Oh, The Places You’ll Go, The Thinks You Will Think
As you’ll have seen from a previous post, over on Adventures in History and Archaeology Kate has been talking about time management. I am in awe of her determination and focus, I seem to lack both. Now I do have some ready made excuses to hand, I may have mentioned a few (!) times that I have children, they are wonderful, marvellous, hilarious children but they are time-consuming and they do mean I’m not as free to roam and research as I would like. I live next door to my 80 year old mother, she’s mostly fit and healthy, but she’s been hospitalised a couple of times since she moved in a few years back, she’s also a bit bored and inclined to call round for a chat and a coffee. This is fine, this is why she moved here, but again it does cut into my research time. There’s also the small matter of juggling research, domestic stuff and paid work, I’m a freelance illustrator, editor, archaeology factotum. So, a wealth of excuses for my lack of productivity, hell, there are days when I can even blame the cats! But, I think the main reason is the very thing I use for most of my work. I’m lucky to live in a city with a university and library but it’s not a very good library for histories of archaeology. However, I do have the internet and holy cow the stuff you can now get at online!
Unfortunately, I’m easily distracted so I can often end up down ‘long wiggled roads’ and in ‘weirdish wild space’, but it’s always an entertaining journey and on arrival there’s usually something interesting to see.
I do have certain sites bookmarked, so I don’t always get lost in the ‘waiting place’: Project Gutenberg is invaluable, the Victorian Web is likewise an enormously useful resource, as is Canmore, JSTOR and all those online museum archives – the Artefacts of Excavation project is going to be amazing when it’s finished. I’m sure you have your own favourites. But, I’m always on the lookout for new sites, new information, and Martyn sent me a fantastic link last week to this article from The Girl’s Own Paper, it’s on this site .
I have been reading all about archaeology in the Girl’s Own Paper for 1895, except when being distracted by articles such as ‘High Ideals in Courtship: An Address to Working Girls’ (that’s girls working in a shop, domestic service or a mill say, not the other sort of working girl). It is fascinating that so much space is devoted to archaeology in the Girls Own Paper, as you can see from the index there’s other pieces including one by Mrs Holman Hunt in 1890 on Petrie’s work in the Fayum. [Is this Edith Holman Hunt, the second wife of William Holman Hunt? Or a completely different and unrelated Holman Hunt? I have no idea, playing around on the interwebs hasn’t helped (see what I mean about getting distracted?) so I’ll have to ask The Kissed Mouth *.] What I have discovered is that there isn’t an equal resource to see if the Boy’s Own Paper was similarly enthusiastic or if archaeology was seen by the Religious Tract Society, who published both magazines and much more besides, as a particularly feminine interest. If this was the case it does help explain both Petrie’s and Wheeler’s insistence on the robust masculinity of archaeology**.
Or is it that Victorian Liberal belief, expressed by Ruskin in Of Queen’s Gardens, that girls should be educated so they can sympathise, but not compete, with their husbands’ interests? At no point in the article does the author suggest that archaeology could provide a career for young women. What is also striking is that an article describing archaeology is so much of it’s time, there is anti-Semitism, stereotypes of Empire, complete faith in the Bible as an historical source, and the past itself is seen as a vehicle for strictures on dress, etiquette and behaviour: ‘We need scarcely point out that to dress is a sign of civilisation, and to cover the body completely is a mark of high civilisation. . . It is, however, curious to learn that they [Biblical Jewish women] wore “nose jewels”; probably they adopted this unpleasant custom from the Egyptians. They also, as we see, wore ear-rings. Modern civilisation has abolished the first of these barbarous mutilations and deformities of the human face, and it is much to be hoped that the other will before long be abandoned’ (27).
Attitudes to, expectations of, possibilities for young women did change markedly between the end of the Victorian era and the Second World War, this dramatic shift can be seen in the fictional stories serialised in the Girl’s Own Paper; the 1895 edition has a typically moral tale Her Own Way by Eglanton Thorne, whereas by 1940 Captain W. E. Johns’ thrilling Worral books were being published.
Should you, as I did, become intrigued by the Girl’s Own Paper itself, in addition to the Victorian Voices website there is also this, this and this. If your library is well-stocked you may have this and if not you could always read this.
And there we have the explanation of why Kate writes papers and books and I don’t.But, I do now know masses of stuff about the Girl’s Own Paper that I didn’t know previously, and that’s important, right?
Thankfully, before I fell down another black hole and started talking about what archaeology was understood to be by the writer for the Girl’s Own Paper back in 1895, I had the sense to email Martyn and ask him to write a blog post for me. So, coming sometime soon-ish, the Victorian/Edwardian magazine possibly with reference to archaeology. Meanwhile, I’m going to carry on reading back issues of the Girl’s Own Paper and following links, thinking thinks, seeing where my journey takes me.
Hopefully I’ll be back next week, unless I’ve strayed too far into bang-ups and hang-ups, in the meantime have a great weekend
*Another link provided by Martyn, he has all the best links!
** E.g. ‘one might as well try to play the violin in a pair of gloves as profess to excavate with clean fingers and a pretty skin’ (Petrie, Aims and Methods: 7 and see Wheeler’s Archaeology from the Earth).