First Ever LGBT History Festival – Women & the United Kingdom: Part 1

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LGBT hist month

first LGBT his fest image

 

Celebrating all the way, Manchester at Valentine’s weekend was the site of the path-breaking first LGBT history festival. And women were high profile in this event ‘ Uncovering & celebrating our past to enlighten our present & thereby guiding our creation of a more inclusive & equitable future.’

Organising LGBT History Month is always a miracle, each year. And organising Schools Out year around is also a feat. A festival –with all its volunteers and battles with lack of funding, is a mega-feat beyond compare. So it’s absolutely right that equalities campaigner Sue Sanders, one of the three key organisers (and the crucial force for decades behind LGBT history month and Schools Out)  has been made Emeritus Professor of the Harvey Milk Institute. Stuart Milk, the nephew of the San Francisco pioneer, was there to present it to Sue.

Sue sanders and stuart milk

 Professor Sue Sanders receives her award from Stuart Milk.

Professor Sanders said she had ‘never gained a degree and even failed … [the] 11-plus as a result of … dyslexia.’ So she was honoured to get this award for her ‘sustained and distinguished service to the LGBT community.’

One of the key venues of the festival was the Joyce Layland LGBT Centre. It’s named after the late Joyce, one of the founders of the Manchester Parents’ Group. The mother of a gay son she campaigned indefatigably for LGB rights community in Manchester.

Joyce Layland pic

The late Joyce Layland: LGBT parents’ solidarity

LGBT History month embraces the diversity of people, so women and men with every interest and identity were there. Among the women’s history events were the following.

The radical 1980s: Greenham, music, labour struggles and black rights

Prominently featured were sessions by speakers who saw the radical 1980s as the start of many revolutionary changes for LBT women:

  • Rose Bush talked about diversity in Rebel Dykes of the 1980s, using films, photos and audio interviews. She summarised that history in Britain from her perspective: ‘Before there were queer activists, before there were Riot Grrls there were the Rebel Dykes of London. We were young, we were feminists, we were anarchists, we were punks. We lived together in squats in Hackney and Brixton and at Greenham Camp (Green and Blue gates only). We went to political demos every Saturday, we created squatted creches and bookshops and Wild Women Weekends (a forerunner of Ladyfests), feminist newspapers like Feminaxe and magazines such as Shocking Pink. We had bands like Poison Girls and Well Oiled Sisters. We ran sex positive Lesbian S/M clubs such as Chain Reactions, we were trans-friendly, we worked in the sex industry. We talked politics. We fought, we made up, we created and we loved.

 

  • Sheila Standard’s focus was Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp 1984. In 1979 when the radio announced the First Strike, American Cruise Nuclear missiles were to be based at Greenham Common USAF Airbase, Sheila ‘was gripped with fear and a sense of inevitable disaster, and felt powerless to do anything. The worst bit was her mum lived near Greenham, and would “get it first!” However … [quickly], all over the country, people started to organise into anti-missile groups, and she joined Withington Against the Missiles, a local group in Manchester, and accidentally got involved in an NVDA (Non-Violent Direct Action) protest becoming one of the “Bunker 4”.Then something truly epic happened … Greenham … thousands of women discovering the power of working together, singing, being silly, the wit and repartee, fear and bravery, that goes with bringing fences crashing down, to the mockery of militarism. A women’s movement that conflicted and then embraced sexuality, and stood up to the hateful press, and “respectable society”, embracing freedom, and our right to struggle against the holocaust.’

 

  • Cath Booth’s session was Shock Horror! Lesbians and Gays Support the Printworkers. She discussed Lesbians and Gays Support the Printworkers, the London-based group who in 1986 supported the printworkers sacked by newspaper owner Rupert Murdoch, owner of the ‘virulently anti-gay’ Sun. Sun. Their story is another version of the LGSM support of the miners’ strike, now the celebratory centre of the movie Pride.linda bellos

 Linda Bellos: Black History Month founder

Veteran activist, author and broadcaster Linda Bellos gave a personal account of some of her historic achievements in community politics since the mid-1970s. ‘She came out as a lesbian and became a feminist in the late 1970’s. She joined the Spare Rib Collective in 1981 and demanded that lesbians be encouraged to be out. In the following years she helped organised the first Black Feminist and the First Black Lesbian Conferences. She argued strongly against the notion of a “hierarchy of oppression”. In 1987, as Chair of the London Strategic Policy Unit, she was responsible for introducing Black History Month to the UK. She has become a leading authority on equality and human rights law and its practical application across the public sector. [Now] Chair of the Institute of Equality and Diversity Practitioners … [she] was awarded an OBE for her services to diversity in 2007.’

(Continued Part 2)

Jo Stanley (c) February 2015

Dr Jo Stanley is a writer and historian specialising in gender and the sea. Among the seafarers she’s explored are cross-dressing women ‘cabin boys’ and GBTQI males. Her next book is From Cabin ‘Boys’ to Captains: 250 years of women at sea, History Press, 2016.

 

With thanks to the LGBT History Festival for the pictures –by  Nicolas Chinardet –  and press releases, from which these details were extracted, and the Joyce Layland LGBT Centre for her picture.

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Reclaiming Herstory – Affirming & Celebrating Women’s History Sites

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The US National Trust for Historic Preservation is ‘now accepting nominations for 2015 America’s 11 most endangered historic places list’. The aim in 2015 is to ensure that historic places associated with women’s place in history can be celebrated and affirmed – and saved! The website for the Trust observes that for more than twenty-five years, the endangered historic places list:

… has highlighted important examples of the nation’s architectual, cultural and natural heritage … at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.

In launching the 2015 search, President of the Trust, Stephanie Meeks, noted that historic places ‘are a tangible reminder of who we are as a nation’. She added that the Trust’s annual listing of historic places ‘has helped shine a spotlight on threatened historic places throughout the nation’. This  ensures not only their preservation, but ‘galvaniz[es] local support for the preservation of other unique, irreplaceable treasures that make our nation and local communities special’.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s Home in Hyde Park

Since 1988, over 250 ‘threatened one-of-a-kind historic treasures have been identified’ on America’s most endangered historic places list – urban, rural, Native American, sports places, communities, single or stand-alone buildings. In 2015, it’s time for places specifically associated with women to come to the fore, as:

… the list spotlights historic places across America … facing a range of threats including insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy. The designation has been a powerful tool for raising awareness and rallying resources to save endangered sites from every region of the country.

Because women are too often overlooked in history, it is inevitable that places associated with women, women’s activism and struggles, women’s political stands and women’s suffering and celebration, anguish and achievement, are equally ignored. In recognising this, the Trust notes that places added to the list:

… need not be [traditionally] famous, but … must be significant within their own cultural context, illustrate important issues in preservation and have a need for immediate action to stop or reverse serious threats. All nominations are subject to an extensive, rigorous vetting process.

Chartered by Congress in 1949, the Trust gains financial support ‘entirely [from] private contributions’ and takes ‘direct on-the-ground action when historic buildings and sites are threatened’. This serves to support the building of ‘vibrant, sustainable communities’. The Trust ‘advocate[s] with governments to save America’s heritage’, striving ‘to create a cultural legacy as diverse as the nation itself so that [everyone] can take pride in [their] part of the American story’.

With over 300,000 members and supporters, and partnering ‘with hundreds of preservation organizations from coast to coast’, the  Trust is ‘recognized as the leader of the historic preservation movement in the United States’. 2015 is the year to ensure that women’s records are recognised as not only a significant but a central part of US history. The Trust calls for entries, nominations and positive suggestions to recognise women in US history – from all backgrounds, all states and territories, all centuries, all fields of endeavour. The call is on for women to come to the fore, for those who care about US history and herstory, for those who recognise women as equal participants in the building of the country to act! Don’t let another year go by without ensuring the recognition of women through places, spaces, communities, buildings and sites.

Material provided by US National Trust for Historic Preservation

with brief additions by Jocelynne A. Scutt

 

Ellen White, Prolific Writer

‘Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained’

A Brief History of the National Trust

  • In the late 1940s, leaders of a fledgling American preservation movement recognized the need for a national organization to provide support and encouragement for grassroots preservation efforts. In response, a small group set to work on the establishment of a National Trust for Historic Preservation. Their efforts bore fruit when President Truman signed legislation creating the National Trust on October 26, 1949.
  • The founders envisioned an organization whose primary purpose would be the acquisition and administration of historic sites. True to this vision, in 1951 the Trust assumed responsibility for its first property: Woodlawn Plantation in northern Virginia. Twenty-seven other historic sites, ranging from the 18th-century Drayton Hall in South Carolina to the Glass House in Connecticut, have come become National Trust Historic Sites in the years since.
  • Both the National Trust and the preservation movement entered a new phase with the 1966 passage of the National Historic Preservation Act. Among other important provisions, the Act provided federal funding support for the Trust’s work. After 30 years, this federal appropriation was terminated by mutual agreement. Today the Trust relies on private-sector contributions for support.
  • Outreach programs have continued to assume importance as the organization has grown. The Preservation Services Fund was created in 1969 to provide financial assistance to local preservation projects. The first field office opened in San Francisco in 1971. There are now 13 in 12 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Demonstration projects soon followed: the National Main Street Center, which emphasizes preservation as a tool for revitalizing traditional business districts, in 1980; Community Partners, which employs a similar approach in historic residential neighborhoods, in 1994. Other special programs were created to focus on rural preservation (1979), heritage tourism (1989) and statewide organization development (1994).
  • Complementing outreach, the Trust continued to emphasize education. Publication of a magazine (today called Preservation) began in 1952. The first Preservation Honor Awards, recognizing individuals, organizations and projects that represent the best in preservation, were presented in 1971. The Trust has championed the annual nationwide celebration of Preservation Week since 1973. The yearly list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, first issued in 1988, has become a highly effective means of spotlighting treasures in trouble and rallying efforts to save them.
  • In 2011, the National Trust announced a dynamic new program called National Treasures, through which the organization will identify significant threatened places across the United States, and take direct action to save them. National Treasures are part of a new and focused effort to bring more Americans into the preservation movement, and demonstrate the relevance of preserving the nation’s historic places.
  • Today, the National Trust has a staff of 300 employees based at headquarters in Washington, D.C., in field offices nationwide, and at historic sites in 15 states. With 750,000 members and supporters, today’s National Trust has become the organization its founders envisioned: the vigorous leader of an expansive movement that is changing the face of America.

National Trust for Historic Preservation Now Accepting Nominations for 2015 America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places List Contact pr@savingplaces.org or 202-588-6141 Follow the National Trust @PresNation and 11 Most list #11Most For additional information, e-mail 11Most@savingplaces.org or call 202.588.6141. To learn more about the program and to submit a nomination, visit:  www.preservationnation.org/11most http://www.preservationnation.org/who-we-are/press-center/press-releases/2015/national-trust-for-historic.html (accessed 4 February 2015)

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Strong Willed & Courageous … Margaret Schencke – A Woman of Fortitude

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Margaret Schencke (Gretel in Germany, Margot in Britain) was born in 1888 in Zwickau in Saxony, Germany. She was the only child of her father’s second marriage, but she had several half-brothers and sisters from her father’s previous marriage.

Margot was our grandmother/ great grandmother.

After a huge storming row with her parents, with whom she had quite a tempestuous time in her later teenage years, Margot came to England. We think it was about 1908. Margot was strong willed and courageous. She stayed in Chelsea as a lodger in the house of William Montgomery Smith who was married to our Great (-Great) Aunt Margaret née Dixon.

Just after arriving in England Margot become involved with supporting the Suffragette movement.

In 1975 Margot was idly flicking through the Sunday Times only to find a picture of her in Holloway Prison. It was only then that she wrote to Midge MacKenzie describing her experiences that led to her going to Prison in 1913. It wasn’t something that was spoken about, and it was only later that her family would talk about it with huge pride.

In her letter to Midge MacKenzie Margot described herself as small fry and no shining light of the Suffragette movement. She sold Suffragette papers at Hyde Park Corner and outside Whiteley’s in Bayswater. This exercise was marred by well-dressed men coming up to her and making the ‘most beastly sexual remarks’. Margot ‘was not amused.’ On another occasion she was holding the suffragette flag whilst a clergymen gave his address in Hyde Park. ‘Suddenly a lot of hooligans came on the scene, took my flag and tried to get hold of me. It was most terrifying but then suddenly I found myself held by two policemen and two on horseback got rid of the crowds, all four led me out of the park and put me on the bus.’

Margot described the events that led to her arrest: ‘When Mrs Pankhurst was arrested there was a protest march of suffragettes which I joined and I decided then to make my personal protest by throwing a stone through a Home Office window. I discussed this with two women (sisters), I walked with but did not know. They were most helpful, took me to their home and let me telephone home to say I might not be back. They gave me a stone. Then one of them also made a telephone call. Later it emerged that that they were spies and had warned Scotland Yard. So a detective waited kindly for me. For personal reasons I could not go to prison in my own name, so I became Margaret Scott and I got a one month sentence.’

The personal reasons that Margot described was that she was German and didn’t want to be deported. She liked England and wanted to remain. Indeed she was about to get married to our Grandfather/Great-Grandfather Richard Dixon. Margot managed to hide that she was German from the Court and prison authorities.

Margot married Richard in July 1914 just before the outbreak of the First World War. He also lived with his sister in Chelsea.

Margaret Scott (Margot Schenke) is on the left

During her time in Holloway the Prison Authorities took photographs of the Suffragettes, the picture of her together with three others is one of the most often published. In her letter of 1975, Margot mentions several women who she met whilst in Prison: Olive Hoskin, an artist who carved the wooden chair in her cell, Margaret McFarlane, Mrs Despard and Jane Short (prison name Rachel Peace) who was on hunger strike.

Margot left the Suffragette movement when war broke out. She recalls ‘Then the war broke out, I was convinced that the Suffragettes had really now won their case and the vote would soon be granted. I lost all connection with the movement and being married had my own busy life to live.’

Margot stayed in Britain for the rest of her life. She had two children, Barbara and Margaret who got to vote. She died in Ealing, London in 1983.

An important lesson Margot has taught (further to not to trust the police on a demonstration), is not to waste your vote, it’s too important to throw away on not voting or voting for the party you don’t want to see govern.

Becky Jarvis and Jo Sibert (c) January 2015

Becky Jarvis has followed in Margot’s footsteps and is a campaigner who currently works for OPEN (Online Progressive Engagement Network), an alliance of the world’s leading national digital campaigning organizations. Previously she worked for 38 Degrees where she campaigned to get out the vote, alongside other issues of social justice.

Jo Sibert is Emeritus Professor of Child Health, Cardiff University.

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Young Adult Literature – Censoring Teenage Sexual Autonomy

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Young Adult Literature as a genre came to be a ‘publishing phenomenon’ only as late as the 1960s and 1970s. A sub-genre of so-called ‘problem novels’ quickly emerged, most often aimed at young women and focusing on ‘divorce, drugs, alcohol- or problems associated with social life, sexual experience, and physical development.’[1] By the early 1980s, writers including Judy Blume and Norma Klein, who wrote in an adolescent rhetorical style and explored bodily, sexual, and reproductive themes that spoke directly to girls’ experiences, began gaining recognition for their literary contributions.[2] However, at the same time, others began efforts to have such works removed from bookshop and library shelves and kept away from young eyes.

The emergence of this branch of morality policing is not surprising given the context of Reagan’s Right in the 1980s. Judy Blume describes how ‘almost overnight, following the presidential election of 1980, the censors crawled out of the woodwork, organized and determined.’[3] One of the most notable aspects of this ‘wave of censorship’ was its unification of local, state, and national levels of discourse. National conservative groups including the Moral Majority and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum engaged with conservative thinkers in libraries and bookshops by encouraging more attention to what children and teenagers were reading.[4] Independently, ‘other objections to books were…of local origin.’[5] In November of 1984, trustees of the school district of Peoria, Illinois voted to ban three novels by Judy Blume (Blubber, Deenie, and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t) from the city’s public school libraries, ‘on the ground that the books’ strong language and sexual content were inappropriate for children under thirteen who might gain access to them.’[6]  A Peoria resident defended this decision in the Southeast Missourian: “It’s not as if we’re taking all the Judy Blume books and putting them in a bonfire.”[7] The assertion here was that what was happening was not total censorship in a way that impinged on First Amendment rights or echoed McCarthy era communist witch-hunts, but merely a normal concern for ‘childhood innocence.’

Other documented cases of censorship of young adult literature are demonstrative of what censors were reacting to within these texts. In a 1993 speech, Judy Blume recalled giving three copies of her 1970 coming-of-age novel Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret to her son’s elementary school, then later realizing that they had ‘never reached the shelves’ as ‘the male principal decided on his own that they were inappropriate for elementary school readers because of the discussion of menstruation…never mind that many fifth and sixth grade girls already had their periods.’[8] Blume cites a reason commonly given for wanting to ban her books as ‘sexuality (which means anything to do with puberty).’ [9] It might be assumed that these were in fact specific reactions to the stories being about young women acting with sexually agency. Individual complaints substantiate this. A male principal deemed Blume’s novel Deenie ‘unsuitable for young readers because in the book Deenie masturbates… It would be different if it was a boy.’[10] Norma Klein’s experience of censorship also reflects the highly gendered nature of the critique. In her essay ‘On Being a Banned Writer,’ Klein discussed a letter she received in complaint of her work in 1983. The writer of the letter was shocked that, in the novel Breaking Up, a fifteen-year-old girl ‘dates without asking her parents’ permission,’ and ‘makes a big deal about how special it was that she “saved” herself for a boy she really loved…I always thought girls were to save themselves for the man they married!’ [11] A pervasive consternation among such critics was that the books would influence the behavior of young readers: ‘challengers seemed to believe that what kids read about, they were sure to do….(it) represents a deep fear of the power, sexual and otherwise, of the young.’[12]

The novels themselves give more clues as to what might have triggered this level of censorship. The greatest influence on the young, female characters is undoubtedly women’s liberation. In Klein’s Beginner’s Love, the protagonist muses: ‘Leda says if men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament. She read that in some feminist magazine.’[13] The plots reflect what Joan Jacobs Brumberg has called the ‘brief moment’ in American history where there were ‘few sexual constraints on sexually active girls.’[14] In the novels by Blume, Klein, et al, ‘two nice kids, in love, have sexual intercourse and no one dies.’[15] In both Blume’s Forever and Klein’s It’s Ok if you Don’t Love Me, the male love interests are the ones left alone, the girls having moved on and embodied the traditionally ‘masculine’ relationship role. The young women in these books enjoy sex, and their experiences are discussed in detail. Crucially, they enjoy sex as just one component of a rounded lifestyle, as with Blume’s Sybil: ‘Sybil Davison has a genius IQ and has been laid by at least six different guys.’[16] In flagrant disregard of conservatives’ disapproval of sexual education, Blume and Klein wrote their characters as constantly seeking this out, as with Katherine in Forever, who talks through her contraceptive options with her grandmother. They have an almost utopian level of support from their families, teachers and friends in their quest for sexual knowledge. However, this reveals urban and class dimensions that may have alienated more readers than just potential censors. Much of the freedom the young women are afforded is due to their upper-middle-class backgrounds and their East Coast location. For instance, Forever’s Katherine is able to take public transport in to Manhattan to visit Planned Parenthood and obtain birth control on her own. This critique links this debate to the wider dispute over the historical significance of the sexual revolution; as bell hooks writes in Feminist Theory from Margin to Center, ‘most women did not have the leisure, mobility, etc. to be sexually “free.”[17]

Ultimately, the sexual freedom experienced by the young women in these books was so at odds with the ubiquitous desire to silence discourse on teenage female sexuality in the 1980s that it is unsurprising that these novels were so widely contested at this moment in history.

Charlie Jeffries (c) January 2015

Charlie Jeffries is in the second year of a PhD in History at the University of Cambridge. Her doctoral project examines shifting attitudes towards teenage female sexuality in America from 1981-2008. For the Spring of 2015, she is based in Boston undertaking archival research funded by the Dissertation Grant at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, and as an exchange student at Boston University. She has an undergraduate degree in American Studies from King’s College London with a year abroad at Georgetown University, and a master’s degree in Women’s Studies from the University of Oxford. Between her master’s and PhD, she spent a year as a Teaching Fellow at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh, where she taught modules in world history, and ran a queer theory reading group and a feminist film seminar.

 

[1]Lucy Rollin, Twentieth-Century Teen Culture by the Decades: A Reference Guide (Westport; London: Greenwood Press, 1999), p. 266.

[2]Mallory Szymanski, ‘Adolescence, Literature, and Censorship: Unpacking the Controversy Surrounding Judy Blume,’ The Neo-Americanist 3 (Spring/Summer 2007), p. 6.

[3]Judy Blume, Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers (New York: Simon Pulse, 2001) p. 5.

[4]‘Book Banning in America,’ The New York Times, December 20, 1981.

[5]Leonard S. Marcus, The Minders of Make Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children’s Literature (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008), p. 303.

[6]Marcus, Minders, p. 303.

[7]‘School Board Reverse Blume Book Ban,’ Southeast Missourian, December 6, 1984.

[8]Judy Blume ‘Is Puberty a Dirty Word? (Adapted from a speech given at conference, ‘The Sex Panic: Women, Censorship, and Pornography’ May 7-8, 1993), New York Law School Law Review 38 (1993), p. 38.

[9]Blume, ‘Is Puberty a Dirty Word?’ p. 38.

[10]Blume, ‘Is Puberty a Dirty Word?’ p. 38.

[11]Norma Klein, ‘On Being a Banned Writer,’ The Lion and the Unicorn 10 (1986), p. 19.

[12]Rollins, Teen Culture, p. 301.

[13]Norma Klein, Beginner’s Love (London: Pan Horizons, 1986), p. 168.

[14]Joan Jacobs Brumberg, The Body Project: An Intimate History of Teenage Girls (New York: Vintage Books, 1998), p. 185.

[15]Peter Gorner interview with Judy Blume, ‘The Giddy/sad, Flighty/solid Life of Judy Blume’, Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1985.

[16]Judy Blume, Forever, (London: Pan Horizons, 1986), p. 5.

[17]bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (Cambridge: South End Press, 2000), p. 148.

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Who Was Miss Hooper?

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ms hooper

Who was Miss Hooper?

 Copyright: Larry Herman

 

My parents met Gertrude Hooper when they were out walking in the Preseli Mountains, in 1970, and my father photographed her with her sheepdog in the snow that day.

Caught at that moment by the camera, she’s always appeared afraid of any contact. She makes an intriguing sight, wrapped up against the elements. You can’t see her face, but this isn’t the only source of mystery – there is also wonder about what she’s doing out there in the hills and how she can even survive, seemingly against the odds. A woman alone in the bitter cold, she seems almost to be a relic from the past.

Gertrude was around 66 years old when the photo was taken and she was living in the fireplace (they say) of the nearby farm – by all accounts the only part of the house that was robust at this stage as the rest had been neglected for decades by then and was dilapidated.

The Women’s History Network told me that many other farmhouses in the area had also fallen into disrepair and been abandoned as industrial changes took hold over the 20th century and took their toll on farming.

For hundreds of years, small scale sheep farmers and graziers have lived out in the Preseli Mountains surviving bitter conditions to make a scarce living and forming a part of the scattered rural communities of Pembrokeshire. Historians have told me that across England and Wales, many small farmers and graziers are women, but that they are often widows, which is not the case with Miss Hooper.

When Gertrude died in 1985 she was 80, and she was buried in Little Newcastle, not a mile from where she was born. By then she had lived for almost fifty years on her own in the hills where my parents had that encounter with her years before. She had lived through a tumultuous time, with the century’s world wars and far-reaching socio economic shifts in the region. One small life, through which history can be told.

Melissa Rees Herman (c) December 2014

Melissa Rees Herman is an independent filmmaker, making a film based on the life of Pembrokeshire sheep farmer Miss Gertrude Hooper. The film is Melissa Rees Herman’s attempt to put together some of the pieces of the elusive Miss Hooper, who lived an extraordinary life.

Please get in touch with Melissa Herman if you have any information about Gertrude Agnes Hooper (1905-1985). She is also interested in Pembrokeshire life during the first half of the 20th Century, particularly women and farming, women on their own, education, culture and the Eisteddfod, and especially first hand accounts.

Melissa Rees Herman’s email address is Storyproject@live.com

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UNRELENTING BACKLASH – Depoliticising Male Violence Against Women: Part 3

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Cont from Parts 1 & 2

The politics of male sexuality has been successfully obliterated and the term “sexual consent” is supposedly key to ensuring male sexual violence is not inadvertently (sic) perpetrated against women and girls! Conveniently erased is the fact girls and boys do not grow up in a vacuum; they are inundated with incessant misogynistic messages of male sexual entitlement to females via mainstream media, men’s pornography industry and popular culture. Men’s male supremacist legal institutions continue to justify/excuse/deny male accountability by claiming existing laws on rape are “gender neutral” rather than created from the male lived experience. And it is thought that focusing on teaching girls and boys individually about “sexual consent” will somehow magically erase embedded institutional structures and systems which normalize male eroticisation of sexual power over women and girls and uphold dominant beliefs that males are never accountable for their sexual actions, behavior or choices!

Implementation of gender neutrality is an insidious form of male denial of institutional and individual male domination and control over women. Currently in the United Kingdom specialist feminist refuge services are being denied central government funding and instead non-specialist generic service providers are being awarded contracts by central government to operate these refuges. Some areas of the UK have already experienced existing refuge centers being shut down, leaving women with nowhere to go. Instead non-specialist services are taking over and they are generic meaning there is no recognition whatsoever that intimate partner violence is not symmetrical whereby equal numbers of women and men are subjected to the same violence. The politics of how and why innumerable men inflict violence in all its forms on their female partners is being erased by claims of “gender neutrality”.

Why is this happening? Sadly various feminist organisations have fragmented and there is currently no collective activism opposing male controlled government policies which refuse to accept women and men are not symmetrically situated or have equal access to socio-economic means. Without a strong feminist collective this enables male supremacist policies to be enacted without any opposition. Also, as a result of dependence on central government funding, these once grassroots feminist organisations which not only provided specialist support to female survivors of male violence, but also operated to campaign for real social change concerning male violence against women had to cease this function and instead become “State funded liberal agencies…..promoting self-help and healing.” (Mardorssian, 2002: 771).

Men’s demands for gender neutrality/formal gender equality are formulated on the male presumption that women and men should be equally treated according to standards developed from the life experiences of men, when in reality women and men are differently situated. (Kaye and Tolmie: 1998: 166) Men’s rights/interests are equated with defining their own interests as those of society as a whole. This is why men believe they are not a “group or gender” because their sex is the generic standard for humanity whereas women are “other”. Therefore, men’s interests and perspectives are perceived as “neutral” whereas women’s interests/rights are biased. (Johnson: 2005: 157)

The situation concerning pandemic male violence against women and girls is dire because men’s backlash against women has been ongoing for more than two decades. Not only has male violence against women been successfully depoliticised individualism is now dominant wherein men claim that women and men are symmetrically situated and women magically have limitless choices and agency. Each act of male violence against women supposedly happens because the woman made a wrong choice or failed to enact her agency! This ensures the focus is on individual women rather than how society operates whereby male created institutions and structures remain in place and maintain male domination over women.

How do we challenge this cacophony of different voices all claiming that women have achieved equality with men, men are the real victims, violence is a human problem not a gendered political one, etc.? One of the central issues is the fact many feminist organisations have capitulated to men’s demands and men’s interests because they know men will punish them for challenging male power. But these feminist organizations have forgotten our herstory which tells us that an individual woman cannot successfully challenge male power but women enmass will change the world! Radical feminists have to keep on speaking the truth about male violence against women as men won’t willingly relinquish their institutional and individual power over women.

Jennnifer Drew (c) November 2014

References:

Phillips D. and Henderson, D. 1999: A Discourse Analysis of male violence against women. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 69, 1:116-21.

Strauss, M.A. 1990: Physical Violence In American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,154 families, ed. M.A.

Strauss and R.J. Gelles 75-91, New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction Publishers.

Kaye, M. and Tolmie, J. 1998: The Rhetorical Devices of Fathers’ Rights Groups, Melbourne University Law Review 22: 162-94.

Johnson, A.G. The Gender Knot: Unravelling Our Patriarchal Legacy, Rev. ed. Philadelphia, Temple University Press.

“UNRELENTING BACKLASH – How MaleViolence Against Women Continues To Be Depoliticised” at: http://www.global-sisterhood-network.org/content/view/2940/59/  ~~~~~~~~ http://www.rainandthunder.org/ Rain and Thunder: Issue 60 (Fall/Winter 2014): Themed Issue on Violence Against Women: Strategizing a Radical Response for the 21st Century

Continued from ‘Unrelenting Backlash …’ Part 2, http://womenshistorynetwork.org/blog/?p=4427 (accessed 1 January 2015)

 

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UNRELENTING BACKLASH – Depoliticising Male Violence Against Women: Part 2

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Continued from ‘Unrelenting Backlash – Depoliticising Male Violence Against Women: Part 1′

Likewise academic reports, papers, and research findings all invisibilise the male agent and perpetrator. Philips and Henderson (1999) analysed a sample of articles on the subject of male violence published in popular and scientific journals between 1994 and 1996. Out of a total of 165 summaries and 11 articles the phrase “male violence” was mentioned only eight times whereas words such as rape, abuse, violence and domestic violence appeared 1,044 times. These researchers also noted that the sex of the victim was commonly stated by words such as “female or woman” and “abuser/perpetrator” was stated 327 times rather than the words “man/male”.

Phillips and Henderson’s conclusion was that “when the sex of the perpetrator is not specified and the violence described only includes the identity of the female victim; male violence against women is constituted as a problem of women.” Moreover in the articles considered in this study, code words such as domestic violence, marital violence, and family violence used to describe the exclusively male violence against women actually convey the message that women are as violent as men.” (Philips and Henderson, 1999: 20). Therefore it is acceptable to talk about violence but never about “male violence”.

One of the central tenets arising from the Women’s Movement in the 1970’s was naming men as those responsible for committing violence against women because feminists recognised that not naming the perpetrators ensures society’s focus is on scrutinising women and blaming them for supposedly provoking or causing male violence against them. Naming men as the agents responsible directly challenges male power over women.

The Women’s Movement sought to eradicate misogynistic male created myths which blamed women for male sexual violence committed against them. However, pandemic women blaming has once more become dominant and widely accepted as “common sense.” Men’s rights activists and non-feminists have successfully promoted the lie that male sexual predators are the “real victims” and women are the sexual predators/perpetrators!

The infamous Steubenville Rape Case is not unique, rather it is a snapshot of what commonly happens wherein patriarchal reversal is enacted to hide male accountability. Males charged with sexual crimes against females are portrayed as “the innocent victims whose lives have been destroyed by nasty vindictive, lying women/girls who falsely accuse innocent males of rape/male sexual violence perpetrated against them.” Rapes and male sexual violence against women and girls are, according to male rape apologists, as rare as the unicorn, whereas females falsely charging males with rape/male sexual violence is a pandemic! In addition public service messages emanating from various government institutions and mainstream media articles are all fixated on curtailing women’s right of freedom of movement and holding them personally accountable for their own safety.

Propaganda messages to women and girls tell them they must not go out alone after dark and they must not wear revealing clothing because this provokes males into subjecting them to male sexual violence. Women must not consume alcohol in public because female consumption of alcohol tells men “the woman is sexually available to them”! Any woman who is attacked by a male anywhere irrespective of whether or not it was in the public sphere or private domain she, not the male perpetrator, is accountable because she failed to enact sufficient safety measures!

The Women’s Movement in the 1970’s challenged pandemic female victim blaming and analysed how and why innumerable males commit sexual violence against women and girls and deny their accountability. Male sexuality as a social construction was subjected to feminist analysis and feminists recognised men accord themselves male (pseudo) sex right of access to females by claiming their sex is not accountable, because women alone are responsible for gate keeping supposedly insatiable and uncontrollable male sexual desire. The Women’s Movement challenged male myths that “rape is about power not sex” because feminists recognised rape and male sexual violence against women is overwhelmingly about male eroticisation of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls. Many feminist organisations specialising on challenging (male) violence against women and girls focus solely on calling for educational reforms in order to teach girls and boys about “sexual consent”.

Jennifer Drew (c) November 2014

Continued from ‘Unrelenting Backlash – Depoliticising Male Violence Against Women: Part 1′ http://womenshistorynetwork.org/blog/?p=4424 (accessed 27 December 2014)

References

Phillips D. and Henderson, D. 1999: ‘A Discourse Analysis of male violence against women’. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 69, 1:116-21.

Strauss, M.A. 1990: Physical Violence In American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,154 families, ed. M.A. Strauss and R.J. Gelles, pp. 75-91, New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction Publishers.

Kaye, M. and Tolmie, J. 1998: ‘The Rhetorical Devices of Fathers’ Rights Groups’, Melbourne University Law Review 22: 162-94.

Johnson, A.G. The Gender Knot: Unravelling Our Patriarchal Legacy, Rev. ed. Philadelphia, Temple University Press.

Thank you to Dr Lynette J. Dumble for permission to reprint this article from GSN (Global Sisterhood Network) and to ‘Rain and Thunder’ for the original publication of the article by Jennifer Drew.

“UNRELENTING BACKLASH – How Male Violence Against Women Continues To Be Depoliticised” at: http://www.global-sisterhood-network.org/content/view/2940/59/ ~~~~~~~~ http://www.rainandthunder.org/ Rain and Thunder: Issue 60 (Fall/Winter 2014): Themed Issue on Violence Against Women: Strategizing a Radical Response for the 21st Century

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UNRELENTING BACKLASH – Depoliticising Male Violence Against Women: Part 1

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The Women’s Movement of the 1970’s succeeded in making male violence against women a visible political issue, showing how men employ violence to maintain and justify male domination over all women. It is not necessary for all men to commit violence against women because the incessant threat of male violence supported by men’s institutions and structures is sufficient in itself to maintain male domination over all women. Feminists during the 1970’s revealed how individual violent men are accorded impunity to inflict violence upon women and how male controlled institutions such as the law and male controlled political systems operate to justify, excuse and deny systemic male violence against women and girls. Radical feminists during the 1970’s created rape crisis centers and women’s refuges to support women who had been subjected to male violence. These rape crisis centers and refuges were not merely “service centers”;   rather they were grass roots organisations enabling women collectively to campaign against male violence against women and demand real political and social changes to curb men’s socio-economic power over women.

As a result new laws and social practices were introduced by governments which were designed to prevent male violence against women and provide justice for the female victims of male violence. However, these laws and social practices have all to commonly been ineffective and instead are used to blame the female victims and mitigate male violence against women.

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The male backlash against feminist demands for an end to male violence against women was swiftly enacted. Forty years after the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970’s, currently we are in a situation where men’s rights activists are using myriad ways to maintain men’s fiction that male violence against women is not a political method of maintaining and justifying male supremacy over women on a global scale. Whilst it is now acceptable for society to openly recognise that (male) violence against women exists, there is the corollary that each report is portrayed as just another isolated incident and/or the male perpetrators were in thrall to uncontrollable emotions. Lethal intimate male partner violence against women is reported by mainstream media as “a family tragedy” because the male perpetrator was “a family man driven to despair by outside influences such as debt, unemployment and/or marital disputes”. The term “marital dispute” implies that the female victim was partially responsible for causing her own death because she had a dispute with her male/ex male partner. Such claims mitigate and erase men’s choice and men’s agency to take lethal revenge against their female/ex female partner and/or her children.

Mainstream media ensures there is  no “connecting the dots” by asking why do not these men leave and move on with their lives? Or why do they make the choice to murder their female/ex female partners and/or her children prior to committing suicide? Given these men are supposedly “devoted family men” why do they make the choice to murder children they have fathered and supposedly love? These questions must not be asked because it would mean focusing on male ownership of women and their children.

All these men believe and enact male supremacist ideology that once a male has entered into a sexual relationship with a woman she and any resulting children are the man’s private property. Only the man has the right of ending the sexual relationship, not the woman;  so when a woman dares to end her relationship with the man she must be punished and all too commonly her children, too. The issue is about male ownership of women and children. Mainstream media is male owned and male dominated and hence is an effective male propaganda tool. The mainstream media maintains the fiction that men are now the oppressed group because of supposedly feminist, man-hating initiated laws and social policies denying men their lawful right of male control/male ownership over women and children.

But it is not just mainstream media which depoliticises pandemic male violence against women.

Innumerable documents and policies produced by international bodies such as the United Nations and national governments all enact the same hiding strategies. These policies, documents, and reports all reference “violence against women” and/or the latest euphemistic term “gender based violence against women”! The term “gender based violence against women” does not inform the reader who is responsible for committing violence against women. “Gender” is a descriptive term, not a human entity. “Gender” cannot commit violence against women so who is being protected by not being named? Perhaps it is women because “gender” is commonly perceived as attributable to women since men have always claimed male as the default generic human and hence no need to name men/males as men/males. Yet obviously the entities being protected are men because naming men/males as the perpetrators will immediately instigate a male backlash of claims “you are demonising men” or “not all men are violent”. Because men are the dominant class they accord themselves the right to define when and if men will be named. Instructively, men appear only when the issue concerns male/female equality such as “treating men and women equally”. When men are held accountable they always disappear: men are the absent male presence.

Jennifer Drew (c) November 2014

Continued as Parts 2 and 3 …

References

Phillips D. and Henderson, D. 1999: ‘A Discourse Analysis of male violence against women’. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 69, 1:116-21.

Strauss, M.A. 1990: Physical Violence In American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,154 families, ed. M.A. Strauss and R.J. Gelles, pp. 75-91, New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction Publishers.

Kaye, M. and Tolmie, J. 1998: ‘The Rhetorical Devices of Fathers’ Rights Groups’, Melbourne University Law Review 22: 162-94.

Johnson, A.G. The Gender Knot: Unravelling Our Patriarchal Legacy, Rev. ed. Philadelphia, Temple University Press.

Thank you to Dr Lynette J. Dumble for permission to reprint this article from GSN (Global Sisterhood Network) and to ‘Rain and Thunder’ for the original publication of the article by Jennifer Drew.

“UNRELENTING BACKLASH – How Male Violence Against Women Continues To Be Depoliticised” at: http://www.global-sisterhood-network.org/content/view/2940/59/ ~~~~~~~~ http://www.rainandthunder.org/ Rain and Thunder: Issue 60 (Fall/Winter 2014): Themed Issue on Violence Against Women: Strategizing a Radical Response for the 21st Century

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Remembering Ellen Harris

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The late Ellen Harris (1904-1967) was President of Zonta International from 1960-62. She hailed from the Zonta Club of Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) where she and a small dedicated group of Zontians achieved extraordinary things in the 1950s and 60s. Approximately five women formed the core of the local club and together they raised funds for a number of worthy institutions in the city that are still active to this day.

Mrs Harris’s contribution to the work of Zonta, both locally and internationally, was preceded by a long distinguished career. In the 1920s and 30s, Ellen Harris played an instrumental role in organizing the Children’s Theatre Group in Winnipeg, where she grew up.  As a radio broadcaster with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, she was the host of “Morning Visit” from 1944 to 1952.   Ellen Harris established herself as a public figure in Vancouver and throughout the province and participated in a number of other radio programs and broadcasts. She was also the President and driving force behind the BC Ballet Society. Dance was one of her passions.

Ellen Harris 1President Ellen Harris (right) with Mrs Vern Staaf

on a visit to Sweden in 1961  

In addition to her professional work, Mrs Harris raised a son – Richard Colebrook (Cole) Harris – and a daughter, Susan Lorraine Pond. Her children, now retired, remember their mother traveling the world during her Zonta International Presidency and have donated Zonta-related correspondence, photos and other memorabilia to the University of British Columbia (UBC) Special Collections Archives. Some of these photos, reproduced here, illustrate the early sixties as they were for middle-class women – ­­ hats, gloves, fur stoles and the occasional tiara!

The organization’s mission and work, however, was clearly consistent with Zonta’s mission which still remains to advance the status of women worldwide.   Mrs Harris dined with Heads of State and other dignitaries and, one on occasion, invited Eleanor Roosevelt to the opening ceremonies for UBC’s International House for which the Zonta Club of Vancouver, along with the Marpole Rotary Club, had raised most of the funds.

Ellen Harris 2

Left to Right – Katherine Jacobson, Incoming Governor Vivienne Worley, Outgoing Governor Beverly Augustine, Conference Chair Ellen Harris, Helen Jones, Chair of Transportation

Riding the “Zonta Hitching Post” shuttle at the District 12 convention in Lamarre (location and date unknown)

Though Ellen Harris’ work with Zonta was exciting and of significant benefit to the local and international community, her Presidency was also extremely demanding physically. She was not a robust woman and, according to her children, the toll of travel and other responsibilities contributed to her early death at the age of 63.

The Zonta Club of Vancouver invited Mrs. Harris’s daughter, Susan Pond, to speak at its 2003 annual general meeting where she recounted her mother’s work with the organization. While the Vancouver Zonta club closed a number of years ago, former members are proud to have had this distinguished woman serve as international president and are inspired to continue her work toward advancing the status of women worldwide.

Gisele Yasmeen (c) November 2014

Gisèle Yasmeen, Ph.D., is Senior Fellow, University of British Columbia – Institute of Asian Research and Former President, Zonta Club of Vancouver.

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Revisiting Home Fronts: Gender, War & Conflict – Part 3

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  Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce

Revisiting Home Fronts: Gender, War and Conflict

Women’s History Network Annual Conference, 2014

Introduction

The 2014 Women’s History Network Conference took place in September at the University of Worcester. The title and theme – ‘Home Fronts: Gender, War and Conflict’ – promoted stimulating exchanges, discussion and debate on a broad range of topics, most looking at women during the First World War from a British perspective. Some papers ranged further afield.

Abstracts of papes presented by Jody Crutchley and Karen Hunt at the Conference illustrate this well. These are the third group of abstracts related to Britain and the First World War to be published on the blog. As well as raising questions and a stimulus to Conference sessions, their publication here provides an opportunty for readers to engage. Comments and discussion on the issues are invited from readers.

Robin R. Joyce (c) November 2014

 

“Responsibility, Duty, Sympathy and Self-Sacrifice”:

Empire and Elementary School Curricula on the Home-Front, 1914-1918

From 1870 elementary school attendance had begun to be compulsory for all British children between the ages of five and ten. This mushrooming working-class school population necessitated a new, focused approach from government, educationalists and pressure groups towards mass elementary curricula. A need arose to prepare pupils for their role as future working-class citizens of the Empire, to which the Board of Education responded with prescriptive curricula differentiated by both age and gender. By the outbreak of the Great War, however, the content and pedagogy of these curricula were often contested by both professional and political groups; especially as the perceived needs of Britain and the Empire changed in the face of new imperial and colonial challenges. Patriotic organisations increasingly regarded the schools as a ‘front’ in the years leading up to and during the Great War through which to promote their own interests and utilised the elementary curricula as a site for their wartime propaganda.

Jody Crutchley, University of Worcester © September 2014

Jody Crutchley is a PhD student at the University of Worcester, Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts. She studying Britain’s Experience of Empire, 1870-1939, her doctoral research addressing the role of the British Empire in development of the British school system and British curricula. Her thesis will contribute to current scholarship and debate that has tended to challenge and extend traditional views of Britons’ experience of empire. Locating educational development within an imperial trajectory will necessitate application of an inter-disciplinary approach. She therefore draws heavily on concepts and techniques utilised within the field of the History of Education: this means utilising a wide range of more unusual historical sources, such as school textbooks, as well as unpublished archival material within her research. Her twitter account is @jodycrutchley.

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  Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce

Gendering the Local Home Front (1914 – 1919)

Histories of life in wartime tend to focus on the extraordinary and the unusual; the remembered; and what was new or different. This applies to all modern war but especially to what many see as the first truly ‘modern’ war, the Great War. However, if we change our focus to the everyday, the banal and often forgotten details of daily life, we may find that continuities are as important as changes. This is particularly the case when considering the home front. Everyday life had to go on, despite the challenges, privations and sorrows of this new kind of ‘total’ war. Yet it is clear that whichever combatant nation one looks at, there was a diversity of experience on the home front dependent on place – hence local home fronts – but also on class, on age, and particularly on gender. And that these experiences varied over time.

To understand how place (the city, the suburb, the town, the village) shaped everyday experience on the home front, it is important to draw on examples from across and beyond Britain. Further, how did everyday life on local home fronts challenge or reinforce existing gender relations? Did this have any lasting effect beyond the peculiar circumstances of wartime?

Karen Hunt, University of Keele © September 2014

Karen Hunt is Professor of Modern British History at Keele University and is currently Head of Humanities Research at Keele, as well as Chair of the Social History Society (2014-17). Her publications cover many aspects of the gendering of politics (locally, nationally and transnationally) particularly from the 1880s to 1939, including Equivocal Feminists (1996) and Socialist Women (2002)(with June Hannam). Her current research juggles a number of intersecting interests: the life and politics of Dora Montefiore; interwar women’s politics, focusing on the local and the everyday; and women and the politics of food in the First World War. She is an advisor to the AHRC/BBC World War One at Home project in the West Midlands.

poppies.1long

  Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce

poppies.1long

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