Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Women from winter wonderland, part 1

Snowed-in just now, so I can finish another post which stalled last night because of the need to start sweeping the white stuff away so P could get back in. Her intrepid journey to choir rehearsal - which would be out of the question this morning - prompted me to look through some of the books I used when discussing women's role in True North - today often the same as men's pretty much, but very different in the past.
Anne Lister of Shibden Hall is an interesting example, and there's going to be a big BBC2 drama about her in the Spring, starring Maxine Peake. She was gay and kept secret diaries about her love life, which also cast light on the struggles of women trying to be independent in the early 19th century - a hard task even for a very wealthy Yorkshirewoman. Her former home of Shibden Hall near Halifax is now an excellent museum, although she would not have approved of that. She kept the public out. The growing literature on her includes No Priest but Love - Journals 1824-6 edited by Helena Whitbread (Smith Settle 1992) and I Know my Own Heart, diaries 1791 - 1840, (Virago 1988) edited by the same author who first transcribed the diaries and deserves much respect. Selected letters between 1800 and 1840 are in Miss Lister of Shibden Hall, ed by Muriel M Green (The Bookk Guild 1992). Two other interesting studies are Female Fortune - land, gender and authority (Rivers Oram 1998) based on Anne's writings 1833-6 and Nature's Domain, Anne Lister and the Landscape of Desire (Pennine Pens 2003), both by Jill Liddington, whose books on the suffragettes are exceptionally interesting - how Lister would have flourished, and how her talents would have been recognised in that milieu. Liddington's Rebel Girls (Virago 2006) has oodles of fascinating new material about Northern suffragettes and their cat and mouse adventures. I grew up just along the road from the former home of one of the book's heroines Isabella Ford, which has just been acknowledged by a Leeds Civic Trust plaque. More shortly, must just turn attention to snow mayhem for the paper.

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