Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library

01 March 2024

'Women are up to something': selected readings for Women's History Month 2024

With International Women's Day approaching on 8th March, this post ushers in Women’s History Month by picking out a selection of books published over the last few years that put women’s history and women’s voices centre stage. Ranging from quick reads to more weighty academic studies, this small selection gives an insight into the diversity of the material that is available to readers in the Library’s St Pancras reading rooms.  

Access to the collections held by the British Library remains limited because of a major technology outage caused by a cyber attack at the end of October 2023.  The work being done to restore services is detailed in a post on our Knowledge Matters blog, and our temporary website outlines the services that are currently available, as well as listing what's on at the Library.  Our reading rooms at both St Pancras and Boston Spa are open for personal study, with free wifi and limited access to the collections.  Those who held a reading pass before the outage are able to consult a limited range of collection items.    

The selection of books below ranges from literary criticism to histories of political activism, and from interviews to theory: all are held at St Pancras and should be available to readers who have a readers pass, but if you are planning to come to the Library, please check the availability before you visit.  To do so, contact our Reference Services team by emailing [email protected] .

 

Uncontrollable women: radicals, reformers and revolutionaries by Nan Sloane

London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2022.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1245

Screenshot 2024-03-01 at 16.13.37

Cover image of Uncontrollable women: radicals, reformers and revolutionaries, by Nan Sloane. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2022.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1245

Nan Sloane’s most recent book explores the history of radical, reformist and revolutionary women between the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832. The book puts the often-untold stories and voices of these women centre stage to show the way they challenged power structures and even gave their lives for the cause they made their own.   The battles they fought for political expression and greater freedom are relevant not only to a different reading of history, but also to women's rights today.  Nan Sloane’s earlier work, The Women in the Room: Labour’s forgotten history (London, IB Tauris, 2020, British Library shelfmark YC.2021.a.4484) offered a readable and enlightening account of the political activists who shaped the British Labour party.

 

Carnival is woman: feminism and performance in Caribbean mas, edited by Frances Henry and Dwaine Plaza.

Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, 2020 British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.488

Caribbean mas

Cover image of Carnival is woman : feminism and performance in Caribbean mas, edited by Frances Henry and Dwaine Plaza. Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, 2020 British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.488

 

The essays in this collection bring a feminist perspective to the role of women in Caribbean Carnival, through a focus on women and their practices in the Trinidad Carnival. The book presents a range of qualitative research methods, including interviews, participant observation and ethnography to examine women’s empowerment through performance, enjoyment and expression. 

 

Feminism by Bernardine Evaristo

London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd., 2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.590.

Evaristo Feminism

Cover image of Feminism, by Bernardine Evaristo, London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd., 2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.590.

The ‘Look Again’ series of short books explores the Tate’s National Collection of British Art, reframing the collection in new ways and drawing on contemporary perspectives.  In just under 50 pages, this richly-illustrated book offers an interpretation of British art from an intersectional feminist perspective, from one of Britain’s foremost writers.  Bernadine Evaristo is a Booker Prize-winning author and Professor of Creative Writing whose work ranges from fiction and poetry to criticism.  This personal exploration focuses on representations of women and non-binary people of colour who have been less visible within museums and galleries.

 

The career and communities of Zaynab Fawwaz: feminist thinking in fin-de-siècle Egypt by Marilyn Booth.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2021. British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.366

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Cover image of The career and communities of Zaynab Fawwaz : feminist thinking in fin-de-siècle Egypt by Marilyn Booth. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021. British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.366

 

Academic and literary translator Marilyn Booth has worked for over thirty years to show women’s input into debates around feminism and gender politics in Egypt.  Her latest work focuses on Lebanese author and activist, Zaynab Fawwaz who wrote and published in Egypt toward the end of the nineteenth century. Her monumental work The Book of Scattered Pearls Regarding Categories of Women /   الدر المنثور في طبقات ربات الخدور  which was first published in 1891, is a biographical dictionary that celebrates and supports women's achievements.  Zaynab Fawwaz wrote two novels and a play, and was at the forefront of the emergence of the novel in Arabic.

 

The women are up to something: how Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch revolutionized ethics, by Benjamin J. B. Lipscomb.


New York: Oxford University Press, 2022.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.411

 

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Cover image of The women are up to something: how Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch revolutionized ethics, by Benjamin J. B. Lipscomb .
New York : Oxford University Press, 2022.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.411

 

This book focuses on four women who began their studies at Oxford just before the Second World War: Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch.  From very different backgrounds, they forged friendships and worked to set out an intellectual understanding of what it means to live a good life. Drawing on letters, archives and interviews, the book explores their ideas and the contribution to intellectual history made by their distinct, alternative, interventions into philosophy and ethics.

Up to something

Inside page with figures from The Women are up to something... : Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot and Mary Midgley.

 

Surfacing: on being Black and feminist in South Africa, edited by Desiree Lewis and Gabeba  Baderoon. 

Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2022.a.3898

Surfacing

Cover of Surfacing : on being Black and feminist in South Africa, edited by Desiree Lewis and Gabeba  Baderoon.  Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2022.a.3898

 

This ground-breaking collection of essays, edited by feminist theorist Desiree Lewis and poet and scholar Gabeba Baderoon is dedicated to bringing to the fore a range of contemporary Black South African feminist perspectives. The writers and practitioners who have contributed their views use creative expression, photography and poetry to explore representations of Blackness, sexuality, girlhood, history, divinity, alongside other themes.

Surfacing blurb

 

 

Challenging women's agency and activism in early modernity, edited by Merry E. Wiesner.

Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021, British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1071

 

Agency and activism

Cover of Challenging women's agency and activism in early modernity, edited by Merry E. Wiesner. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021, British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1071

An Open Access edition of this book is also available free online as at OAPEN Online Library of Open Access Books https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/61368

This collection of essays, focusing on Europe and beyond, considers the various ways women were able to exercise agency in the Renaissance and early modern period. At this time women faced new constraints but also found new forms of activism. The essays look at how the actions of girls and women could shape their lives and challenge male-dominated institutions in spite of family and social pressures. 

 

Feminisms with Chinese characteristics, edited by Ping Zhu and Hui Faye Xiao.

Syracuse, New York : Syracuse University Press  2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.908

 

Feminisms  Chinese

Front cover of Feminisms with Chinese characteristics, edited by Ping Zhu and Hui Faye Xiao.  Syracuse, New York : Syracuse University Press  2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.908

Edited by two academics from US universities, this collection of ten essays and two interviews examines the varying ways Chinese feminist ideas have developed since the mid-1990s. It includes articles by contemporary activists and writers from China to highlight the importance of exploring different interpretations of feminism in a way that is integrated into Chinese culture and history.

 

 

Shakespeare's 'lady editors': a new history of the Shakespearean text, by Molly G. Yarn

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022. British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1605

 

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Cover image of Shakespeare's 'lady editors': a new history of the Shakespearean text, by Molly G. Yarn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022. British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1605

In the tradition of challenging established histories and revealing the work of women who have been left out of history, this book sets out to recover the lives and work of almost seventy women editors. It challenges the received wisdom those who edited Shakespeare’s texts were almost all men up until the late twentieth century. Its alternative perspective takes these women's work seriously in order to change our understanding of how Shakespeare’s works were edited and how we read Shakespeare across time.

 

Family, slavery and love in the early American republic: the essays of Jan Ellen Lewis. Edited by Barry Bienstock, Annette Gordon-Reed, and Peter Onuf.

Williamsburg, Virginia : The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture ; Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2021.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.455

 

Family and slavery

Title page of Family, slavery and love in the early American republic: the essays of Jan Ellen Lewis. YC.2023.a.455

 

Historian Jan Ellen Lewis, who died in 2018,  taught at Rutgers University-Newark for over four decades.  Her studies of gender, emotions, and the family transformed understandings of the early American republic.  She was a renowned scholar of colonial and early national history, focusing on the intersections between gender, race and politics.  She was also known for championing the career progress of students and colleagues.   This collection, brought together by her husband Barry Bienstock, along with colleagues Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf, contains thirteen of her most important essays, along with critical interpretation and contextual discussion by fellow historians.

 

The ten books picked out here - just a few of the diverse approaches to women's history -  also have in common the fact that they were received by the Library under Legal Deposit. This is the requirement that publishers should deposit a copy of each book published or distributed in the United Kingdom or in the Republic of Ireland with the British Library, and it remains a key means through which the Library builds its collections.  Just over half of the books received each year under Legal Deposit come into the Library in print, whilst slightly less than half are received in electronic format.  Our contemporary printed collections are also built through purchase and donation.  The Library is still able to receive Legal Deposit copies in print format.  Electronic deposit is yet to be restored but has been identified as a priority. 

 

 

 

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