Before Suffrage: Women, Politics and Society in Europe 1789-1850
Workshop organized by Mark Philp and Anne Verjus
Lyon, France September 2022
The workshop will examine a series of issues about the forms of activity in which women engaged that they themselves could see as having political dimensions or that sought to influence the direction taken by the communities and society of which they were a part. We see 1800-1850 as an especially important period in large part because of the extensive disruption in Europe following the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period of rule, and because of the extent to which that revolution triggered other popular rebellions and insurrections against the status quo across Europe. Instability often bred opportunity. For example, the period sees the emergence of new organizational forms, including, in some countries, women’s societies; in other countries, divided by war, women took an active part in forms of resistance and their organization. At the same time, what often started from very local beginnings, over time contributed to the emergence of a lexicon of popular politics and political ideas that were increasingly shared across European states – with liberalism, socialism, communism and conservatism emerging as organizing ideologies in the period, and with questions about the role and place of women in the political system being opened for examination and challenge.
Our interest is in exploring the range of parts that women in Europe played in the growing contestation and confrontation that developed in this period and that was increasingly coupled with political demands for reform or for recognition of various forms. At what points, in what ways, with what ends and aspirations did women act and with what awareness of breaking with customary expectations and traditional roles? How did their activity diverge from or further develop existing patterns of sociability and networks of association for women. What challenges and opportunities did war and revolution open to women; and for those states that avoided war, especially civil war, what place were women able to carve for themselves in the changing politics of their worlds? How did they reflect on their own activity, did they identify it as ‘political’ and in what ways (and what did they take that to mean), and how did others see it and respond to it. How should we see it?
The literature on women’s sociability has been dominated by relatively elite social groups and has focused heavily on the early modern period and the eighteenth century. This workshop moves questions of women’s sociability into the emergence of forms of popular protest and organization, to ask how far the tools and concepts of earlier studies might be deployed in a more turbulent period and across a very much wider social and geographical world. As a European political lexicon and set of movements comes into formation, it is important to reflect on the variety of roles that women were able to carve for themselves in this new contentious politics.
Dance, Song, Music and Sociability 1750 -1832
4-5th March 2022
A two-day conference/workshop following up the virtual meeting held in March 2021 (see below) exploring the world of dance, and sociability in the late Georgian period.
The workshop will be held in the Notre Dame London facility next to the National Gallery.
Organisation: DIGITENS EU Project and the Universities of Warwick, UEA and Notre Dame
Sociability is one of the single most significant ideas to emerge out of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. The societies, clubs and institutions that underpinned intellectual exchange, made possible the scientific developments of the period, the development of "public opinion" through political meetings; and they helped form the entertainment industry through the commercialization of pleasure. Less widely understood, however, are the specific dynamics of sociability -- the ways that both institutions and private gatherings combined serious discussion with entertainment in the form of musical entertainment and dance. This conference will challenge the dominant understandings of Enlightenment sociability by placing music and dance at its core. Rather than thinking of music and dance as a peripheral ornament to the serious business of the Enlightenment, it will understand them as important engines in the development and dissemination of the ideas and practices that mobilised people’s bodies and emotions and shaped their social, emotional and intellectual worlds.
In March 2021 we held a preparatory workshop for the meeting (post Covid - we hope) in March 2022.
The preparatory workshop had three sections :
Section 1: Place: (Ch. Natalie Hanley Smith) Lynn Matluck Brooks (Philadelphia), Alena Shmakova (Edinburgh), Sabrina Juillet Garzon (Edinburgh) Brooks Shmakova Garzon Lynn Books has also compiled a bibliography on Francis (Frank) Johnson available here
Section 2: Movement and Materiality (Ch: Oskar Cox Jensen) : Ambre Emory-Maier/Valarie Williams (Clothing), Matthew McCormack (Shoes), Hillary Burlock (Grace and Education) AEM&VW McCormack Burlock (For Dance Steps see below the Digitens Logo below).
The following themes and issues are offered as a jumping off point for what I hope will be an engaging and provoking discussion.
- One thing I think deserves attention is the physical side of dance, song, and playing music – and how that physical experience interacts with people’s social and emotional experience. Are these physical components things that in some ways set people apart from their social worlds – as if it is a formally distinct form of conduct, as against something integrally part of that world – as it might be in elements of carnival and masquerade or as a performance set apart from the self. And can these occasions be contrasted with cases in which the body engaged is not individualized (as in Dickens’ account of the Carmagnole discussed in the paper). And how far does this vary across types and forms – is singing a complex aria a performance that separates the singer out from her audience; does a cotillion work in the same way – a separating performance – in contrast to a contra-dance or the companionable singing of sea shanties at work (Oskar referred me to Rhythms of Labour: Music at Work in Britain, Cambridge UP 2013) . How and in what ways, for which forms, do ‘performances’ separate or bind, appeal to formal aesthetic criteria, as against a sociable conviviality – and how far are such matters different depending on age, gender, social class, or how far do they create temporary sociabilities/communities constructed on these lines?
- Another thing I am increasingly interested in (partly because we are very reliant on what people remember about their experiences and their feelings) is about the different forms and dimensions of memory involved in these conjunctures. We tend to think of memory in terms of hard-drives, or entries on a disk/stick that we/ retrieve. Psychologists are increasingly resistant to that metaphor and argue that much memory (and much mind) is simultaneously bodily. That seems evident in relation to learning certain skills and movement – learning to dance or sing or play an instrument is not a wholly cognitive process but is embedded in learning to move bodily in certain ways. And memory (qua recall of events) may itself be encoded in and only fully triggered and recalled in movement. And if that is so, how far should we see this not narrowly in terms of a mind/body & memory/performance conjuncture but also as a social/cultural experience, embedded in a wider world that powerfully shapes the physical and mental aspects of a performance and, at the same time, the memories (both embodied and cognitive) of it?
- What kind of ‘field’ is the dance floor? More appropriately – of any particular dance – what are the rules and conventions at work? Who is it for (in terms of ostensible purposes, and who benefits from the opportunities)? Who participates and under what conditions with whom? Who polices? Who can claim whose attention and compliance? Does one have to wait to be asked, when are same sex couples accepted and when not? Who determines the music, the order, the dances and the steps? How do new dances, tunes or songs get introduced and what impact does the setting have on that? What must one have in order to participate – is this about social distinctions, familial and social networks, an appearance of wealth, evidence of ability – and how do such things vary according to the occasion – and how are such occasions marked out and distinguished as this rather than that type?
- And in relation to all of these points – how uniform is experience across class and how disparate, and how far do different cultures and groups of practices ‘talk’ to other cultures and groups.
Dance Steps: Pas de Minuet and Pas de Rigaudon (by Hillary Burlock)
Earlier Sociability Projects
The Diary of Sharon Turner, transcribed from typescript held in the British Library by Clare Clarke, Warwick University.
Clare Clarke undertook the transcription while a first year undergraduate an History at Warwick, supported by an Undergraduate Research Support Scheme grant, in the summer of 2015. She completed the work on the diary in the following summer. The EHRC would like to thank Clare for allowing us to bring this material to a wider audience.
Women’s Society, 1750-1830
7-8 July 2016
University of Notre Dame Global Gateway,
1 Suffolk Street London
In Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, Molly Gibson’s reputation is compromised when she is seen to consort with a single man on the outskirts of the village. It is only restored when Lady Harriet takes her around the village in a display of her confidence in her. Although written in 1864, it is a scene that might easily have featured in Jane Austen’s, or Amelia Opie’s novels. The exact boundaries between probity and infelicitous action might vary, but they are boundaries that women are very much responsible for supervising amongst themselves. This is not irrespective of the masculine world of expectation, propriety and power, but it is a distinct domain of self-policing – and, as in other cases, it might sometimes be still more censorious in some areas, or experience greater anxiety, than is the case for that wider masculine world. Moreover, it is clearly not a unified world – conventions and expectations function in relation to particular reference groups, and while no reference group is wholly immune from the deeper societal expectations of conduct and their associated penalties for misconduct, people rate some groups and associations more strongly than others. Amelia Alderson had no qualms about forming a friendship with Mary Wollstonecraft; Elizabeth Inchbald and the Twisses did, once the character of her relationship with Imlay became clear. But none of Godwin’s women friends were introduced to Sarah Elwes.This interdisciplinary workshop will examine three dimensions of the conventions in constructing and representing women’s experience across the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe: it will examine the way sources reveal the opportunities and constraints in social relations between women, and women and men; it will consider the way in which novels of the period represent the social conventions of interaction; and it will assess how far there are conflicts between the experience of women and their representation in the world of fiction. The workshop is especially interested in exploring the details of interaction and reconstructing the conventions that seem to have operated, and in examining symmetries and asymmetries between the lives of authors and the lives of their characters. The fictional representation of different social positions and mores also requires setting alongside other evidence of elite practice and that of the middling and lower orders.We invite proposals for papers from scholars in any discipline that address women’s society from the mid eighteenth to the mid nineteenth-centuries. Chronological boundaries are flexibly conceived, and proposals for papers which address earlier and later periods but which overlap with 1750–1830 are encouraged. Similarly, while the central focus of the conference will be on Women’s Society in Britain, papers on conventions of behavior in other European countries (or of nationals abroad) are welcome.
Abstracts (max. 500 words) for 20-minute papers should be sent, with a short biography, to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 May 2016. For more information please contact the conference organizers Ian Newman (University of Notre Dame) or Mark Philp (University of Warwick), at email@example.com and Mark.Philp@warwick.ac.uk
Thursday 7 July 2016
1:00-1:15pm Reception / Coffee
1:15-1:35 Mark Philp: Introduction
1:35-2:25 Paper 1: Margaret Doody: 'A New System of Gunning': Susannah Minifie, Beauties, Plots, and Gillray's caricatures"
2:25-3:05 Paper 2 Hannah Grieg & Amanda Vickery: The Political Day: Mapping Gender and High Politics
3:25-4:05 Paper 3 Chloe Wigston Smith: The Haberdasher’s Plot
4.05 -4:54 Paper 4 Karen Wade: A Flirt’s Progress
5:05-5:45 Paper 5 Georgia Haseldine: Portraits of Radical Women
5:45-6:25 Paper 6 Natalie Hanley Smith: The Devonshire menage a trois 1783-1806
Friday 8 July 2016
9:30-10:10 Paper 7 Margie Housley: Heart without Sentiment: Wollstonecraft’s Letters
10:10-10:50 Paper 8 Ian Newman: Alehouse Women
11:10-11:50 Paper 9 Julie Watt, The Scottish Austen
11:50-12:30 Paper 10 Emma Major Propriety and Genre – Barbauld’s Sermons
1:30-2:10 Paper 11 Jon Mee, Some mode less revolting to their delicacy: Women and intellectual sociality in the Transpennine enlightenment.
2:10-2:50 Paper 12 Amy Milka: Petticoats on Trial
2:50-3:10 Paper 13
3:50-3:50 Paper 14 Dosia Reichardt: Such delightful apples: Austen’s Philanthropy
3:50-4:30 Paper 15 Michelle O’Connell: You can keep your flowers: Graveside Decorum
4:30-5.00 Closing remarks
Workshop University of Warwick,
March 22nd 2016
Mark Philp, Maria Luddy, Christina Lupton, Harriet Guest (York), Jon Mee, Gerardine Meaney, Natalie Hanley-Smith
(This workshop will be followed up with a joint event between University of Wariwck and University of Notre Dame in London on 7-8th July, 2016)
In Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, Molly Gibson’s reputation is compromised when she is seen to consort with a single man on the outskirts of the village. It is only restored when Lady Harriet takes her around the village in a display of her confidence in her. Although written in 1864, it is a scene that might easily have featured in Jane Austen’s, or Amelia Opie’s novels. The exact boundaries between probity and infelicitous action might vary, but they are boundaries that women are very much responsible for supervising amongst themselves. This is not irrespective of the masculine world of expectation, propriety and power, but it is a distinct domain of self-policing – and, as in other cases, it might sometimes be still more censorious in some areas, or experience greater anxiety, than is the case for that wider masculine world. Moreover, it is clearly not a unified world – norms and expectations function in relation to particular reference groups, and while no reference group is wholly immune from the deeper societal expectations of conduct and their associated penalties for misconduct, people rate some groups and associations more strongly than others. Amelia Alderson had no qualms about forming a friendship with Mary Wollstonecraft; Elizabeth Inchbald and the Twisses did, once the character of her relationship with Imlay became clear. But none of Godwin’s women friends were introduced to Sarah Elwes.
This project is concerned to bring scholars from history, literature and a range of other disciplines to analyse the details of domestic and social interaction among women of various social statuses - using letters, diaries, novels and legal records – so as to identify the forms that within-gender policing took, and to attempt a reconstruction of the norms and boundaries they policed, and how these varied for different social groups and localities (rural vs metropolitan, for example).
The project will examine a wide range of different ways in which norms can be identified and inferred, for example through the use of quantitative techniques about frequency, timing, and nature of visiting, the use of women’s time, and varieties of evidence about periods of sociability between women, points of encounter and tension with men, both from within and outside families.
The project will focus on the period 1780 to 1820, and is particularly focussed on the policing of conduct in London and provincial towns in the revolutionary decade. It might also be constructive to consider experiences of women (English or other) in the rest of Europe at the same period.
Mark Philp, Maria Luddy, Christina Lupton, Rebecca Probert, David Taylor, Harriet Guest