Scottish Women: A Documentary History, 1780-1914

Scottish Women: A Documentary History, 1780-1914

Scottish Women: A Documentary History, 1780-1914

Scottish Women: A Documentary History, 1780-1914

Synopsis

A sourcebook illustrating the experience of Scottish women from 1780-1914. Drawing on a wide range of source materials from across Scotland, this sourcebook provides new insights into women's attitudes to the society in which they lived, and how they negotiated their identities within private and public life.Organised in thematic chapters, it moves from the private and intimate experiences of sexuality, health and sickness to Scotswomen's migrations across the British empire, illustratingmany facets of women's lives - domesticity and waged work, defiance of law and convention, religious faith and respectability, political action and public influence. A range of fascinating and rich source material sheds new light on the lives of women across Scotland throughout the long nineteenth century, demonstrating the pervasiveness of discourses of appropriate feminine behaviour, but also women's subversion of this. It raises challenging questions for researchers about the identification of women's voices, where these have been muted by class, religion, or ethnicity, while at the same time providing a methodology for uncovering these.

Excerpt

The part played by women in Scottish political, economic, social and cultural life has been the focus of historical research for several decades, and the volume of work in this field continues to grow. As elsewhere in Britain, the women’s movement, which emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, facilitated the emergence of feminist historical scholarship, with works on Scottish women’s history beginning to appear from the 1980s onwards. There were, of course, prior to this period historians who had demonstrated an interest in women’s lives, while various schools of historical writing have shed light on women’s lives without necessarily having a primary focus on either women or gender relations as such. It is, however, the work inspired by late twentieth-century feminism that has shaped the key debates, definitions and terms of analysis of women’s and gender history. This volume of extracts from primary source documents has arisen from our participation in Women’s History Scotland, and builds on our own work on women’s and gender history. It complements Gender in Scottish History (2006) and the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (2006), and we hope that, as an additional tool for students and researchers, it will also stimulate further research. As others have noted, there is a distinction to be made between women’s history and gender history: the former may be broadly characterised as focusing on the nature of women’s lives and role in society and aiming to put women ‘in the picture’; the latter focuses on the negotiation of gender roles, the contested nature of gender relations, and the social construction of gendered identities. Despite controversies among feminist scholars on the relative value of these different approaches, they need not be seen as mutually exclusive, rather as forming complementary and overlapping areas of study. This volume, a ‘documentary’ history of Scottish women, perhaps falls more readily into the category of women’s history than gender history, though the sources selected for inclusion permit many different usages by historians.

The period covered in this volume, the ‘long nineteenth century’, defined here as 1780 to 1914, has perhaps been the most favoured by historians of women in Scotland, though there have also been developments in women’s history in the medieval and early modern periods, and in the twentieth century. The . . .

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