Rachel Beer first caught my attention some 20 years ago when I was trawling through Who Was Who looking for journalists. She was unusual because she was the editor of The Sunday Times in the 1890s, when no other national newspaper had a woman editor. She was also deeply conscious of her background, proud of being a member of the wealthy and important Jewish family of Sassoon.
This collection of essays edited by Debra Barrett-Graves provides new ways of interpreting the symbolic images through which Renaissance queens shaped their identity and royal authority. In bringing together different approaches and sources, the authors use the methodologies of several disciplines: literature, history, art history and cultural studies.
In recent years, historians have begun to explore the political experiences of Victorian women outside the well-trodden suffrage narrative. As a consequence, we have a far greater understanding of how certain women were able to negotiate, exploit and overcome the legal and ideological constraints society placed upon them.
Amanda E. Herbert’s fresh and important study of women’s alliances in early modern Britain opens with a quotation from Mary Evelyn listing the duties of elite women in the late 17th century. Reading as follows: ‘the care of children’s education, observing a husband’s commands, assisting the sick, relieving the poor, and being serviceable to our friends’ (p. 1).
While there has been sustained focus on modern women’s relationship to their culture and society, and, with the upcoming centennial commemorations of the First World War a surge of renewed interest in the art generated by the conflict, war-related imagery produced by women artists remains largely overlooked.
Both the problematic discourses of ‘professional/amateur’ and ‘public/private spheres’, and also the multifaceted hierarchies between the fine and the applied arts, have received substantial academic enquiry in the last thirty years. This is particularly true for the art historians researching the cultural activities of middle-class women in 19th-century Britain.
In the latest of our occasional Reviews in History podcast series, Jordan Landes talks to Amanda Herbert about her new book, Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain.
Amanda Herbert is assistant professor of history at Christopher Newport University.
Over years of supervising student dissertations I have been petitioned by many with a wish to undertake a study of gender (or more particularly women) and the Scottish Enlightenment. I usually caution against this. Gender relative to the Enlightenment is so very difficult to pin down. The Enlightenment, after all, wasn’t something that anyone knew they were doing or experiencing.
Containing a diverse range of essays on the experiences of early modern women from female investors to indentured servants, Challenging Orthodoxies: The Social and Cultural Worlds of Early Modern Women is an important contribution to the growing body of research on early modern female experience. First presented at a conference held in honour of Hilda L.
Susan Doran is an established, well-respected Elizabethan historian, and her most recent book confirms that she can successfully analyze Elizabeth in ways accessible and interesting to both an academic audience and a popular one.