Abstracts from presentations to be given at the 2017 WHN Conference

Geraldine Perriam


Women and the Wider World – Paper Proposal

From London Docks to Leningrad: The Provincial Lady travels to Russia



E.M. Delafield is best known for her fiction, particularly the Diary of a Provincial Lady series.  In 1937, Delafield published a work of non-fiction: Straw Without Bricks (Macmillan, London), an account of her travels to, and in, the newly-formed USSR and her work in a commune, among other things.  Delafield’s alter ego, the Provincial Lady, wrote primarily about domestic life in a rural community.  Despite having some mobility, the Provincial Lady was essentially a character embedded in domestic life.

Straw Without Bricks deviates from Delafield’s other work, not only because it is non-fiction but also because in this work the author left home and travelled on her own to the USSR.   At her publisher’s suggestion, she worked on a collective farm, subsequently writing about her impressions of life in in the newly Communist state. 

Although women during this period were becoming increasingly mobile, it was still unusual enough for women to travel on their own for it to be attractive to publishers. It was only in 1913 that women were first admitted as Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society, 24 years before the publication of Straw Without Bricks.

This paper explores text and context in the writing of this book, examining the politics of the production and consumption of women’s travel writing.  Using the lens of locational feminism, the paper also discusses the way the author negotiated the complexities of her working life and how she viewed and understood the working lives of women she encountered in the USSR. In conclusion, the tensions surrounding gender and identity, as expressed by the author in her own work, are discussed.


Geraldine Perriam

Honorary Research Associate

School of Geographical and Earth Sciences

University of Glasgow




Amy Galvin

Romantic heroine in exile – Madame De Staël, feminist writer and émigrée


Often seen as one of the founding figures of French Romantic literature, De Staël was writing at a time of huge political and social opportunity. However, as a woman, she was remarkable figure; living in an age of patriarchal supremacy, her public writing, liberal politics and open female voice were contentious. As a consequence of her refusal to be silenced, De Staël was eventually exiled from Paris by Napoleon, and thus a significant portion of her notable literary works were written outside of France. Germany, Austria, Russia, Finland, Sweden and England were among the countries she inhabited as she continued her literary campaign for political freedom. Amongst her many political arguments, the concept of a female voice and liberated female expression was key. The heroines in her novels contested the restrictive ideals of femininity in the early nineteenth century and emulated the social freedom that De Staël envisioned. Inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution and moving in literary circles with like-minded thinkers who believed in the importance of liberty and imagination, De Staël was part of a Romantic generation for whom a liberated woman was both entirely possible and acceptable. The figurehead for this Romantic Movement was, alas, a Romantic hero. However, there is also a clear argument that both De Staël and her heroines share many of the traits these Romantic heroes possessed, and thus can be considered Romantic heroines, presenting De Staël’s readership with a radical figure of female emancipation in a wider European context, long before popular women’s rights movements came into being. As well as a founding figure of French Romanticism, this paper will argue that De Staël also created some of the earliest figures of the emancipated female voice in her heroines.