60 Seconds With…

Does what it says on the box. A shiny and brief introduction to our favourite historians of feminism and feminist historians. New interviews will be added regularly; do get in touch if you have a suggestion or want to be interviewed!

January 2015

60 seconds with…Laura Mair
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Laura Mair is in the third year of her History PhD at the University of Edinburgh. Her thesis is investigating the cross-class relationships forged in ragged schools in the mid-nineteenth century. She completed her Master’s in History at Leiden University, which analysed problematisation in ragged school promotional literature.

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Mary Carpenter, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Josephine Baker, and Florence Nightingale- each of these women made a significant impact on those around them and accomplished more than the average Victorian woman could have imagined.

Oh no! You’re stranded on an island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

Linda Gordon’s Heroes of their own lives really had an impact on me- I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through an academic book quite so quickly. I found it hard to put down; her aim of returning agency to history’s ‘victims’ really resonated with me as it is something that I have hoped to do in my research. This book has been a real inspiration.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

This may not count as a ‘moment’, but I would go into a ragged school and observe the many women who voluntarily gave their time to educate poor children. For the most part these women have been left historically voiceless, though The Ragged School Magazine did state that the movement had been possible because ‘there were some men, and more women, whose hearts were in the right place’. These women worked with adolescent boys and girls from impoverished backgrounds, many of whom had serious behavioural problems. Through their hard work these children obtained a rudimentary education, the significance of which is immeasurable.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

My most memorable career moment so far is undoubtedly being asked to contribute to the upcoming On their own exhibition at the V&A’s Museum of Childhood. I am thrilled to have such an exciting opportunity to share the stories of ragged school children.

What advice would you give to an early career academic?

As I’m very much still ‘early career’ myself I don’t really feel qualified to answer this question! I can say that I have really benefitted from being active on Twitter. Twitter is a great platform, that has allowed me to interact with academics across the world. The nineteenth century community on Twitter really allows academics to pool their knowledge. answering questions and alerting others to relevant conferences or blog posts. I really do advocate Twitter to early career academics.

How did you come to your current area of research?

I have always been drawn to the history of the underprivileged. In particular, I have a keen interest the experience of impoverished women and children in the nineteenth century. When studying for my Master’s at Leiden I developed a deep interest in the ragged school movement. At that point I was very interested in how the movement portrayed street-children. My current area of research grew out of my Master’s, as I am now focusing on the relationships fostered between the children and the schools.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

I have a healthy mound of books on my bedside table, and until recently also had some on the bedroom floor. Sadly, all of the books lying around my house are associated with my PhD in some way… though not all of them have been read just yet. At the moment my bedside table holds John Tosh’s A man’s place and Anna Davin’s Growing up poor. Ellen Ross’ Love and toil has migrated around my house, and has actually just returned from a little holiday to Iceland. I’m a slow reader, apparently!

Thanks, Laura!

September 2014

60 Seconds With…Claire Hayward

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Claire Hayward is PhD student at Kingston University, whose thesis explores representations of same-sex love in public history. Claire’s research interests lie in the intersection of public history, gender history, women’s history and the history of sexuality. Claire writes her own blog, exploring public histories, is a co-ordinator of Kingston University’s History Department blog, History@Kingston, and tweets from @HaywardCL.

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Mary Robinson, Virginia Woolf, Laverne Cox, Sylvia Pankhurst, Anne Lister, Roxane Gay, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Senator Wendy Davis.

Oh no! You’re stranded on an island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

This might be cheating but I’d go for the Feminist History Reader, edited by Sue Morgan. It was my introduction to feminist history theory when I was an undergraduate and really made me think about the intersections of feminist history and the lived experiences of women.

 If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

Too many to pick from, but when Anne Lister visited the Ladies of Llangollen is up there. Anne and the Ladies lived (and loved) outside of traditional gender roles in the early 19th Century and I’d love to have been there for their conversations.

 What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Probably being invited to speak at the National Trust’s Sutton House LGBT History Month event this year. Sean Curran, a PhD student at IOE, curated an incredible exhibition that used queer voices to read four of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and the event was hosted alongside it. While I’d spoken at academic conferences before, this was actually the first public event I’d spoken at, and it was a great location that sparked enthusiastic debate about historic houses, museums and queer history. I’m a big National Trust fan, and it was an honour to be a small part in their work in revealing LGBT histories.

What advice would you give to other early career academics?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to give advice on this yet! But looking back, advice I’d have given to myself at the beginning of my PhD is to have realistic targets, go to as many seminars as you can and make connections there, but always give yourself a break and remember the end of the working day and week.

How did you come to your current area of research?

I first became interested in gender history and the history of sexuality as an undergraduate, and these topics merged together when I did my MA, where I focused on 18th century female prostitution. Also as an MA student I was lucky to have a placement at Lion Television, and my interests in gender history and the history of sexuality collided with public history, revealing a big practical and theoretical gap.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

Virginia Woolf, Night and Day.

How long has it been there?

Like most of Woolf’s books (bar Orlando), far too long – I’ve never finished Mrs Dalloway. Also in my defence, I’ve mostly been using my kindle recently! On kindle, it’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBridge, which I’ve been reading for just under a week.

Thanks, Claire!

60 Seconds With…Naomi Paxton

Naomi Paxton (TO EMAIL)Naomi Paxton is a final year PhD student in the Drama department at the University of Manchester. Her research, entitled “Revaluating the Actresses’ Franchise League: actresses, politics and activism from 1908-1958” explores the work of suffragist performers and writers. She trained as an actress at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) and has performed nationally and internationally. Naomi is the editor of The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays and one of the AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers for 2014.www.naomipaxton.co.uk

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

It would have to be a late night supper at the Savoy – with Decima and Eva Moore, Adeline Bourne, Fola La Follette, George Middleton, Inez Bensusan, Sue Townsend, Sarah Daniels, Laurence Housman, Dale Spender, Charlotte Shaw and Lena Ashwell. Kaspar, the Savoy cat, would need to join us to make it 14.

 Oh no! You’re stranded on an island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

Elizabeth Crawford’s The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide. Not only is it fascinating and brilliantly researched, but it’s quite big and might be useful for standing on if I can’t reach things…

 If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

This is so tricky! Places and moments that spring to mind are the Aldwych Rinkeries at 1.30am on census night 1911, the Coronet Theatre in Notting Hill for Woman’s Theatre week in 1913 and any Monstrous Regiment rehearsal in the late 1970’s. However, because I’ve tried to imagine it so often, I think it has to be the 1909 WSPU Women’s Exhibition – so full of ingenious performative propaganda that it fills me with admiration and curiosity.

 What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Doing the Platform performance at the National Theatre for The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays. It was great to be talking about the Actresses’ Franchise League and their work on the stage of the Lyttelton theatre and I remember looking out at the audience and feeling so proud and grateful to be sharing it with them.

 What advice would you give to early career academics?

I don’t feel at all qualified to do this! What’s worked for me is a passion for my research and for sharing it in creative, collaborative ways.

 How did you come to your current area of research?

I found Viv Gardner’s Sketches from the Actresses’ Franchise League (1985) in a second hand bookshop and it filled me with questions that needed answers! Having never studied the suffrage movement I had no real understanding of the issues, or of the trajectory of the campaign for the vote and no awareness that there had been a group in the professional theatre that was dedicated to working for the cause. This last fact was really the thing that touched me – having trained and worked as a performer and spent all my “resting” periods working backstage in West End theatres and being part of that community, the work and story of the Actresses’ Franchise League came alive immediately in a very visceral way. I started talking about it, asking about it and finding out more. Fortunately at that time I was in a play in the West End and so had some time and space to think – after a few weeks I put together an event at the Novello theatre which included readings from suffrage plays and verbatim extracts and the response was great. It all started from there.

 What’s currently on your bedside table?

Laurie Penny’s Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution

 Be honest; how long has it been there?

A good few weeks… but I am reading it!

Thanks, Naomi!

November 2013

60 Seconds with… Sue Kennedy

suek fempicI am a PhD candidate at Hull University barely one year in to a cross-disciplinary thesis with the working title ‘Excavating the Roots of Second-wave Feminism in British Women’s Writing of the long 1950s’.  In my former life I was a primary school headteacher. After retiring I embarked upon another challenging and equally hazardous path, doing a Masters in Modern and Contemporary Literature. My research is at heart literary, but the history of the mid-century forms an important thread; in fact I may become an ‘accidental historian’.

 

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Virginia Woolf, Nell Dunn, Mary Wollstonecraft, Angela Davies, Lorna Sage, Annie Lennox, Winifred Holtby, Yoko Ono, Elizabeth Taylor, Tillie Olsen, Julia Margaret Cameron

Oh no! You’re stranded on a desert island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

Vera Britten’s A Testament of Friendship. But the earliest books I read which resonated with what I was feeling were Doris Lessing’s ‘The Children of Violence’ series, so I’d like to save those, too, though not strictly history.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

I’d like to have been at the 1912 Window-Breaking March by the Suffragettes, not just to unleash my inner hooligan but to feel the conviction, emotion and solidarity that drove women to such lengths. If the time machine can’t get that far back I’d like to re-visit the march for abortion on demand in London in 1972, where that great feeling of sisterhood was also present.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Depends which career! In my brief association with the ‘academy’ I was chuffed to be accepted to present at the conference in March 2013 at Queen Mary on ‘Feminism, Influence, Inheritance’. For my first effort I gave a paper on ‘Abortion: Mid-twentieth Century Woman’s Dilemma’ in literature of the time. The range of other papers there was an eye-opener and I met new and interesting people.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

I don’t really feel qualified to offer advice to young people starting off in this strange world but controlling social media distractions might be a challenge.

How did you come to your current area of research?

It followed on from my dissertation research which covered literature written by women with female protagonists around sex, abortion, and motherhood in the decade between1957-1967, just before the explosion of the second wave. I wanted to look further back to the period from the tail end of the war and discover women’s writing that showed the green shoots of feminism in a period that has been falsely labelled as dormant. Some of the authors I am studying include Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Pym, Rose Macaulay, Betty Miller, Stella Gibbons… but it’s early days yet so who knows?

What book is currently on your bedside table?

Mary McCarthy’s The Group; have read it (well actually listened to it in the car on long drives!); Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber; half read for fairy tale connection in Elizabeth Taylor’s The Sleeping Beauty. I’m currently reading The Romance of a Shop (1888) by Amy Levy.

A couple of fascinating books lying on the floor are; A Monkey amongst the Crocodiles, about Georgina Weldon, a ‘Victorian eccentric’, and Class Porn by Molly Hite (1987). Amazing what charity shops throw up!

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Well, have been dipping into the Carter for 2/3 weeks. Amy Levy is newish. The others are in abeyance…something to look forward to.

Thank you, Sue!

October 2013

60 Seconds With… Kate Mahoney

 Kate Mahoney copyI am in my first year of a Wolfson-funded PhD at the Centre for the History of Medicine, Warwick. My thesis is entitled “Finding Our Own Solutions”: The Women’s Liberation Movement, Contemporary Psychologies and Community-based Mental Health Provision in Britain, 1962-1990.  My research analyses how second-wave feminists critiqued contemporary portrayals of female mental illness, the therapeutic nature of Women’s Liberation groups and the influence of feminist therapeutic organisations on developing voluntary and community-based mental health services. This analysis will be contextualised within the important historical transition from institutional to community care in British mental health in the second half of the twentieth century.

 Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Sheila Rowbotham, Lynn Segal, Juliet Mitchell, Susie Orbach, Luise Eichenbaum, Sherna Berger Gluck, Phyllis Chesler, Beth Ditto and all members of Bikini Kill.

Oh no! You’re stranded on a desert island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

Sara Marcus, Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution (New York, 2010): My first awareness of engaging with something explicitly feminist was when I started to listen to Riot Grrrl bands as a fourteen year old. Through using interviews, photographs and zine articles, Sara Marcus’ meticulously researched history of Riot Grrrl really helped me place the songs I’ve always loved listening to within a broader context of grassroots feminist support, activism, frustration and debate in early 1990s America.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

I would really like to travel back in time to the first London Women’s Liberation Workshop protest at the Miss World competition in London’s Royal Albert Hall in November 1969. Researching this event proved to be the foundation for my interest in feminist history. A key approach within my research is oral history so ideally I would not simply observe but would be able to ask the women involved what had motivated them as individuals to take part. To discover the immediate thoughts of Workshop members as they participated in one of the one of the first Women’s Liberation Movement protests in Britain, as well as witnessing the responses of Miss World audience members, would be fascinating.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

As part of my Masters dissertation research, I interviewed six members of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Discovering the varying ways in which they became involved in feminism and their contrasting experiences of attending Women’s Liberation groups was a thoroughly interesting and enlightening experience. It really demonstrated to me the importance of highlighting individual voices within feminist histories. I believe that giving voice to the disagreements, debates and sometimes negative experiences that arose within the Women’s Liberation Movement is vital if the nuances and diversity of second-wave feminism are to be adequately presented.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Given that I am only two weeks into my PhD, I don’t necessarily feel like I am in a position to be handing out advice to other early career academics just yet. However, what I have already come to realise is the importance of contacting and developing connections with others who have similar research interests to your own early on in the PhD process. I have been already been blown away by the generosity of fellow PhD researchers and academics who have responded to my queries with information about their own work and crucial advice on how I should get started.

How did you come to your current area of research?

My BA dissertation focused on the Women’s Liberation Movement and the social representation of women in Britain. An aspect of this research focused on second-wave feminist attitudes to eating disorders, most notably the work of Susie Orbach. While carrying out this study I realised that analyses of second-wave attitudes towards mental illness, and the formulation of feminist therapeutic organisations remained largely unstudied from a historical perspective. Therefore, I decided to make this topic the focus of my Masters and PhD studies.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

Jean Williams’ A Rough Game for Girls? A history of women’s football in Britain

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Admittedly, I bought it whilst following the Women’s European Championship in July this year but never got around to reading it. However, after watching England Women win a match 8-0 in Portsmouth a couple of weeks ago, I was inspired to pick it up again!

Thanks, Kate!

September 2013

60 Seconds With…Katherine Angel

K Barbican PKKatherine Angel is the author of Unmastered: A Book On Desire, Most Difficult To Tell (Penguin/Allen Lane; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Klett-Cotta/Tropen; De Bezige Bij). She is completing a monograph on ‘Female Sexual Dysfunction’ in American psychiatry, and holds a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London. She previously held a Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellowship at Warwick University. Her PhD is from the History and Philosophy of Science Department at Cambridge University. Her research has been published in History of the Human Sciences, Biosocieties, The Lancet, and Current Opinion in Psychiatry, and her writing has appeared in Prospect, The Independent, The New Statesman, Aeon, and Five Dials.

Photo credit: Pedro Koechlin

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Peaches, Marina Abramovic, Virginia Woolf, Sigmund Freud, Cindy Sherman, Yoko Ono, Louise Bourgeois, Michel Foucault, Susan Sontag, Alison Bechdel, Beyoncé, Germaine Greer, Hélène Cixous, and Jacques Lacan. Not all of these people would describe themselves as feminists. I would just sit back and watch them interact.  And film it. And have ice and flannels at the ready.

Oh no! You’re stranded on a desert island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

Carolyn Steedman’s Landscape for A Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives. I love this book. It is a fascinating and artful blend of history-writing and memoir-writing. The opening paragraphs are some of my favourite writing by anyone ever. The book had a profound effect on me a few years ago; it gave me a sense of courage in following my writing where it wanted to go, in not feeling bound to a particular genre. I feel tremendously grateful to it; it arrived at just the right moment to catalyse me, and I keep it close by as a reminder, and as a challenge.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

Oh so many. But I have just re-watched Town Bloody Hall, a debate in New York in 1971 occasioned by Norman Mailer’s article in Harpers called The Prisoner of Sex. The speakers were Mailer, Germaine Greer, Jill Johnston, Diana Trilling, and Jacqueline Ceballos. In the audience were Susan Sontag, Betty Friedan, and Cynthia Ozick. It’s full of marvelous moments, but Greer’s ten-minute reading about writing as a woman is incredibly powerful. She talks about grappling with what she calls ‘one of the most powerful figures in my own imagination’, namely the ‘masculine artist’. She says that ‘the barbaric yawp of utter adoration for the power and glory and grandeur of the female in the universe is uttered at the expense of the particular living woman, every time.’ And she says that ‘the achievement of male artistic ego is at my expense, for I find that the battle is dearer to him than the peace would ever be.’ It’s an amazing speech that attests to the powerful cultural role played by someone like Norman Mailer, who is sitting right there as she dissects that role, and then skewers it. It’s transfixing; the speech is both mournful and diagnostic; it’s tender and proud. And she is leagues beyond everyone else in the room in her acuity and wit. She’s a consummate performer.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed recently was reading from Unmastered and doing a Q&A with Kate Zambreno at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, when the book came out in the US. It’s a lovely bookshop run by Michele Filgate, a writer and avid reader; her twitter account is full of interesting thoughts on books. Zambreno is the author of the terrific book Heroines, which unearths the modes in which the ‘wives of modernism’ have been written about (and often effaced, absorbed, incorporated). It’s about how women writers have to struggle with the historical legacy of how women writers have been perceived. It’s a fascinating blend of literary criticism, history, memoir, manifesto, performance. She was a great person to do a Q&A with; agile, erudite, funny. We ranged from Barthes to the DSM. I feel I’m most comfortable as a writer rather than as a speaker; I find talking about my writing quite exhausting. But sometimes it’s a pure delight, and this was that.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

This is tricky. There’s all the practical advice: write, publish, give papers, etc etc.  You know, play the game; be strategic; understand how the academic world works, understand the REF. I’m terrible at that stuff, by the way, at being strategic – or at least at being consciously strategic. But I think there’s the other kind of advice, which is crucial, and that’s: research and write what you care about. Don’t let the strategic stuff overly shape you. Find the pleasure, the joy, the curiosity within you, and try to honour it, even in a cut-throat, insecure, and instrumentalised world. Pay attention to what animates you, and nurture it. Anything else is fatal.

How did you come to your current area of research?

I sort of followed my nose. I wrote my PhD on the history of 20th century American psychosomatic medicine and how it shapes current debates about etiology in medicine. I was in a History and Philosophy of Science Department in Cambridge; my background was a mix of history of medicine and psychiatry, philosophy, sociology of scientific knowledge, gender studies, feminist philosophy. One chapter in the PhD was on Viagra and its effects on emerging discourse about Female Sexual Dysfunction in American psychiatry. The book I’m currently finishing is about FSD – how the current debate about sexuality and psychiatry is stymied by an impasse in Anglo-American discourse about the relationship between psychiatry and feminism. The project at Queen Mary that I’m just beginning is an extension of my work in the history and philosophy of psychiatry; I’m looking at the stories that get told about the DSM (the controversial manual of the American Psychiatric Association) whose fifth edition has just come out. And I have other projects and books brewing. Everything I do revolves around the issue of how we talk about sexuality, gender, personhood, and suffering.

 What book is currently on your bedside table?

I always read many things at once, which means I read rather slowly. Things stay by my bed for ages. It’s messy but it seems to work for me. At the moment there is: Frederick Seidel’s Ooga-Booga, and Susan Sontag’s As Consciousness Is Harnessed to FleshDiaries 1964-1980 – I’m always dipping into them. Woolf’s Diaries are always there, I need a regular injection. Also there are Kay Larson’s Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists; Goliarda Sapienza’s The Art of Joy: A Novel, and Carol Mavor: Reading Boyishly: Roland Barthes, JM Barrie, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Marcel Proust, and DW Winnicott.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Between a month and four years…. I haven’t read the Mavor yet though it’s been there a while; I have sort of leafed through it lovingly. It’s a beautiful, tantalizing object. It’s also really heavy.

Thanks, Katherine!

August 2013

60 Seconds With…Jennifer Lee

1000143_536315633070495_54277426_nJennifer Lee is  a feminist, a writer, and a filmmaker. She has worked extensively in visual effects for feature films. She works towards developing a stronger female narrative in American culture through media and politics. Jennifer’s recently completed documentary “Feminist: Stories From Women’s Liberation” is in the film festival circuit and screening everywhere!

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Governor Sarah Palin, President Ellen Sirleaf, Hillary Clinton

 Oh no! You’re stranded on a desert island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

“Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism” by Mary Daly

 If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

I would go to Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia on the night of November 15, 1917 to be with the suffragists.  That night became known as the “Night of Terror” because of the brutality of the beatings and forced feeding that the suffragists endured.

 What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Meeting the actor Harrison Ford at Industrial Light & Magic. He was wearing his Indiana Jones costume because we were shooting blue screen shots for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Get to know people with different upbringings than yourself.

How did you come to your current area of research?

I have always identified with “feminism” and have positive feelings around the word “feminist.” Since the women’s liberation movement I have observed extreme negativity attached to the word “feminist.” With that negativity comes a rejection of the great women’s liberation movement. I want to bring more positive images and feelings to the word “feminism” and a whole hearted remembering of the feminist revolution.

 What book is currently on your bedside table?

“Hillary Clinton’s Race for the White House : Gender Politics & the Media on the Campaign Trail” by Regina G. Lawrence and Melody Rose

Be honest; how long has it been there?

One day. A friend sent it to me as a gift.

Thank you, Jennifer!

———-

60 Seconds With…Paola Bacchetta

Paola Bacchetta is Associate Professor in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at University of California, Berkeley. She’s the author and co-editor of multiple books and about forty journal articles and book chapters on topics such as transnational feminisms, feminist and queer of color movements, sexuality and politics and rethinking feminist and queer alliances. Her geographical areas of specialization besides the U.S. are France, India and Italy. For more information and (free) access to many of her publications see: http://berkeley.academia.edu/PaolaBacchetta

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

I would invite all members and allies of Dyketactics, 1970’s lesbian collective in Philadelphia, to dinner. Dyketactics is the first queer group in the U.S. and possibly the world to take police to court for police brutality specifically targeting queers. But farther, it had a radical anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racism analysis and practice. It is currently part of the queer history exhibit at the Philadelphia Historical Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (August 2013). The group has a few partial reunions but not yet a full reunion of all members.

Oh no! You’re stranded on a desert island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

None. There are many good attempts to write such a history. But I think a radically critical and accurate history of feminist theories and practices has yet to be written. I hope some graduate students are reading this, and will work to write such historiographies. In the materials that exist, notwithstanding the many contributions they make (which I hope we will always recognize and celebrate) a number of exclusions remain. In the U.S. feminist history writing tends to be U.S.-centric, urban-centric and focussed on white, straight, middle class women, and more recently on a Black-White binary. More rarely they include something on other women of color official identitary categories. We rarely find in current historiographies an account of the most radically critical feminist analyses and practices that were anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, genderqueer, intersectional with and in solidarity with peoples’ liberation movements, transnational feminist movements, etc. It is thus difficult to choose any one among them to save.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

I would go into the future. I have much curiosity, and much hope, about where all this will go.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

In 2008 while I was in France giving talks, teaching a seminar and doing research for a semester, without my knowledge my feminist and queer graduate students of all colors worked to have me awarded the Distinguished Mentor Award at University of California, Berkeley. I returned to Berkeley to find what they had done. It was amazing. Many awards are given because of departmental nominations. But this one is particularly meaningful to me because it was truly a result of my students’ will and efforts.

What advice would you give to early career academics? 

Follow your heart and don’t compromise your politics (in research, writing, teaching, and to the degree possible also in service). Think hyper-critically and teach that to your students.

How did you come to your current area of research?

I became an academic specialized in social movements after and during my work as an activist in social movements.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

Sexuality Studies, edited by Sanjay Srivasta. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2013. It’s about sexuality studies in India.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Two weeks. (It’s a relatively new book).

Thank you, Paola!

60 Seconds With…Kevin Guyan

Kevin GuyanKevin Guyan is a research student at UCL.  His thesis explores the relationship between postwar housing in London and the production and reproduction of masculinities, c. 1945–1966.  Particular attention is directed towards ideas of how domestic space should be used, as identified by designers, planners and policymakers, versus men’s lived experiences of their homes. He is employed by UCL as part of their public engagement team and has shared his research across a variety of academic and non-academic settings.  Kevin is also the co-organiser of the New Directions: Gender, Sex and Sexuality in 20th Century Britain workshop taking place at UCL in April 2014 (http://newdirections2014.wordpress.com).

 Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

My table would be littered with both ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ feminists: Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Annie Lennox, Elizabeth Taylor, David Bowie and Gore Vidal.  Regardless of how they define themselves, I am sure discussions over gender, sex and sexuality would dominate the dinner table.

Oh no! You’re stranded on a desert island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

It is difficult to pinpoint one particular work but I do vividly remember reading Joan Wallach Scott’s Gender and the Politics of History at undergraduate and instantly re-evaluating everything I thought about the body and its relationship to gender.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

I feel a duty to choose a moment in London’s postwar history.  Perhaps 1967 – as I would like to experience working alongside Germaine Greer for Oz when the magazine had their offices in Notting Hill.  I would be interested to see first-hand how instrumental the ‘Summer of Love’ and second wave feminism was in bringing about wider social changes in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s.

 What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

My MA research explored the spatial production of masculinities in London’s dance halls between 1945 and 1965. This research then grew into a project where I toured local venues around the city sharing my work and encouraging audience members to discuss their memories of ‘going dancing’.  For a subject that may at first seem light and entertaining, I was surprised by how often I was moved by stories of romance, aging and loss that these events would evoke.

 What advice would you give to early career academics?

It is perhaps premature for me to be sharing advice but I would stress the need for all students and academics to be proactive.  As a research student, a world of opportunities presents itself and it is amazing how many exciting projects can develop through an impromptu email or asking to meet someone for a coffee.

 How did you come to your current area of research?

My current research straddles two fields: gender history, particularly the study of men and masculinities, is a subject I have been interested in from undergraduate; spatial history is a more recent addition and emerged from my studies of how men and women utilised dance hall spaces in postwar London.

 What book is currently on your bedside table?

I have recently returned to George Orwell, having not read anything by him since my teenage years.  I am currently reading The Road to Wigan Pier and am shocked by the stark living and working conditions of the people described, it is saddening to think that these experiences predate me by only a few generations and remain a reality for many people across the globe.

 Be honest; how long has it been there?

Honestly, the book is near complete and has been there a matter of days (though this is perhaps the product of not having not read a book unrelated to my research for around six months).

Thanks, Kevin!

——-

60 Seconds With…Amy Tobin

UntitledAmy Tobin is coming to the end of her first year of PhD research in the department of History of Art at the University of York. Her thesis, entitled Working Together, Working Apart: collaboration, exchange & the gift economy of Feminist Art (1970-1980) is focused on the intersections and creative exchanges between British and American feminist artists and is funded by the AHRC. She is part of a collaborative working group between the Courtauld Institute of Art (London) and CUNY Graduate School (New York).

 Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

It would have to be a pretty big table… Juliet Mitchell, Gina Pane, VALIE EXPORT, Pat Whiteread, Monica Ross, Althea Greenan, Heather Cassils, Lisa Tickner, Lucy R. Lippard, Gwen John and Jo Spence.

Oh no! You’re stranded on a desert island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

This is a difficult question but as an art historian I think I’ll go with an exhibition catalogue; Inside the Visible: Elliptical Traverse of Twentieth Century Art in, of and from the Feminine. Its one of the first books that got me thinking about feminist art history as an undergraduate. ‘Traversing’ the twentieth century, it includes a diverse range of international art practices with essays on each artist and fantastic illustrations.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

I would sit in on the ‘Questions of Women’s Art’ symposium at the Institute of Contemporary Art in 1980. The event sparked debates over the character of women’s art between American and British artists that lasted well into the decade. I would also visit Issue: Social Strategies by Women Artists, an exhibition, curated by Lucy Lippard, that forms the basis for one of the chapters of my thesis and which was showing concurrently to the symposium.

 What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

As I’m just coming to the end of my first-year I wouldn’t call it a career moment but I will always remember the feeling of excitement (and relief) during Feminist Object(ive)s: Writing Art History, an event I co-organised at the University of York earlier this year. We had fantastic papers from Harriet Riches, Catherine Grant, Hilary Robinson, James Boaden, Sylvie Simonds and Henrietta Stanford, as well as rich debate from a diverse audience. You can read a short report from the event here: http://writingfeministarthistory.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/york-workshop-report/

What advice would you give to early career academics?

The best piece of advice I could offer is to make the most of your time as a PhD student. Read and write as much as you can, meet people and organise events but always try to manage your time realistically, including guilt-free breaks. I try to look for opportunities to work on small pieces of writing and to participate in other events, a change can be as a good as a rest, and you never know what new connections or conceptual leaps you might make.

How did you come to your current area of research?

I am indebted to my current supervisor Dr. Jo Applin whose courses on Modern and Contemporary Art fostered my academic interest in the twentieth century and the work of women artists as an undergraduate. More specifically, my current project took shape as I began to do more research on the feminist art movement of the 1970s during my masters at the Courtauld Institute of Art with Dr. Catherine Grant. I was interested in British feminist artists who were usually represented in the literature through the work of American artist Mary Kelly who lived and worked in London during the 1970s. Kelly’s work has often been taken as symptomatic of a ‘theoretical’ feminism associated with the UK, I wanted to complicate this equation and the oppositional binary between American and British feminist art.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

I usually have a stack of fiction, some contemporary art journals and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. At the moment I’m reading Lynne Reid-Banks’ The L-Shaped Room from 1960, a brilliant fictional account of an unmarried woman in London who falls pregnant.

 Be honest; how long has it been there?

The Second-Sex has been there for about two years now, its very well thumbed! The L-Shaped Room was a charity-shop find I finally got round to after it was lingering at the bottom of the stack for a month or so. After that I’ve got a Mary McCarthy novel Birds of America queued up.

Thanks, Amy!

60 Seconds with…Fern Riddell

photo copyFern Riddell is a cultural historian at King’s College, London. She is in the final year of her PhD ‘Vice and Virtue: Pleasure, Morality and Sin in London’s Music Halls 1850-1919’, and contributes regularly to television and radio. She is one of ten AHRC/Radio 3 ‘New Generation Thinkers’ for 2013, and is currently writing her first book ‘A Victorian Guide To Sex’ (Pen and Sword, due out in 2014). She also contributes to the Journal of Victorian Culture Online.

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Kitty Marion, Elizabeth I, Bess of Hardwick, Daphne du Maurier, Annie Besant, Amelia Edwards, Adele Blanc-Sec, you know, you didn’t put a limit here and my list is pretty endless…

Oh no! You’re stranded on a desert island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

Kitty Marion’s unpublished autobiography, detailing her life and actions as a militant suffragette. She’s one of the most powerful writers I have ever come across, and her descriptions of force-feeding, and the reasons why she felt arson attacks were necessary are heartbreaking.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

I’d like to go back to the moment Heloise’s love letters to Abelard are sent. She didn’t care about status, or marriage, the only thing that mattered to her was love. It didn’t even matter to her that he was a monk and she was a nun. She had such strength and it echoes throughout history. I’d like her to know that.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Probably becoming one of the AHRC/Radio 3’s 10 ‘New Generation Thinkers’ for 2013. Not only is it a massive honor, but, as a historian, it gives me the chance to tell the hidden stories of the women I work with, on a national platform. Also, it’s really fun.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Don’t give up. There is so much pessimism out there about funding, job security and job opportunities, as well as the future of the humanities themselves. Find a way to get what you are passionate about onto everyone else’s radar.

How did you come to your current area of research?

Completely by accident, I’ve always been a cultural historian, but I never thought I’d end up so focused on women. It’s been an incredibly eye-opening experience, and I wouldn’t change it, it’s made me a feminist.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

Something first published in 1864, ‘Revelations of A Lady Detective’. It’s only the second book to use a woman as a lead character and comes decades before Sherlock Holmes. Historians have to work a little bit like detectives, so stories like this always massively appeal to me.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

For once, not that long! I picked it up at the British Library last week, but it is sitting on top of a pile that has been there for a while. There are piles like it all over my room. And the flat. And my car. Books are awesome.

Thanks, Fern!

July 2013

60 Seconds With…Ben Mechen

ben.mechen

Ben Mechen is a second year PhD student at UCL, supervised by Bernhard Rieger. His work examines how ideas about “ordinary” heterosexual subjects – and “everyday” heterosexual practice – were reconstituted in 1970s Britain, especially through the consumer goods market, social policy and “expert advice.” The thesis pivots around three case studies: the development of the Durex condom brand, the ongoing debate about the “meaning” of the contraceptive pill, and the growing popularity of the “sex manual.” He is a co-organiser of the April 2014 workshop “New Directions – Gender, Sex and Sexuality in 20th Century British History” (http://newdirections2014.wordpress.com).

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Off the top of my head: Emma Goldman. Stella Browne. Gayle Rubin. Joan Scott. Catherine Hall. Sheila Rowbotham. Audre Lord. William Thompson. Kathleen Hanna. Laurie Penny. Nina Power. And, obviously, Daria Morgendorffer.

Oh no! You’re stranded on a deserted island. Which feminist history book do you save from the waves?

Catherine Hall and Leonore Davidoff’s Family Fortunes: men and women of the English middle class, 1780-1950. I’m not sure I really knew what feminist or gender history looked like until I read this book as an undergraduate.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

The moment Emily Wilding Davison ensconced herself in a cupboard at St Mary Undercroft, Parliament’s chapel, on 11th April 1911, the night of the census. It meant that she could list her place of residence as the House of Commons, seven years before (some) women won the vote. I think it was one of the finest, and most symbolic, acts of civil disobedience in British history.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

I’ve not published anything yet, nor have I really got on the conference trail (this autumn I hope!), so I’m actually just going to say getting through my upgrade. When I was beginning to doubt myself, it confirmed to me that a PhD really had been the right choice.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

I’m still one myself, so instead I’ll pass on the most useful advice that’s been given to me recently. I have this problem where I agonise for hours over just a few sentences. I was told “When it comes to your thesis, don’t be a perfectionist, and don’t put pressure on yourself to change the world. Just do what you need to do to get your PhD; the prize-winning book, with all that finely-wrought prose, can come later!”

How did you come to your current area of research?

It really began with getting to know Keith McClelland when I was an undergraduate at UCL – his courses on Britain and its empire were a revelation, and really the first to get me systematically asking questions about gender, race and class in history. For my dissertation with him, I looked at Orientalist discourses in Victorian erotica, especially the figure of the “lustful Turk.” It was then that I became interested in the history of sexuality. A little later, during my MA, I did a course on postwar Western society with Bernhard Rieger, who is now my supervisor; that course made me think about the 1970s, a decade that in Britain has had something of a bad press, the sort of certainty which historians should always look to question. When it came to choosing an area of research for my PhD, seeing whether questions in the history of sexuality could bring new shape to understandings of Seventies Britain seemed like a really interesting way forward.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

I try not to read books directly related to my thesis in bed, so instead I use it as an opportunity to keep up with stuff going on outside my field and, when I can, outside the discipline – you know never what interesting connections might be thrown up. At the moment, I’m reading Rosi Braidotti’s The Posthuman, which is a useful introduction to an exciting strand in critical theory.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Long enough. I’m a good starter of books, but a terrible finisher.

Thanks, Ben!

——

60 Seconds With…Marc Calvini-Lefebvre

 Marc Calvini-Lefebvre is a Lecturer in 19th Century British History at Aix-Marseille Université. He is currently working on whipping his doctoral thesis – Feminism and the challenge of war: responses of the British Women’s Movement to the Great War – into monograph form in view of getting it published. Hopefully before 2018…

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Helena Maria Swanwick, a fiercely talented and absolutely tireless suffragist and pacifist who courageously spoke out against militarism before, during and after the Great War. It would be fun to have her meet the man whose writings inspired her as a student at Girton College, John Stuart Mill (that way, I wouldn’t be the only star-struck one). So things did not get too ideologically comfy, I’d also invite a more radical voice, someone like Madeleine Pelletier, the French socialist feminist who admired the suffragettes, was the first French female psychiatrist and wore trousers to the Socialist Party’s executive meetings.

 What would be your ‘desert island’ feminist book?  

King Kong Théorie (2006) by Virginie Despentes

If you could time travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

The Hague in April 1915 to witness the Women’s Peace Congress. I continue to marvel at the determination and courage of these women who came from all over Europe and the United States to try and find a way out of the war that was tearing Europe apart and then took their proposals to the leaders of belligerent and neutral countries alike.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Getting a tenured job and kissing anxiety, self-doubt and fear that it was all for nought, goodbye.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Have fun. Why else be an academic?

 Who or what inspired you to work on your current area of research?

Anne Phillips, Rodney Barker and… Tony Blair. The first introduced me to feminist political thought, the second taught me to think subtly/historically about ideas and ideologies, and the third invaded Iraq, sparking debates about gender, war and peace that I decided to explore historically.

 What book is on your bedside table?

Infidel Feminism: Secularism, Religion and Women’s Emancipation, England 1830-1914 (Manchester University Press, 2013) by Laura Schwartz

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Since it was sent by the publishers in May. I’m looking forward to the summer during which I shall read it, and to September when my review of it will be published!

Thanks, Marc!

June 2013

60 Seconds With… George Stevenson

I am first year AHRC-funded PhD student at the University of Durham researching the role ‘class’ played in the British women’s liberation movement, particularly in terms of activism, ideology, interactions between women within the movement, and the relationship to working-class women outside of it.  More broadly, I’m interested in the way oppressions intersect within social movements and considering how women have been radical agents of social and political change in the late twentieth century.

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Selma James, May Hobbs, Jayaben Desai, Audrey Wise, Sylvia Pankhurst, Nina Power and Simone de Beauvoir.

What would be your ‘desert island’ feminist book? 

One Dimensional Woman by Nina Power.

If you could time travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

It possibly stretches the idea of a ‘moment’ to its limits but I would love to have witnessed the development of the Nightcleaners’ Campaign in the early 1970s.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

It would have to be presenting a paper on class and the WLM to a room of feminist academics, some of whom were former liberationists, at a conference in Lincoln.  These factors alone made it a slightly terrifying experience but it was also my first conference and I can see in hindsight that the paper was under-researched.  The outcome was a rather chastening Q & A.  However, in retrospect, the questions and advice have stuck with me and made me a better historian so I’m grateful for the experience.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Persevere with what you’re passionate about and keep asking questions about why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Who or what inspired you to work on your current area of research?

I’ve had a strong interest in class and political consciousness since I was quite young, undoubtedly instilled by my Dad, but my ideological horizons were broadened by a fantastic Marxist-Feminist A-Level Sociology tutor and a feminist supervisor at the University of Dundee, where I did my MA and MLitt degrees.  By the end of my undergraduate degree I was fascinated by the intersection of different oppressions and inequalities.  I was also troubled by the idea that women, and particularly working-class women, in twentieth-century Britain were not seen as agents of radical change in a great deal of historiography and I saw the WLM as being an excellent counter to that sort of theory.

What book is on your bedside table?

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.  I’m conscious of the fact that this stands somewhat outside the current range in the ’60 Seconds With’ series but I thought honesty would be the best policy.  At the time of acquiring it, I was inspired by the other book on my bedside table, Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, towards trying to imagine what an emancipatory piece of noir fiction would look like and how the genre has thus far fallen short.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by the presentation of gender, class and race, which, while clearly fitting into certain tropes, is more complex than I’d expected.

 Be honest; how long has it been there?

I actually managed to get through most of both books on holiday but I haven’t finished either since returning a couple of weeks ago.  I think Red Planets has been on the go since Christmas.

Thanks, George! 

—-

60 Seconds With…Charlie Jeffries

UntitledCharlie Jeffries is about to start an AHRC-funded PhD in History at the University of Cambridge. After completing her Master’s in Women’s Studies at Oxford, she moved to Chittagong, Bangladesh where she has been a Teaching Fellow in History at the Asian University for Women. Here at AUW, she also runs a screening series called the Fortnightly Feminist Film Fiesta and a Queer Theory reading group, both of which she started in the hope of opening a dialogue on gender, sex and sexuality amongst AUW’s young scholars.

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Rachel Maddow, Tavi Gevinson, Kathleen Hanna, Dan Savage, Deepa Mehta and Estelle B. Freedman.

What would be your ‘desert island’ feminist book? 

Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. It approaches the gender and sexuality of each character with such genuine care and contains one of my favourite characters of all time, 13-year old tomboy Mick.

If you could time travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

To the first demonstration targeted at women’s health by AIDS activist group ACT UP; ‘Say NO to Cosmo’, in 1988. It symbolized the movement of women’s rights activists in to AIDS activism, and the role of women within ACT UP in drawing America’s attention to the urgent truth that women can get AIDS too.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

The first meeting of the Queer Theory seminar I set up at the Asian University for Women, where I have been a Teaching Fellow for the past year. The response was really strong and it was thrilling to have conversations with young women from across Asia for many of whom it was the first explicit discussion of sex and sexuality that they had had.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

As someone about to start their PhD, I am probably in no position to give advice to others at similar or further stages than myself…except perhaps to try not to forget what drove you to do your research in the first place, in spite of set backs, distractions, or library fatigue. It is advice I am hoping I’ll take myself!

Who or what inspired you to work on your current area of research?

As a dual citizen of the UK and the US, I moved from Washington, DC to the Lincolnshire countryside aged 11. As an undergraduate, I returned to the US for a year abroad at Georgetown University, which is where I came to truly appreciate the impact that my childhood move had had on my life, in addition to my funny accent. Talking to my peers inside and outside of the classroom was the first time I learnt what a strong religious lobby and the lack of a universal healthcare system really meant for teenage women in America; a complete lack of sex education, contraception priced too high to afford, pharmacists given the power to refuse the sale of the morning-after pill, laws which necessitate notes of consent from parents of under-eighteens to access these drugs, regardless of the danger such an admission might put that young woman in. It really hit me that, while being a teenager isn’t easy anywhere, not having to consider these factors in my own adolescence had saved me a lot of emotional and physical pain. It was then that I started to feel very strongly about conducting research into the reason why US policymakers have devoted so much time and federal funding into preserving the purity of teenage women, at whatever cost.

 What book is on your bedside table?

Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Eek, since March, when I returned from a holiday where I had read the first half. Since then I have managed a page a night before falling asleep on top of it.

Thanks, Charlie!

60 Seconds With… Professor Elaine Chalus

Professor Chalus is Professor of British History at Bath Spa University, where she is the Director for the Centre for History and Culture. Her primary research interests lie in English social and political history in the long eighteenth century. Her current research project, The Admirals Wife: An Intimate History of Family, Navy and Empire, draws upon the largely unknown diaries of Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle (1778-1857), and the letters and correspondence of the larger Fremantle (Barons Cottesloe) family, and was awarded a British Academy Research Development Award Scheme (BARDAs) award in June 2010. She has published extensively on women and political engagement in the eighteenth century.

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Mary Astell, Mary Wollstonecraft, ‘Sophia’, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, Harriet Taylor, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst, Emily Murphy Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Henrietta Muir Edwards

 What would be your ‘desert island’ feminist book? 

Betty Friedan, The Feminist Mystique.

 If you could time travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

18 October, 1929, when the British Privy Council overturned the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada and declared that the word ‘persons’ actually did include ‘female’ persons, thus opening the way for Canadian women to take a full part in public life.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Publishing Elite Women in English Political Life, c.1754-90 (2005), as it allowed me to present my ideas on women’s political involvement to date in one package.

 What advice would you give to early career academics?

Persevere. Network. Get involved. Stay curious.

Who or what inspired you to work on your current area of research?

The discovery of Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle’s wonderful diaries (1789-1857).

 What book is on your bedside table?

To be honest, it’s the end of term and the only thing that is currently on my bedside table is a set of Regency political diaries; however, the book that will replace them is Sarah Richardson’s, The Political Worlds of Women: Gender and Politics in Nineteenth Century Britain (2013).

Thanks, Elaine!

——

60 Seconds with…Laura Schwartz

Laura Schwartz is Assistant Professor of Modern British History at the University of Warwick. She works on the history of feminism and is the author of A Serious Endeavour: Gender, Education and Community at St Hugh’s (Profile Book, 2011) and Infidel Feminism: Secularism, Religion and Women’s Emancipation, England 1830-1914 (Manchester University Press, 2013). She is currently working on a project entitled ‘Feminism and the Servant Problem: Feminist Thought and Domestic Labour, Britain 1880-1939’. She is a member of the London-based collective Feminist Fightback www.feministfightback.org.uk

Who would you invite to your fantasy feminist dinner party?

Jessie Stephen, suffragette maid, organiser for the Domestic Workers’ Union and an all round woman in struggle. She was funny too.

What would be your ‘desert island’ feminist book? 

Beyond the Fragments by Lynn Segal, Hilary Wainwright and Sheila Rowbotham

If you could time travel to observe one moment in the history of feminism, where would you go?

Rather predictably it would have to be East London c.1910, because I’d know my way about and have an idea about what was going on. I’d try and hang out with Sylvia Pankhurst, go on strike and maybe burn down a few stately homes in the name of the Cause.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Giving a speech at a demonstration to save The Women’s Library in the East End from closure. I fell off my soap box half way through the speech and broke my arm.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

Take a holiday once in a while.

Who or what inspired you to work on your current area of research?

Barbara Taylor, Alison Light, Lucy Bland and Carolyn Steedman. Plus trying to work out why I got so angry when my friends employed cleaners.

What book is on your bedside table?

Kathi Weeks, The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism and the Post Work Imaginary (2010).

 Be honest; how long has it been there?

Almost a year now, but it’s so thought provoking I keep having to go back it.

Thanks, Laura!

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