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Pioneering female fieldworkers: exploring intellectual history of archaeology and anthropology

May 9, 2016

A reminder of the workshop taking place tomorrow (10th of May) at St Cross College, Oxford from 1 pm to 6.15 pm

Following from St Cross talks on the theme of early female fieldworkers in Michaelmas and Hilary terms, this workshop will bring together themes around women’s involvement in early travel-based scholarship. It will consider the educational, social and political background of early female explorers, travellers and fieldworkers along with their experiences in the field and their output and legacy in collections, publications, talks etc. The discussion will explore the need for such studies of women as well as what there is to be gained from studying their often neglected contributions and legacies.

1pm-1.45pm Mrs Janet Howarth, The Research University in England: experiences of early academic women, c.1890-1930

Women were admitted to higher education in England during a period of university reform and expansion: secularisation, the introduction of new fields of study and qualifications, the foundation of new colleges and universities. This was also the moment when universities became centres of research as well as places of education, although Britain was late to adopt the PhD and to make it a mandatory qualification for academics. By the interwar years, it is estimated, women accounted for up to 14% of the academic profession – a higher proportion than in any continental country and about the same as the proportion of women academics in English universities in the 1970s. Some indications of how this came about can be seen in the careers of six university-educated women scholars: Jane Ellen Harrison (1850-1928), classical scholar; Hertha Ayrton (1854-1923), electrical engineer; Marie Stopes (1880-1958), palaeobotantist; Gertrude Elles (1872-1960), geologist; Mildred Pope (1872-1956), French scholar; and Eileen Power (1889-1940), economic historian.

1.45pm – 2.30pm Dr David Hopkin, English Women Folklorists in Italy: Cultural and Political Activism after Unification

I intend to present the work of three (more-or-less) British women writers and travellers who, like so many of their compatriots, were drawn to Italy in the period between Unification and the First World War, and who contributed to the folklore literature of that country. Their names are Rachel Harriette Busk, the Countess Evelyn Martinengo-Cesaresco, and Estella Canziani. Folklore and its related studies really took off in the British Isles in the second half of the nineteenth century, and women were prominent contributors and sometimes leaders of these nascent disciplines. Their visible role in Britain contrasts with the relative absence (or only veiled presence) of women in similar institutions in continental Europe. Through these three exemplary figures I will consider some explanations for this situation, and how the contexts which enabled these women to establish themselves as folklore scholars also influenced the direction of their work. Although all three came from privileged backgrounds, the income and independence earned from their writing was important to them. All three were involved in the developments that ameliorated the position of women in the Victorian period, and all three were cultural and political activists, both in Britain and in Italy.

2.30 – 3.15 Dr. Alice Stevenson, The role of women in the establishment of Egyptian archaeology 1880-1910

The participation of women in Egyptian archaeology is beginning to be better recognised following a century of the erasure and trivialization of female contributions to field archaeology in the pioneering phase of the late 19th and early 20th century. In this talk I’ll first introduce three of the most prominent and well-documented women of early Egyptian archaeology – Amelia Edwards, Hilda Petrie and Margaret Murray – before going on to think about the inequalities that structured fieldwork relationships and how gender was negotiated in these contexts. The space of fieldwork has often been characterized as a masculine space that precluded or at least was a major obstacle to the involvement of women. To some extent I think this may be true but I would argue that this has perhaps over-stated given the large numbers of women who were involved in Egyptian fieldwork and indeed acknowledged for their role on site at the time. Instead I would suggest that one of the major barriers to the recognition of women in Egyptian archaeology in the longer term as being the development of the discipline within universities

3.15- 3.45 Coffee break

3.45 – 4.30 Dr. Sarah Evans, Mapping terra incognita: women on Royal Geographical Society supported expeditions 1913-1970

Women’s expeditionary work, in common with women’s geographical work more broadly, has been comparatively understudied within the history of geographical thought and practice, and within the wider discipline, until relatively recently (Domosh 1991a, 1991b; Rose 1993; Maddrell 2009a). In this paper, which draws on my recently completed doctoral research in the Collections of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (RGS-IBG), I will explore women’s participation in RGS-supported expeditions between 1913 and 1970, presenting the results of a systematic survey of all applications for RGS support during this period, and mapping out women’s presence within that wider data set. Using this data as a starting point, the paper will also consider the ways in which the participation of these women, and their embodied experiences of RGS-supported expeditions, can be used to complicate existing understandings of expeditions as a male-dominated space, form, and practice of geographical knowledge production. In particular, I will focus upon the period after 1945, during which the RGS consolidated and formalised their application processes for expeditionary support, and explore the ideas and practices around expeditions, heroism and physical endurance then current.

4.30 – 5.15 Dr. Alison Kahn, Collecting time and place: the ethnographic films of Beatrice Blackwood (1889-1975) and Ursula Graham Bower (1917-1986)

Captured by Women is a one-hour documentary in four parts available on the Pitt Rivers website that focuses on film footage taken by two British women in the 1930s, Beatrice Blackwood in Papua New Guinea and Ursula Graham Bower in Nagaland. This talk explores how these women broke with traditions in anthropology and colonial codes of behaviour to leave us a unique legacy of artefacts and stories from their fieldwork diaries and travel experiences. Beatrice Blackwood arrived in the highlands of the Upper Watut Valley in 1936 with her cat and a tent to camp in the village of the Anga tribe she was to befriend and live with for nine months. She brought a camera from Oxford to record the uses of the object she had been sent to collect for its curator, Henry Balfour (1863-1939). Ursula Graham Bower arrived in Nagaland as a colonial tourist in 1937, but by the time she left 10 years later she had collected many objects, taken hundreds of photographs and filmed several short films recording the daily life of her Naga friends. Many years later in 2010 I gained a grant to digitise their films that are housed at the Pitt Rivers. This is the story about the material in the digital and what happened next.

5.15 – 6.15 Discussion lead by Dr Frances Larson and Dr David Mills

6.15 – 7.15 Wine reception 

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2016 11:05 am

    good to see i’m not alone in occasionally mixing up oxford and cambridge.

    • harngroup permalink*
      May 10, 2016 1:16 pm

      Thanks Erik, I’ve edited it now.


  1. conferences on archaeology 2016-2017 | postgraduate opportunities in archaeology
  2. past conferences on archaeology 2016 | postgraduate opportunities in archaeology

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