Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

New Writings in Women's Studies: Selected Essays from the First Women's Studies Network (U.K.) Association Essay Contest

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

New Writings in Women's Studies: Selected Essays from the First Women's Studies Network (U.K.) Association Essay Contest

Article excerpt

Introduction

The aim of this special issue of the Journal of International Women's Studies (JIWS) is to showcase the winning and shortlisted entries for the 1st Annual Essay Competition, run by the Women's Studies Network (UK) Association (WSN) in 2002. The WSN aims to promote women's studies, feminist research and teaching both nationally and internationally, and the publication of the essays in JIWS constitutes a valuable opportunity, through its international readership, to develop new and productive points of connection between those working in this field. The remit of the competition was deliberately inclusive, inviting undergraduates and postgraduates to submit previously unpublished work "that carries on the Women's Studies traditions of innovation, interdisciplinarity and feminist challenges to mainstream academic conventions". Entries were invited from feminist scholars of any academic discipline, as well as from those working within journalism, feminist activism or conducting independent feminist research. The aim of the competition was "to encourage and celebrate a new generation of feminist scholars", and as we hope this special edition illustrates, the winning and shortlisted entries offer substantial assurance to those who are witnessing the institutional decline of Women's Studies in the UK that feminist scholarship is alive and well, and as exciting and diverse as ever. We also hope that this special issue will counter more generally the view that younger women are no longer identifying politically as feminists, conversely showing, if anything, a sustained feminism amongst young scholars. The standard of the competition entries was very high, and we are very grateful to the external readers and to the members of WSN executive committee who contributed to the difficult task of selecting the winners. Our congratulations go to Angela King, who won the undergraduate competition, and Esperanza Miyake, who won in the postgraduate category.

In light of the status of these essays as shortlisted and winning competition entries, we decided that, with the exception of the standardising of the texts in terms of format, the essays would be published as they were submitted, and the authors were not invited to make any substantive changes, as might be the case, for example, in the usual process of article submission to a journal. The reason for this is that all of the essays included here were highly graded pieces of writing from undergraduate and postgraduate courses, either as extracts of longer papers, or submitted in their original form. As such, they represent genuine examples of the high quality of work being conducted under the broad rubric of women's studies / feminist scholarship, and therefore, they are not only valuable examples to current students of what it is possible to achieve, but they also serve as a timely reminder to those who may choose to question the legitimacy of Women's Studies as a legitimate field of scholarship.

In the first part of this introduction, we introduce briefly the six shortlisted and winning essays. Both the introductions to the essays, and the essays themselves, are organised alphabetically by the authors' surnames in order to avoid a hierarchical ordering of the competition categories. In the second section, we have attempted to draw out some of the common themes which we identified as emerging from the essays.

The Essays

The first essay is by Caroline Baker. The paper is an abridgement of her undergraduate Literature Studies dissertation and is entitled An Exploration of Quaker Women's Writing Between 1650 and 1700. For Baker, these women can be thought of as being among the first feminists, arguing in the letter accompanying her entry that a focus on their "collective voice" illustrates "the importance of herstory as well as history". Her analysis of the writings offers a valuable and intriguing insight not only into the extraordinary lives of these women, but also into the dynamic reframing and negotiation of gender categories which is implicit in both their work and their writing. …

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