Constance Maynard was the first Mistress of Westfield College and a pioneer of women’s education. She was a prolific writer, keeping multiple diaries and an autobiography, as well as self-publishing many books and articles on education and religion. Her ‘Green Book’ diaries and unpublished autobiography have been digitised by the Archives at Queen Mary, University of London and are available to view online: http://www.library.qmul.ac.uk/archives/digital/constance_maynard
Maynard’s ‘Green Book’ diaries detail her ‘inner life’, her emotional response to events in her life and date from 1866 to 1934. Her unpublished autobiography was written between 1915 and 1933, and covers her life from 1849-1927. It is written in the style of a reflective diary, and in it she explains her reactions to the events detailed in her diaries, and is open and candid about her private life.
Maynard’s personal writings provide a unique insight into the influence of religion, and attitudes towards women’s education and sexuality in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The writings reveal her devout faith, her experiences of joining the first generation of women students at Girton College, her role in the formation and early years of Westfield College, and her ‘romantic friendships’ with women.
The impact of being brought up in a deeply religious household is reflected in Maynard’s diaries, which detail the sermons she attended, her favourite psalms and bible passages, and her constant quest to be ‘good enough’ for God’s love. Her religious conviction and reasoning continued throughout her life.
Maynard looked towards her faith to rationalise her decision to further herself through higher education at a time when only a handful of women had done so before, and noted in her diary:
‘… and it must be right to educate & use any powers God has given me to the very best I can.[i][i]
In her autobiography she recalled beginning her University studies, ‘Liberty, heresy, opposition, argument, new thought, new attraction, all had there been laid before me in sample, but now came “the real thing”, & I attacked the position with the courage of ignorance.’[ii][ii]
In leaving her sheltered domestic life to join the first wave of women entering higher education Maynard was taking a radical step[iii][iii]. She described in her autobiography the stir caused at Cambridge by the presence of women students.
‘We were determined to preserve sweet & genuine womanliness amid all our experiences, to be unobtrusive in dress, and scrupulously modest & polite in manner, & looking back I think it was all rather wonderful that a dozen energetic lively creatures should, without the least external guidance, have been so thoroughly aware that the whole of this vast experiment depended on their corporate conduct.’[iv][iv]
Reflecting upon the beginnings of women’s higher education, she noted passionately.
‘…[we] asked for nothing more but that women should be freed from the single disability of sex, & that English girls should be free, if they both could and would, to receive the same mental training as English lads had always had.’[v][v]
Constance Maynard was first woman to read Moral Sciences at Cambridge completing her studies in 1875. But she had to wait 53 years to formally receive her degree from Girton College, in 1933. In 1948 the University of Cambridge finally began to admit women to full university membership.
Faith was the driving force for Constance and inspired the Christian ethos of Westfield College. The College opened on 2nd October 1882 with just 5 students and 2 members of staff, including Constance Maynard as Mistress, and was founded upon ‘…a Scriptural basis, and conducted on distinctly religious principles…’.[vi][vi]
The first Annual Report for Westfield College proclaimed “Knowledge is power” and that the higher education of women would be a benefit to all society.[vii][vii]
One aspect of Constance Maynard’s life which still intrigues researchers and is the subject of on-going research today is her close relationships with women[viii][viii]. As female sexuality was not discussed or understood in the Victorian period, interpreting Maynard’s words requires an appreciation of the context and time in which they were written. Her diary entries detail intimate encounters with students and friends.
Recalling the prayer offered to her by ‘Lizzie’, a student at Westfield:
‘Dear, Dear Father, we must part- do make the parting easy – I thank Thee, oh so much, for this treasure. Thou hast let me love so that I think I never loved any one so much before, but Thou canst be still more to me, dear Saviour, Give her some fresh work to do; make her to others just what she has been to me – light and love & support & patience all, all pointing to Thee.’[ix][ix]
Maynard in 1926 writes candidly in her autobiography about her close relationships, showing her awareness of theories by psychoanalysts such as Freud:
‘And yet, yet, – I loathe to write it down, – the whole was spoilt and devastated by love, by what psychoanalysts call by highly disagreeable names, such as a “thwarted sex-instinct”. There was something within me which seemed to have a foremost & impervious claim, a hunger which must be satisfied, whatever food was on offer.’[x][x]
Highlights from the Constance Maynard archives are available in on online exhibition:
Full details of the content of Maynard’s archives can be found in the Archives Catalogue:
The Archives at Queen Mary also holds other significant collections relating to women’s education including the archives of WestfieldCollege, Caroline Skeel and Ellen Delf Smith. For further information can be found on the website: http://www.library.qmul.ac.uk/archives The Archives can be contacted by email: email@example.com
ByLorraine Screene, College Archivist, and Bryony Hooper, Project Archivist
From 7 October 2011 www.historytoherstory.org.uk, an online resource charting Yorkshire women’s lives 1100 to the present day, will be available free to researchers. West Yorkshire Archive Service and the University of Huddersfield are delighted to relaunch the updated History to Herstory website. Our partner institutions are The Bronte Parsonage Museum, Hull History Centre and Leeds City Council Libraries. Funding for this project has been provided by JISC , the UK’s leading expert on digital technologies for education and by the University of Huddersfield.
The pioneering website, originally created in 2002-3, has been re-developed and expanded to open up online access to over 80,000 documents and images from the archives. Improvement work began in May 2011 and has upgraded the catalogue database and its 80,000 images, created new learning materials for all ages and skill levels, and developed a brand new website to better store and present the resources. The University of Huddersfield will host and maintain the site into the future.
The archives included chart all manner of lifestyles and contain stories from all walks of life throughout the 800 years covered by the project. They include twelfth century land transfers and 1980s CND posters, Second World War recipe books and eighteenth century diaries reporting the events of the French Revolution. There are musical compositions and artistic sketches, labour certificates, marriage licenses, autobiographies, accounts and reports, school exercise books, suffragettes’ scrapbooks, letters to Prime Ministers, medical case notes, even an O.B.E. grant. Each document is digitised in full to facilitate primary research.
The resources have been themed to make browsing easier. A flavour of each:
No doubt a major draw to the site will be the large collection of personal letters of the Brontë sisters. One example is Charlotte’s 1847 letter to her publishers Smith, Elder & Co. Writing on the eve of publication she hopes, ‘I am glad you think pretty well of the first part of “Jane Eyre” and I trust, both for your sakes and my own, that the public may think pretty well of it too’ .
Amy Johnson, the pioneering female aviator, who was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930. In April 1928 Amy wrote of her joy of starting flying lessons, ‘Now for the good news – I’m going to learn flying! I’m joining the London Aeroplane Club and then I can get tuition and always use their aeroplanes’.
There are also letters from Mrs Phyllis Turner (nee Thornton) from 1913 to 1964, from when she was at school in France, written to her mother who lived in Huddersfield. Included are letters from her son, John, who served in the forces in North Africa and Italy. These give a valuable insight into the time period covering both World Wars from a woman’s perspective.
Anne Lister, a remarkable nineteenth century landowner, business woman, intrepid traveller, mountaineer and lesbian, wrote four million words in the diaries that span her lifetime. Her diaries have recently been inscribed on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register and are digitised in full on the site. Mrs Mary Ann Crisp’s papers contain details of food ration books, rent books, funeral expenses, birth and death certificates, spanning the period of 1885 to 1971. These records give insight into the lifestyle and economic hardship that faced working class Yorkshire women during this time.
Women and Mental Health
A large amount of the archival material is in women’s own words; in their letters and diaries. One significant exception to this is the 30,000 case-note pages from the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum (later known as Stanley Royd Hospital) in Wakefield. These detail the conditions, ascribed causes and treatments of the female patients in the asylum 1818-1900. Some male casebooks have also been included for comparison.
Women’s Groups and Associations
The Electrical Association for Women (c. 1960s-1986) contains leaflets and pamphlets about home wiring, fuses and appliances, plus minute books from committee and annual meetings. Florence White, from Bradford, founded the National Spinsters Pensions’ Association, which helped many women who, due to the large numbers of men who had died in the First World War, were unable to marry. Florence White gave a voice to single working-class women and campaigned that spinsters should receive 10 shillings a week from the age of 55.
Women and Politics
Edith Key was a suffragette and the secretary-organiser of the Huddersfield branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). She participated in suffrage demonstrations in London, resulting in her spending several days in Holloway Jail. Key provided shelter to a number of suffragettes who were avoiding the authorities, including Adela Pankhurst. She was also involved in the Adult School Movement and, along with her family, was opposed to the Boer War and the First World War. There are minute books of the WSPU from 1907 to 1909.
Women and Work
There are papers and photographs of Elsie Harling, a nurse and voluntary worker from Dalton, Huddersfield, who received a Family Planning Association training certificate. The papers include memoirs of her nursing career from when she trained as a State Registered Nurse at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. Her fascinating memoirs include accounts of incidents on the wards, theatre work and Christmas in hospital.
Women and War
In 1983 Yorkshire women travelled to Greenham Common to join in the peace rally and blockade. On the History to Her Story website you can find records from The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Huddersfield Group, which includes leaflets such as ‘Nuclear War and You’, ‘H-Bomb on Huddersfield’ and ‘Kirklees and Nuclear Weapons.’
We hope that this material will provoke strong reactions and result in advances in the study of women’s history. Limited resources mean we cannot provide crowdsourcing facilities on the main site. However, we have created an image set on Flickr where we hope researchers will comment, and enhance the resources with their knowledge and impressions.
Katy Goodrum is the Head of Archives, West Yorkshire Archive Service.
The TUC Library Collections have a large research collection relating to women living and working on the Home Front during the Second World War. A selection of posters, photographs, documents and oral history interviews with veterans of the Home Front can be found on our website The Workers War.
This image and information comes from the TUC Library Collections held at London Metropolitan University. For more information, see their website.
It’s hard to over-estimate the impact of Spare Rib. Launched in 1972 it caused an immediate sensation. Newsagents across the country, including WH Smith, refused to stock it. Spare Rib was seen as subversive, as indeed it was – a means of spreading feminist ideas to a wider population of women confined in domesticity, restricted by contemporary social expectations, and cut off from activism for women’s rights. Instead of an innocuous content of romance, domestic tips and beauty advice, unthreatening to the prevailing status quo, Spare Rib was a protest against typical glossy ‘feminine’ women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan, Elle, and Woman’s Own. “It was startling to realize that we could not buy any publications which discussed what we felt to be vital issues and so Spare Rib is a beginning”. It sprang not only from the underground press of the 1960s, but from a much older tradition of radical progressive journalism, and was unafraid to provide a platform for discussion of taboo issues like women’s sexuality or the reality of domestic violence.
In the first issue, the editorial proclaimed its purpose – to investigate alternatives to traditional gender roles and “to reflect questions, ideas and hope that is growing out of our awareness of ourselves, not as ‘a bunch of women’ but as individuals in our own right.” Yet in spite of hostile retailers and discomfited husbands, the first issue sold out immediately, and it maintained a steady though relatively small circulation of 20,000 a month. It’s estimated that the actual readership was much wider. It was passed around informally and by ‘floating libraries’, so reaching many women unable or wary of buying it themselves. Readers’ letters over the years confirm it as a life-line where they could validate their experience and expectations. This extract from the first anniversary editorial points up its effect on the popular press.
June 1973 Number 12
‘Why is a woman’s point of view important? The press has begun to take up some of the issues previously dismissed as hysterical demands of Women’s Liberation, and has provided coverage of events like the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill. However, as long as the newspapers restrict articles for women to a single Women’s Page – a page usually devoted to fashion and food – it is even more important for our news to present the women’s point of view, analysing the significance of events in relation to women’s lives and reporting on our unseen, undiscussed problems.
We are being promised equal opportunity, and equal pay in 1975 but we mustn’t be lulled into complacency – real liberation of women’s minds and bodies has hardly begun. We are not going to let Women’s Liberation be wrapped up in an Anti-Discrimination Bill and forgotten like the vote. We want you to continue sending your advice and ideas, and sharing your experiences with us.’
With a national circulation, Spare Rib is probably the best-known of feminist magazines from the 70s and 80s, but is by no means the only one. There were many other newsletters with a local or regional base from Aberdeen to Brighton, from Cardiff to Newcastle; and from Women’s Aid centres, lesbian groups, disability support groups etc. These were often useful in organising local campaigns, underpinning networks and breaking down isolation. FAN holds a complete run of all Spare Rib issues from 1972 to 1992. We also hold copies of a readers’ survey, conducted in 1974, and files containing correspondence addressed to the Spare Rib collective, between 1976 and 1981.
The Feminist Archive North (FAN) holds a wide variety of material relating to the Women’s Liberation Movement from 1969 to the present. If you would like to visit or donate contact FAN at firstname.lastname@example.org . For further information on the collections see www.feministarchivenorth.org.uk . Fan is located in Special Collections, Brotherton Library, University of Leeds.
The Feminist Library recently celebrated its 35th birthday with an all out party and benefit at the Round Chapel in Hackney. The enormous success of the event marked an important moment in the library’s history and regeneration. However, someone who was sorely missed from the celebrations was Diana Leonard, a member of the founding collective of the library, which started life in 1975 as the Women’s Research and Resources Centre (WRRC). Diana sadly passed on in November 2010: the joy of raising a glass to the continued existence of the library was tempered with sadness that Diana could not be there too. The Feminist Library bears the hallmarks of Diana and its other founders, and volunteers down the years, in its ethos of being a centre which combines activism and radical thought, as well as being an archive and material resource.
The library, however, represents only a fraction of Diana’s work and life. Her method of engaging with feminist thought and practice blurred the lines between radical academic practice, activism and personal lifestyle. To put it another way, she embodied that crucial feminist maxim ‘the personal is political’ – her intense interest in the philosophy and practices of feminist pedagogy, for example, arising partly from her years as a schoolteacher.
Diana’s work constituted an important contribution to the ongoing conversation in the 70s and 80s about how schoolchildren should be taught, as the British system leaned increasingly towards the comprehensive and co-educational model. Diana’s teaching at the University of London Institute of Education brought together the theory and praxis of her analysis of women’s position in education, and influenced generations of working teachers. In an era when it was particularly difficult for women to gain doctorates, let alone tenured teaching positions, Diana took up her lectureship in 1976, and worked continuously for over thirty years, until she retired due to ill health. By that point, she was Professor of Sociology of Education and Gender and had irreversibly altered the landscape of feminist pedagogy in this country. Her students and colleagues from the Institute of Education remember her as a fiercely committed teacher. One anecdote goes that Diana turned up at the doorstep of a particularly distressed doctoral candidate who was trying to complete her thesis, to lend help, direction,and and cups of tea.
Without Diana, feminism in this country could have followed a very different path. She was one of the first to explicitly incorporate gender relations into the study of sociology in the UK. In 1974, she successfully re-orientated the British Sociological Association’s annual conference to focus on‘Sexual Divisions in Society’, and thus to encourage the use of gender as a frame through which social phenomena could be critiqued. The conference resulted in two influential volumes Dependence and exploitation in work and marriage  and Sexual divisions and society  that Diana co-edited with Sheila Allen, and that would eventually help to inaugurate the discipline of women’s studies in the UK.
Diana was also key in anticipating the need for international dialogue between feminist movements. She worked closely with Christine Delphy, a prolific French sociologist who taught at the University of Paris and set up a feminist review, Questions Feministes, in 1977 with Simone de Beauvoir and others. Through Diana and Christine, links between British and French feminist academic and activist circles were established. They also collaborated in writing the book, Familiar Exploitation: New Analysis of Marriage in Contemporary Western Societies (1992). Around this strong working and personal relationship, a group of women gathered who would together develop materialist feminist critiques of the family and domestic work. One of these women was Jalna Hanmer, who also worked with Diana on many political campaigns, including helping to found the WRRC, before moving to Yorkshire and helping to found Feminist Archives North. Jalna stressed that one of Diana’s major achievements was to bring the activists and the analysts closer together, by making a space in women’s studies for the political insights of radical feminism.
Many of the obituaries in the mainstream press focused on Diana’s academic career. There were not many who represented her as a radical figure, with a fierce feminist loyalty and determination, which led her to help found the radical feminist journal, Trouble and Strife, and be part of the group which organised the radical feminist conference which was the source of the infamous Feminist Practice pamphlet. Still fewer mentioned that she had been a lesbian for half her life. The Feminist Library will be hosting a page on its website to preserve Diana’s memory as a woman who meant so much to people in varied and different capacities. If you would like to contribute any memories or thoughts about her, or relevant images, please send them to email@example.com
This project, like Women’s History Month, acknowledges that understanding where the feminist movement has been will only help us to move forward, and that diluting our radicalism and our activism is not an option.
For more information, follow the links below:The Feminist Library
5 Westminster Bridge Road
London SE1 7XW 020 7261 0879
www.feministlibrary.co.uk http://twitter.com/feministlibrary http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Feminist-Library/129999410387617
Mathura Umachandran is a volunteer at the Feminist Library.
Jessie Street National Women’s Library Ultimo Sydney Australia is a specialist library which collects preserves and promotes the literary and cultural heritage of Australian women. It is unique resource established in 1989 and named in honour of the well-known activist Jessie Street. The Library holds a large research collection covering every aspect of women’s issues, views and history; an extensive loan collection for members; an impressive collection of journals and an archival collection – source material on some of the most important features of women’s participation in the life of the nation. Part of the archives is a particularly interesting collection was donated to the Library by one of our long time members Marlene Ardetto.
A bundle of papers, found on top of a wardrobe which was being thrown out, belonged to Josephine Kearney, nee Downing, who was born in Glengariff, Ireland in 1876 and died in Sydney 1957. The collection comprises a small assortment of papers which when put together give some insights into the life of the remarkable Josephine Kearney nee Downing.
The papers include:
- Western Australian Certificate of title made out in the name of Josephine Downing, Spinster of Perth for a block of land containing twenty-seven perches being portion of Swan location 34 and being Lot 23 on deposited plan 2693 Perth Western Australia dated June 24th 1905
- A contract between Alexander Matheson &Co (agent for the vendor) and Josephine Downing, Spinster of Perth for the purchase of a block of land in Perth Western Australia at the cost of 8 pounds &10 shillings to be paid in ten monthly instalments of 15 shillings per month. Josephine Downing’s address as the purchaser is Post Office Kalgoorlie. The document is dated December 16th 1904
- 7 receipts from Alexander Matheson & Company document payment of a deposit of 1 Pound made on December 15th 1904 on the lot 23 Burswood. Subsequent payments of fifteen shillings were made in January 1905, February 1905, March 1905 and April 1905. An instalment of 1 Pound was made in May 1905 and a final payment of 3 Pounds and 10 shillings was made in June 1905
- A Certificate of Marriage dated November 19th 1905 states that John Rohan a catholic priest duly celebrated the marriage of William Kearney a farmer of Lansdale, bachelor and Josephine Downing, spinster, occupation domestic duties of Sydney at St Mary’s Cathedral Sydney. The bride groom’s birthplace is stated as Ballarat Victoria, his age is 34.He states he is the son of farmer Edward Kearney (deceased) and Margaret Maher (deceased). Josephine Downing aged 29 gives her birthplace as Glengariff Ireland and her parents are listed as farmer Patrick Downing (deceased) and Hannah Downing (née Connelly) as her mother. Witnesses were Charles Edward Thomas and Florence Edith Hansen
A black & white photo which has no identification on it shows a couple presumed to be Josephine Downing and William Kearney on their wedding day in November 1905 in formal wedding attire. In the photo a petite young woman (probably Josephine) is standing, probably to show off the very elaborate long white frilly dress with a most unusual hat perched upon upswept dark hair. A beautiful bouquet of flowers resting on a small table is held by the woman. The groom (probably William Kearney) is dressed in a formal dark suit with a wing collared shirt and small corsage of flowers at his lapel. He is seated on a highly decorated chair.
How, in 1904 when most women didn’t work, did Josephine Downing, a young single Irish woman living in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia managed to acquire enough money to put a deposit on a block of land and pay it off within six months remains a mystery. It was most unusual for women to be involved in the purchase of property at that time. The fact that these records were kept together with Josephine’s marriage certificate indicates that these records were highly valued by Josephine. The story behind the purchase of this land may never be known but these documents tell a story of the courage of a young woman in a foreign land determined to put down roots and to be part of the new country she was living in. It is interesting to note that within six months of the final payment on the property Josephine Downing had moved to live in Sydney and had married William Kearney a farmer from Ballarat Victoria.
These and many more sources are available at Jessie Street National Women’s Library, Australia. Check out their website at: http://nationalwomenslibrary.org/