. Meanwhile, back in Blighty, public matches were regularly played to raise funds for wartime charities.

The war also had a lasting effect on women’s physical emancipation. Building on the efforts of hockey, lacrosse and cycling clubs before 1914, organising bodies for women’s athletics (1922), rowing (1923), netball (1926) and cricket (1926) were soon established. Women’s football was so popular that over 53,000 spectators watched a game at Goodison Park in 1920, which frightened the Football Association enough to effectively ban the sport a year later. Nonetheless, other physical recreations continued to flourish. Keep-fit classes proved incredibly popular, and by 1939 the Ladies’ Golf Union had 1,417 affiliated bodies and the Women’s Hockey Association had 2,100, including 200 leagues in the North of England.

The Great War had an egalitarian effect, too: sport was no longer solely accessible to wealthy women. Enthusiasts still faced staunch criticism, including accusations of being ‘unsexed’ (one Australian newspaper warned of the end of humanity if women continued to play cricket) or of abandoning their domestic duties, but as the interwar period progressed women’s physical freedom became less contested.

This relaxation of attitudes can largely be attributed to the impact of the First World War. The roughly one million ‘munitionettes’ had proved their physical worth and directly assaulted the myth of fragile femininity. As one member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service commented after the war: ‘up until then we were brought up in a very, very strict Victorian stilted youth, and it gradually got that you were free […] when I got back I got ideas, you know? I remember starting hockey, and cricket and tennis at my office.’

On the centenary of the end of the Great War, and as women’s sport increasingly gains public profile, academics researching the history of women’s public participation, citizenship, class, education, employment, and freedom – among other things – simply cannot ignore public displays of the female body or discuss emancipation through a narrow political framework. Thankfully, the historiographical landscape is slowly shifting and the role of sport and physical recreation in the cultural emancipation of women is gaining greater recognition.

Adam McKie is a postgraduate in the Department of History at Royal Holloway. His first book, Women at the Wicket, was published in May 2018.

Centenary of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act: Celebrating the First Female MP, Constance Markievicz

Statue of Countess Constance Markievicz in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin

This month marks the centenary of the passing of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act. One significant outcome of the Act was the opportunity it opened to women over the age of 21 to stand for election as a Member of Parliament (MP). The honour of the first female MP goes to Irish revolutionary Constance Markievicz (1868-1927).

The eldest of five children, Constance hailed from an upper-class Irish Protestant family. She spent her childhood at Lissadell House in County Sligo and studied art in both London and Paris. In Paris, Constance immersed herself in the burgeoning avant-garde culture, which exposed her to ideas and politics that challenged traditional norms. It was also in Paris, at Académie Julian, where she met Count Casimir Dunin Markievicz, whom she married in 1900.

Soon after marriage, the couple moved to Dublin and became prominent participants in the city’s cultural scene. Constance showed a particular interest in the Irish revival occurring in Dublin as well as Irish nationalism. In 1908, she joined Sinn Féin and Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) and also helped to found Ireland’s first women’s nationalist journal Bean na hÉireann (Women of Ireland).

In 1909, Constance amicably separated from her husband. Afterwards, she continued to nurture her interest in Irish nationalism. By 1911, she had become an executive member of both Sinn Féin and the Daughters of Ireland, and also had her first brush with the law when protesting George V’s visit to Dublin, resulting in her arrest. During the First World War she further developed her political activism by opposing Irish participation in the allied war effort and co-founding the Irish Neutrality League in 1914.

In 1916, Constance took part in the Easter Rising campaign that called for an end to British rule in Ireland. She was subsequently arrested along with other known participants by the British government and was sentenced to death. However, her sentence was reduced to penal servitude for life because she was a woman. She only served fourteen months of this sentence before being released in the June 1917 amnesty prior to the start of the Irish Convention.

Constance continued to advocate for Irish independence after her release from prison. In 1918, she was arrested again along with fellow Sinn Féin members for her participation in an alleged plot with the German enemy – an act of treason. The plot was purported to include the transfer of money to purchase German bonds to assist in another rebellion in Ireland.

In the 1918 general election, Constance campaigned as a Sinn Féin candidate from her cell in London’s Holloway prison. She ended up winning the Dublin St Patrick division seat and became the first woman elected to the British parliament. Yet, despite this significant victory, she did not take her seat in the House of Commons and instead joined other Sinn Féin MPs in refusing to acknowledge the authority of the British government.

Constance remained politically active until her death of peritonitis at Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital in Dublin in July 1927. One hundred years after her achievement of becoming the first female MP, she is now honoured in a portrait at the House of Commons donated by the Irish parliament. During these centenary celebrations, we are reminded of her legacy and role in Anglo-Irish history.

By Erin Scheopner, a PhD student at Goldsmiths, University of London. A version of this blog post first appeared on the Citizens Project.

Bedford Centre Annual Lecture

Challenging the System: The Parliament Qualification of Women Act 1918 and the first Women Candidates

 By Professor Krista Cowman, University of Lincoln

Wednesday 14th November, 6-8pm, MOORE AUD

Lady Astors Election Campaign_ 1919

The Representation of the People Act that gave parliamentary votes to some British women from February 1918 was followed 9 months later with another act, that recognised their right to stand as MPs.  Seventeen women stood as candidates the following month.  Only one – Constance Markievicz –  was elected, but as a Sinn Fein candidate she did not take her seat and it was not until 1919 that the first woman MP, Nancy Astor, went to Westminster.

This lecture looks at the campaigns fought by women in the 1918 general election. It explains some of the legal and cultural obstacles they faced, then considers how women engaged with the electorate, collectively and individually as female candidates.

Krista Cowman is Professor of History at the University of Lincoln.  She has published widely on the women’s suffrage movement and on women in politics in Britain with books including ‘Women of the Right Spirit: Paid Organizers in the Women’s Social and Political Union’  and was the historical advisor to the feature film ‘Suffragette’.  During the suffrage centenary year she has been working with Vote 100 on ‘What Difference did the War Make?’ a project to commemorate ongoing suffrage work in the First World War.  Her current research looks at women’s everyday politics in urban Britain in the 1950s and 1960s.

All are welcome at the lecture and reception and there is no need to book. For more information please contact the Bedford Centre Co-ordinator Adam McKie.

Education, College Women and Suffrage: International Perspectives Conference 13-14 June 2018

Wellesley group in Suffrage parade in Philadelphia ,1915
Suffrage Parade (© Trustees for Wellesley College). Students march for suffrage in Philadelphia (1915),  College Women Open Access Portal: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education

Calling all Researchers, Lecturers, School Teachers, Archivists, Curators, and Heritage Professionals with interests in education and suffrage!  As a result of generous funding from the History of Education Society, we have extended our Call For Papers deadline and are now able to offer student bursaries (see below for details).  We are also currently exploring options to help support individual or group presentations by Teachers.  So do get get writing and send your proposals to Conference Administrator by Monday 27th November.  Our conference website will be going live very soon, but if you have any questions or concerns please contact Alex, or Bedford Centre co-Director Nicola Phillips, we are happy to help.

We are also delighted to announce that our Keynote Speakers will be:

Eric Pumroy, Director of Special Collections & the Albert M. Greenfield Digital Centre for the History Of Women’s Education (Bryn Mawr, USA) and former Director Jennifer Redmond, (Maynooth University, Ireland) who will speak about education, suffrage and their work on the Seven Sisters’ College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education portal.

Kay Whitehead, Professor of Education, (Flinders University, Australia) who will give a presentation on transnational teacher education and suffrage in Australia and Britain.

As part of  a Royal Holloway college wide series of events to commemorate suffrage at Royal Holloway in 2018, the Bedford Centre for the History of Women  teamed up with Winchester’s Centre for the History of Women’s Education to organise this international, interdisciplinary conference exploring the links between education and suffrage campaigns and the roles of college women in them.  The idea grew out of the Bedford Centre’s new project to digitise Bedford and Royal Holloway college student archive documents relating to suffrage (so watch this space for more about this fascinating new material!), which will be launched at the conference. Which is why we also want to highlight the existence and educational uses of similar material, textual and digital collections around the world.

We are running the conference over 13-14th June to commemorate the funeral of Royal Holloway Alumna Emily Wilding Davison after whom our stunning new library, which opened this month has been named.  Fellow RHUL alumnae attended her funeral procession, including Rose Lamartine Yates who was the first guard of honour to Emily Wilding Davison’s coffin.  She is pictured below, having tea with friends in her college room.

Rose Lamartine Yates in Study

Rose Lamartine Yates (bottom left) with friends in her study at Royal Holloway c. 1900.    RHC PH/271/3  [Copyright Royal Holloway Archives]


Pioneers of women’s higher or further education in different countries both supported and distanced themselves from contemporary suffrage campaigns for a range of reasons. Women who had benefitted from a college education that had introduced them to ideas of equality, democracy and citizenship also joined both sides of the suffrage debate as evidenced in letters, diaries, newspaper reports and other ephemera. The debates took place within nations and on the international stage, and college women travelled extensively in their private and professional lives exchanging views through their correspondence and in their memories.

The conference will provide a forum for those involved in teaching and researching suffrage and the history of women’s education (in schools, HE and heritage institutions) to discuss new directions. We invite submissions in a range of formats by archivists, public historians, researchers, curators and teachers to explore and discuss the under-researched links between education and suffrage.  Presentations may draw on a range of sources as they relate to the intersection of education and suffrage, including the use and interpretation of digital archives and material sources for research or educational purposes.

Proposals of c. 300 words are welcome for 10 or 20 minute individual presentations, or for workshops, panels, symposia, or posters on the themes of (but not limited to):

College Women’s engagement with suffrage or anti-suffrage
Institutional attitudes and responses to suffrage
Alumnae networks, Associations and suffrage
College Women’s inter/trans-national suffrage connections

Oral histories of education and suffrage
School and College magazines
Public Histories of suffrage and education
Educational archives and suffrage
Memorialising suffrage and college heritage

Teaching and Learning
Citizenship, Education and Suffrage
Education and Suffrage in film, music, drama and fiction
Using and accessing digital archives of education and suffrage
Teaching suffrage beyond national boundaries
Creating innovative suffrage resources & activities

Student Bursaries:  To apply please send your 300 wd proposal, plus a 1 page CV and supporting letter from your Supervisor or Lecturer.

The conference organisers very much look forward to hearing from you and welcoming you to Royal Holloway’s historic campus,

Dr Nicola Phillips and Dr Alex Windscheffel (Royal Holloway, University of London), Prof. Stephanie Spencer and Prof Joyce Goodman (University of Winchester)




The persistent presence of the eighteenth century female debtor

This fascinating post about the presence of women in C18th debtors prisons, shows that not only were they present in more significant numbers than previously thought but that not all were widowed or single. It suggests that the legal doctrine of coverture did not stop all wives being imprisoned. From my perspective, it would be interesting to see if some of these wives had been trading as alone (as a feme sole) and were therefore liable for their debts, but we would like to hear from anyone with other suggestions, so do get in touch if you have any thoughts on wider questions of women’s legal position or as debtors. Nicola Phillips

Early Modern Prisons

We’re pleased to present the following guest post by Alex Wakelam, a doctoral student in the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure studying eighteenth-century female insolvency and the functioning of debt imprisonment.

On the 11th December 1742, the young Samuel Foote arrived at London’s imposing Fleet debtors’ prison.[1] At the age of twenty-two the eccentric and extravagant failed lawyer had already been thrown out of Oxford under a cloud of debt, married into money, spent all his wife’s money in London’s premier coffee houses and tailors, and exhausted even the most patient of his creditors. He was thus committed to prison until he came up with the money he owed, amounting to over £650, the equivalent of about £60,000 today. Foote eventually wrote his way to solvency, cashing in on a highly public family scandal, subsequently taking the London comic scene by storm and…

View original post 2,106 more words

The First Women in Law:

Normanton and Heilbron

In 1949 Helena Normanton and Rose Heilbron, became the first female King’s Counsel     [image: The Guardian]

Celebrating the past to shape the future of women in law

Thursday 4th May, 6.30-8.30pm at Royal Holloway, University of London

2019 will mark 100 years since of the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act which removed any barrier to women working as lawyers on the grounds of their sex.  To celebrate this forthcoming anniversary the Bedford Centre has teamed up with the First 100 Years to run a public panel event and discussion at Royal Holloway, University of London in Egham, Surrey.  We are delighted to welcome three exciting speakers: Dana Denis Smith (First 100 Years), Dr Judith Bourne (Lecturer at St Mary’s University, Twickenham) and Charlotte Coleman,  an alumna of Royal Holloway’s Public History MA whose work on how female lawyers in the past can inspire the next generation you can see and hear at Women in Law: Inspired and Inspirations. All three will explore the  legal and social challenges women faced to become lawyers at the turn of the last century and to highlight how much women have achieved and how history can help ins51hoN4FCT6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_pire and shape the future of women entering the profession now.  Professor Rosie Meek (Head of Royal Holloway’s School of Law) will introduce the event which will be followed by a reception and book signing by Judith Bourne to mark the publication of her new book, Helena Normanton and the Opening of the Bar to Women. We will also celebrate the achievements of Mary Sykes, who graduated from Royal Holloway College in 1917.  In November 1922 women were permitted to sit the Solicitors’ Final Exam, which she passed with honours, and in 1923 she become one of the first female solicitors in England and Wales.

This free public event is open to all, but we are extending an especially warm invitation to Royal Holloway and Bedford College alumnae who have gone on to work in law and any college or 6th Form students who might be considering a legal career.  There will also be refreshments and an opportunity to talk to the panellists, so do join us for what promises to be an enjoyable evening and engaging discussion.  To reserve a place please go to

We would also welcome any comments relating to this topic and to the event itself so do let us know your thoughts and experiences.





Rethinking Gender: New Perspectives and Future Directions CFP

CFP Rethinking Gender conf Now that term is over there is more time to write and submit your abstracts for our cutting edge conference on Gender History by 8th April.  We want to hear about your ideas and research!

The Bedford Centre for the History of Women at Royal Holloway, University of London, is pleased to announce its inaugural conference ‘Rethinking Gender: New Perspective and Future Directions’ being held on Saturday, 10 of June 2017 at Royal Holloway. The conference aims to spark discussion regarding the current scholarship, as we move towards a more fluid and multifaceted understanding of gender, and explore the future direction of the field. We hope that the conference will open a platform for researchers in the early stages of their careers working on multiple aspects of gender that have previously been marginalised or overlooked.

We are pleased to announce that the keynote for this one-day conference will be given by Dr. Justin Bengry (Birkbeck, University of London). Dr. Justin Bengry is the founder and Editor of NOTCHES blog and a Research Fellow whose work focuses on England’s LGBTQ+ heritage and the history of sexuality. He is currently working on a monograph entitled ‘The Pink Pound: Capitalism and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Britain’.

We welcome proposals from researchers from all historical backgrounds, and we particularly invite submissions from postgraduate and early career researchers working in the fields of gender history and associated disciplines. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Sexuality
  • The body and related ideas of identity
  • LGBTQ+ histories
  • Emotional history
  • National/Racial histories
  • Femininities/masculinities
  • Expressions of gender
Please submit abstracts of 200-300 words to by 8 April 2017 to:
Lyndsay Galpin, Michaela Jones and Adam McKie
Co-ordinators of the Bedford Centre for the History for Women
 Royal Holloway, University of London
Surrey TW20 0EX