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Gender, Professions and Discourse

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Gender, Professions and
Early Twentieth-Century Womens
Christine Etherington-Wright
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Christine Etherington-Wright 2009
All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this
publication may be made without written permission.
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save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the
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permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency,
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Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication
may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
The author has asserted her rights to be identified as the author of this work in
accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First published 2009 by
Palgrave Macmillan in the UK is an imprint of Macmillan Publishers Limited,
registered in England, company number 785998, of Houndmills, Basingstoke,
Hampshire RG21 6XS.
Palgrave Macmillan in the US is a division of St Martin's Press LLC,
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
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Palgrave and Macmillan are registered trademarks in the United States,
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ISBN-13: 9780230219922 hardback
ISBN-10: 0230219926 hardback
This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully
managed and sustained forest sources. Logging, pulping and manufacturing
processes are expected to conform to the environmental regulations of the
country of origin.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Etherington-Wright, Christine, 1950
Gender, professions and discourse : early twentieth century womens
autobiography / Christine Etherington-Wright.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 9780230219922 (alk. paper)
1. Autobiography Women authors. 2. English prose
literature Women authors History and criticism. 3. English prose
literature 20th century History and criticism. 4. Women authors,
English Biography History and criticism. 5. Women and literature Great
Britain History 20th century. 6. Women Great Britain Biography
History and criticism. I. Title.
PR808.W65E84 2011
820.9492072dc22 2008027602
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 09
Printed and bound in Great Britain by
CPI Antony Rowe, Chippenham and Eastbourne
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This book is dedicated to my husband Barrie
and my two children, Amanda and Paul.
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List of Illustrations viii
Acknowledgements ix
Part One
1 Introduction 3
2 Headmistresses 17
3 Women Doctors 37
4 Nurses and VADs 54
5 Artists and Practitioners 70
6 Women Writers 86
Part Two
7 The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 107
8 Prefaces, Prologues, Forewords and Introductions 130
9 Silences 143
10 Self and Identity 162
11 Memory and Accuracy 181
12 Conclusion 198
Notes 207
Index 235
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7.1 Katharine West 112
7.2 Nancy Price 115
7.3 Nancy Price dust cover 118
7.4 Frances R. Gray 119
7.5 Lilian M. Faithfull 120
7.6 Elinor Glyn portrait by Philip de Laszlo 125
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This research has been an amazing roller-coaster. I have asked myself
many times whether, had I known how high and steep the track would
be, would I have started the journey. The answer has always been a
resounding Yes. This is in no small part due to Professor Sue Harper,
the supervisor of the original thesis on which this is based, whom I owe
a great debt on so many levels. Her enthusiasm for the project kept me
from faltering. She cajoled, listened and demanded intellectual rigour at
each stage. For this my eternal thanks. I also owe a good deal to Dr Bran
Nicol, whose comments and advice has been invaluable. Staff at the
Frewen Library, especially David Francis has been incredibly helpful
My family has been a constant support throughout with practical
offers of IT help, and for making me borrow Sam, the Labrador, to take
me away from my work.
Finally and above all, I should like to thank my husband Barrie. He
has been forced to share this journey with me, coping with my absences
both physical and mental. Selflessly he has dealt with my stress during
difficult moments and has celebrated the triumphs along the way,
whilst taking care of day to day living. My love as ever.
The author and publishers wish to thank the following for permis-
sion to reproduce copyright material: Mrs Chowdharay-Best, grand-
daughter of Elinor Glyn for portrait of Elinor Glyn by artist Philip de
Every effort has been made to trace rights holders, but if any have
been inadvertently overlooked the publishers would be pleased to make
the necessary arrangements at the first opportunity.
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Part One
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The ideas that generated this book have had a long gestation. My early
interest was aroused by the literature of the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. As a teenager, the novels of Haggard, Conan Doyle,
Stoker, Stevenson, Wells, Kipling and later Wilde, Conrad, Bennett and
Forster filled my shelves. But where were the popular women novelists
of this time? Female novelists such as Elinor Glyn, Bertha Ruck and
many others are not part of the canon in the way that male novelists
are. My interests then extended into the culture of the period and my
quest for womens writing expanded to include their autobiographies.
This too seemed sparsely represented in the print canon when com-
pared with autobiographies written by men. Of course there was
Brittain, often discussed as the representative female from the
Edwardian period and the First World War period. But where were
other womens lives? The history books acknowledged the pioneering
women doctors, the thousands of Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs),
countless Suffragettes, an occasional actress, and so on. It seemed clear
to me, that although men were the journalists and academic gatekeep-
ers of this thread of cultural history, there must be many female auto-
biographies waiting to be uncovered.
I wanted to hear the women
So my project was initially motivated by the desire to explore issues of
identity from what women themselves understood, and not from male
opinion of the time. The drive to write this book has arisen from my
interest in womens autobiography, and in the cultural history of this
period. In particular, I noticed a fundamental under-valuation of the
rich pickings of cultural knowledge contained in these autobiographi-
cal writings. There seemed to be a lack of an imaginative theorising
about what these female autobiographers thought, and about how this
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4 Gender, Professions and Discourse
should be placed in the historical knowledge of the period. There has
been a concentration on some individuals, or a few well-known autobi-
ographies, but no comprehensive survey of women autobiographers in
the early twentieth century, and certainly not divided up by profession.
Indeed, Trev Broughton expressed a frustration which I shared: Until
recently, critics toiled relentlessly over narrow issues of genre (which
autobiographies count as such and why), representativeness (which
auto/biographies matter and why) or value (which Life-writers succeed
or fail to represent their subjects according to one or other timeless
standard of adequacy).
I would add to this the following observation; that there appears to
be a tranche of critical texts on Victorian womens writing, and less on
Edwardian womens writing. But these placed an emphasis on novel-
Those that have considered autobiography, memoirs and diaries
have concentrated on aspects of narration that gives a storifying con-
tent to autobiographies. This leads to assertions about the unreliabil-
ity and unsuitability of autobiography as historical evidence.
body of criticism has concentrated on what autobiography cannot pro-
vide, rather than allowing space for what autobiography can tell us.
The extant research appears to ignore what I consider to be one of the
fundamental assets of autobiographical writing: access to the mental-
ity of the writer and by extension to the intimate life of the period
under scrutiny. More recent research shows interest in an interdisci-
plinary approach, but is nevertheless heavily theoretical, with few
examples from the autobiographies themselves. There are exceptions
to this; for example, Regenia Gagniers seminal work based on the
reading of hundreds of Victorian male and female autobiographies
from different classes, or Claire M. Tylees work on the First World
Other texts tend to concentrate on two, possibly three women to
examine a specific issue.
In this book I propose to offer a fresh analy-
sis of the ways in which women writers, during the period 19001920,
in different professions, present aspects of their lives. As an examina-
tion of womens discourse as a central interpretative device, I intend to
experiment with different reading practices using interdisciplinary
methods, and to utilise a bricolage of theories to achieve my prime
aim: that of analysing the female voice and the mentality of that
period by those who lived and worked at that time. I shall argue that
autobiography is useful in historical research by contributing to the
histoire de mentalits.
The first recorded use and criticism of the term auto-biography
occurs in 1797.
Throughout the nineteenth century autobiography
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Introduction 5
was a masculine mode dominated by professional males, such as
generals, politicians and by middle and upper class men who were suc-
cessful, and who related their history in a linear manner, from young
adult to eminence.
The expectation was for a rigidly objective for-
mula, a record of facts and information concerned with worldly affairs,
and the protagonists part in these.
Estelle Jelineks findings sug-
gested that the conventional expectation of male autobiography was
as a process of documenting an individuals life. It would be in some
sense partial, but generally claimed to be objective. Children tended
to be excised from the role and anything concerning the emotional
side to their life was pushed aside. Autobiography which did not con-
form to this system would not be classed as autobiography proper.
The autobiographies marginal to this canon were those of working-
class men and those of women. But this was to change. During the
early twentieth century Wilhelm Dilthey, a German historian and
philosopher, became a key participant in early autobiographical criti-
Unlike others, his interest lay not only in historically signifi-
cant individuals, but in autobiography as a medium shared by all. In
this he laid the foundations for a broader interest in a critique of his-
torical reason grounded in Geist and Erlebnis.
Diltheys inclusive
concept of historical consciousness anticipated theories expounded by
the Annales School in France. But this broader approach had made lit-
tle impact in Britain, which remained largely antagonistic to extension
of the autobiographical canon.
This type of negative criticism was current in Britain at the turn of
the century. In the years approaching the First World War, there was an
era of unprecedented female public service, and a gradually emerging
professional class of women, followed by their huge contribution to the
war effort. From this participation in the public sphere, there ensued a
peak period, for the first time, of women writing about their experi-
ences. Just as ordinary men who fought in the First World War thought
to record their involvement, the professional women who are the sub-
ject of this book were finding the impetus to write their accounts. Paul
Fussell has noted that wars are often a vehicle for social change, and
that the First World War appears to have been a catalyst for both ordi-
nary men and women to record their memories.
This impetus for life-
writing coincided with literary modernism with its experimental modes
of writing engendering a shift away from social realism in fiction. New
structures of feeling importantly evinced a renewed interest in subjec-
tivity and diversity, and from women writers, a new voice.
Interest in
the documentary and the recording of peoples experiences which were
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6 Gender, Professions and Discourse
mundane and unexceptional grew in the 1920s and 1930s.
After the
founding of Mass-Observation in 1937, what Raphael Samuel described
as unofficial knowledge became part of mainstream culture.
stage was set for an emergence of a new kind of autobiographical
This apparent relaxing of the canonical parameters of autobiography
which had hitherto defined autobiography, allowed women to feel that
they could enter into this market. Jane Marcus notes that: unlike epic
poetry, the drama, or the novel, the memoir made no grand claims to
artistic achievement. Consequently working-class men and all women
could write in this genre without threatening male hegemony or
offering claims to competition.
The increase in ordinary writing, as Samuel argued, expanded the
sources to include the literary productions and artefacts of the less well-
known person and made them available to the historian.
But for rea-
sons I make clear later, womens autobiography was still marginalised in
any critical research.
During the 1960s and 1970s, autobiographical criticism continued
to suffer from androcentric and narrowly prescribed boundaries.
Indeed; insignificant was the predominant description of female
autobiography. Pascals text acknowledged only Martineau and Webb,
in passing, and Olney had not a single reference to women autobiog-
This gender bias towards female autobiography continued
well into the twentieth century. Jelinek recorded, that Shumaker, in
1954, had acknowledged only three nineteenth century female autobi-
ographies and none from the early twentieth century.
A.O.J. Cockshut,
J. Goodwin and Clinton Machann all held very narrow and prescriptive
But attitudes were changing. Howarth in 1969 found
that many definitions of autobiography were limiting, often only
suitable for a social historian, and unsuitable as a basis for critical
Feminist ideas entered strongly into the debates about autobiography.
A spate of writing in the 1970s formulated the notion of studying
womens writing as a separate enterprise and an index of new defined
words appeared in this gynocentric criticism.
This was essentially a
radical feminist and separatist approach taken up notably by Mary Daly,
Ellen Moers, Patricia Meyer Spacks and Elaine Showalter.
critiques initially concentrated on gendered constraints which included
problems of self-assertion, the female sentence, and the absence of
womens writing.
It was in the 1980s, when Jelineks groundbreaking
work pulled all these elements together. She identified that the most
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Introduction 7
disputed areas between the critical canon and womens autobiography
were those of form and content. As I noted above, a failure to comply
with these man-made rules would formerly have resulted in disqualifi-
cation of texts as autobiographies.
Jelinek wanted to encourage criticism of womens autobiography.
Although lacking in historical specificity, her edited collection made an
important breakthrough because it promoted recognition of the critical
value of womens autobiography, and substantiated it as a literary disci-
pline. There followed an immense amount of work which questioned
the old definitions of genre and gender, theory and practice. Shari
Benstocks volume is representative of these 1980s advances in scholar-
ship and illustrates the complexity of the relations between theory and
practice where theory takes precedence over practice.
It appears that in the 1990s, the sustained efforts from interdiscipli-
nary scholarship had begun to move autobiographical criticism away
from the trenchant and the largely unanswerable questions cited by
Broughton above. Liz Stanley pioneered the term auto/biography in
her aim to argue that there are differences in forms of life-writing but:
these differences are not generic.
Differences appeared to be key in
the feminist arguments about the plurality of womens lives.
studies of autobiography of the middle-class Victorian woman have
been engaged in by Valerie Sanders, Sara Mills and Mary Jane Corbett.

Alongside these, feminist approaches have helped to revolutionise the
study of autobiography by expanding its definition, and the socialist
feminist approaches have produced a discursive construction of the
meaning of gender.
In 1985, within literary studies, Paul John Eakin placed the blame for
the problematic reception of autobiographical writing squarely with the
autobiographers: because they perform willy-nilly both as artists and
He considered that they blurred the freedoms of imagina-
tion and creation with the constraints of biographical fact. Eakin
believed that more scholarship and a shift in thinking were needed,
and that autobiography should be understood as the: art of memory
and as the art of the imagination.
Again the questions of fictionality
and non-fiction were being brought to the foreground. Literary stud-
ies and feminist critiques of autobiography focused their attention on
the relative paucity of womens writing and the absence of womens
voices from the canon.
It is this type of reductive criticism that made
Broughton believe that autobiographical studies had been in the domain
of literary criticism, to its detriment, and that key questions had been
prematurely foreclosed.
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8 Gender, Professions and Discourse
During the late 1980s and the 1990s there has been a growing interest
in photography as a means of autobiography. According to Cosslett,
this interest has contributed to the view: that textuality should be at
the heart of the study of autobiography.
But in order to examine this
theory, Jo Spence, Liz Stanley, Annette Kuhn, sand J. Stacey all take
examples from their own lives and family albums.
They are used
within the autobiographies as: a piece of evidence, a clue as material
for interpretation.
Hitherto, I have found no exploration of the effect
and use of presentation of the body and adornment in the examina-
tion of non-contemporary autobiography. This is an area I intend to
address in Chapter 7.
In the twenty-first century I find it dispiriting that literary critics
such as Mary Evans are still batting against the wearying and largely
unanswerable questions of classification, form and content.
From the
outset, Evans denigrates autobiography as the: literary equivalent of
gossip an implication that autobiography is based on fictions about the
According to Evans:
the need for [the] uncovering of the working-class or female past
leads to a focus on figures who, while interesting as all individuals
are, may not in any sense represent anything more than individual
interest ... Into the lives of diverse individuals we read cultural change
and phenomena [ ... ] this task suggests that we should view auto/
biography as in urgent need of reclassification; that its place on the
library shelves is not with non-fiction but very much closer to fiction.
She fails to understand how in the study of autobiography we can
recoup a missing part of history. Evans suggestion that female individ-
uality, as exhibited in their autobiographies, prevents a coherent posi-
tion is to overlook female group dynamics.
The individuality of autobiographical selves does not apply to: cul-
turally imposed group or gender identities in the case of women and
Moreover, women are socially and psychologically more
bonded to others: [this] results in autobiographical forms that are not
only individualistic, but also collective.
And similarly, Patricia Waugh
suggested that because women often have more relational, or more frag-
mented selves, their stories will take a different shape.
What Evans
does not acknowledge is that if a large survey of individuals within a
specific group is undertaken and coupled with a fitting methodology,
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Introduction 9
the consciousness of the period in question will emerge and the need
for reclassification becomes redundant.
Whilst many of the articles and books on the Edwardian period are
excellent, these authors often fall short of a full engagement with the
texts possibilities. By this I mean that the autobiographies are used to
substantiate a theoretical position about form and content, rather than
using the writing as a means of analysing and understanding the men-
tality of the writer and the era. As a result, the problems they may pose
are often avoided altogether, or as Benstock accuses theoretical critics
of acting as interpreters rather than using the writing itself. She argues:
the writing is submitted to the violence of a theory that merely regis-
ters its effects through a sample set of quotations.
A false homogene-
ity is thus imposed. What close criticism can do is demonstrate the
complexity of the texts and the difference between them.
Benstocks criticism could be levelled at Julie Bush. Concentrating on
upper class womens autobiographies of late Victorian and Edwardian
Britain, Bush found a:
pronounced levelling out which rendered the writing with a certain:
dullness of conventional upper class womens autobiographies [ ... ]
from a narrowly informational viewpoint makes them an unreliable,
or even disappointing, historical source. [ ... ] However a close com-
parative reading of the autobiographies suggests otherwise ... with
the assistance of literary theory (my italics) it is possible to work from
within the published texts, and to travel beyond them in drawing
conclusions about individual womens outlook.
Whilst Bush recognises further possibilities for analysing the texts, like
others before her, she has not undertaken this mode of research
I began this brief survey of the path that criticism of autobiography
has taken with a quote that helped to clarify my unease with some
aspects of existing criticism. So it appears apposite to end this section
with a quotation from Tess Cosslett that suggests a useful way forward:
it [autobiography] links together many different disciplines
literature, history, sociology, cultural studies ... the study of
autobiography explodes disciplinary boundaries and requires an
understanding of other approaches, methods and practices.
Autobiography makes trouble: it is difficult to define as a distinct
genre, on the borderline between fact and fiction, the personal and
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10 Gender, Professions and Discourse
the social, the popular and the academic, the everyday and the
There appears to be a burgeoning interest in expanding the potential
knowledge locked within autobiographical writings. Eight years on
from when Cosslett wrote this, the work has not yet been undertaken.
I propose to redress this situation.
It now seems clear that existing methodological approaches have
been insufficiently eclectic and flexible. Moreover, the under-
examined era and arena of womens cultural history, that of the pro-
fessional woman, in the Edwardian, First World War, and post-war
periods, needs to be addressed. Of course cultural history is not organ-
ised in neat decades, but the 1900s1920s offer a particularly exciting
and interesting period. It is a time rich in change with notions of
national identity and femininity. From women in hitherto male-
dominated professions, and women called into professional and pub-
lic service, a broad scrutiny of 90 autobiographies (plus 15 mens
autobiographies) was undertaken to guard against the possibility of
selectivity or bias. From this, those representative of their profession
and who occupy the centre of social, middle-class arenas and in short,
they do not express radical positions, were selected. This will redress
the balance of academic attention which has focused on the writings
of women who took an extreme political position or who were in any
way marginal, such as radical feminists, political activists or lesbians.
From these, common themes and identities surrounding professions,
womens role, marriage, families, social and cultural beliefs and so on
will be examined.
It will not be part of this study to enter either the disputed field of
what does, or does not, constitute autobiographical writing, or to
directly enter the debate as to whether autobiography should be classed
as a fictional or a factual text. In reducing the parameters certain fea-
tures of the autobiographies will need to be ignored as they do not fit
into the schema. But this will provide clarity and allow space to incor-
porate omitted elements into a unified field of professional womens
writing. When I first began this book I entertained the possibility that
somewhere there exists one theoretical model which would satisfacto-
rily explain these texts. This turns out to have been a utopian fantasy.
We can draw two conclusions from this; either the big models are inap-
propriate for non-fiction work or, which I think more likely, the hith-
erto unrecognised variety and complexity in this genre requires a little
more fancy footwork on the methodology front. By virtue of rigorous
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Introduction 11
and close textual analysis, visual methodology and memory work, a
composite reading of the cultural competence and identity of these
women will be produced. Although of late years textual reading has
been deemed inadequate to the task of cultural analysis, it seems to me
that a combination of textual and contextual analysis, which is histori-
cally specific, will be particularly fruitful in this case, and will avoid
that doctrinaire narrowness which has afflicted much of the analyses of
womens writing.
The structure of this book is divided into two parts. The first part is
organised by profession, the second by theme. The reason for this is
that I want to suggest that these testimonies of individual female lives
will reveal shared patterns of female identity; the topics, attitudes and
points of view expressed in a gender-specific manner. I want to ask
whether there is a discursive consonance between these groups of
professional women; and whether their perception of the significance
of their cultural, professional events and activities will help us to
reformulate our notion of what Raymond Williams called a: struc-
ture of feeling [...] which is distinguishable from other social and
semantic formations by its articulation of presence.
I then want to
raise debate in the book to a higher level by constructing the second
half along theoretical and thematic lines. In this section I want to ask
the broader question; whether or not these different professional
groups share a discourse and form of reference, and if they do what
the consequences of that will be for the understanding of their
Each of the first five chapters has a single profession as its starting
point. I begin with the closed lives of Headmistresses. I want to
enquire whether their frame of reference was restricted by convention,
by confinement, by gender hegemony and by institutionalisation. The
doctors, although operating within the confines of hospitals and male
protocol, had the advantage of more contact with the general public of
both sexes, and colleagues who were both male and female. My interest
here is to question whether this broader base of contact would be
apparent in their autobiographies; in content or in form. The nurses
and VADs discussed in Chapter 4, in the main, were from cosseted,
middle-class backgrounds. Thrust into war zones and military hospi-
tals, they cared solely for men, in extreme circumstances. In the Field
they relied on their own resourcefulness. However, would the demands
of articulating their experiences involve them in unusual forms of self-
censorship and a struggle to find a vocabulary which evoked their
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12 Gender, Professions and Discourse
For artists and practitioners, social and cultural boundaries were far
more flexible, but would the divide between artists who operated in
private and those that performed in public have a marked difference in
their recording of their experiences? Finally, in Chapter 6, my inquiry
into the women novelists, autobiographies needs a different emphasis.
As wordsmiths, would they exhibit concern for the demands and pres-
entation of truth as given? I intend to investigate the patterning in
their approach to subjects of a highly personal and emotional nature.
As can be deduced from this brief summary, the five chapters develop
from an analysis of lives that vary in significant ways. The different
subjects that are pursued had primacy within each profession, and rose
from the texts themselves and hopefully were not determined by any
inductive design on my part.
In the second part of the book, Chapter 7, Frontispiece Images,
Chapter 8, Prefaces, Forewords and Introductions, and Chapter 9,
Silences, address elements in autobiographical texts which are tradi-
tionally ignored. Chapter 7 asks, Why autobiographers select a specific
image to represent them? and how this idiosyncratic image, that is a
rich source for cultural analysis, affects the reading of the text. I shall
analyse these signs by using methods derived from Roland Barthes.

Prefaces and Introductions, in tandem with photographs, are powerful
in producing a first impression, and as such need close examination.
The chapter questions whether there is any accord or contrast between
the professions at the margins of their books. The chief aim in Silences
is to find a way in which silence, in its many forms, can be construc-
tively analysed and shown to be as informative as the written word.
Words are the signposts towards an understanding, but if words are
supplemented with an analysis of silences, will a more profound and
accurate account emerge?
Chapter 10, Self and Identity and Chapter 11, Memory and
Accuracy are very closely linked, and build upon the work undertaken
in Chapters 8 and 9. In Self and Identity I want to make a case for the
usefulness of autobiography in historical research. The problematic
concept of histoire de mentalits, initiated by the school of Annales in
France, is germane to my work. Periods of history and culture have
been deemed to have certain characteristic mental structures.
I want
to examine these autobiographies to ascertain whether there is accord
or discord between different professional subcultures. Given that the
findings from this chapter were assembled from the memories of these
women, it is of prime importance to establish whether memory can be
acknowledged as a reliable and accurate resource. In Chapter 11 I will
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Introduction 13
be drawing selectively and cautiously on work from psychology
practitioners to connect an analysis of discourse with studies on
memory work, to make a case for the reliability and accuracy of
memory recall.
Of course we cannot undertake an analysis of women writers culture
without a rudimentary understanding of social constraints which
underpinned their creativity and productions. At the risk of seeming
simplistic, it is worth including here a brief synopsis of the major social
and legislative determinants which affected womens professional lives.
The periodisation of cultural history is of course quite different from
the periodisation of social history. It makes perfect sense for the social
historian to organise his or her analyses around major social events
such as the First World War or the death of Queen Victoria. But for the
cultural historian, the cycles of innovation and change are differently
structured and sometimes take place significantly after the event. They
have patterns of repetition or use retrospection to follow their own
laws. The autobiographers who inform my research were born within
the period from the 1870s to early 1890s, so it would be reasonable to
assume that they would be aware of the influence of the fin de sicle, the
Aesthetic Movement and the emergence of the phenomenon of the
New Woman in the 1880s and 1890s.
In some respects the New Woman was a journalistic and literary crea-
tion rather than an actual social type. According to Sally Ledger, she:
had a multiple identity. She was, variously, a feminist activist, a social
reformer, a popular novelist, a suffragette playwright, a woman poet;
she was also often a fictional construct.
Needless to say, this was a
stereotype to which few women conformed. However there was a kernel
of truth in this for the new generation of women for whom marriage did
not have to be the sole aim. Education and employment paved the way
for the removal of some of the traditional ties of home and upbring-
During the last third of the nineteenth century women had
entered the universities, had sat on school boards, continued to be
guardians of the poor, had franchise in local elections and a large
number of middle-class women had joined the work force. Change was
being demanded for and by women.
Essentially, sexual and economic
emancipation gave a material reality to changing male/female rela-
This was the arena of rapid change that some women could
enter into and become part of the first generation of their chosen
According to Hobsbawm, some degree of womens emancipation was
probably necessary for middle-class fathers, as they could not all support
9780230_219922_02_cha01.indd 13 8/20/2008 8:00:56 PM
14 Gender, Professions and Discourse
their daughters if they did not marry or work.
In the late Victorian
period almost one in three of all adult women were single and one in
four would never marry.
By 1911 this figure had reached a peak of
some 1,330,000 single women.
In the press they were described as
excess or surplus women.
The careers open to the middle-class,
teaching, nursing, clerical work and work in the social service were not
well paid, but by 1911 three-quarters of single women were in paid
work. Although middle-class womens aspirations and position had
changed during the decades before 1914, by 1914 few women had
advanced through the gap into the professions although, in principle,
the way was now open.
The higher professions were mainly barred to
women. There were still only 553 women doctors in Britain in 1912 and
women were excluded from the upper ranks of the civil service, the law,
and accountancy.
On two fronts, education had played a large part in womens bid for
independence. In Britain, there was no secondary school system before
1902. The number of girls schools in 1904/1905 was 89, and by
1913/1914 it had increased to 349.
It therefore follows that there was
an increased demand for women teachers. But only a minority would go
on to graduate from womens colleges at Oxford, Cambridge and London
universities. This great growth in secondary and higher education paved
the way for professional careers in teaching.
Other, less easily quantifiable changes, lay in the greater freedom of
movement young women had attained. They could go dancing, join
touring and mountaineering clubs, there was mixed bathing, and enter-
tainment had taken on a new medium with 3,500 picture palaces in
existence by 1914.
This created a surge in consumerism, which both
fuelled womens importance as customers and generated a substantial
number of jobs for them.
These freedoms were replicated in the chang-
ing fashion. Womens dress was looser and more flowing, hair was
shorter. Once the First World War was in progress, social commentators
were noting wartime changes, and the myth of women enjoying male
vices flourished in wartime popular culture.
The freedom of the sexes to mix brought the difficult topics of sexual-
ity, illegitimacy and contraception to the fore. Sexual liberation was a
touchy subject, especially the issue of birth control and its implications
for the future of the family and woman as mother. There was some-
thing like a moral panic about birth control. This was exacerbated by
the falling birth rate which, between mid 1870 and 1910, had fallen
nearly 30 per cent.
Between 19141917, in real terms, the birth rate
had decreased by 200,000 and the illegitimate birth rate had increased
9780230_219922_02_cha01.indd 14 8/20/2008 8:00:56 PM
Introduction 15
by about 20,000.
Fewer births were seen as a threat to the country in
the lack of armed forces, lack of men, and decreased industrial labour
force. Thus a woman who could choose not to have children would no
longer be subordinate to a man. Contraception made her at once
independent and mobile.
Attitudes to sex are extremely difficult to uncover and sex without
marriage was certainly still confined to an avant garde minority.
Early writers on birth control, like Havelock Ellis, had their work
seized, destroyed and they were prosecuted by the police.
But this
had begun to open up space for a scientific discussion of sex.
followed Marie Stopess books; Wise Parenthood (1918) and Married Love
(1920) which she wrote in an effort to make contraceptive devices
respectable, and Mrs Sangers Family Limitation (1914) which champi-
oned sexual satisfaction.
A large number, and probably the majority,
of the emancipated middle-class women who opted for a career in a
mans world at this time were childless, or refused to marry and were
The Suffrage movement was another contributing factor to the
growing sense of moral crisis and monopolised the centre stage of
consciousness about changes in womens lives. Indeed, suffrage support
was seen as a measure of the public strength of organised feminism, but
its limitations were that it appealed primarily to the middle class. The
majority of women who joined did so, not to transform gender rela-
tions, or society as a whole, but to conserve the womens sphere.
was also an Anti-Suffrage Campaign. But during the war all these groups
suspended their campaigning, and in 1918 women over the age of 30
were enfranchised and women between the ages of 21 and 30 received
the vote in 1928.
The period 19001920 is marked by a coherent attempt by early
psychologists to endeavour to get behind rational facades and to
explore the unconscious self. Freuds psychoanalytic investigations
into the unconscious were gaining recognition. Writers and artists
explored hidden depths of the psyche, Redon predicted the world of
dreams, and primal inner states were portrayed by expressionists. This
challenging and different world was the arena into which the autobi-
ographers featured in this book were born. As first-generation profes-
sional, educated women, they would most likely be fully aware of
these developments, which would not be without influence in their
In what follows I have opened up and extend the parameters of
the existing critical methodology on womens autobiography. My
9780230_219922_02_cha01.indd 15 8/20/2008 8:00:56 PM
16 Gender, Professions and Discourse
detailed study will hopefully uncover important aspects of womens
consciousness in the period 19001920. My aim in this book has not
been to champion these professional Edwardian women, but to listen
to what they had to say, and to then maintain a critically observa-
tional distance in order to accurately present their history of con-
sciousness. Yet I accept that no one volume can provide a definitive
9780230_219922_02_cha01.indd 16 8/20/2008 8:00:56 PM
This study begins with headmistresses who were among some of the
first women to gain professional teaching status. From the 12 head-
mistresses autobiographies examined I have selected four which exem-
plify the concerns of this group; some of which have been the focus of
social historians.
In these texts their common concerns range from
those of vocation/service, religion, celibacy and spinsterhood, to
teaching methods, curriculum and retirement issues. Hitherto, these
issues have been an under-researched area. My intention is to examine
the effect that institutionalisation has upon the content and style of
their autobiographies, because at times the lives of these professional
and articulate women can appear to be indistinguishable from the
lives of their school. However, these headmistresses do not disappear
into the text; it becomes what Camilla Stivers calls the: construction
of the self through the narrative of others.
In these texts the other
is the school. This chapter will examine how the restrictions, social,
cultural and professional impinged on these pioneering women. The
work of philosopher and theorist Michel Foucault will be of use
although at times Foucaults ideas can appear to provide more prob-
lems than they solve. For this exploration the notion that: Foucaults
work does not form a system [ ... ] it is a patchwork of studies
is an
advantage, because as I suggested in the introduction, this analysis
requires a bricolage of theories. Moreover, Foucault suggests that his
theories should be used as a toolbox and that the reader: is of course,
free to make what he will of the book. [The Order of Things] What right
have I to suggest that it should be used in one way rather than
Therefore, whilst Foucaults writing on discipline is not my
sole resource here, several parts of his study on this will be useful. He
observed that, in a modern society individuals are increasingly bound
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 17 8/20/2008 12:13:19 PM
18 Gender, Professions and Discourse
by disciplinary power.
This has relevance here due to the confined
nature of headmistresses careers. Decades spent within institutional
confines must, of necessity, construct people in certain ways and be
reflected in the register of their writing.
In their autobiographies, they appear to need adherence to male
conventions but not to be self-promoting in the public sphere. This
has engendered the use of the passive voice, which according to
Camilla Stivers, is the accepted convention for mens professional
Equally it is important to note the precise stage at which
these conventions/boundaries are broken through and the way this
breakthrough is presented. For this textual analysis it is necessary to
briefly chronicle womens education just prior to, and during the
period 19001920. The focus will be upon a few key themes and a
concentration on high school developments that illustrate the jour-
ney from the role of unqualified governess to that of the acquisition of
the status of professional teacher and headmistress.
During the 18801910 period there were many different school
establishments, loosely divided by class. In 18671868 the Schools
Inquiry Commission had noted that it was common for girls from
upper- middle-class families to be educated at home by governesses,
and daughters of prosperous, middle-class parents received schooling
at home, with their brothers, until ten years old. Class divisions were
found in boarding schools as well. The cheaper ones were favoured by
the richer farmers and mine managers, and for the upper-class there
were costly, fashionable boarding schools, for example, in London,
Bath, Clifton and Brighton.
Less structured schools were attended by
the majority of lower middle-class girls for a couple of years and were
small and privately run, where the proprietor was the founder and
These diverse aspects of discipline and curricula led to vari-
ety and uncertain standard of schooling for girls and made them ripe
for reform.
One of the great difficulties which the earlier schools had faced was
the lack of qualified teachers as many had considered formal training
unnecessary, as there was a belief in a womans innate ability to teach.

Many headmistresses had had no formal training and remained in their
schools for a great many years. The most notable was probably Alice
Olivey, headmistress of Hemdean House School from 19261972 who
first started at the school as a pupil in 1902.
Some initial inroads into
professional recognition and training had been made when the
Governesses Benevolent Institution (formed 1841) opened Queens
College for Women in 1848.
The Association of Headmistresses first
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 18 8/20/2008 12:13:19 PM
Headmistresses 19
met in 1874, and by 1894 the Association of Women Teachers had been
formed. Reformers recognised that teacher training would pave the way
for better education, for better salaries, and raise the social and profes-
sional status of this new brand of career-minded teachers. Indeed, these
associations were landmarks in establishing the professional repute and
became instrumental when conditions and pay standardisation, on the
same terms as men, would also become an issue.
By 1895, there were
53,000 certified teachers, of whom only 29,000 had received two years
training in training colleges, the remainder held an Acting Teachers
Certificate Examination.
Mixed abilities of staff continued, in part due to the rapid expansion,
and in part due to the demands of the women teachers themselves.
Headmistress Lilian Faithfull described the mixture of teaching abilities,
at her first post, at the Royal Holloway College:
two men, non-resident, Professors of Classics and Mathematics,
and eight women, of whom one or two were of middle-age and
had had experience in school teaching or as governesses, and in
some cases had gone up late in life to Oxford or Cambridge. They
were ripe scholars and trained teachers, but for the rest we were
very young [ ... ] we were but a few years in advance of our
The greatest numbers of unqualified teachers were to be found in the
private schools and their experiences were often very unpleasant.

Prior to the 1900s young women paid for some kind of teacher training
by working in day-schools. Once trained the average pay was 100 a
year, but could be considerably lower if board and room were availa-
In some schools, without a supplementary income, there would be
little material comfort. Amy Barlow recorded that Bryn-y-mor, in the
pre-war period, treated the mistresses so badly that:
Breakfast was invariably watery porridge [ ... ] midday meal [eaten
with the school] nothing more succulent than hard-boiled eggs,
salad and a slice of round, red-skinned German sausage. I had no free
periods during the week and my day began by reading prayers before
breakfast. After prayers, breakfast and a rush to get ones bed made,
and ones room tidied. We had lessons till 12 and then a break, unless
one were [sic] taking games, until dinner. Then more lessons till
tea-time and then prep.
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 19 8/20/2008 12:13:19 PM
20 Gender, Professions and Discourse
But few complained. Staff at all schools appeared to be in fear of
dismissal and in desperate need of their jobs. Head teacher Elizabeth E.
Lawrence and her friend M.F.S. planned to buy or set up their own
school. She noted: A Mr Donkin could not be induced to accept a post
under 50 per annum.
Yet, another school caused her concern: only
133 total salary for five mistresses.
In contrast, Sara Burstall, head-
mistress at Manchester High School recalled with pride: It should be
stated that we were well paid and were not discouraged by the deaden-
ing influences of a scale.
But after long years of penury and dedica-
tion there would be no pension.
Pressure was placed upon teachers to
retire in their mid-fifties. The Fisher Act of 1916 made some provision
for pensions but it was the Burnham salary scale that made the greatest
improvement to their lives.
These new rates caused fees to go up,
making it obvious that the middle-classes had had education cheaply
from underpaid women, many of whom were from their own social
In part, the enthusiasm for education was economically led. Few
middle-class fathers and especially lower-middle-class families were
sufficiently well-off to keep their daughters in comfort should they not
Lilian Faithfull, Principal of Cheltenham Ladies College sug-
gested that: In a large family money was the chief reason for a career,
not the desire for a new experience, nor even freedom.
According to
Burstall: The preparation of young women for self-support and for use-
ful work to the community became in this period more than ever an
obvious duty. There was, therefore, much greater public interest in girls
education, and funds were available as never before.
But the idea of
unmarried, middle-class women pursuing meaningful paid work, out-
side the home, still lingered on as unfeminine.
With this prejudice,
for the new generations of university-educated women, teaching was
the only outlet without odium.
Changing the model of any institution in society is a precarious
enterprise, and these pioneering headmistresses had to be careful that
they did not commit any infringements in the curriculum, particularly
on the rules of ladylike behaviour for their girls. Parental fear that intel-
lectual education would make a woman into a bluestocking impacted
on the curriculum.
Some High Schools felt the need to include the:
scientific principles underlying domestic management rather than
emphasise the practical skills of housekeeping.
In fact all these schools
had to tread the careful line of what Sara Delamont calls double
That is, they complied with the demands of providing
both male academic standards and rigid codes of ladylike behaviour.
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 20 8/20/2008 12:13:19 PM
Headmistresses 21
Formed in 1872, the Girls Public Day School Company set up unde-
nominational high schools with the aim of providing a first-class
education in day-schools for girls of all classes.
The Church founded
Anglican high schools and endowed high schools were followed by
grammar schools and the Municipal secondary girls schools.
North London Collegiate School founded by Miss Buss, became the
model for high schools. Cheltenham Ladies College opened in 1854
and was seen to have a similar impact on girls public boarding
schools to that of the North London Collegiate on high schools.
Cheltenham emphasised that in order to remain exclusive and elite
institutions, the clientele were to be daughters of gentlemen. This set
them apart from the more socially diverse High Schools. The curricu-
lum included needlework, but overall was modelled on that of the
boys public schools. For some parents this was too advanced.
Although by 1863, pupils who were entered for Oxford or Cambridge
Local Examinations also studied mathematics, science, Latin and
Interestingly, after 16 many more girls than boys stayed on
in state secondary education and between 1870 and 1913 university
places tripled.
These reforms were seen by some as a challenge to the new imperial-
ism. One focus of attention was female physical deterioration and the
falling birth rate, which were all too easily seen as the fault of higher
education and the opportunities for women to have a professional
career. B.L. Hutchins, a journalist writing in 1912, advanced theories
disputing that: professional advancement [ ... ] will draw women away
from matrimony and motherhood, and lower the average fitness of the
mothers of the race.
Hutchins collected statistics of married and
unmarried women, self-supporting or not, by age and class to establish
the facts. It emerged that: the demand for Higher Education and wider
opportunity has arisen as a consequence of the restricted prospects of
marriage in the upper class [ ... ] The womens education movement is
being attacked on a priori grounds, and with very little knowledge of the
real facts.
These objections would inevitably discourage the more timid female.
Faithfull writes:
I think there can be little doubt that indirectly the higher education
of women discouraged marriage in as far as it gave to women an
alternative which had none of the dullness or limitations of home
life, and much of the variety and opportunity for initiative which
would not normally be found in domesticity.
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 21 8/20/2008 12:13:19 PM
22 Gender, Professions and Discourse
Burstall in the Record Book of her school registers notes: The Sixth
Form had twenty-one girls; two-thirds of these went on to a university.
More than half of these girls are now married; indeed, our old girls who
go to college marry in greater proportion than those who do not.
a similar vein, Arnold Bennett saw that only improvements for all con-
cerned would accrue from the education of women. In accord with
Burstall he writes that education would fit women as better compan-
ions to men and improve marriage for both sexes.
He observed: Girls
marry later than they used to marry; therefore men also. I have heard
expressions of wonder that economically independent girls should
marry, not later, but at all.
Notwithstanding these advantages for
pupils in late Victorian and Edwardian times, the headmistresses of the
1900s1920s were confronted by many issues. The focus in this chap-
ter is not on those issues which were featured in the common press, but
those which appear to have an a priori position in headmistresses
As girls and as pupils these highly respectable women would have
been tutored in the importance of the feminine virtues of selflessness
and service, and would have been given the expectation that they
would marry. Therefore to pursue an academic role and to pursue a
career where marriage was an impossibility would present a problematic
image, because it was not one of traditional femininity. Early in her
career Faithfull records that: public opinion operated as a strong con-
trolling force.
To mitigate this, service, destiny and calling became
keywords as strategies which salved their consciences and steered public
opinion away from unfavourable sentiment. Burstall identified her own
and her peers teaching profession as: our calling.
When appointed
headmistress at Manchester she noted: My service began [ ... ] and was
destined to run to August 1924.
Similarly, reflecting on her appoint-
ment to Cheltenham, Faithfull writes: There was great dignity and seri-
ousness; and when I was summoned the second time, it was as if I had
entered a church full of silent prayer [ ... ] it seemed to me that I was
ordained to high and holy office, not merely elected to an important
Their un-ladylike behaviour was ratified by holding ideas of their
careers as a Divine calling; equating service in teaching as service to
This concern for suitable conduct was always close to the surface
when writing about their ambitions to teach and have professional suc-
cess, and fomented this elevated, moral and religious lexis came into
use only when writing about their ambitions to teach and have
professional success.
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 22 8/20/2008 12:13:19 PM
Headmistresses 23
Self-advancement had been considered a wholly masculine trait. In
order to camouflage the ambitions they had for professional success,
these autobiographers utilised a passive narrative form which would
deflect any appearance of active negotiation. For example, Faithfull
recognised that she should move schools to further her career and
wrote: it was borne in on me.
For Burstall, when she applied for
advancement: I found myself in Manchester, not by my own will but
by that overpowering circumstance which some call Fate others
Divine Providence.
The use of borne and found made them
appear the passive recipients of an action rather than the initiators.
Furthermore it promoted their selfless image and militated against
charges of being unfeminine. Burstalls appointment was of immense
importance to her, but she was not prepared to face public ire and say
I want to be ... . She preferred to avow fate as the instrument of her
success, and to define her experience as a Christian calling. Again
the conflation of the Christian process with that of the educa-
tional process raised the status and helped with the projection of a
professional career.
What is of interest here is not only the use of religious phraseology.
When they list these incidents of personal achievement, there is a
marked lan in their writing which is not witnessed at any other
period in their narratives. When Burstalls appointment was
I felt like a tree in a flooded river, borne on by some power not my
own to an unknown end. I might have been fearful had I known all
the difficulties there were to encounter and all the stormy seas I was
to traverse. It was a great adventure: and like one in a dream obeying
some master suggestion.
Such striking narrative occurrences rupture the earlier and subsequent
balanced style. The measured and didactic tones give way to betray her
true disposition at this juncture. The reader is assailed by a wild meta-
phoric onslaught. Selected as headmistress, a course she set in motion,
she impresses upon the reader that as the tree she had been overawed.
The intermingling of mythical adventure and biblical vision make it
unclear as to which force is the master. The mythical stormy seas and
master suggestion give way to the established precepts of religion and
teaching as coterminous: real work ... a preparation. There is a clash
between the narrative of her private desires and the narrative of her
public image. Burstalls attempt to subvert attention from her forthright
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 23 8/20/2008 12:13:19 PM
24 Gender, Professions and Discourse
act of ambition, but at the same time present her joy in her success, did
not allow for the climactic impact of the dramatic change in the pulse
of her writing. The overwhelming excitement in achieving her ambi-
tion had interfered with her presentation of correct behaviour. But of
equal importance is that this invasion of vitality is only recorded at the
outset of their careers.
If, as Foucault suggested in Discipline and Punish, the emergence of
new organisations leads to an increase in hidden bureaucratic surveil-
lance, then these headmistresses had shrugged this away when record-
ing their remembrances of the outset of their careers. They were able to
situate themselves to a time when they had not succumbed to this
monitoring affect. But in order to write the main body of their autobi-
ographies and refract charges of self-assuredness in their actions, they
adopt and maintain a masculine style which uses the passive voice. As
professional writing aims at an invisibility and anonymity of gender, it
would be a portal through which headmistresses could enter a dis-
course and be accepted. The formal, distilled, authoritative tone, syn-
tax and lexis would mark the writer as professional and objective. In
effect they could assert their competence, and because this style of
writing was so widely used, they (and it) became in a sense less visible
and genderless.
An exception to Burstall, Faithfull and many other headmistresses
is Frances Gray, First Mistress of St Pauls Girls School. While reading
The Spectator in January 1903 she saw an advertisement for a
Headmistress of a new school for girls:
I took it for granted that I was to apply for the post that was
advertised [ ... ] I received letters from friends at Westfield College
urging me to try [ ... ] I needed no urging. [ ... ] I had no premonition
of success or failure; but I had a very strong feeling that I must [ ... ]
make some effort to enter this new field of work. It has always inter-
ested me to observe how many experiences and how many kinds of
experiences may be crowded into one life if we are prepared to accept
and to use every scrap that comes to us.
Yet it is this forthright confidence which the majority of others lack
that consolidates my assertions above. Gray had experienced life out-
side the school confines. She had travelled. Importantly, she had worked
alongside men and within the community at large. Unlike so many
other women teachers, she had not dwelt solely with women within the
confines of scholastic institutions. Gray did not suffer the impact of
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 24 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
Headmistresses 25
isolation because she made herself part of a larger community. She had
escaped being stifled and subsumed.
This is one of many occasions that show Gray as representative of a
minority that had not yielded to the hierarchical observational systems
posited by Foucault.
Dominant systems cannot exercise total control;
neither can they tailor their systems of control to meet the exact situa-
tion of each person within a group. Foucault noted that hierarchical
mechanisms operate: not by differentiating individuals, but by specify-
ing acts according to a number of general categories.
Gray was both
inside and outside of her school institution. Thereby, the hierarchical
observation and normalising judgements noted by Foucault impinged
less on Gray.
Her assurance and boldness are a direct result of her energy and self-
possession. In her chapter, The Vocation of the Teacher she raised what
she considered to be an inherent fallacy, that two lives were necessary.
The one: the outer kapelistic [sic] life of drudgery, the other the inner
and cherished life of the spirit.
For Gray there was no divided mind.
She energetically denied the suggestion often put to teachers that: we
are supposed to act vigorously during term-time in our vocation among
our pupils and to be ourselves when we go on holidays.
In fact Gray
is one of the few headmistresses that acknowledged that they had
holidays. She wrote about the fullness of a teachers life which she
found: as satisfyingly, in the schoolroom as in any other region to
which his destiny may send him [ ... ] it is a mark from those who are
truly called [ ... ] be wise and seek until you find the work that brings
lasting happiness.
At this juncture it is worth noting the different attitude of teachers
who worked in small, privately owned establishments. For Amy
Barton, after being awarded her B.A., there was resignation to the fact
that she must teach: Well, there was no choice. One taught or did
As for it being a calling, neither Barton nor her three
friends wanted this profession. Teach? her friend Bennie wrote in a
letter, Id rather sweep a crossing. Nobody wanted to teach. Another
friend disliked the school so much that she habitually headed her let-
ters Hell.
Similarly, Faithfull found the new enthusiasm for teach-
ing careers, as vocational, had been short-lived: our own enthusiasm,
made us eager to get posts and content to keep them for years. All this
has changed now.
Management of these schools required rules and regulations and as
such, these mechanisms appear to have had a deleterious effect on the
headmistresses. Responsible for everything under their control, they
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 25 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
26 Gender, Professions and Discourse
were in a particularly invidious position, placed as they were with
governors and parents on the one hand, and staff and pupils on the
other hand. For example, observations by staff of Edith Creak, first
head of King Edward VI School in Birmingham, comment on this
heavy toll. At the beginning of her career Creak was noted for her joie
de vivre and sense of humour but by the end she had become domineer-
ing and irritable; a trait that appeared especially in the higher-ranking
Public Day Schools.
It is in Marion Cleeves writing that the most
coherent example of the schools encompassing grip is illustrated: The
school dominated me; indeed it dominated us all. More or less slowly,
but very surely, it or they got us. We came to think as they or it
thought and did as we were told.
To write of the school as a separate,
personified unit bears witness to how deeply embedded in their psyche
the school was. The pupils would be subjected to the rules and regula-
tions for maybe three to five years. But for the staff it could be a life-time
of restrictions.
Cleeves comments are very telling of the insidious force of a rela-
tively closed community. Indeed, the prolonged exposure to restric-
tions evidently had a duel function. By this I mean that the techniques
and procedures to coerce pupils to behave in a certain manner were
devised by the headmistresses in order to free themselves from disor-
derly conduct and disorderly daily lives. But these parameters would
need to be adhered to by staff as example. Foucaults theories on
discipline are particularly useful here. He stresses that the same dis-
ciplinary mechanisms employed by prisons govern the daily func-
tioning of factories, hospitals, armies and schools. All these
institutions rely on strict hierarchies, normalising judgements and
repetitive tasks to control timetables and space.
It follows that year
upon year under the aegis of set regimes; the rules would have a
repressive influence and be internalised on the psyche and discourses
of their inmates.
E.M. Butler, teacher, Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD) and school-
girl at Cheltenham recalls how, after some misdemeanour, any crimes
would be dealt with during assembly. For one particular infringement,
no one came forward, the Principal condemned the whole school as:
besmirched, and every individual member of it was under a fearful
cloud, fallen from favour with the principal and by implication from
divine grace. Silly though it sounds, the emotional pressure behind the
words was great.
She noted that this occurred every morning for
weeks an appeal: to the spirit that glorifies the institution at the expense
of the individual. They appealed to the herd-instinct as well.
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 26 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
Headmistresses 27
was in operation here is what Foucault called the normalising
judgement: The workshop, the school, the army were subject to a
whole micro-penalty of time (lateness, absences, interruptions of tasks),
of activity [ ... ], of behaviour (impoliteness, disobedience).
The ena-
bling of a commonality in group power in effect punishes non-
conformity and is restrictive to both recipient and controller: the
penalty of the norm.
In effect, non-conformity is being punished. To
lead by example, the headmistresses must submit to this power of nor-
malisation. For these women this normalisation would be particularly
arduous, given that they had removed themselves from societys notion
of normal women by pursuing a career. These self-administered con-
trols could rebound on them. My point here is to show the pervasive-
ness of the school-body as an isolated, authoritarian society. This is
pivotal to the main thrust of this chapter; the power of these institu-
tions over headmistresses and the way in which this is prefigured in the
writing of their autobiographies.
The great majority of headmistresses lived on the school premises
and had little external social life. When Faithful succeeded Miss Beale
she was dejected to discover that the Principals rooms were surrounded
by classrooms in the centre of the building: which added to my
She found that the drawing-room had no outlook and
from the dining-room the view was on to a corridor. But to: Miss Beale
it had meant everything to live in the midst of her work [ ... ] it did not
affect her at all.
There are two issues here. The implied layout of the
Principals accommodation with those of the class room appears to be
similar to that of the Benthamite Panopticon prison system discussed
by Foucault. The use of hierarchical observation or the power that
acts by means of general visibility relies on architecture designed: to
permit an internal, articulated and detailed control.
In other words,
Miss Beale had centred herself within a circle of classrooms. From
there, her possible observation effects power, as the subject is poten-
tially visible. The guard is also the prisoner.
Foucault maintained that in making people visible to scrutiny, it in
turn made it possible to alter them.
But it also appeared to alter the
headmistresses as well. It left Faithfull: full of depression.
Miss Beale
and Miss Faithfull clearly had different needs of social and emotional
space. For Faithfull, Cheltenham Ladies College as: a little world of
itself was a suffocating influence on her, and in time she did move out
to a cottage a few miles from the college.
This manner of enforced
control was observed by outsiders. Dame Katherine Furze, writes of her
sister, comparing their lives: mine was so free, while she, was very much
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 27 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
28 Gender, Professions and Discourse
tied to the grindstone [ ... ] I see her as a lark in a cage, her wings quiver-
ing to carry her up into the sky and sunlight.
Isolation through office led, for many, to loneliness. One incident
recorded by Cleeve whereby a young girl physically shakes her shoul-
der to gain her attention when allocating parts in a play initiates
unexpected feelings: If I were to describe how delighted I was about
this, I should expose myself to the charge of sentimental exaggeration.

She appears disproportionately concerned with this incident; even to
the point of singing the Hallelujah Chorus or: if a street urchin, I
might have turned a surprising number of somersaults [ ... ] as I was
Marion Cleeve, I betook my prim person to the comparative seclusion
of my room, sat down, laughed a good deal and cried a little.
This is
a clear example of how reined-in her feelings were. The void in Cleeves
life is so raw and emotionally stretched that the slightest show of
affection renders her unstable, and in fact for some, their stoic forbear-
ance brought illness.
Octavia Wilberforce, a doctor writing of her experiences at
Graylingwell psychiatric hospital Chichester, is surprised by the number
of women that had formerly taught: Why should teaching send you
dotty? Continual hard work, no future, no ambitions, bad pay, eh? Its
the inelastic who go off [ ... ] One [ ... ] forty odd, and the most lamenta-
ble creature Ive ever seen, mentally, morally, physically. Harmless but a
wreck. [sic]
As Wilberforce noted, those who are fragile go to the wall. Foucault
believed that continued observance permitted: an internal, articulated
and detailed control to render visible those who are inside it.
That is
to say, the external constraints leave their impressions in the soft tissue
of the psyche. At this stage Foucault saw only benefits and that every-
one were similarly treated. But as Anthony Elliott noted: In time
Foucault came to admit that surveillance is not something that settles
upon all persons equally.
At one end of the scale you have the dotty
teacher, at the other end you find the more robust like Francis Gray.
Gray approved of unified control:
The form of government that I believe to be the best for schools is
beneficent despotism. Where the interests of forty or fifty mistresses,
four hundred and fifty girls, several hundreds of parents and a con-
siderable number of servants are at stake it is convenient to have
unified control, but I regard autocracy as not only convenient but in
the highest degree useful in education of girls.
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 28 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
Headmistresses 29
Grays openness in embracing hierarchal observation and normalising
controls in fact confirms Foucaults theories. Unlike many other head-
mistresses, Gray did not confine herself to the school. Her text is fla-
voured with lively reminiscences and mini-biographies of, to her, key
figures in her life both male and female. She is far more involved in the
community than has been revealed in other autobiographies; frequently
writing of friends of mine who vary from the Reverend Playfair, a
working carpenter, Lady Airlie to that of a kitchen maid. Atypically,
Gray alone mentions motherly care of young pupils. For example, a
young child she had told off earlier in the day, she finds: lying awake
and perfectly wretched. I took her down to my fire and warmed her, for
she was cold with misery [ ... ] as she sat in my lap while I rubbed her
little feet with my warm hands.
These incidents show how Gray had
remained mentally separate from her institution and maintained a
healthy balance between her two worlds.
Rather than consider the school environment as a reason for emotional
problems, popular belief at this time attributed hysterical breakdowns to
women who did not marry. As Chris Shilling notes: The restraint of desire
has traditionally been concerned with the regulation of female sexuality
by systems of patriarchal power [ ... ] In the Victorian period in particular;
women were seen as governed by their sexuality and reproductive func-
tions, and properly confined to marriage and domestic sphere.
Women generally were not allowed both, and in fact worldly success
was seen as unfeminine. Here the teaching profession was caught in a
double-bind. As untrained governesses and teachers, they met with
patriarchal and societal approval. For women to have undertaken voca-
tional training and to have established a professional body implied an
active desire to work rather than work being an unpleasant necessity
thrust upon them.
Moreover, in this choice of spinsterhood and celi-
bacy highly emotive responses were generated because, unlike their
male counterparts: celibacy, actual or potential, was the price paid for
entry into male fields of secondary and higher education.
appeared to be actively rejecting marriage in favour of a career.
Burstall does not see spinsterhood as a conflicting criterion to becom-
ing a teacher but something to be contended with. She writes: A girls
teacher is, in general, a student and a spinster not a woman leading
the normal ordinary womans life.
The idea that it is not a normal
womans life is telling. It appears that the efforts to gain qualified, pro-
fessional status, with a move from the insecure realm of the unqualified
governess, caused a greater separation from societys expectation of
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 29 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
30 Gender, Professions and Discourse
womanhood and the feminine than perhaps some women were able to
accept. This doctrine would cause teachers and headmistresses, in
particular, feelings of guilt, because their personal ambition necessi-
tated the rejection of family life. Stewardship of a high profile girls
school exacted a high price.
It can be seen from the above the intricate pattern of conflicting
standards that these headmistresses had to negotiate. Burstall wrote in
On the qualifications of teachers [ ... ] which cannot be tested but
which are personal to the woman, are far more vital. A love of
children, strength and sincerity of character, inexhaustible
patience, simplicity [sic] of thought [ ... ] Fortunately many women
possess it by nature; and thus, it is that teaching is the womans
This recognition of a womans natural capabilities is not balanced by
any empirical experiences. It recognised and utilised the loving and
nurturing aspect of womens psyche. But, these new large establish-
ments denied professional headmistresses an important part of caring;
the intimacy of tactile expression, which was part of the smaller, family
run establishments. Furthermore, unlike their male counterparts, they
were forbidden marriage as well as a career. On the one hand their
profession encouraged the inherent maternal instincts but on the other
hand, the profession necessitated curtailment and distance from physi-
cal display of care. Thus it appears that, provided womens teaching
ambitions remained within the confines of unqualified governess and
that of unqualified schoolteacher, society found this an acceptable
career. But as soon as they achieved professional status, their normal
feminine instincts were called into question.
Because these headmistresses concentrated on the desire and need to
appear as public, professional, celibate women, it left them open to prej-
udice and charges of strangeness.
For example, the writer Bertha Ruck
commented on schoolgirls she knew: Which of them I wonder, have
become school-marms or taken the veil? (Often Synonymous) [sic].

Their celibate life fostered the illusion of there being a necessary and
crippling choice between career and marriage. Vicinus wrote: The
sexual revolution placed new strains upon marriage and pushed the
unmarried to question their state as sexually abnormal. Single women
had no weapons with which to fight the labelling of their friendships as
deviant because they understood sexual activity as heterosexual.
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 30 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
Headmistresses 31
Faithfull looked back over 40 years and wrote at some length on
schoolgirl friendships and those of staff. She believed that friendships
formed at school and college, whether by men or women, would rank
highest of the friendships: They are like no others.
But she also
recognised that many school girl friendships: degenerate into a senti-
mental devotion, good neither for the worshipper nor for the one
Her commanding narrative clearly indicates her inten-
tion of laying-to-rest suggestions of deviant behaviour. She urged
against these follies and warned against absurd relationships which
could cause a loss of dignity.
What is of interest here is that when she
strongly constructs a brief outline of her own close friendship her lexis
echoes descriptions of an androgynous hero: built on generous lines,
and body and spirit were finely matched. She looked as if she could lead
armies. [ ... ] Tall and handsome [ ... ] radiantly alive and enjoying [sic]
She was the best tennis-player; no mean violinist.
This unnamed
friend continued in Faithfulls life for over 40 years built on: deep
admiration and understanding.
It appears that Faithfull knew of the
charges against these all-women institutions and was at pains to present
a clear rebuttal.
From the1900s the ideas of Freud and sexologists such as Edward
Carpenter had gained more currency amongst lay people. Suspicious
of the spinster, these new ideas challenged and placed a different
interpretation on all-women institutions. As Vicinus noted, for many
single women, friendship was seen as [ ... ] validating the decision not
to marry, to have a career. [ ... ] Quite unselfconsciously women referred
to their relationships as marriages. [ ... ] Sexual passion, if not physical
sexuality, characterised a special friendship.
According to Sheila
Jeffreys, a woman who was heterosexual, unmarried and remained a
virgin was repressing her sexuality. This would make her neurotic and
unfit to live happily. Conversely, if she was homosexual, she was an
invert and as such a dangerous woman.
Either way, headmistresses
of high-ranking schools faced censor in their unnatural, cloistered,
single-sex environs.
For others in the teaching profession, the ability to earn a living and
to be free from marriage was a positive advantage. Barlow had a string
of what she referred to as amatory episodes which stand out in her
narrative because of the highly emotive language used to express her
dreadful fear of being drawn into marriage: Whenever a suitor
appeared on the scene, I felt like a wild cat, spitting, scratching and bit-
ing, being dragged on a chair into a cage. I fled ... such was my horror of
being trapped.
So powerful are her emotions that her tone, style and
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 31 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
32 Gender, Professions and Discourse
language change. Earlier, Bartons remembrances were modulated by
humour and a joie de vivre that did not change with time. She: had no
time for philandering .
Various encounters were described in com-
bative terms: cut, thrust, parry ... fencing bouts ... . others follow in the
form of clichs, ships that pass in the night.
The language of romance
appeared foreign to her. To articulate her feelings Barlow had to resort
to the combative and Boys Own language of men. As a child she
read The White Chief, a story about Red Indians, Sir Walter Scott and
R.L. Stevenson, which appear to have accumulated as part of her cul-
tural competence. In the last male/female encounter she believed that
they were getting on so well she suggested that maybe they had met in
a previous existence, perhaps as slaves chained together on the same
bench in a Roman galley.
These unusual and awkward formulations
within a sado-masochistic analogy constitute a different texture in the
Barlow, in what she had imagined as the battle field of masculine/
feminine relationships, had appropriated the male, dominant position.
She had assumed an active role as she: disposed of these suitors. and
had taken mastery over the situation.
She recorded: I fled, such was
my horror of being trapped and I felt I must do something drastic.

She was actively taking the initiative to remove herself from the
experience. Self-reflexively she noted:
I had behaved very badly. I had, but I am sure it was the best thing to
do, I was then about thirty. After that-nothing. [sic] Romance seemed
to pass me by in disgust. Then, at last, at long last, I met W.J., but
then it was too late, much too late.
Tantalisingly her unvarnished immensely articulate narration ends in
silence. The pace and intensity of her writing is slower, repetitive and
passive and poetic: pass me by [ ... ] at last, long last [ ... ] too late, much
too late.
These last sentences seem to be tinged with regret and wist-
fulness. Barlows candour in writing of her emotional gamut with men
is unusual. However, similar to Gray, she has had contact with males all
her life and is especially unusual in that she worked with men in a boys
school. For her, the experiences were just another aspect of her character
and her life.
Social architecture, institution and societies expectations can
affect the writing of headmistresses; all of which are betrayed in their
narratives. But they are not the only controls which influenced these
professional women. A striking feature of these new schools was the
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 32 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
Headmistresses 33
extent to which they were sponsored, organised, patronised, gov-
erned and controlled by men. This ruling extended even to the
Governesses Benevolent Institution.
However enlightened these
men may have been, they would still assert a repressive control.
Cleeve reflected that during 25 years: When I first took office the
hand of tradition lay heavy upon me. It was a long time before I dared
to be myself.
Her concern about her femininity is foregrounded
here by her exhibiting her fear of patriarchal approbation. Far into
her career, headmistress Marion Cleeve recalled a meeting with the
governors of her school at which she had spoken out. It was made
plain to her, in a mildly sarcastic tone, that: We all have learnt to
regard self-assertion with an indulgent eye.
Although powerful
among her female staff and female pupils, within the boundaries of a
male dominated Board of Governors, headmistresses were expected
to be subdued and submissive.
In later years, Cleeve had learnt that by outwardly accepting the
restrictive practices of patriarchy she: gained a reputation for getting
[her] own way.
Apparently muted by strictures of patriarchal expec-
tation, Cleeve was not erased entirely from governing. I forbore to
interrupt [ ... ] and lived on the best of terms with my governing body,
being given all I asked for I was careful to keep within the bounds.

Unlike an unnamed fellow headmistress who told her that: the chief
quality needed for success in municipal life was a low cunning [sic]. I
should have said it was servility of soul or, as Snellham phrased it,
willingness to kow-tow [sic].
But headmistresses did break out from time to time. Burstall remem-
bers at one Governors meeting, when asked about scholarships and
educational principles: For once I lost patience and broke out: Dont
ask me about educational principles: I have long abandoned them. I
seek only to administer regulations to do the least possible harm to my
Sadly, after this discharge Burstall noted that: an inward
distress ensued, and all joy in work vanished.
Burstalls temerity
in challenging existing gender arrangements caused her unease.
Interestingly, Cleeve ended her autobiography with an account of hos-
tilities from her final Chairman of Governors. They disagreed over a
schoolmistress. All the reader is given is: Hostilities began. The
Chairman appeared to use: a sledgehammer made of Pigirons heaviest
and I staggered out of the arena murmuring in Mr Henleys most inel-
egant, horribly hackneyed, but perfectly irresistible phrasing, My head
is bloody but unbowed.
In the one fight that she recorded, she was
rendered mute and the reader is left to conjecture the meaning of the
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 33 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
34 Gender, Professions and Discourse
silence. What is evident from these incidents is that although the male
governors dominate, they cannot exert total control.
Foucault wrote that power is always interactive. He offers the notion
that although the effects of power are described in:
negative terms: it excludes, it represses, it censors, it abstracts,
it masks, it conceals. In fact, power produces; it produces reality;
it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth.
Foucault is asserting that there are different subject positions in the
power nexus. These headmistresses were brought up in an era when
women were expected to be attentive and listen. But they also appear to
understand that there is a power in listening, as well as speaking.
Burstalls and Cleeves behaviour, when meeting with the Governors,
could be read as a renunciation of their opinions. Rather, I believe that
they are withholding agreement through their silence. The spaces of
silence and talk are dependent on one another, and silent observation
and listening are often rituals of truth for women. If we move away
from the prison-house view of womens language and women as
observers, we can assert that the silent observer or listener has an equal
and sometimes a superior position, in relation to the talker. This I would
suggest is the position of these headmistresses.
After 30 plus years of service, retirement loomed for many. Some
50 per cent of headmistresses included this experience in their writ-
ing. For the rest, we can only conjecture the reason why retirement
was omitted. For some, their experience as a teacher and headmistress
only had relevance, and others wrote before retirement. Patriarchy
deemed womens retirement at 50 as appropriate. Burstall notes that
Professor Sadler in his 1905 address to the Head Mistresses Conference
at Winchester recommends: That in all but very exceptional cases, a
woman ought to give up her work as a teacher in a school when she
reaches the age of fifty-five.
Gray compounds this notion: as my
elderly brother said when I consulted him, it is a great mistake to stay
too long. In teaching especially, age is a handicap: grey hair makes a
barrier between the pupil and oneself.
The reality of retirement
took two distinct courses.
Headmistresses such as Cleeve and Burstall viewed retirement as a
new start. Cleeves autobiography ends abruptly, but the reader is left
with the unwritten prospect of a soaring anticipation: And so to
Its name symbolically represents Cleeves expectation for
her future, but more tellingly the notion that her career was a time of
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 34 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
Headmistresses 35
constraint and restriction. In that one quoted place name, the reader
experiences the idea of deliverance and independence. Burstall is more
expansive, she dedicates a chapter to her retirement thus far. She
reflected on the positive nature of the older, educated woman:
when I came to retire from active service did I realise how happy old
age might be. I have never been so happy since childhood. (my italics) as
I have been in these years of freedom, and that is why the brief record
of it may justly be called Autumn Sunshine.
She justifies her comment in practical terms; the Superannuation Act of
1919 which provided comfort, time to do unpaid public service, time to
travel and see friends and: enough time to enjoy some measure of
family life.
Again, freedom is the prize.
For Faithfull, who retired in 1921 after 35 years service, the future
held less assurance. She wrote this autobiography nine months after
retiring and admits to being uncertain of her emotions. The chapter is
simply called Retirement and begins with an objective analysis of the
pros and cons of this decision. Later, she trusts that the melancholy
will not last but that there was an intolerable emptiness in life the
moorings gone, the landmarks removed, ones occupations changed in
a moment.
She can intellectualise the benefits of the freedom to read
at will, no timetabling and a freedom that is unending. This is the prob-
lem. Years of teaching and familiar routine had created a dependency
on a structure that was no longer accessible. The anticipation of the
freedom to read, talk and travel whenever she wanted was made sweeter
because it had to be earned and taken in snatches: But it is in the very
consciousness of untold wealth lies the sting. The freedom that was
bound to end was far more precious than this new liberty. When work-
ing life ceases, the holidays cease too.
She found it hard not to be
needed. And so, as one shuts the door on the old life, a complete and
absolute silence descends upon one, and it must be so. [ ... ] The silence
is something like the silence of death.
In her final paragraph but one, Faithfull acknowledged that: some-
thing must be found to be done, some new activity. One cannot sit
down meekly with folded hands for the rest of ones life.
I wrote
above that Foucault came to recognise that surveillance power is not
something that affects people equally. Thirty years of work within an
institution had left markedly different perspectives for headmistresses.
Some were able to flee their chains and embrace a new life, whilst the
regimented life had initially cowed others. The repetitive process had
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 35 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
36 Gender, Professions and Discourse
created a dependence which was not wholly conscious. The hierarchal
observation, the normalising judgements had a powerful effect on
their internal experience and sense of self. It required energy to effect
a transformation and renewed energy to sustain it. This was some-
thing that Faithfull began to appreciate after nine months treading
The headmistresses narratives are characterised by their need to
expose the concrete nature of their personal achievement, but women
culturally were not expected to promote themselves. They were trying
to change important boundaries for themselves and for forthcoming
generations. But to initiate such changes could be risky and deemed a
threat; not least because they tampered with the boundaries of ladylike
behaviour. Their texts do not display tormenting self-doubts as educa-
tionalists. But as women within a patriarchal system, misgivings
appeared as they struggled to be defined in their own terms and rebut
male domination when the need arose. Nevertheless, they were strongly
aware of the pivotal position they held; both for their chosen profession
and for the teaching of following generations of career-minded young
The strain of both the new role within society and the new role of
headmistress in these newly formed secondary schools exacted a pen-
alty. Put simply, in every society an individual is bound by power. The
objective of this power in these schools was the smooth running and
maintenance of the patriarchal status quo. Both these would exert
pressure on headmistresses. As Faithfull writes: The discipline has at
times been condemned as too severe, and the repression greater than is
at all necessary in these days.
Across the years the insidious repres-
sion was amplified in the subtle changes in their writing styles. Years
of service gradually impinged on their richer and enthusiastic language
to produce a drier, genderless, passive voice.
9780230_219922_03_cha02.indd 36 8/20/2008 12:13:20 PM
The previous chapter on headmistresses showed women engaged in a
career which had long been deemed acceptable by the public. Their
struggle for this generation of headmistresses had been to gain profes-
sional status similar to that of their male counterparts. But a woman
whose ambition was to be a doctor faced immense opposition. Teaching
was acceptable but doctoring was unfeminine. Until Elizabeth Blackwell
became the first woman doctor in 1849, women had been excluded
from this profession.
According to Eric Hobsbawm: The hardest task
was undoubtedly that of women who braved the entrenched resistance,
institutional and informal, of men in organised professions, in spite of
a small but rapidly expanding bridgehead they had established in
Hobsbawm recorded that there were around 20 women reg-
istered in 1891, 212 by 1901 and 447 by 1911.
According to Carol
Dyhouse, just before the First World War around 1,000 women were on
the Medical Register and the 19141918 war encouraged many more to
qualify and the numbers doubled to 2,100 by 1921.
Womens efforts to gain entrance to the medical profession were ini-
tially rebuffed on two main counts. The first had its origin in the male
doctors fears of female incursion; they feared economic competition in
an already overcrowded and depressed profession.
The second was
based on cultural definitions of the feminine and the implication was
that medical training would harden and unsex women.
believed that a woman became unwomanly with knowledge of the
world [whereas] a man could not truly be a man unless he had seen
stripped bare the tree of forbidden fruit of knowledge of good and
This notion of unsexing was broad-ranging in its scope. It questioned
womens physical capabilities, and expressed concerns that the effect of
Women Doctors
9780230_219922_04_cha03.indd 37 8/20/2008 6:44:35 PM
38 Gender, Professions and Discourse
studying anatomy and dissection of the human body would destroy
womens sensibilities.
Also the prospects of candid discussion in mixed classes were raised.
Over the years Dr Elizabeth Bryson noted the many times she had
heard: No, not a doctor! from older, friendly, thoughtful men [ ... ]
They feared the loss of something delicacy? modesty? women
should be protected from harsh things, the sordid facts of life.
these shocked reactions could and did give way to open hostility
particularly by medical men against women who wanted to enter the
field, not as midwives but as doctors. It was even whispered they were
afraid! [of women].
But from male students hostile reactions ran high,
when in 1870 outside the Surgeons Hall of the Royal Infirmary the
male students jostled and [threw] mud and rotten vegetables at the
women, slammed the huge gates of the courtyard in their faces [ ... ] and
used the foulest language.
Even the professors who taught them
required fees as much as four times the fees of the male students.

Dr Isabel Hutton recorded that women medical students were: consid-
ered the traditional enemies by the men and were the constant targets
of their criticism and even hostility [ ... ] women had to put up with very
cavalier treatment by their men colleagues, who criticised, patronised
or were even blatantly rude.
But this flagrant opposition failed. In the years before the First World
War, the opposition to medical coeducation gradually eased. The war
itself helped to end segregation in medical teaching, although Oxford
and Cambridge remained closed to women.
When war began, there
were less than 500 women enrolled in medicine throughout Britain.
From Blackwells registration in 1868 to this period of discussion there
is a bare 50 years of very limited numbers of women doctors, which
makes these women autobiographers innovators in their field. It makes
them exceptional in their era; a point that needs to be borne in mind
when examining these autobiographies.
There is an abundance of primary evidence for this investigation.
These articulate women encompassed many facets and themes in their
autobiographies. For example, Isabel Hutton, Caroline Matthews, and
Flora Murray recorded wartime experiences; Mary Scharlieb her experi-
ences in India, Ida Mann became a professor at Oxford. Many like Isabel
Hutton and Octavia Wilberforce encountered problems with education,
Elizabeth Bryson shied away from general practice and spent time in
New Zealand; and Gladys Wauchope, like Octavia Wilberforce, went
into country practice.
In 1998 Carol Dyhouse reflected upon the
extent to which these accounts share features of the literary genre, the
9780230_219922_04_cha03.indd 38 8/20/2008 6:44:35 PM
Women Doctors 39
quest or the folk-fairytale. [ ... ] if they are read with careful attention to
form and metaphor.
She noted a sense of mission, rite de passage, trials
and tribulations, and associated these with the notion of fairy/
My research suggests that the genres employed are wider than those
of the fairy/folktale. It is the fairytale, girls heroic stories and boys
adventure narratives that are appropriated, and are the most impor-
tant and overriding point of interest, because this phenomenon
occurs solely in the autobiographies written by women doctors.
However, as is often the case in brief articles, scant attention is given
to what these young women doctors wrote themselves. Instead situa-
tions such as: institutional obstacles, [ ... ] idea of separate spheres [ ... ]
possessed by a mission are acknowledged without undertaking a close
textual reading to hear the autobiographers themselves.
in this chapter I examine why these narratives were imbued with
such genre-specific conventions and vocabulary, and consider why,
and to what effect, these autobiographers found it necessary to
construct themselves as archetypal, mythical heroines in their
Finally, consideration is given to the emotional context, when these
forms of discourse are foregrounded. Of the professions examined in
this book, the doctors give the greatest narrative space to childhood
memories, educational struggles, family and patriarchal approbation,
and male prejudice. It follows that these themes need to be analysed in
some detail, as they tend to be part of the most important experiences.
The autobiographies of Elizabeth Bryson, Gladys Wauchope and Octavia
Wilberforce are the main focus for this chapter, as they are representa-
tive of this cohort of women doctors.
As a starting point, it is useful to outline some tenets of the fairytale
and girls and boys fictional narratives. The fairytale as a bed-time
story has images of the miraculous and the beautiful, operating in a
world of wish-fulfilment and magic events, and usually involves the
gift or removal of some magic spell. There is a sense that anything can
happen and that the ending will be happy. The happy ending under-
pins the sense that tribulations will result in safety and reconciliation.
According to David Luke, Tales are not only variants of each other,
but consist for the most part of combinations and permutations of
certain typical constituent elements.
Jack Zipes noted that literary
fairytale was: designed both to divert as amusement and instruct ide-
ologically as a means to mold [sic] the inner nature of young people.

He added that Perraults prose fairytales: can be divided into two
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40 Gender, Professions and Discourse
distinct groups based on gender. In Perrault for example, Red Riding
Hood and Sleeping Beauty wove ideas of the female child as good, beau-
tiful and patient and the female role models have beauty, grace, musi-
cality, humility and self-discipline.
Fairytales that were aimed at
boys for example, Tom Thumb and Puss in Boots suggested that ambi-
tion, brains and courage were of importance. Perrault endows the male
hero with: remarkable minds, courage [ ... ] manners, success and
So from the outset, the symbolic, cultural, civilising
process operates and as A.S. Byatt noted: fairy tales clearly stamp the
rules of gender differences on their readers.
These gender rules con-
dition females to regard marriage as the goal and for males the prime
aim is active pursuit of goals and social success. For Jack Zipes the
divide is that men became more closely associated with reason, tem-
perance, activism, and sovereign order; females became more identi-
fied with irrationality, whimsy, passivity, and subversive deviance.

The role models supporting gender differences which obtained in fair-
ytales continued in girls and boys fiction. This can be seen in books
like The Railway Children (1906) which shores up gender ideology and
social relations.
By the early twentieth century, school stories were the
most popular light reading for girls from late childhood and through
the middle teens. Many employed a melodramatic style and conveyed
conflicts and their resolution between family and ambition. Named as
the favourite author by readers of Girls Realm in 1898, L.T. Meade wrote
girls fiction that imbued notions of traditional Victorian femininity,
womanhood as fragile, dependent and protected.
However it became
a commonplace idea that, by the turn of the century, many girls
found that the girls canon was fairly tedious and took to reading
their brothers adventure stories.
E.J. Salmon suggested that girls
would often read beyond what was taken to be suitable literature
because it was often too passive and goody-goody and inferior to
that of boys fiction.
This led them to read popular authors such as
G.A. Henty.
These boys novels described a set of institutions which upheld the
social order for the male and allowed the authors to provide an ideo-
logical view of the world. A prime interest was how maleness was to
be presented to the young reader.
Knowles and Malmkjaer found
that: physical rather than intellectual is desirable. Complex mental
activity was not the order of the day [and] central to this genre is a hero
who overcomes many trials often in strange surroundings [ ... ] we
noted the decidedly Christian ethos which pervades all the
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Women Doctors 41
Henty wanted his young heroes to be bold, straightfor-
ward and not milksops.
Due to the supposedly susceptible nature of girls, their reading mate-
rial was vetted by their parents to prevent them reading unsuitable sto-
ries. But their brothers books in many cases slipped through unnoticed,
although they would be deemed unsuitable with their masculine role
models. The boys books that girls liked best were historical novels and
empire adventure tales, the reading of which perhaps instilled Edwardian
In reading these fictions the cultural message that these
young girls then received was a valuation of the male as better with
more privileges.
Clearly it is impossible within the boundaries of this chapter to inves-
tigate the minutiae of all the genres and sub-genres involved here, and
the changes that evolved in young peoples literature. However it is
worth noting that circa 1900s, Meades response to the idea that girls
preferred boys books was to write stories with a keener sense of danger
and plot, school adventure stories, and light-weight fictions that pre-
sented heroines as genteel role models for the new centurys young
She gave girls what others had done earlier for boys: a separate
culture with its own values, customs, and social standards. However,
according to Mitchell, Meades feminist intention was compromised by
the idea of traditional conventions and adherence to stereotypical
gender, class and imperial characters.
Part of this investigation, was to ascertain whether these women doc-
tors used the fairytale motifs and adolescent fiction against the grain,
in a potentially radical way. Many of them do record what they read as
children. For example Dr Elizabeth Bryson delighted in The Golden
Thread, Tess of the DUrbervilles and The Scarlet Letter, Dr Isabel Hutton
pursued the Classics and Shakespeare, Dr Ida Mann read Longfellow and
Tennyson and Dr Octavia Wilberforce favoured The Count of Monte Cristo
and The Three Musketeers.
Of course, unless stated in their writing, we
cannot know which fairytales they read. But it will become apparent
from what follows that, for these women, their childrens books made an
impression and had a profound influence on how they remembered and
chose to present their childhood, and indicate key moments in pursuit
of their careers and when faced with opposition.
In Brysons writing we can see from the outset how the fairytale is
intercalated into her life. Her father: told us endless stories, fairy stories
and Bible stories and stories of his own [ ... ] All early memories of him
have an air of enchantment [ ... ] like pictures in Fairyland, all sunny
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42 Gender, Professions and Discourse
and golden.
She begins her autobiography: My tunnel of memory is a
long one and it brings me out into a strange world.
As with all good
childrens tales, the readers curiosity is aroused to find out what is
strange. At an early age, as the fourth of nine children, and with 28 full
cousins, she found it difficult to untangle herself from the scrimmage
of siblings and form her little self.
Bryson feared, I am in danger of
being lost in a forest of children as I try to follow and disentangle a fine
thread of self that was seeking to find its way to consciousness in the
midst of the crowd.
This recognition that she was different and craved
individuality would mark her as unconventional and out of the ordi-
nary in a close-knit family. To make sense of this need, Bryson has
appropriated the tale of The Golden Thread which she read as a child.

This tells of a girl lost in a forest who is guided by a gold thread away
from snares and pitfalls. This couches her early assertions to be differ-
ent in a non-confrontational form, and is a technique that averts
To tell of the first of many bursaries she won, Bryson recounted a
specific episode. Aged ten, this bursary was formally given to her by
the Town Clerk, who asked her what she intended to be when she
finished school. To encourage her and in stereotypical fashion
a teacher perhaps? [She replied] I found my small voice and heard
myself saying as in a dream No, sir, Im going to be a doctor.
A doctor! Nonsense! Not a nice little girl like you! Surely not a
doctor. [ ... ] A doctor! Surely not! Would you like to cut off my little
This extract is important because it brings into direct attention two of
the fundamental themes of this discussion. Foremost, the Town Clerk
portrays a prejudice typical at the time (1890s) against females aspiring
to become doctors. His horror culminated in a reductive argument, and
what he deemed would intimidate a child; the idea of blood and assault
on his body, a form of castration. As mentioned, the orthodoxy that
nice women would not actively seek work, least of all in the unsexing
role of a doctor, was common currency. It was taken as improper and
unfeminine for women to directly intervene in the body.
This pervad-
ing culture made it difficult for these women to find a tone suitable to
articulate their driving ambitions. But also typical of this group of
women was Brysons response that she found herself speaking as in a
dream. She became confused and shy believing that she cant explain
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Women Doctors 43
it. I blushed and was silent.
Bryson sought refuge in the idea of being
possessed by something outside of her control:
in a dream. Why had I said I was going to be a doctor? Why was I so
sure? I do not know. But I know that at that moment a little uncon-
scious, yet already determined, desire had found expression in words
from that moment there was no wavering nor [sic] any hesitation, I
knew where I was going although I didnt know the road.
But the utilisation of an enchanted dream-like state, as a means of
explanation, deflects censure. Bryson framed herself as a heroine drawn
to follow a quest into unknown territory to secure her pot-of-gold.
On another occasion of emotional stress, Bryson appropriated the
fairytale discourse, but her usage has a more disquieting affect. Hitherto
her life appeared idyllic with memories that had an air of enchantment.

This is rudely shattered:
But my tunnel is dark I am moving uncertainly on a dark road with
unknown dangers threatening. Suddenly out of the gloom a strange,
sharp picture appears. The house, still, unfamiliar, is bare and cold:
two strange men are in the room, one sitting idly on a chair, the
other looking at the books in the bookcase he starts to take out
some of the books my mother comes into the room; she doesnt
notice me; she is looking at the man and the books.
You cant take these. They are mine. They were mine before I
married. My name is on them.
The man lays down the books. We were being sold up. The house-
hold furniture was taken even the bed.
This event occurred after the family business had failed and bailiffs had
arrived; a traumatic and pivotal event in any familys life. There is no
preamble to this incident nor is there any aftermath. So the reader is
unaware and unprepared for this. Family life resumes in a small house
in a poorer area and: the memory tunnel becomes sharp, clear and
It is evident that the emotional economy that underpins
Brysons autobiography is disrupted at points of upheaval and uncer-
tainty in two ways. First, the pace and tone of her narrative has changed
from one of evenness and authority to one of brevity and short sen-
tences. Secondly, she has recourse to tunnel imagery which foments a
sense of menace, subversion and foreboding. The bailiffs emerge as
faceless ogres who force the family to undertake a hazardous journey or
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44 Gender, Professions and Discourse
quest which is full of uncertainties. This tunnel emblem morphs from
a dark road with unknown dangers and gloom when the bailiffs are
present to sharp, clear, and continuous when safety and light are
There are a number of potential interpretations as to the substance of
the tunnel. It is possible to argue that this imagery has sexual connota-
tions and that, at a symbolic level, it refers to anxieties about the vagina
and about the likelihood of the female body as figurative of space and
absence. Here, I believe these tunnels to be suggestive of subversion;
the notion of travelling an illegitimate route. The strange world, her
childhood, the bailiffs and the enforced house-moving, the fevered
imaginings during scarlet fever that made her memory tunnel dim

all combine, at some level, to distort and darken her main life. But in
these circumstances, I believe it implies narrow vision; containment
and a means of restriction to prevent the painful or uncomfortable
experience coalescing with the rest of her enchanted tale that she saw
as her life. It appears that this is a coping mechanism for experiences
that life had not prepared her to understand.
Due to attend St Andrews Medical School Bryson remembered back
to when she was ten years old. In the chapter My Appointed Road she
exhibits a wavering between direct assertion and the claims of forces
outside her control:
I knew where I was going, but I didnt know the way. Now the way
was clear; straight on even to a medical school [ ... my] determined
desire: it was still there, deep down beyond my volition. I had not
chosen the road ... it had chosen me! It was part of the magic.
Three years on there is further evidence of inconsistency in recording
her driving ambition.
I knew now that I had found my road; perhaps my road had found
me. It was indeed my good fortune to be enlightened and brought to
the threshold of wider horizons-to glimpse down a long vista of
knowledge to which there is no end [ ... ] Life had not lost its magic. I
was a child playing with pebbles in a world of wonder.
As a woman in her early twenties she still believed she was brought to
her path; not withstanding the 12 to 15 years of trials, in the form of
exams; the need for bursaries and struggles to fight against the estab-
lishment. It is an irresolution that betrays the uncertain position in
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Women Doctors 45
which these women doctors found themselves. Yet these fairytale
analogies mitigate their strength and present them as more feminine,
uncertain and less in control.
But, in a highly charged and revelatory emotional statement, she
finally shows that she had begun to reconcile her drive with her destiny.
She questioned:
What was it that drew me up suddenly and said, No, no, no! to
every prospect except Medicine? I began to know a little [ ... ] I wanted
a road that would be hard and use the whole of me all my faculties.
All of me and I was a woman!
This explosive experience is further underlined by her random high-
lighting of individual words in bold print: But if I had money [ ... ]
Then why had I said Gynaecology, non-surgical: but I did want my
hospital position.
This unusual form affirms the emotional content.
Her epiphanic moment came from within, not as a quasi-religious alibi.
At this point the fairytale imagery is shed, as she has reached a stage
when she can claim her vocation and no longer be concerned with the
social myths of femininity.
The fairytale mode had not only been assimilated and used as a means
of articulation. In my introduction I noted the value of the fairytale as
ideological instruction. This is apparent in these autobiographies when,
for example, Bryson was faced with sexual discrimination. Unable to
enter medicine until she was 19, she claimed a bursary to take a univer-
sity degree in the arts and on completion was the only name on the List
to achieve a First Class Honours degree. Overjoyed, she knew she had
won a scholarship and accepted the invitation to a meeting of the
University Senate. The Principal congratulated her on her success but
added in:
a somewhat subdued tone to say how sorry they all were that
they could not award me the Scholarship that I had undoubtedly
earned. Why? Because I was a Woman! It would require an Act of
Parliament to alter the terms before the award could be made to a
The scholarship was awarded to a man with a second class degree.
Bryson received 30 pounds and it was again suggested that she should
teach. Her response was: Degrees, Medals! They were easy to pick up!
The world was still wide and I was young.
This could be read as a
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46 Gender, Professions and Discourse
somewhat disingenuous statement. But I would suggest that the narra-
tive implies a sense of boundlessness and a sense that anything is pos-
sible. As Marina Warner in From the Beast to the Blonde noted about
fairytales: This very boundlessness serves the moral purpose of the
tales [ ... ] fairytales are not passive or active; their mood is optative
announcing what might be.
To have travelled so far against all man-
ner of oppositions, these women had to believe in the boundlessness of
their lives and this optative element enabled them to see the way ahead
and deal with adversity.
Some autobiographers in this profession enlisted the aid of other
sub-genres read by children. Born in 1889 Gladys Mary Wauchope
was the eldest of four children. Wauchopes narrative presents her as
both typical of her era and yet as challenging the orthodox. She lived
what she considered The life of an Edwardian girl [which] is now
almost legendary.
Typical of her class and era, her future had been
mapped out by her parents: It was the usual outlook for a girl in a
comfortable middle-class family.
Wauchope wanted to go to
Oxford to read the Classics, but she was sent to finishing school
and was to live with my parents, taking part in the affairs of the
neighbourhood, and the entertaining of our guests and my sister
and brothers.
Her only passion, since she was a very young girl, was
horse-riding. She was proud of her accomplishments as a confident
and courageous rider when hunting, not wishing to be known as a
With the shocking news of war her life of fun and idleness
She had announced: There were two things I said I would never do:
nursing or medicine. Both careers I associated with smells. But the
19141918 war [ ... ] sharply diverted my life.
But Wauchope, along
with countless others of her class, trained as a Voluntary Aid Detachment
(VAD). In 1915 she heard there was a shortage of doctors and: the
thought flashed upon me: I could do this medical work. It was as
though a call came, and I answered: Here am I, send me.
This rev-
elatory experience is presented in language redolent of a religious call-
ing or of a mystical conversion. She faced various pre-medical tuitions
and: Two years arid academic work.
It is then that her conversion
analogy gave way to that of equine imagery:
I have been like a horse ridden in blinkers and seeing only straight in
front. Although there have been many faults, failures, and mistakes,
I have never been tempted to jib or shy off. [ ... ] I have been like a
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Women Doctors 47
rider to the hounds, with my eye always on the line of the hunt,
choosing my fences, and scanning each field as I jumped into it for
the best way to get out and onwards.
It is widely recognised that courage and skill are prerequisites of exem-
plary horsemanship. Therefore to couch her single-mindedness and
assertiveness within these boundaries would camouflage her unfemi-
nine drive and present it in an admissible form. Similar imagery is used
again after she qualified.
Wauchope had detected that the small minority of women students
in 19181919 were unwelcome to the teaching and nursing staffs. She
recorded that some of the women were depressed and irked by the
feeling of being on sufferance.
Some lecturers deplored the admis-
sion of women and ostentatiously ignored and missed them out of
questions, and others used bullying methods.
But Wauchope presents
herself as being undaunted by this negativity: I was too busy and too
happy to think about it.
But contradictory comments follow when
Wauchope conceded that she had experienced prejudice from fellow
doctors and female nursing staff. She was appointed to the lowest post
in the medical hierarchy known as a clinical ass.
Then as a pathology
assistant she worked long and obscurely until she was appointed as a
house physician which had long been her ambition.
This caused a
crisis. The other doctors found: a woman in the house insupportable,
and the residents resigned in a body. They hoped that Wauchope would
shy-off [ ... ] take fright and withdraw.
Wauchope stood her ground,
backed by the Chairman Lord Knutsford. But hostile reactions were not
the sole province of male staff. Sisters presented hurdles reacting as
cold and stately monoliths who added to this anxious period.
this time she appears less self-confident and her narrative has become
uncertain and anticipatory.
Facing the exciting challenge to become a doctor, Wauchope utilised
the courageous aspects of horsemanship. Now, although the narrative
aims to relate successful outcomes to prejudice on all sides, her choice
of equine metaphors associate her with a nervous horse, uneasy with
hurdles. The equine imagery is not used in these later instances to sof-
ten her appearance but the tenor is expressive of Wauchopes position.
She had faced all her medical training trials to arrive at her goal, only to
encounter further opposition. This appears to have unnerved her.
Similar to Bryson, Wauchope could only articulate and interpret her
ambitions within discourses already familiar to her. These discourses
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48 Gender, Professions and Discourse
from fairytale and from girls fiction were reassuring, because they
allowed them to present themselves as heroines rather than face stric-
ture for unfeminine aspirations. Also, when stressful or unpleasant
emotional memories came to the fore for these women, some form of
metaphor or imagery was employed to explicate these.
My final area of investigation into the popular fiction utilised by
these would-be doctors is that of how boys tales are commandeered by
some autobiographers. According to Sally Mitchell: The boys books
that girls liked best were historical novels, empire adventure tales, and
(to a lesser extent) sea stories.
Octavia Wilberforce had recorded in her
autobiography that she enjoyed reading these and it is these boys tales
that appear to have influenced her. Wilberforce, like Bryson and
Wauchope, was brought up to live a genteel life, to serve the family and
to be useful. Unlike them, formal education was not seen as important.
She lacked support from her mother, who exerted restrictive control
and her father cut her out of his will when she persisted in training for
Wilberforces mother involved her in the National Rose
Society and to also be useful over the house keeping.
She continued
to care for the roses and play golf, and for both pursuits she won tro-
phies, prizes and money. This triggered her mothers resentment and:
When I returned from there [golf fixtures and the Rose Society] I came
to realise I would meet with black disapproval. It worried me.
repressive regime acted as a catalyst to go against these superficial pur-
suits: Though golf helped my self-confidence it was, after all, only a
game and at intervals I felt depressed. [ ... ] I had no desire to tread in my
sisters footsteps [in marriage]. I wanted something else [ ... ] I would like
to mean something in the world. But how?
Wilberforces constant battle for a worthwhile existence continued to
be detrimental to her health: The constant harrowing at home was
having the effect of turning me in upon myself. [ ... ] I lost weight. [ ... ]
In Victorian times I should probably have been ripe for a decline.
Instead I had to battle on.
Writer and social reformer Harriet Martineau
had noted that this type of depression, brought on by frustration and
lack of usefulness was not uncommon.
Wilberforce had two turning-points in her journey towards a medical
career. It is in the first of these, meeting actress and writer Elizabeth
Robins, that the reader encounters Wilberforces change of style. She
became infatuated with Robins who became an ally and, in contrast to
her authoritarian home-life, was supportive emotionally and later
financially. Aged 21 Wilberforce secretly paid for an education at
Roedean, or she would be mocked and life insupportable.
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Women Doctors 49
heightened emotional period is expressed in a melodramatic language.
She found that Robins ardently supported Womens Suffrage, of which
she (Octavia) had abysmal ignorance; she listened to the impassioned
eloquence of her tutor and suffered from the discreditable secrets she
kept from the family.
The second key moment of her quest for a useful life was initiated by
a misdiagnosis of the family housemaids illness. Wilberforce had rec-
ognised the symptoms early on. By the time the doctor finally admit-
ted the housemaid to hospital it was too late. Wilberforce recounted
this to Robins I boiled over with fury [ ... ] I could be a better doctor
myself. [ ... ] Why couldnt I [sic] become qualified and be a doctor?

Robins agreed with her.
From this gung-ho outburst Wilberforce is
overawed by her own thoughts: I was flabbergasted! What had I
A few days later she is sent to care for her sister who had
bronchitis. During this stay she took a walk in a beech wood:
The utter silence filled my spirit with an inner peace [ ... ] Now had
come the time when I felt compelled to decide my future; was I born
to be a bond slave to family forever? I was plainly made in a different
mould from the rest of my family. That I knew [ ... ] I left the beech
wood with an iron determination not to be lazy or cowardly but to
carve out my own career.
At this profound moment, Wilberforce wrote plainly and calmly of her
experience and decision. She had experienced a sudden shift in her life
but, unlike Bryson and Wauchope, Wilberforce openly acknowledged
an iron determination to pursue her goal. As the great-granddaughter
of William Wilberforce it is significant, and has greater resonance, that
at the moment her future became clear and the magnitude of the task
before her became apparent, she used the analogy of a bond slave to
characterise her role in her family; a role she intended to abolish.
Throughout her autobiography, Wilberforce conflated and co-mingled
novelistic vocabulary from boys fictions. The text is splattered with
alliteration: flabbergasted with flashing eyes [ ... ] doggedly deter-
mined [ ... ] grovellingly grateful.
She is by turn: revolted [ ... ] horribly
realistic [ ... ] absolutely dazed [ ... ] craving for possession [ ... ] valiant
bolstering [ ... ] valiant exhortation [ ... ] trammelled and galvanised,
[and] dreadfully burdened.
These robust descriptions and melodra-
matic discourse summon up a suffering, yet passionate, steadfast and
triumphant hero. It was at moments of extreme adversity, when courage
and perseverance were required of her, that an amalgam of religious,
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50 Gender, Professions and Discourse
fairytale and boys fiction modes was used. She presented herself as the
heroine overcoming a series of trials and battles over boundaries, dom-
ination and of crushing defeats. Wilberforces narrative style in the first
chapter, A Haphazard Upbringing is unremarkable but engaging in its
credible, matter-of-fact representation of what were many young,
middle-class womens lives. But this tone changed.
Another form of opposition for these would-be doctors focused on
the notion that medical training was unsexing and unfeminine, and
these women jeopardised their marriage prospects. Wilberforce pre-
sented a melodramatic narrative when she described the towering pres-
sure upon her to marry the son of a family friend. In a light-hearted
vein she: laughed till she ached and apologised to her mother for: not
being like the rest of your daughters who have a readiness to fall in love
with rapidity.
Pressure built and a nursing friend urged her to get
away from the nagging coercion which surrounded me [and] from the
mesmeric tyranny of home.
What is interesting is that, the further
into retelling of this episode of the mounting pressure she experienced,
her vocabulary and phrasing increased in its melodramatic content.
The affair culminated in a meeting with the young man:
I was perfectly miserable [ ... ] I almost felt I was a criminal, I knew it
was utterly impossible. When he came and I walked along the lane
with him I felt I was a beast and quite dreadfully sorry. But when he
spoke of it,[marriage] though he said [sic] quite nice things, I sud-
denly felt so revolted at what it all meant from my point of view. I was
so staggered at the horror of such thoughts that to prevent his sleeve
touching mine I walked in the ditch! [ ... ] But I was really absolutely
dazed and felt I had come up against something too horrible for
words and which I could not understand. And that awful look. Ugh!
The sort of greedy way [ ... ] a craving for possession [ ... ] but I am not
cut out for it [marriage] the very thought of it makes me shudder and
it revolts me.
This striking passage raises two areas of interest. To express her extreme
reaction she utilised a melodramatic narrative in the form of a letter to
Elizabeth Robins. Similar to Bryson, italics and exclamation marks draw
attention to her emotions. The robust Boys Own vocabulary of
revolted, staggered, horror, dazed, greedy, craving and shudder run the
range of blood-thirsting narratives, the young mans craving for posses-
sion chimed with the bond-slave element of earlier family life. By any
standards this reaction was extreme and such sentiments could fuel the
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Women Doctors 51
anti-women doctor lobbyists, in confirming their fears that women
doctors would not marry. Although her close special friendship with
Elizabeth Robins implied homosexual tendencies, her revulsion rests
on what seems to be heterosexual physicality, which she equated with
animal passion: I wanted more and more to keep free from being
governed by my body.
Unlike Wilberforce Bryson does marry, but the recording of it is brief
and shrouded in magical mystery with the expectation of a happy ever
after. The reader has had no indication of any romance. Her future
husband suddenly featured in the narrative when she recorded that she
had packed to take her post in New Zealand. He asked her to stay and
marry him: I cannot tell what I said or did not say; [but] in the words
of Browning [ ... ] the time will come. His name was Robert Bryson.
Neither marriage nor sex feature strongly in these doctors autobiogra-
phies, although the issues of dress and femininity were often mooted.
Bryson recorded attitudes to what women medical students were to
wear: In order not to appear frivolous [ ... ] we should wear three- quarter-
length Holland jackets of a severe style.
Hutton noted contradictory
messages. At work:
If we were feminine in attire or demeanour or had the effrontery
to wear high-heels, a dizzy hat then in vogue, it was deemed that
we could not be serious; worse still, it might be argued that we
were too nice to be studying medicine and this was considered
more devastating. [ ... ] It was clear that mannish suits and hob-
nailed boots were less frowned upon than lace on a petticoat.
But she recorded that the lady-meds underwent a metamorphosis at
Cinders magically transformed into Cinderellas dressed for the
ball. No longer were they grave and aloof in their severely tailored
costumes but en grand dcolletage, [ ... ] wearing long white kid gloves,
a loop over the left arm holding high their sweeping skirts to show a
bright silk petticoat. Till midnight they were just pretty young girls
in fluffy gowns, blissfully and dreamily swaying [ ... ] in love with
Prince Charming and life itself.
On the whole the topic of femininity appeared to be a vexed one. There
were few precedents on dress codes for them to follow. There was a fine
line between dowdy/dressy, feminine/sexless, serious/frivolous; a line
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52 Gender, Professions and Discourse
that most were not sufficiently interested in to write about at length.
But the pervading sense is one of ill-ease.
The appropriations of these modes of popular fiction are what I see as
important elements of these women doctors mentalits. Utilised in a
number of ways the fairytale analogy and adolescent fictions acted as
cloaking mechanisms, minimised responsibility and reduced the need
to conform to conventional family life, and instead to be a successful
doctor. As Warner suggested, the canopy of wonder in fairytales creates
a huge theatre of possibilities in the stories.
This aspect of possibility
would have had a strong resonance for women doctors as they advanced
into what was hitherto unknown male territory. Within fairytales
boundless expectancy is used subtly with a moral purpose, to restate
where boundaries do lie. Zipes noted that the prime objective was not
one of manipulation, but as an aid to instruct ideologically, assist in the
socialising process and defining of sexual roles, and to inculcate norms
and values.
These facets of childrens genres enabled them to make
sense of their ambitions. As M. Halliday points out: language is a pow-
erful socialising agent, because it is through language that the child
learns about the social world.
It is this that I believe doctors used
against the grain.
From reading fairytales written for boys, they saw the visible advan-
tages and privileges in life that this male gender should aspire to. As
Andrea Dworkin wrote about fairytales: We ingested it as children
whole, had its values and consciousness imprinted on our minds as cul-
tural absolutes long before we were in fact men and women. We have
taken the tales of childhood with us into maturity, chewed but still
lying in the stomach, as real identity.
Many of these women as young girls read their brothers books,
thought to be totally unsuitable for them, and drew on the factors that
epitomised noble ideals for a young male.
They eschewed feminine
notions and favoured ambition, brains and courage which they identi-
fied with, and found representative of the attributes necessary for a pro-
fessional medical career. But equally of interest, when they needed to
write about situations of a highly emotional nature, the fairytale or
adolescent fiction is drawn from the female trope of these genres. This
switching between girls and boys fiction produced a conspicuous
wavering in the narratives, where the protagonists shift between taking
control and being driven by external forces.
This substantiates my earlier comment that a bare 50 years incursion
into medicine has had an effect on the manner in which they present
themselves. The concern with their interaction with society was part of
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Women Doctors 53
their socialisation (the beautiful princess) as a sexual object of male
gaze and as an unusual object of public gaze. This made them aware of
themselves, a point I intend to pursue in the chapter on artists. There
are also issues of power here. These women were strong, highly intelli-
gent and contributed significantly to the economy. The use of the chil-
drens genres freed their imaginations and enabled them to camouflage
this power, but also emphasised their credentials as social heroines.
Their intellect enabled them to articulate and weave what appeared to
be less controlling discourses. These soften their crusading motiva-
tion, and make them appear more vulnerable, more feminine and
conventional. They needed recourse to this eclectic mix of cultural
resources because they were more subject to terrible oppression than
any other profession. Their insurgence placed them at the sharpest end
of any profession and necessitated a coping strategy. The overall effect
of borrowing these discourses is to sabotage what would be deemed by
society as a cultural emergency in their unfeminine and unswerving
conviction to become doctors.
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Nursing, like teaching, had long been accepted by the public as a suitable
role for women. But unlike headmistresses and teachers, in the early to
mid-nineteenth century, nursing was undertaken largely by poor,
uneducated women who could find no better employment. This was to
change radically as nursing reforms demanded higher standards and
better educated women. Reforms began when Florence Nightingale,
(credited as the founder of the modern nursing profession), took a post
as superintendent of the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in London. In 1854,
with the outbreak of the Crimean War, Nightingale was appointed to
lead a relief mission to Scutari. Within weeks she had overturned the
systems, putting army doctors to shame and reducing the death rate
among the wounded from over 40 per cent to just over 2 per cent. She
returned a national heroine. Money raised for the Nightingale Fund
established the worlds first modern training school for nurses at
Londons St. Thomass Hospital in 1860. By 1907 Nightingale nurses
had revolutionised hospital care throughout the English-speaking
During the two decades at the end of the century there were many
rival nursing associations and much in-fighting. Summers noted that:
the gallant record of all these bodies during the First World War has
tended to obscure the complex, and not always heroic story of their
In 1878 the St Johns Ambulance Association was launched
which became the basis for training thousands of Voluntary Aid
Detachments (VADs) in the First World War, and in 1896 the War Office
finally took action and devised the formation of the Army Nursing
Reserve in March 1897.
In the last years of the nineteenth century,
war-fever extended to many women who were not working nurses and
Nurses and VADs
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Nurses and VADs 55
this caused another element of discord between professional nurses and
rank amateurs.
At the outbreak of the First World War there were 463 trained nurses
of Queen Alexandras Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS), and
2,783 Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS).
The QAIMNS replaced
the Army Nursing Service in March 1902. It wanted candidates from a
better class and more cultivated and educated than is generally the
Femininity remained an issue and above all the battlefield was a
forbidden area. Women were to keep a philanthropic persona and carry
out medical work at a discreet distance.
Yet as will be seen from the
autobiographies in this chapter, these boundaries were breached in the
years from 1909. Between the Boer War and 1914, the War Office spon-
sored three Army Nursing Reserve Corps; the QAIMNS TFNS and the
VADs. These institutions trained more than 50,000 females for a role as
military nurses. It meant that the involvement of women in war could
no longer be seen as a philanthropic craze as these organisations opened
a path of usefulness for women during 19101914.
Approximately two-
thirds of VADs were women.
VAD hospital training was a couple of
hours a week on the wards, followed by training to look after the
wounded in hospital tents, spending weeks under canvas. (The Red
Cross trained 1,110 out of 1,318 in February 1912.)
But distinctions
between qualified and unqualified nurses broke down under the vol-
ume of work.
In spite of the majority of VADs being female, the organisations were
run by men. The exception to this was the adult corps of the First Aid
Nursing Yeomanry Corps (FANY).
This was a select club of strong and
efficient riders. By 1909 they were reported as a band of aristocratic
amazons [ ... ] trained for the mounted rescue of wounded soldiers.
As with other organisations at this time, a split occurred in 1909 and
Mrs St Clair Stobart formed the Womens Sick and Wounded Convoy
Corps. Stobart found the FANY: absurdly unpractical [ ... ] We were to
be nurses mounted on horseback [ ... ] galloping bravely on to the bat-
tlefields and snatching the wounded from under the canons mouths
and rendering first aid. We rode horses, wore scarlet tunics, helmets,
and divided skirts, and brandished whips, and were doubtless
These two corps remained apart from the VADs and con-
centrated in other military fronts, mainly the Balkans and Eastern
Anne Summers recorded that without the resources of some 23,000
VADs who served as military hospital auxiliaries, the existing civilian
nurses could not have provided this number.
In the United Kingdom
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56 Gender, Professions and Discourse
between 19141919, over two and a half million sick and wounded
soldiers were treated in hospitals cared for by 32,000 women military
According to a 1909 circular, the VADs were: not only
intended to plug the gaps between the field ambulance and the base
hospitals, but also to provide supplementary personnel for the
Their training was wide ranging with an emphasis on sponta-
neity and inventiveness. These VADs were drawn from a well-educated
class; many were daughters of professional men, merchants, farmers
and tradesmen. Educated at home or in single-sex High Schools run by
unmarried female teachers they were propelled from a life of closeted
comfort and ignorance into a world of men and of violence. But the
other side of the coin is aptly put by VAD Diane Cooper who wrote: I
began scheming to get to the war to nurse [ ... ] Hospital rules and dis-
cipline spelt liberty. I had never been allowed to go out alone on foot.
My every movement at all times of the day must be known at
Yet it is no surprise that womens involvement in the war was resisted.
Elaine Showalter identified the war as a crisis of masculinity and a trial
of the Victorian and Edwardian internalised masculine ideal.
such a crisis in 19141918 implies stability beforehand, which was obvi-
ously not the case in pre-war Britain. Bourgeois or middle-class patriar-
chal society was already being challenged by suffragists and women
workers. When the call for mobilisation came, women felt they had the
right to serve. Pankhurst had led 30,000 women under the banner; We
demand the right to Serve. May Wedderburn Cannan, poet and
war-worker, was galvanised into action as soon as war was declared
and mobilisation needed: Well it was our war too [ ... ] I can still
remember [ ... ] sorting out call-up telegrams to go to each of our members
[VADs] I rang up my drivers and borrowed cars, called out my volunteer
The objections to women were not only on ideological grounds; ques-
tions of patriotism were raised over the issue of women wearing
military-style uniforms. In point of fact, the concerns raised and fuelled
in the Press, appear to have more to do with male insecurities surround-
ing womens part in the war rather than any female breach of gender
ideologies; especially those where differentiation in dress needed to be
maintained in order to prevent the undermining of the gender social
Objections were that women who wore uniforms were exagger-
ating their own importance to the war effort, and consequently the role
of women in the national crisis, and that they were attempting to
become like men. According to Susan R. Grayzel, women in uniform
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Nurses and VADs 57
were potentially even shameful, by apeing men and the real work of
the war that men performed.
Every autobiographer in this category mentions in some form the
provoking subject of uniforms and dress. From the middle-class VAD to
the professional nurse arose a widely differing perspective; but from
neither was there the traditional extreme and controversial comments
of the press, which in the main represented the male position.
Socialite recruits insisted on ornamentation and adaptation because
they were used to made-to-measure.
Stobart and Dame Katharine
Furze, Commandant in Chief of the VADs found their uniforms gave a
dignified appearance essential to participation in professional life:
eminently practical [ ... ] selected for serviceability in the field [but]
possibly not becoming to good looks.
To this end nurses were clad in
skirts to their toes [ ... ] a Red Cross over their foreheads, on the front of
their white linen veils.
The many variations of nurses uniforms at
this time all presented an image of non-sexual, unassailable dignity
and, with some uniforms, a nun-like quality.
Russ suggests that the
wearing of garments that elicit compliments furthers mens domi-
nance. But clearly uniform, whether for men or women, is an impor-
tant emblem of status and identity. These were soon to be very minor
issues when set against the conditions that these autobiographers
Due to the wealth of information available, it makes sense to investi-
gate areas that have not been addressed. This chapter concentrates on
aspects particular to the wartime and particular to their articulation of
nursing experiences in their autobiographies; those of death and sur-
vival and of treating the wounded. Here I want to consider the acute
coping mechanisms deployed by these women in order to find a means
to articulate the horror, disorder and confusion which enveloped them;
and furthermore examine what stimulates their stylistic, narrative pro-
cedures. I intend to discuss how the form of writing and stylistic fea-
tures replicates a mentality endeavouring to make sense of extreme and
alienated conditions. In the quotations used, I have taken pains to
reproduce the layout, which is I believe important, as part of the stylis-
tic convention and, as such, is intrinsic to the meaning. Similarly, the
use of punctuation, especially ellipses and ... ., in the examples used,
are faithfully reproduced.
In spite of the training outlined above, the young women and widows
that flocked to offer their services as VADs and newly qualified nurses
could not have had any thorough preparation for the conditions they
were to face behind the lines. Hitherto, any firsthand experiences of
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58 Gender, Professions and Discourse
death would have been articulated in a language of consolation,
grounded specifically in Christian hope. Chris Shilling wrote that:
religion served the purpose of survival strategies [ ... ] religion has
sought to deny the finality of death in various ways.
Peoples experi-
ences would have been homogenised and euphemism would be the
shared language. In the literary conventions of Victorian realist novels
the nineteenth century idea of a quiet death in ones own bed were
Michael Wheeler pointed out that, for example, the analo-
gies that the beloved was not dead but sleeping and the grave as a bed
were common.
Nurse Florence Farmborough recalled that she had
never seen a sick adult in bed. Appropriating a novelistic tone and style,
she began with a personification of death when she told her first
experience of a corpse:
I wanted to see him; I wanted to see Death. [ ... ] This was my first
meeting with death. It was not so frightening as I had thought it
would be; only the silence awed me. [ ... ] he looked more like a child
than a grown man. [ ... ] immobility of the statue-like figure began
to disturb me. Death is so terribly still, so silent, so remote.
Although Shilling suggests that: the dying make death real, immedi-
ately present.
In a similar experience, Mabel Lethbridge aged 16,
whilst still a probationer nurse, recalled her first exposure to death; that
of a child: I removed the sheet and gazed upon the small dead face with
infinite tenderness. Poor pathetic, lonely little thing, and I had been
afraid. [ ... ] locking the door securely behind me. How silly it seemed, as
if the poor dead could escape!
Lethbridge used calm simple prose and a lightly playful observation
to capture this unknown entity. Both Lethbridge and Farmborough dis-
play a disarming navet and a high degree of cultural shaping. However
these bodies were in morgues and were within Lethbridge and
Farmboroughs boundaries of understanding and knowledge, not
corpses from violent deaths. But young women were to be catapulted
into an unconnected world of mayhem, death and suffering which they
needed to make sense of in order to narrate scenes and emotions beyond
their previous experience and familiar words. For example, when
Lethbridge is faced with her first ward duty for men back from the war:
I was distracted by terror and anguish by all I saw [ ... ] unspeakable
facial disfigurement or terrible head wounds [ ... ] I found myself brought
face to face with war [ ... ] the ugly side of war.
There was no place for
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Nurses and VADs 59
beatific visions and describing the dying as angelic. Faced with horrific
wounds, mangled bodies and painful death they needed language not
only to record, but most importantly to speak to the dying. Death was
no longer hidden and anaesthetised: it became unspeakable.
Stobart for the greater part of her autobiography wrote in a prag-
matic manner. There is a detached, resigned tone to her writing when
she told of her husbands death: He was on his way home to England
when he died, and was buried at sea. There was no wireless in those
days, and I knew nothing of what had happened until the vessel
arrived in England without him. Thus ended the African chapter of
my life.
When she hears of the death of her son a similar tone is adopted:
In 1918, during the influenza epidemic [ ... ] my younger son suc-
cumbed to the plague in British Columbia.
But for neither of these
family deaths was she present. The reader is given the bare details, in
the manner they may have been given to her. However, in the war
zone, her record of the death of an orderly, the wife of a doctor, is
very different:
In the early morning, as a gust of wind swept through the tent-her
tent the soul with its life-force passed [ ... ] But I knew that the life-
force had carried with it all that was real; it had taken to the Beyond-
Land the idea, the logos, the norm, the soul, of which the body that
was left, was only a graven image.
Her tone becomes one of preternatural, theological terminology to
describe a sacred moment, which is all the more intense, given the daily
onslaught. Furthermore, throughout her writing whenever there were
tender and individual occurrences to be described, her faith lifted her
expression above the mundane towards the figurative, mystical or
Yet, when Stobart wrote of her duties as a nurse she had the objective,
factual manner of explaining a procedure. She recorded with methodi-
cal precision the processing of newly arrived wounded:
The blood-sodden clothes can of course only be removed by the aid
of knives and scissors. Immediate attention is then given by the
doctors [ ... ] In theory, the dirty blood-strained clothes are not taken
into the wards. The wounded man is undressed in a room set apart;
he is bathed and given clean garments.
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60 Gender, Professions and Discourse
It is immediately noticeable that there is a disjunction between the
unpalatable subject and style. Her professional clinical detachment was
the only way she could write in detail about such ugliness. This schism
between form and content is not unusual as a mechanism with these
writers. Furthermore, such detached prose to describe these circum-
stances does act as a contrast to the vulnerability of bodies, and makes
the rupture all the more poignant. I would suggest that for some, this
professional training became a rope that they would clasp on to in an
effort to establish some form of sense of the mayhem. Yet, despite
Stobarts effort to imply clockwork efficiency, the use of in theory
belies this.
In contrast to this, professional nurse Violetta Thurstan drew upon
what she had recorded in: odd times, on all sorts of stray pieces of paper
[ ... ] close to the turmoil of the battlefield.
Her record of the admission
of the newly wounded encapsulated the disorder and mayhem:
It is an awful nightmare to look back at. Blood-stained uniforms
hastily cut off the soldiers were lying on the floor-half-open packets
of dressings were on every locker; basins of dirty water and disin-
fectant had not been emptied; men were moaning with pain, call-
ing for water, begging that their dressings might be done again.
Here the style reflects the content. She has achieved this by writing in
long sentences, heaping phrase after phrase, in the past continuous,
which builds a vital and pressing quasi-cinematic depiction of a casu-
alty station. Thurstan appears unable to detach herself from the horror.
Unlike Stobart, at times of an emotional hiatus, her professional
demeanour has been overridden. From these treatments of a similar
scene, the difficulties encountered by the autobiographers to find a
means of surviving such emotional catastrophes are evident. For me,
these are key elements and are illustrative of part of the overall question
of the different mechanisms, boundaries and stylistics that are deployed
to transcribe these horrific events.
Nurse Mary Borden, in contrast to the nurses and VADs whose style
change according to the emotional input, conveyed her memories in a
flat monotone of relentless images. She evoked the senses of sight and
smell in a potent manner:
The moonlight is a pool of silver on the linoleum floor. It glints on
the enamel washbasin and slop pail. I can almost see the moon
reflected in the slop pail. Everything in my cubicle is luminous. My
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Nurses and VADs 61
clothes hanging on pegs, my white aprons and rubber boots, my
typewriter and tin box of biscuits, the big sharp scissors on the
table all these familiar things are touched by magic and make me
uneasy. Through the open door of the hut comes the sweet sickish
scent of new-mown hay, mingling with the smell of disinfectants, of
Eau de Javel and iodoform, and wet mud and blood. There is wet mud
on my boots and blood on my apron. I dont mind. It is the scent of
new-mown hay that makes me uneasy.
The fragment begins with conventional romantic imagery of the moon
bathing objects in silver light; a silver filter which covers mundane
objects to produce an otherworldly glow. But as the description of
this collection of disparate objects continues, the visual montage
forms a nightmarish stark quality in opposition to conventional
expectations. This chaotic world is further actuated by her inversion
of the acceptance of blood and mud and the rejection of new-mown
hay. The normal caused anxiety, makes me uneasy, but the anoma-
lous was wellbeing and a comfort. These contradictory responses to
sight and smell are compounded by a similar contradictory reception
to sounds:
The cannonade is my lullaby. It soothes me. I am used to it. Every
night it lulls me to sleep. If it stopped I could not sleep. I would wake
with a start. The thin wooden walls of my cubicle tremble and the
windows rattle a little. That, too, is natural.
All these sense images and flat style of narration suggest that despite
Bordens attempted control and intention to produce a distanced style,
her discourse escaped unconsciously to reveal a desperate coping
mechanism in a hostile environment. In her reflective mode, a surreal
imagery was kindled. The patterning of juxtaposing conventional
imagery with the unpredictable continued throughout her narrative.
Her topsy-turvy reasoning clearly established the mayhem and shock
of losing prescribed boundaries of behaviour where nothing made
Bordens unemotional and unsentimental depictions of her daily
routine accrue more of this strange coinage:
At midnight we have cocoa in there [sterilising room] next to the
operating room, because there is a big table. Sometimes there isnt
much room [sic] Sometimes legs and arms wrapped in cloths have to
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62 Gender, Professions and Discourse
be pushed out of the way. We throw them on the floor they belong
to no one and are of no interest to anyone-and drink our cocoa. The
cocoa tastes very good. It is part of the routine.
This macabre scene, repeated night after night, is presented with a
forensic attitude in matter-of-fact language and conventional style. Her
mode and vocabulary here present a bid for a callous and blas delivery,
but this is betrayed when, style, tone, and pace accelerate with the grim
detail that follows:
There are no men here, so why should I be a woman? There are heads
and knees and mangled testicles. There are chests with holes as big as
your fist, and pulpy thighs, shapeless; and stumps where legs once
were fastened. There are eyes eyes of sick dogs, sick cats, blind eyes,
eyes of delirium; and mouths that cannot articulate; and parts of
faces the nose gone, or the jaw. There are these things, but no men;
so how could I be a woman here and not die of it? Sometimes sud-
denly a smile flickers on a pillow, white, blinding, burning, and I die
of it. I feel myself dying again. It is impossible to be a woman here.
One must be dead.
Certainly they were men once. But now they are no longer men ... I
am a ghost woman.
This accumulative momentum, discontinuous fragments of memory,
and deliberative mix of unpalatable images are reiterated. The text is
uneasy, it moves back and forth between two distinct styles without a
change in emotional temperature. On the one hand there is narrative
description, factual without romance or metaphor, and on the other
hand there is a distance, succinct but dreamlike. This unpredictability
of the content and style replicates the unexpectedness and uncertainty
of her existence. The broken bodies are echoed in her short discordant
sentences. Her survival mechanism is to disassociate her mind from
her body, One must be dead.
As Borden must have longed for a ces-
sation from the relentless onslaught of war, the reader endures the
steady salvo of her accumulative prose and longs for the end. There is a
replication and accord with her form and content in these montages of
Prior to the investigation of repetition in these autobiographies it is
useful to take stock of what has surfaced and use it as a springboard for
what follows in the next section, and to then draw together an explana-
tory model. Farmborough, Stobart, Lethbridge, Thurstan and Borden all
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Nurses and VADs 63
display a need to do more than just describe events. But the problem for
them arises in their uncertainty of presentation in style, vocabulary
and sense of boundary. Yet all engender vicarious emotions in the
reader. This provokes a number of questions about the conflict between
form and content, and more specifically, about seeking a language to
articulate the unmentionable, control of the subject, presentation, and
emotional economy. For the moment, however, it is important to con-
sider aspects of repetition and the different ways that it occurs in these
Free from the existing norms of life in Britain, and by incremental
stages, the new rhythmic tempo of their world became internalised.
The increasing familiarity with the sounds of war and death was central
to the transformation of these young women. They all mention repeti-
tive sounds of one kind or another. Thurstan recalled the bombard-
ments: the cannon never ceased booming [ ... ] In time, one gets so
accustomed to cannon that one hardly hears it, but I had not arrived at
that stage then: this was my baptism.
Later she referred to it as the,
continual music of the cannon and the steady tramp of feet marching
Human sounds also became habitual. Farmborough noted: It is,
however, astonishing how quickly even a raw recruit can grow accus-
tomed, though never hardened, to the sight and sound of constant
This rhythmic patterning was internalised; it was produced in
their manner of speech. One of Farmboroughs duties which caused
intense anxiety was to decide which of the wounded cases were
hopeless. As readers we can only begin to imagine: What it cost to
turn away without aiding him, I cannot describe, but we could not
waste time and material on hopeless cases, and there were so many
others ... waiting ... waiting ... waiting.
Here not only is the sense of hopelessness magnified in the repetition
but the sense is given of the experience churning round and round in
her mind. After a particularly gruesome onslaught Stobart wrote: dead
men at every turn men dead from hunger, cold, fatigue, and sorrow.
With the dead men the pathos lay, not in their deadness we shall all
be dead some day.
She introduced a mesmeric quality with this repeti-
tion of dead, dead men and its inversion men dead. The deliberate
piling-up of the same detail mimics the repeated horror of men dying
and continuing to die. Then as if replicating a lull, the emotional impact
of this juggernaut of death ceased with the pragmatic: we shall all be
dead some day. It is as if to state the obvious provided her with a firm
hold in reality. Through the recycling of words an alliance between
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64 Gender, Professions and Discourse
form and content emerges. The reiterative words signify what is of
central significance; waiting ... waiting ... dead ... dead men ... men
dead. Again the reader is drawn in to the experience, of the intermina-
ble desperateness of the situation.
This hypnotic quality of repetition of words or phrases was not just
internalised, it also occurred at a time of intense distress. Farmborough
endured a particularly heavy bombardment and noticed a curious
change in both hers and another nurses demeanour:
Annas face was stony, quite expressionless, and while she worked,
the same words came from her lips every few moments. Its nothing!
Its nothing! My dear. My dear. Quickly, quickly! Suddenly, with a
shock I realise that I, too, have been repeating similar words, repeat-
ing them at intervals when the groans and cries of my patient have
been too heart-rending.
Here repetition mimics the comfort of meditation; similar to the effects
of reciting a mantra. This delivery of familiar words of support created
a synergy in both the personal survival of Farmborough and that of the
patient; inducing a solipsistic state in the nurses in their attempt to
absorb the suffering into themselves. For the nurses and patients alike,
a denial-trance could be induced. Several esoteric religions document
that there is a magical property inherent in sound and, as such, words
would not have to convey actual meaning. Instinctively, these nurses
adopted the field of repetitious language as a balm and solace and a
method of numbing. It is as if all these different forms of repetition
joined together to make a cocoon-like construct to offer protection and
a means to stabilise the disorder.
But this palliative usage of reiteration did not obtain for all
autobiographers. In Bordens autobiography it also occurs at quiet moments
of interiority and elicits montages of horror and images of disjuncture:
In a dream I see her, in a crazy hurting dream. Lovely night, lovely
lunatic moon, lovely love sick earth you are not true; you are not
part of the routine. You are a dream, an intolerable nightmare, and
you recall a world that I once knew in a dream.
In the quiet of night Borden found the enforced memory of the
beauty of nature too painful and a contrast to her daily existence.
The iterative force of lovely with its progressive and accumulative
imagery heightens and intensifies the dream-like quality. Beauty had
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Nurses and VADs 65
become intolerable and unreal. Therefore in order to cope with the
pain of remembering and writing about her ordinary world, she had
to transfer the memory to that of a dream which, in a stream of con-
sciousness, transformed into a nightmare. Although this is not
recorded in a realist mode, its lyrical subjectivity makes it more real
and more horrifying.
In connection with the above discussion, VAD Enid Bagnolds autobi-
ography is interesting as she combined more than one level of repeti-
tion. Repetition of words coalesce with a repetitious task; that of the
laying-up of meal trays. She tells the reader: I was laying my trays in the
corridor, the dim corridor that I am likely often to mention.
The trays
provided Bagnold with an anchor which had a cathartic effect: I lay my
spoons and forks. Sixty-five trays. It takes an hour to do. Thirteen pieces
on each tray. Thirteen times sixty-five ... eight hundred and forty-five
things to collect.
Their importance to her need for control and har-
mony lead her to resent teaching a new VAD: the subtle art of laying
trays. I didnt want to share my trays with her. I love them; they are my
recreation. I hung over them idly.
The task which is repeated again and
again in her narrative accentuates the disjunction and fragmentation of
her world by its non-sequitur intrusion. The circularity of the repetitive
laying of trays helped to mollify the turmoil and became a meditative
action, analogous to that of using a rosary. It allowed her to escape into
her mind and a kind of nirvana. In addition, the return to these trays
usually arose after a particularly unnerving or confusing event.
For the majority of these autobiographers, this displacement into
other zones of experiences set them apart as survivors. They had
stepped beyond the world of security and tradition into one of the
thrill of being useful, shared physical danger, and excitement. The
writing that followed their return is symptomatic of just how much
was suppressed. In one way or another they all mention the initial ela-
tion and how, as Lethbridge noted, that each: thrilled and rejoiced
that I was permitted to take so active a part.
Baronees TSerclaes
remembered that, It was a heady atmosphere to move in, and it infected
me with a strong desire to do something more.
In similar fashion,
Furze rushed around and found herself, throwing up the life I liked
best, and committing myself to a sort of servitude.
But these women
had become exhausted and drained after years of ordeal. The remorse-
less routine that had held them physically and mentally had created
dependence. This was now to be broken, and the trauma of this
withdrawal engendered a spectrum of sentiments. In London, VAD
Diana Cooper recalled bouts of drinking: My nerve had gone. Dread
9780230_219922_05_cha04.indd 65 8/20/2008 12:14:03 PM
66 Gender, Professions and Discourse
had taken possession.
Just prior to her return to England Farmborough
began to experience battle fatigue:
I knew what was wrong with me. It was my love for my Red Cross
work was slowly fading; I was becoming sick of wounds, illness, dirt
and filth. That was the dreadful truth, and I had to face it [ ... ] All had
combined to unnerve me. I felt deeply ashamed to think that I was
growing tired of my work; where had my passionate enthusiasm
gone? And my vows? Sick at heart, I sat many long minutes a prey to
dejection and grievous reflection.
She recognised the need for time to recover as the horror set in. As the
inexhaustible round of caring ceased, many nurses were left with a void.
As carers, these women understood the necessity of giving themselves
space to recover. Cannan understood her own and her colleagues stress:
What one needs most in shock and grief is time. Losing ones world one
still wanders in it, a ghost.
There is a sense of bereavement in the use
of shock and grief, not only for the dead, but for their own losses as
individuals, both spiritually and emotionally:
Now, for me, the war is over and my Red Cross work is finished. I
cannot express the dreadful emptiness which has come into my life
[Anna] found me weeping one day; I could not tell her why, because
I did not know. She said it was reaction but I knew it was something
deeper than that.
In recalling her mixed emotions, Stobarts narrative switches sentence
by sentence from the past to the present tense and back, and memo-
ries tumble one upon another: I recalled desolate battlefields and see
soldiers lying amid the twisted wires and shell cavities.
Her tone is
clear and unvarnished, the syntax is not fragmented or repetitive. In
its stead, the use of the present continuous exudes a pace that is lan-
guid. But what needs to be noted is the prevalence of elliptical markers,
italics, unfinished questions and atmospheric metaphor.
For example, Farmborough expected to look and be physically dif-
ferent after the suffering she had witnessed. Again there is a search
for words:
How can I describe ... I feel as though I have been caught in a mighty
whirlpool, battered, buffeted, and yet ... I am still myself, still able to
9780230_219922_05_cha04.indd 66 8/20/2008 12:14:03 PM
Nurses and VADs 67
walk, talk, eat and sleep. It is astounding how much a human being
can endure without any outward sign of having been broken up into
Here it seems to me that, the elliptical marks or breaks in language sug-
gest breaks in her knowledge or understanding of her experiences and
her emotions. Later Farmborough wrote: Was it I-really I who saw
that? Was it I really I who did that?
[sic] With the use of rhetorical
questions and italics for emphasis Farmborough presents a sense of
incredulity at what she had undergone. When they returned to England
and to their families they could not return to their former selves. Even
those like Cannan who only spent a few weeks at a time on the conti-
nent found: The world was different since I had been in France. I was
different, though I did not know how exactly or why. It was queer being
home again.
It is highly probable that many of these women would not immedi-
ately articulate their experiences to others. Unlike the majority of
women, they had firsthand knowledge of maiming and terrible deaths,
and by this they were separated and silenced. It could be due to what
Paul Fussell noted about the art of letter writing from the front: the
trick was to fill the page by saying nothing and to offer the maximum
number of clichs.
But I believe Foucaults theoretical stance is useful
here in that: There is not one but many silences, and they are an inte-
gral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses.
aspect of silence is relevant not just for nurses and VADs, but as an
underlying determinant for all the professions examined in this book,
and as such warrants a full chapter which follows later.
For all nurses and VADs, there appears to be an uncertainty where the
boundaries lay for them to find a voice to express themselves and to
decide how they should appear. Hitherto, the male experience of war
would be one of patriotic service, being under fire, and heroism to the
point of dying for ones country. The admittance of women into these
male arenas, where they would experience similar challenges and there-
fore challenge the male/female spheres, was unsettling. Traditionally
womens patriotism would have been expressed by passivity; waiting at
home and maintaining order. These women saw war as a chance to take
part in the global stage; to show that they could be as good as men.
From the start, within the nurse/patient paradigm, the male/female
roles had been reversed; nurses/women were mother-figures, active and
in control, and men were supine, passive and vulnerable. Stobart appo-
sitely and sardonically wrote: We had done nothing wonderful women
9780230_219922_05_cha04.indd 67 8/20/2008 12:14:03 PM
68 Gender, Professions and Discourse
are not allowed to do wonderful things but we were content to feel
that we had contributed our tiny share to the relief of suffering, and we
had perhaps, made it easier for other women to do more in future
In this new situation, the definition of femininity needed to
be broader, more inclusive and more permissive. This was the first
boundary they crossed; the physicality of being in the theatre
of war.
War offered excitement in contrast to their restricted upbringings
and this would have heightened the experience. Yet they faced the
problem of how to express these new experiences. This introduced
another set of boundaries to be negotiated. Many like Furze, Stobart,
Farmborough, and Thurstan attempted to write in a manner that would
befit the male versions of autobiography of this period. But, as can be
seen from the above, schisms occur at exceptional and emotional epi-
sodes. In fact this question of narratorial boundaries had possibly more
resonance for these professional women than any other group. In this
war arena, they had to negotiate difficult and different discourses to
find their voices. They would have been helped by the huge increase in
writing, by women, after the war. This would have provided a domain
in which they felt able to record their own experiences in their own
manner. These experiences gave them the right to an opinion on the
war which was no longer sentimental expression.
It appears that the acute coping mechanisms utilised, to enable
these women to write of their wartime experiences, shows the immense
emotional pressure they suffered from. The various strategies (as I
have shown) all aim to affect a style that presented a distance between
narrator and subject. This would be in part to avoid possible charges
of hysteria, in part to emulate the male voice and, most importantly,
to find their own register. As autobiographers they tried to maintain
their professional posture, especially that of a clinical detachment by
their use of familiar prose. But despite this manoeuvring, the horror
infiltrates the reader and vicarious emotions ensue unbidden. The
tone these nurses and VADs adopted was calm and simple. This absence
of sensationalism makes the narrative more compelling and creates a
contrast between them, as observers and participants, and the mayhem
of war.
What I find of especial interest is that when these facades were
breached, their writing became edgy, unsettling and stylistically
innovative. This is evident particularly in the autobiographies by
Bagnold and Borden. Their style typifies that of Modernism in their use
of fragmentation, randomness and mess.
Each of the professions
9780230_219922_05_cha04.indd 68 8/20/2008 12:14:03 PM
Nurses and VADs 69
appears to have a register specific to itself. The writing by this group of
nurses and VADs is richer. Horror stimulated the stylistics, and if there
is a gap created between the ugliness of the subject and style, the awful-
ness still comes through. Margaret R. Higonnet suggested that all
women struggle to express the inexpressible and identifies this in
misogynist barriers to women.
I would suggest that these nurses and
VADs do in fact express the inexpressible but the manner was different
from that of the male testimonies. Foucaults writing in The History of
Sexuality has relevance here. Both sexual and war narratives record the
unspeakable. Foucault posits: It is no longer a question of simply saying
what was done the sexual act [war experience] and how it was done;
but of reconstructing, in and around the act, the thoughts that reca-
pitulated it, the obsessions that accompanied it, the images, desires,
modulations ... that modulated it.
Farmborough and others would write that situations were inde-
scribable, meaning nasty. But rather than being censored in the man-
ner Higonnet raised that of describing without violating an old
these autobiographers combined the effect of unspoken
meaning. They used the stylistics discussed to: pronounce a discourse
of truth concerning themselves [ ... ] and took for its object what
was unmentionable but admitted to nonetheless [ ... ] the validity of

introspection, lived experience as evidence.
For the reader to expect expression that was hampered by delicacy,
sensitivity and silence would be defensible. But these autobiographers
are disarmingly frank. The writings of these nurses and VADs man-
ages to cut through the boundaries of what permits some things to be
said and not others. Their experiences have taken them from the artic-
ulation of death in the terms of consolation and euphemism, to forms
of articulation that range from the halting narrative of innocence,
through various distinctive and stimulating styles, to those of a
distanced, professional, scientific discourse. The structures of feeling
they display cover a gamut of understanding. These were not written
to be self-serving or aggrandising accounts.
9780230_219922_05_cha04.indd 69 8/20/2008 12:14:03 PM
As I suggested in my general introduction, social and cultural boundaries
were far more flexible for artists and practitioners than those of
headmistresses and women doctors. Hitherto, the autobiographical
writings of women artists (whether they were painters, dancers,
actresses, musicians, composers or sculptors), have primarily been
researched and read for their recording of their public accomplishments
and for information on the participants within these artistic circles. For
example, Sophie Fuller submits a survey of Edwardian women compos-
ers and defines what and how their scores are remembered.
Raitt wrote on female singers in the context of the paintings that John
Singer Sargent undertook.
Women painters are either part of an overall
survey of painters and sculptors across time, or they are the subject of
conventional biography combined with a catalogue of their work.

Much the same cursory treatment attends the biographical content of
actresses. For example, Roger Manvell wrote of Ellen Terry concentrat-
ing upon her career rather than any private or personal aspects; and
Sara Maitland tackled Vesta Tilleys life in the context of issues of gender
and cross-dressing.
In this chapter my intention is to analyse the mostly unexamined
area of their private experience; from those artists that attract acclaim
through public performance, followed by those artists that attained
acclaim from work carried out in the private sphere. The texts these
artists produce have perceptible boundaries which distinguish their
private life from the period when their life becomes public and, for
some, completely dominates to the extent that the narrative excludes
all that is private. It could be argued that the concentration on career
aspects is a given, in that this is what the general reading public is
primarily interested in; it provided an insight into what is perceived as
Artists and Practitioners
9780230_219922_06_cha05.indd 70 8/20/2008 6:47:47 PM
Artists and Practitioners 71
a glamorous and exciting life. But it is explicitly this division between
private and public that is of importance for actresses, dancers and musi-
cians, and the less defined boundaries for private performers such as
painters, and sculptors. I intend to examine the distinction in the
content, style and tone of writing that occurs when their public life
becomes of prime importance to them, and when their private life
became of secondary importance.
The issues of public and private roles lead us to interrogate ideas of
femininity absent from other female autobiographies, because the other
professions do not engender a public persona. This chapter is divided
into topics which are pre-eminent and common to all these texts, and
are clearly divisible between pre and post-career periods and career.
Then, to take the analysis to a further stage, autobiographies where
artists do not exhibit marked delineations in topics, style, and tone are
examined, in order to establish a reason for this. The competence of
women musicians, painters and writers was often questioned. For those
on the stage, it was a matter of questioning their respectability.
Acceptability of actresses had had a chequered past in the English thea-
tre, from one of admissibility and part of the community, to one of an
essentially immoral and low character. Actress, Lena Ashwells father
believed: The stage was the Mouth of Hell. And dancer Isadora Duncan
commented, What is it that made men at that time exclaim, I would
rather see my daughter dead than on the stage?
When Henry Irving,
the actor-manager of the Lyceum was knighted in 1895, it helped trans-
form players from a public image of rogues to one of respected profes-
The average middle-class father may have accepted, by the end
of the century, the theatre as suitable entertainment for his daughter,
but it was a far cry from allowing her to become an actress.
If young
women did defy their families, they found themselves outside this
familiar protection. In 1896 the first acting academy was established by
Ben Greet, and Sir Henry Beerbohm Tree established a school in 1904.

Young actresses had to face the isolation in the hierarchical theatre sys-
tem along with advances from stage-door Johnnies who, along with
most of the public, believed that these girls were sexually sophisticated.
Many used the appellation Mrs because a married title implied a greater
air of respectability. Successful marriages tended to be with actors who
did not require a conventional wife and mother, as traditionally an
actress was not expected to give up her career to look after her children,
as few were successful enough to be financially secure.
As with any
group or profession for women at this time, if they were unmarried,
they risked and faced accusations of homosexuality.
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72 Gender, Professions and Discourse
According to Deborah Cherry: Hundreds of women worked for their
living as painters and hundreds more painted or drew as a recreational
They worked in most areas of art production and due to
feminist interventions into the history of art, women have been
inscribed into accounts of art.
Of course women musicians, painters
and sculptors did not suffer from the opprobrium that actresses and
dancers did, but they were nevertheless negatively recorded in art books.
Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock wrote: women are presented
negatively, as lacking in creativity, with nothing significant to contrib-
ute, as having no influence on the course of art [ ... ] Womens practice
in art has never been absolutely forbidden, discouraged or refused, but
rather contained [ ... ].
There are few full length studies of individual artists published
before 1914. According to Cherry: Time and again, the writers of
magazine articles and short biographical entries on women artists
claimed that there was little or nothing to tell.
The ideas of the time
appear to want to preserve notions of lady artists living tranquil and
uneventful lives and in no manner opposing patriarchal boundaries.
It is of interest to uncover whether this is borne out in their
With the exception of Ethel Smyth, all these autobiographies by
artists and practitioners, listed in my bibliography, begin with child-
hood memories establishing their position in the immediate family.
What is most notable is the pervading influence of the father and, in
contrast to this, the shadowy depiction or absence of the mother. From
the outset of actress Lillah McCarthys autobiography, it is clear that her
father monopolised her world as a larger-than-life figure:
Like a rushing mighty wind my father comes into my life; bursting
in [ ... ] and capturing once and for all the heart of his little girl, the
seventh of his children and the child of his choice. A handsome, tall,
masterful, wild and eccentric Irishman [ ... ] my father was a tornado
of a man. He caught me up and carried me far on the wings of his
wild enthusiasms. During all the years of my childhood and until he
died he dominated my life. His love for me and mine for him made
me oblivious of all else [ ... ] In my childhood, Cheltenham days,
however, I knew only one parent, my father.
McCarthy cast her father as life itself. In the half-dozen pages devoted
almost unreservedly to their relationship she attached epithets to him,
consistent with sentiments of adoration: he was Athenian like the men
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Artists and Practitioners 73
of Athens in his tastes.
He was a figure with whom she was entirely
simpatico. This idolised association placed and associated her father in
the context of a classical and pastoral landscape: How peaceful it is: an
oasis of leisured and ordered life, of planted trees, gardens and pleasant
walks. Cheltenham, the heart of England! pulsing [sic] so gently that
life there seems like a tableau rather than a pageant, not moving but
McCarthy was aware that this relationship was unusual: The rest of
the family thought us queer, and queer we undoubtedly were; though
at the time everything my father did seemed natural to me.
unquestioning allegiance infiltrated all aspects of her life. After an
incident at school, in which she was caned, he takes her side and
decided: No more school for you, my girl. I will teach you myself.

Despite huge omissions in her studies she had no regrets and was grate-
ful to my father [ ... ] to have been both ruled and loved.
It is not hard
to imagine that this ruled and loved, from such a charismatic parent,
would have had far-reaching affects over a young child and a young
adult, especially one who appeared his soul mate. This all- embracing
relationship: fills the canvas of my memory of the next three years

and continued until, with his backing, she began her training as an
In like manner, cross-dresser Vesta Tilley had a close bond with her
father, Harry Ball. There is strong evidence in her autobiography of
the direct leverage he had over her life for many years. From the age
of three she used to accompany him to the Variety Hall where he
performed, and where he soon became a manager. Modern music hall
was arriving and encouraged by her father, who had composed a
medley of songs for her first performance, she began her stage career.
She remembered: my father carrying me to the side of the stage, [sic]
straightened my little skirts.
This memory shows that her father
appeared to be fulfilling both the fathers and mothers role. Some
years later she recorded, how one night in her bedroom she dons her
fathers hat and overcoat and attempted to sing a song. Unbeknown
to her, her father observed this and suggested: That was quite good.
Would you like to have a suit of boys clothes for one of your songs?

From her tone, it appears that her father, an impresario and theatre
manager, saw nothing odd in this. As a family steeped in theatre, this
was simply a cross-dressing variety act. Tilley recorded that she was
delighted: I felt I could express myself better if I was dressed as a
It was masked as a boy that she continued to perform, and
found fame.
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74 Gender, Professions and Discourse
Similar to McCarthy, Tilley acknowledged: Between my father and
myself there was a great bond.
This bond is made plain throughout
her narrative in remembrances of his support of her career and encour-
agement in her cross-dressing act. Further, his ubiquitous presence is
apparent from the great number of paragraphs and sentences begin-
ning, My father. Again, in like manner to that of McCarthy, there is
a total obliteration of her mother in her autobiography, and similar to
McCarthy, Tilley wrote of her father until she married. For these
women the closeness to the father draws them to emulate them physi-
cally and emotionally. These actresses are removed from the family
environment into one of unusual intimacy with their fathers. They
appear to have exclusive rights to their fathers attention and, for
Tilley the wearing of male clothes could be a protection against her
feelings for him and his for her. Marina Warner raises an interesting
idea that: Identification with the father and the prohibition against
incest [ ... ] can impel her to refuse womanhood, to refuse to become
an adult object of his lust and retreat instead into a symbolic neutral
But in general, the relationship that each of these young
women held with their father placed them in his company, allowed
them to escape from matriarchal influence and to have a prestigious
professional life. Clearly there is an Oedipal thread running through
many of the narratives.
The analysis of this powerful father/daughter relationship is shown at
some length for two reasons. The first is that this devotional closeness
is only in professional women that perform in public. Second, it is
necessary to make clear that this father/daughter relationship does not
rest on their being an only child. Lillah McCarthy was the seventh
child of eight and Vesta Tilley was the second of thirteen children.
Correspondingly, pianist Mathilde Verne, fourth of ten children, all of
whom were musical, is the one chosen to perform piano duets with her
father from the age of eight. Once again, Verne privileged her father in
the narrative. He spoke six languages fluently, played the piano, violin
and organ, and composed several works.
Gladys Storey, a painter,
openly admits that her fathers influence was so prevailing that: it is
only through the memory of my father that I have knowledge of the
Indeed, a third of her autobiography becomes a biography of
her father.
The magnetic relationship with the father gave them confidence. It
would not be unreasonable to assume that, if the patriarch of the family
found no fault with their career aspirations, why should they fear soci-
etys disapproval? Unlike the headmistresses and doctors who found it
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Artists and Practitioners 75
necessary to set out their aspirations under the cloak of euphemism,
epiphany, and fairy tale, these artists make plain their paths. McCarthy
believed she was born to be an actress: I determined to give rein to my
This confidence is further displayed by her observation: I
feel deeply. My job in life is acting
Actress Lena Ashwell found: my
determination to follow my dream to become an opera singer, [ knew ]
I ought to go on the stage.
Painter Laura Knight knew: I could draw
better than any of them and I was going to be an artist.
And dancer
Isadora Duncan succinctly summed it up: My art was already in me
when I was a little girl.
I would suggest that the candid tone exhibited
shows an unswerving confidence in the rightness of their actions.
Supported by their fathers, these actresses, painters, dancers, musicians,
and composers utilised the gift from childhood and took this talent as
normal, and as a need to be perfected and performed. This intrinsic tal-
ent from an early age was natural to them and therefore did not appear
to challenge boundaries of femininity. This enabled these talented girls
to aspire to the confidence usually implicit in the male. Furthermore,
artistic achievements such as watercolours, playing the piano, singing
and dancing were encouraged and taken as necessary accomplishments
before marriage. The artistry of acting, as I have already noted, would
be the only one to attract public ire.
In opposition to her father, McCarthys mother was at first por-
trayed in pallid terms, and contrasts strongly with the picturesque
images given of her father. Her mother, she briefly records: with her
lovely face as of a cameo in ivory, seems to have all but vanished from
my memories of these strange and strenuous years. [ ... ] my memory
of her in those days is blurred.
Indeed, this is the only description
of her mother during her childhood which is not marked by a com-
parison or contrast to that of her father. Only brief allusions of any
kind are made: my father abounded in hospitality, but left his wife to
contrive it. [ ... ] My father was poetry; she seemed only prose.
interesting feature of the vocabulary is that it is, my father and, his
wife, and she not my mother. The lack of possessive pronouns
when writing about her mother reinforces the distance of feeling
between them, and accentuates the depth of feeling for her father.
This is a prosaic and descriptive delivery, whereas her writing about
her father is full of energy, vitality and romanticism. Her writing
unconsciously mirrors her comments and the contrasts are stark;
poetry/prose, colour/ivory, hospitality/chores, flamboyance/making
ends meet. Moreover from this moment her mother is then erased
from the narrative.
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76 Gender, Professions and Discourse
McCarthy appeared to be aware of the need to redress the balance of
the brio accorded to her father in the early part of her autobiography.
She can only achieve this by prolepsis at this juncture, and by an indi-
cation of what her mother came to personify. She recorded that: in her
later years [she] stands out serene and beautiful [ ... ] In her ripe old age
my mother became yet more beautiful [ ... ] She made matterof
factness [sic] a fine art.
There are further domestic details of black
dress and white shawls, ability to grow small cuttings and reminders to
drink her cocoa; all rather minor memories when set against the ful-
some account of her father. Interestingly, it is worth noting that the
more detailed but lack-lustre writing about her mother occurred later
in her narrative, only after her father was dead and when she was
between marriages.
Such brief depictions of the mother are common in this professional
group. Liza Lehmann, composer and Mathilde Verne, pianist, write
with affection of their mothers feminine attributes. The most common
remarks can be summed up in Vernes autobiography: My mother was
one of the unknown heroines created to beautify life. Her existence was
one long sacrifice to further her childrens interests.
The angel in the
house conceit underlines the shadowy mother figure, not unsurpris-
ingly, given the number of siblings in these families. Ashwell was one of
seven children, Duncan and Knight were one of three, McCarthy was
one of eight, Tilley was one of 13, Maude White was one of six and
Verne was one of ten children. Violet Vanbrugh does not mention her
mother but her sister Irene briefly alludes to their mother when, at the
age of 29 she decides to marry Dion Boucicault, an actor.
Her mother was biased against her marrying Boucicault, which
Irene finds hard to deal with: that unreasoning attitude she took had
an effect on me difficult to explain. It was all bewildering.
Vanbrughs beloved father had died some years earlier, although there
is no mention of this. Irene takes a walk to try and intuit what atti-
tude her father would have taken: and eventually it came to me quite
clearly that he would have said, If you are sure you love Dot [Dion]
sufficiently to take this step against your mother then you must take
full responsibility.
For her, even from the grave, her fathers
opinion held more sway than her living mothers.
In the second part of the three clear divisions in these autobiogra-
phies, the period covering their careers, the single-mindedness of these
women is clearly visible. Their narratives are reduced to the parameters
that bound their career life. I have already shown that they do not suf-
fer anxieties over the propriety of claiming a career, and by the same
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Artists and Practitioners 77
token they do not present as stereotypical, marriage-seeking, young
women. This focused, insular disposition is manifest when Vanbrugh
baldly writes:
From the time I was fifteen when I started I had no interest outside
the theatre. It completely filled my life. I dont remember many
young men admirers; I didnt seem to have time for them. I would
break any appointment I had, without hesitation if it clashed with
my job [ ... ] I loved it more than anything else. I cant conceive of life
without acting [ ... ] you give up everything for it.
This succinct extract, which offers extraordinary candour, speaks for
this professional group. That is not to say that other groups of profes-
sional women were not so determined (see Chapter 3) but this level of
steadfastness towards a career would more readily be associated with
masculine objectives. Such unswerving dedication could be disarming,
and indeed did elicit a price. Irene Vanbrugh recorded when Boucicault
proposed: I dont know why I did not accept him then and there except
that my mind was so concentrated on acting that all else seemed to take
second place.
It was a further 11 years before they finally married
which she justified by: I am sure we were happier working out our own
lives separately.
However these few lines of personal detail are mini-
mal, when set within the many pages of career detail and they possibly
operate as a form of closure rather than as an opening.
McCarthys autobiography is typical of this transformation. In her
adamant avoidance of any reference to personal relationships during
her re-telling of her very public career, she gave only perfunctory trivia.
She used letters from friends and colleagues to provide evidence of her
acting status. In fact the autobiography becomes half biography of play-
wrights, directors and other actors, and McCarthy herself is subsumed.
Following on from several paragraphs concerning Man and Superman,
she announces: In April 1906 I was married.
There is no preamble, no
name and no intimation of who this man was. A few chapters further
she writes: Desmond McCarthy, in telling the story of the Court
Theatre . . ..
From the earlier silence and surname the reader can only
conjecture that this is her husband. Moreover, during the pages com-
mitted to the period covering their careers, this style of silence and
evasion persists. For McCarthy, there is no subsequent mention of her
husband or her marriage. The reader again is left to infer: In the spring
of 1910 I was very ill and, a weak and suffering creature, was taken off
to stay with Mr and Mrs H.G. Wells.
Similarly, when several years later
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78 Gender, Professions and Discourse
she received a death threat and was pursued by a stalker, she was again
assisted by friends. At such times the reader would expect to find her
husband of major importance. It is not until much later in her text,
when she is no longer writing about her career, that it became obvious
that there must have been a divorce.
A similar gloss over personal trouble was used by Maude White, the
composer, pianist and teacher. Whilst touring abroad she mentioned:
[I] had rather a nasty little break-down.
To deflect attention from this
there follows a two page description of a gentleman traveller and his
suggestions of places to visit and stay at. McCarthy noted: Sorrows too
fall heavily upon me. A dearly-loved brother dies. Turmoil of war.[sic]
Asquith falls.
These compressed deliveries acted as emotional shutters
when sensitive upheaval occurred during their careers. Short and
incomplete sentences spurn personal and world events in short shrift.
When these performers wrote about their lives prior to their careers, it
can be seen that they used a fulsome, energetic and flowing style. In the
career period of their lives, it is no longer a linear recording with a spec-
trum of emotion and experiences. It becomes a prosaic record which
moves from play to play or composition to composition. Family, close
friends, personal experiences, emotions or tragedies are omitted or
glossed over. It is worth mentioning at this juncture that this does not
obtain for women painters, and this contrast will be the subject of a
discussion below.
There are two points at issue here. One is the nature of self-disclosure,
and the other the strict boundary between the notion of womanly and
unwomanly. This part of their autobiography that deals with their
careers is ordered differently. They are a record of their public achieve-
ments which are established in the public domain, in which they want
to appear competent, in control and professional. More than in any
other area of their lives, what they wrote can be proved or disproved,
and this censure could have had an inhibiting affect. Their restraint
makes the language dry, and furthermore, the themes are curtailed to
those connected with their profession. All their emotional energy
flowed into their chosen profession, leaving a vacuum that they were
apparently unaware of at the time. Thus the autobiography atrophies in
emotion and becomes a biography of the theatre, concert hall and the
participants. This reigned-in, emotional economy is symptomatic of
self-set boundaries and the imagined boundaries of public life along
with its association with masculinity.
With these autobiographies in question, the accepted barriers
between male/female, public/private becomes ill-defined. This usually
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Artists and Practitioners 79
signals a change in the balance between their career and private life.
When Irene Vanbrugh returns to the tale of her proposal she noted
that; it was above a year before she allowed an announcement to be
made: [not] till the end of the run of the play.
Having reached
30 years of age, many women would fear remaining a spinster. But fly-
ing in the face of convention, it transpired that due to further commit-
ments on Irenes part, the marriage was delayed for several years. Such
confident and challenging behaviour disavowed the social assumption
that all women aspire to marriage. There is no evidence of remorse.
Vanbrughs highly focused behaviour placed personal needs a very
poor second to achieving public accolade and the enhancement of her
In the first two parts of these tripartite-structured autobiographies,
the first section showed the father as the prime influence and object of
devotion, and the second, which concentrated on the career, ignored
contemporary feminine aspirations and showed unashamed commit-
ment to their careers. In the final section of this autobiographical struc-
ture they return to concentrate on their private life as their careers were
either over or relegated to secondary importance. The most striking of
these changes was the return to a need for patriarchal control. The
influence moved indicating transference of devotion from father to
husband which was not uncommon within the artistic profession. Also
in the re-telling the style and tone is reminiscent of that displayed in
the first section of the autobiography.
In 1918 McCarthy met Dr Keeble, an Oxford don. They talked and
found they had a lot in common: I brightened up. He brightened up [ ... ]
He knew the poets and loved poetry. So did I. We talked the whole
She returned to London with little thought of marriage when
all of a sudden, I began to wish he would [ask her to marry]. Within a
week he did. And I promised to marry him.
There are exuberant
minutiae on house building, the planning and: five years digging our-
selves in in [sic] a garden.
Her second marriage heralded the return of
the happiness and safety she enjoyed as a child: a moment that will
remain with me all my life; it showed me beauty such as I had never
seen before.
What becomes apparent and needs to be noted here is
that her career had ceased to be predominant, and the narrative style of
her writing replicates the pre-career period of her life.
The pastoral bliss of her childhood was replicated. Her new husband
created the safety and a role similar to that of her father. Tellingly,
McCarthy called her husband my Controller. The father/child axis
was in place: Now, my dear, says my Controller, youve talked
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80 Gender, Professions and Discourse
quite enough: drink your cocoa; its time for you to be in bed!
directly follows a flashback to her father, who has not been mentioned
in some 30 years of her life. A lengthy poetic description of the coun-
tryside leads unswervingly to memories of his restlessness when he
would say: Come on Lillah, lets be off, and we would go [ ... ] I used
to hope that we would go on for ever.
It appears that in one sense
they have. Finding herself totally in love, to the exclusion of all others
(similar to that with her fathers) love for me and mine for him made
me oblivious of all else.
Her earlier energy and vitality once again
become transparent in her writing. His leverage was still present.
McCarthys descriptions of her father and later, her second husband,
had drawn parallels in their interests. Both were enriched by poetry
and nature, and both were romantics. At both periods of her life she is
at home, in her private womanly sphere. However this is not particular
to McCarthy.
Liza Lehmann, composer and singer experienced, a not dissimilar,
liberating rupture, but her voicing of it is more effusive. The narrative
of her early singing career is blithe and genial; anecdotes abound
about other performers, and there are a few personal details of her
young life. She lived in a: charming house with a fine studio, where I
lived until I abandoned my career as a singer.
At this point of change
in her life she reminded herself that: this is a human document and
by implication truthful.
After a spell of illness exhaustion followed
by flu and the idea that, her nervous nature made her unsuitable for
this profession she was: half inclined to give it up [ ... ] and whilst I
hesitated on the brink, Fate took the matter out of my hands, for I met
my future husband and when we married I retired into private life
and abandoned my career without a sigh of regret.
No longer in the public domain, Lehmann retracts into the female
private sphere where her creative energies flow: after my marriage a
curious thing happened. All the intense longing to compose music,
which I had for so long felt and which had been practically repressed
for years, now found vent.
It appears that, because she was no longer
engaged in public performance with all her energy going outwards,
she had mental and physical space to compose music, which is intrin-
sically a private activity. But even this ceases with the birth of her
sons: I was far more wrapped up in living poems than in my art [ ... ]
and the love of my children became the very mainspring of my
Womanly tasks of home-making, love and childcare pro-
vide a different form of creative outlet within the private sphere. Her
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Artists and Practitioners 81
enthusiastic narrative exhibits a similar freedom which only flowed in
the recounting of her pre-career life. Similar to McCarthy, Lehmann
needed the release from the restraints of a professional career to pro-
duce a multifaceted persona.
Communication in society is controlled and organised in order that
the dominant power maintains mastery. Thus the process of exclusion
and prohibition appear to operate in these performic professions. The
force of these limiting mechanisms is plainly seen in this comment
from Lehmann: I abandoned my career as a singer, became human and
married (my italics).
It is significant that she associated marriage and
being human in the private world, and that of her career, in the public
world, by default, as inhuman. Although she had public success, uncon-
scious and inherent structures placed legitimacy in her womans role in
the private domain, and she was unable to de-compartmentalise these.
Further, the emotional temperature of these separate worlds problema-
tises the narrative tone, style and vocabulary. Part of the difficulty lies
in the framed societal boundaries and the way which, as autobiogra-
phers, they merged their two worlds textually. By this I mean that when
they wrote of the private, familial and domestic, the writing flowed,
emotions were aired and vocabulary that was familiar to them produced
an overall style and tone that was confident and effusive. On the other
hand, the public domain appears as a forbidden and dangerous arena;
the private had to be hidden. The writing describing the later is there-
fore devoid of expansiveness.
This all serves to show how the tripartite structure (private/public/
private) operated for artists who conducted their careers in the public
domain and how the role of the father and the public, masculine world
is foregrounded in these texts. We need now to consider how women
painters differ from this pattern. This can be summed up in two ways.
The painters autobiographies do not have a stark tripartite structure
and the nature of their narrative has a uniform and unwavering tenor
throughout. By this I mean that periods of sadness or excitement,
whether in childhood, pre-career, career or post-career receive an appro-
priate emotional and lexical temperature and are recorded in full. There
does not appear to be the necessity felt by the public performers to
evade or foreshorten personal experiences. It would be difficult to
accept that these actresses, musicians and dancers lacked the necessary
emotional vocabulary to enable them to articulate their feelings in des-
perate circumstances. But it is probable that whilst writing about their
public and professional life, they wanted to underplay the personal
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82 Gender, Professions and Discourse
elements of intimate life. It is this which is the nub of the different
range of parameters witnessed in the autobiographies of public perform-
ance artists, and artists who worked in private.
Estella Canziani, Knight and other painters often had an itinerant
upbringing and tended to maintain this bohemian lifestyle through-
out their careers. Knight married Harold who she had met as a very
young student. Knight wrote that: To be free to go where we wished
was our desire.
These painters rented, stayed awhile then moved on.
It was this liberty and flexibility that is exhibited in their writing; in
topics covered, style and tone. With so few possessions and indeed no
desire for such burdens, their lives had a laxity and latitude not expe-
rienced by many other artists. There were no walls; physically or men-
tally. Knights tone and style appear as a natural extension of her
painting, which exposes a stimulating joie de vivre. Her descriptions
have an energy that stimulates the senses: I drew in the fire of ambition
[ ... ] an old brown nut-cracker face ... the smell of new wood [ ... ] to
paint a lot of landscape and climb trees [ ... ] everything held absorbing
interest [ ... ] The moor was in its most theatrical mood.
Many, many more fill the text invoking a painterly canvas. This style
is not reserved only for periods of happiness. When she wrote of her
mothers death, Knight drew upon metaphorical images of colour and
nature. She described a huge ash tree while painting in Winchester
cathedral grounds:
So many berries a mass of scarlet the next morning reduced to a
just rotten stump [ ... ] there had been no wind. It [the tree] had
destroyed itself with its own exuberance [ ... ] I could never dissociate
the breaking of that tree from that of my mothers life. All thought
her such a splendid creature she was so handsome she looked so
radiantly strong and full of life. When we went back home a doctor
told her she had at most two years to live.
It could be taken as a common-place that visual memory and colour
would be prevalent with painters. But what is of greater interest is the
willingness and openness of their discussion, when actively involved in
their careers. It is this which marks them as different from performance
Within this sector of artists and in contrast to other artists careers,
Knight does not shirk from her darker moments. After the death of her
sister she became depressed: Ugly threads were being woven into the
material of my character. I shook hands with hate.
Shortly after her
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Artists and Practitioners 83
depression she noted: Spring-time came and life seemed worth living
after all.
The language here has a figurative romanticism in its use of
metaphor, and nature is frequently used to echo her moods. Its poetic
simplicity captures the emotion and the easy renewal of the young.
Canziani does not shy away from telling of her mothers illness and
death, but intersperses newspaper cuttings with her own involvement.
This is the first real reference to her mother. An artist of renown, her
mother: struggled to finish her last picture [ I ] supported her with cush-
ions in a chair to enable her to work.
With touching delicacy, Canziani
tells how she used a wheel-chair to take her mother to the gallery for the
last time. She continued:
My mother died after a long illness at 3am a lovely summer morning,
birds singing, the may in full bloom, and a gorgeous sunrise flooding
the room with light [ ... ] that is what one thinks of when we die, all
that glory and beauty. There is nothing to fear in death [ ... ] when my
mother died it was sunrise not sunset .
The main point of contrast with performance artists is that painters,
composers and sculptors tended not to avoid recounting personal issues
at any time in their lives. I believe that this has to do with boundaries;
boundaries of the public/private and boundaries of the notion of
womanly/unwomanly. Foucaults studies on the Panopticon are useful
here because of his observations on the gaze, especially when it is
instantiated in the notions of this as a controlling force. Foucault wrote:
each gaze would form a part of the overall functioning of power.
must be emphasised here, that I am using the term gaze to connote the
idea of collective observation which demarcates and enforces societys
boundaries of propriety. In his chapter, The Means of Correct Training,
Foucault suggests the arrangement of space is crucial if we wish to know
and alter people.
He is, of course, referring to buildings where con-
struction enables the eye of authority to observe and control. This
explanatory model can be valuably expanded to autobiographical writ-
ing of a certain type, namely, for the autobiographies of headmistresses
and for doctors, because they were so imbricated into institutional
frameworks. It is appropriate to extend Foucaults metaphor here, and
float the idea that the eye of authority can also be shorthand for the
presumed eye or gaze of the public. Actresses, musicians and dancers
had crossed a threshold where they are seen, and they too became sub-
jects of a disciplinary power in that they were observed and could be
classified. Foucault noted that: visibility assures the hold of the power
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84 Gender, Professions and Discourse
that is exercised over them [subjects]
It is what Foucault described as:
a mechanism that coerces by means of observation.
Obviously this
could be applied to any of the women autobiographers in my research,
but it has more explanatory power when applied to these artistic women
who function in a very public domain.
The tripartite structure of public artists autobiographical writing
lays bare two distinct levels of coercion. In the first and third periods,
when they are within domestic confines, they were contained by
boundaries that were marked as womanly and feminine. As chil-
dren, their prime influence of the father provided them with the nec-
essary confidence to conquer the public domain. When finally, they
return to private life, most usually because of marriage, the record
once again broadened to encompass private matters. The childhood
boundaries of masculine influence return in the form of a husband. In
the middle career period of their lives the coerc[ing] observation is
all the more intense. The boundaries and demands of this public life
made them protective of their private activities and their perceived
need to appear focused, strong and professional. They did not want
the fluffy or ragged parts of their lives to intrude on this profession-
alism. This caused their writing to become highly compartmentalised,
restrained and decidedly selective in its image making. Social pres-
sures which would define them as unwomanly would constrict their
writing style, tone and breadth of coverage. They and their work were
public, but the product of this work is transient. The accolades only
hold good until the next performance. This initiates a strong division
in their lives which is not so tightly drawn for that of the private
Put another way, the emotional temperature of these separate worlds
problematises the recall. Part of the difficulty for the actresses lies in
how they were to merge their two selves, the one conventional, and the
one unorthodox. The record of the private, domestic world has an over-
all confidence and effusive tone, whereas, the discourse about their
public experiences evokes as a forbidden and dangerous area. Indeed, at
times the actresses lack confidence and present an insecure and diffi-
dent text. For non-performance artists, these boundaries between career
and private life are almost non-existent. This is markedly displayed in
the content, style and structure of their autobiographies. Many of these
women had an itinerant, bohemian life style. Their private arena was
frequently at the fringe of the dominant social expectations of home
and family life. In contrast to performance artists, it was unlikely that
they would have had overt public recognition. It was their work that
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Artists and Practitioners 85
was recognised and lauded. Whilst their art was produced from the
world at large, this art entered the public arena, but the artists them-
selves could remain anonymous and private. Moreover, their art on
canvas, musical score or sculpture, is a concrete and lasting testimony
to their talent. This was not so for the public performers whose art had
the impermanence of each performance and only retained in public
It is this difference between artists who perform in public, and art-
ists whose work ends up in the public domain, that affirms how
boundaries, whether they are physical or psychological, affect the
style, tone and content of these women autobiographers. Public per-
formance artists were bound by the eye of society, in the early twen-
tieth century. This initiated a power nexus which could undermine
their nerve and self-assurance. But for artists working in private, their
anonymous, bohemian or itinerate arena allowed them physical and
mental freedom.
9780230_219922_06_cha05.indd 85 8/20/2008 6:47:50 PM
In this chapter the autobiographies of women who wrote for a living are
examined. These autobiographies of professional wordsmiths will inev-
itably be qualitively different from autobiographies of amateurs in the
field, and they raise interesting issues about the interrelation of truth,
fact and fiction. These women novelists who were published in the
period 1900 onwards participated at a time of great literary change. In
a brief overview of the writing scene during the fin de sicle and
Edwardian periods it is clear that, between the decline of the three-
volume novel in 1895 and the outbreak of the First World War, fiction
was the most important section of the leisure industry.
The develop-
ment of a mass reading public increased the demand for books and
made the Edwardian period a time of unprecedented literary activity.
This was due, in part, to the cheaper price of a novel as it was no longer
considered a luxury, and in part, to its size, as it was smaller and could
be read in many places.
New genres were in the process of formation along with different sets
of literary conventions. Although Edwardianism was different from
modernism, it was never the less radical. Modernism reconstructed the
past and asserted a new identity. Edwardianism was thought to favour
continuity and tradition, but the fiction often belies this. Many novels
view change as essential, for example, H.G. Wellss Tono-Bungay (1909)
The New Machiavelli (1911), and Arnold Bennetts Clayhanger (1910).
There was an influx of women writers (as this chapter attests) and it was
new for women to be the central subjects of fiction. A striking number
of women topped the bestseller lists in popular romance and childrens
fiction; Marie Corelli, Baroness Orczy, Florence Barclay, Elinor Glyn
among others.
The most commercially successful Edwardian adapta-
tion of the Ruritania romantic genre was Elinor Glyns Three Weeks
Women Writers
9780230_219922_07_cha06.indd 86 8/20/2008 6:49:16 PM
Women Writers 87
published in 1907, in which she broke taboos with her account of an
older womans desire for an upper-class young man.
As central subjects,
they were no longer women who were defined by their domestic desires.
The two major themes of marriage problems and work dominated seri-
ous fiction and often had a powerful feminist slant. For example, Violet
Hunts The Workaday Woman (1906) describes the lives of independent
working women, and Mrs Humphry Wards Daphne (1909) looks at mar-
riage and divorce law reform in a radical way.
The traditional narrative
of female dependency in Edwardian heroines became obsolete. For
example, Elizabeth Robins, The Convert (1907), tells of a society beauty,
converted to the Suffragette cause, who displayed sympathy for the
All literary texts incorporate various discourses which the narra-
tors voice ultimately controls, negotiates and presents a certain point
of view.
The women in question, to varying degrees, were word-
smiths; they understood how to utilise narrative control and steer
discourses in certain directions. If they were to use these skills in
their autobiographies, they could disguise or change the balance of
personal issues. It is this competence which would allow them to cre-
ate the perspective they want. So it would not therefore be surprising
if these skills were openly employed in their factual writing. As
Storm Jameson makes plain: I am an accomplished professional nov-
elist, and nothing, but nothing, would have been easier for me than
to draw a portrait which, without telling a single lie, would be dis-
honest from beginning to end, intelligent, charming, interesting, and
a lie.
But, having made the reader aware of this possibility, Jameson took
pains throughout her autobiography to display her efforts to be honest.
Silences in these autobiographies are not by subtle omission; these writ-
ers are explicit about the subjects and events that they have no inten-
tion of revealing. It is worth mentioning briefly at this juncture that, of
all the autobiographers examined, questions of accuracy and truthful
portrayal feature more strongly in these writers than in other groups of
There are further problems when these autobiographers have drawn
on, and adapted, personal experiences to present a similar episode in
both a work of fiction and their autobiography. From personal experi-
ence as readers, we all know that the more a tale is told and re-told, the
more minor adjustments can occur and supersede the original. In point
of fact, Rosamond Lehmann wrote: so much of my life story has
gone, in various intricate disguises, and transmuted almost beyond my
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88 Gender, Professions and Discourse
own recognition, into my novels, that it would be difficult if not
impossible to disentangle true from not true .
Naturally this is not true for all writers. As readers, we are not readily
in the position to know the truthfulness of recounted events. Indeed,
given that novels are such a multifaceted form of discourse and use
various elements to form an organised whole, an examination of these
texts along a fiction/autobiography/ truth axis would prove unproduc-
tive. Therefore, with the above markers in mind I intend to put to use a
different theoretical frame unused in this book, in order to unpick
selected aspects of these complex autobiographies. I shall work with
some of the ideas of the movement of lcriture fminine, founded in the
mid-1970s by several women writers, including Hlne Cixous and Luce
Irigaray, in order to see if they provide a useful explanatory model for
autobiography of this kind.
In a bid to produce a comprehensive survey of fiction writers within
this period an extensive trawl through the Penguin reference publica-
tion of Biographical Dictionary of Women (1998) and The Oxford
Companion to Edwardian Fiction (2002) uncovered 312 female fiction
But only ten of these had written autobiographies. A further
ten were unearthed from the Penguin Dictionary and four from
William Matthews British Autobiographies: written and published pre
1951. Whilst I cannot claim that this survey is totally comprehensive,
the scrutiny of some 500 entries would appear to be near complete.
From these 500 plus entries, only 24 autobiographies were mentioned.
As barely 5 per cent of women fiction writers wrote autobiographies, it
was interesting to discover if there was any correlation between the
desire to write an autobiography and the genre of fiction of that writer.
Research revealed that of the 24 writers, eight wrote romances, five
produced historical romance, two used sensational and sexual themes,
two wrote childrens books, one was a crime writer, three undertook
feminist fiction and three wrote social and political novels. This leads
pro tem to a further observation that, of these autobiographical writ-
ers, approximately 75 to 85 per cent would be classed within the low-
brow area of the market with 15 to 25 per cent in the middle-brow
Of these 24 autobiographies I intend to draw, on two low-
brow (Elinor Glyn and Rita Humphreys), one middle-brow (Baroness
Orczy), and one high-brow writer (Storm Jameson) a 50/25/25 divide.
There appear to be two main reasons which motivate these women
to take up writing. On the one hand, there is the practical need to earn
a living, either for independence or due to family financial problems;
on the other hand, there is a will to creativity which is stimulated by
9780230_219922_07_cha06.indd 88 8/20/2008 6:49:16 PM
Women Writers 89
emotional and physical extremes. The most obvious of these was the
need for a livelihood. Berta Ruck and H.M. Swanwick acknowledged
that, it was obvious that all of us would have to earn a living as soon
as possible.
Swanwick obtained unsatisfying employment: For a
good many years, what ever work I did was scrappy [ ... ] although I was
not without cravings for a profession.
She recalled, reporting lec-
tures at Cambridge [ ... ] when the Manchester Guardian employed me for
descriptives .
Ruck began her employment, illustrating books for
and Orczy wrote short, sensational stuff for magazines,

For Storm Jameson, her academic education won her her first opportu-
nity to work in a publishers office.
She then set about publishing her
thesis as a serious work on European drama and received mixed
However, Glyn and Humphreys had been published writers before
experiencing financial embarrassment after marriage. For Rita, Mrs
Desmond Humphreys, a broken engagement, instigated by her parents
made her realise her need for money, independence and romance: I
determined I would write something worthy of the effort; would achieve
independence, and show that I could support myself.
for Humphreys: literature must mean a livelihood as well as
Netta Syrett and Baroness Orczy did not mention the
need for a livelihood. Their motivation was to improve upon the gen-
eral standard of novels already in print. Syrett, the eldest of ten chil-
dren, became a teacher and wrote plays for children. But after reading,
one after the other, a number of novels dealing with the terribly
restricted life led by women whose youth coincided with mine, I began
to think a counterblast to this picture might conceivably be due.
counterblast arrived in the form of feminist fiction with a strong edge
of sensationalism.
In point of fact there was a strong emergence of
new themes at this time, especially those that focused on Edwardian
heroines who were doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists and so on.

Orczys motivation, in the first instance, arose from her fathers finan-
cial situation.
Later in her autobiography she ascribed her motivation
as her desire to administer a stiff corrective to extant fiction writers:
People who come from the wilds of Derbyshire, who know nothing of
life. Orczy, on the other hand had: studied in art and music, history
and drama, [so] why shouldnt I write.
Elinor Glyn came from a comfortable upper-middle-class background.
She described herself as: almost the first society woman to become a
novelist, and this was an innovation not well looked upon either by my
friends, or by the general body of critics of that date.
According to
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90 Gender, Professions and Discourse
Glyn, she had led an agreeable life, went to amusing house-parties, and
wintered in Cannes or Monte Carlo or Rome.
What she had not real-
ised was how profligate her husband Clayton was.
Clayton overspent,
gambled and mortgaged the property and finally, had the shocking bad
luck to lose over 10,000!
He saw his heart problems as the answer.
Instead of obeying medical advice, he attempted to foreshorten his life
by excesses, and live on capital: After that the deluge!
he lived seven years longer than he had planned in spite of his: categor-
ical refusal to undertake treatments [ ... ] to stop smoking a dozen strong
cigars in a day.
Glyns answer to the burgeoning financial crisis was more practi-
cal. By 1911 there was no choice other than to increase her writing
output and claim substantial advances for her novels to prevent
bankruptcy. The Reason Why was a resounding success but subse-
quent novels starting with Halcyone [sic] were failures. She recorded:
As my only conscious object, by this time, was to make enough
money to keep myself and all the family in comfort, and pay off
Claytons debts, I am afraid that this experience did not tend to
improve my literary style.
Glyn was a total romantic. She felt that her creative talent became
compromised when faced with practical necessities. She was reluctant
to face the harsher side of life and found the fundamentals of every-
day survival destructive to her creative powers: I refused to remem-
ber the sufferings of millions [ ... ] who starved in the towns to
maintain Englands wealth, and saw only the wonderful prosperity.

She needed to romanticise life and ignore unpleasantness in order to
write. What is clear is that most of the low-brow writers did not have
an all-consuming desire to write. Practical imperatives were part of
the driving force for these women to become writers. By contrast, a
high-brow writer like Jameson believed that she would be published,
and she supplemented her income until that time writing articles,
working in a publishers office and teaching working women
This leads to the question of the influence and presentation of the
relationship between the emotions and the body. Conventional wis-
dom at the time would have upheld the Western tradition that privi-
leged mind over body. But illustrations from these writers of this period
appear to challenge this theory of writing and should encourage us to
reassess the ideas of lcriture fminine as exemplified by Cixous and
Irigaray. Cixous wrote that the body rather than the mind has been
marginalized in traditional literary histories. Their idea of Writing the
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Women Writers 91
body or letting the body be heard are clearly attempts to refute the
sense of writing as a strictly mental activity. Cixous and Irigaray
developed the idea of lcriture fminine which challenged these
traditional notions by refusing to accept this separation. Cixouss The
Laugh of the Medusa (1975) developed the theme of the fluid and less
constrained experiential nature of womens writing.
This has some
potential for my analysis. Examination of the wordsmiths autobiogra-
phies indicates that what makes them hang together is the powerful
case they make, for the notion that the body and mind are in fact
Illness, death, love, pregnancy and birth can all be linked to intensi-
fied artistic peaks of productivity. For Elinor Glyn this was a recurring
rite. After the birth of her second daughter she contracted rheumatic
fever and was expected to die. She recorded that in: a fit of rebellion
against the idea of dying young, to which I had hitherto been quite
resigned, and had, in fact, cherished as being rather touching and
romantic! I determined that whatever followed [ ... ] I should write a
Re-reading her journals, she found them so amusing that she decided
to make them into a book: No one imagined that I could be serious
when I announced that I would write a book, but the poor invalid had
to be humoured.
This near death experience resulted in The Visits of
Elizabeth published in 1900. Again in 1902 following a fall when div-
ing in Egypt, Glyn was seriously ill. The pain was so intense that she
was given morphia intermittently for months. During her fitful recov-
ery: I was filled with an impulse to write, and the idea of the story
came to me [ ... ] which I called The Reflections of Ambrosine.
In each
of these instances, illness and near death experiences became a crea-
tive discourse for survival in which her suffering generated a positive
and heightened productivity. The idea as writing the body particularly
arises with these wordsmiths when they are describing a psychologi-
cal upset. Love affairs, whether forbidden or unrequited, engender
high points of creativity. Humphreys broken engagement (men-
tioned earlier) brought on a serious illness from which she might have
died. Sent to Scotland, she was: determined [to] write something
Amidst Humphreys battle for physical and mental health,
Dame Durden was written and published. In point of fact Humphreys
did marvel how, with such handicaps, as she saw it, a writer, especially
a woman writer, coped. Her suggestion was to keep the: brain in
compartments [ ... ] not an easy matter. When to this is added a
measure of personal unhappiness, money troubles, domestic storms, it
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92 Gender, Professions and Discourse
seems a wonder that the imaginative side of ones personality can
What appears to be is so interesting here is that Humphreys
and Glyn do not display any awareness of how their adversities had
been part of their driving force.
Naomi Mitchison, on the other hand, recognised the emotional link
with creativity and observed that: For most of my life my love relation-
ships [have] affected my writing.
She returned to this phenomenon
more than once: Presumably this is true for everyone in the arts; we
swim much more in the emotions. In order to observe we have to be
thin-skinned, easy to hurt, and perhaps we observe too much for
But, rather than thinking personal unhappiness was unpro-
ductive for writing, Mitchison viewed it as necessary and a possible
advantage. Furthermore, she believed this to be a normal reaction and
part of an artistic temperament. Mitchison was writing her autobiogra-
phy in 1979 and may well have been aware of the new thinking, but
she was observing her creative past, and how her work was subject to
emotional controls.
What is clear is that, according to these writers, the relationship
between positive and negative in the role of creativity is a dynamic
one. When illness or death obtruded into the lives of these writers,
the paradoxical effect was to fuel their creativity. However, when the
body was being used to create something (a child), then many of the
writers experience a diminution of the creative urge. This connection
between creativity and reproduction is foregrounded explicitly by
Jameson, who equated her pregnancy, and later her hysterectomy,
with intellectual death. Storm Jameson recorded of her pregnancy
that in 1915: I had leisure during these months to write, and I tried
to finish my novel. I failed completely. My mind had lost its power to
concentrate: the energy was still there, but the sap did not run.
Surprised I thought: It must be the child.
Her premise that creativ-
ity can only take place in either the body or the mind, but not in both
at the same time, further attests to her view of an affinity between
these two generative elements. Further, it appears that, when the
question of a hysterectomy arose, the creative potential was seen to
be at risk.
Some ten years after the birth of her son, Jameson recorded her
hysterectomy. Before leaving hospital she noted that she would have
liked to ask the doctor: whether a woman whose womb has been
taken from her can still write books?
We cannot know, but it seems
reasonable from the evidence to surmise that Jameson was making
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Women Writers 93
the link to her experience ten years earlier, in which the reproduc-
tive organs had an impact on her writing powers. It appears that
whether the reproductive body is useful and productive or useless
and removed, it was held by Jameson to have a direct influence on
the creativity of the mind. In this notion, the fertility and creative
production are focused in dialectical opposition, and to the detri-
ment of any imaginativeness or originality. This example draws me
to formulate the notion that the binary forces of negative/positive
are operative. Similar to the examples above it appears that, when
the body is negative, that is suffering from love, illness, and near
death experience the mind is positive with heightened activity.
Writing is of course a form of production. But when the body is
positive, that is being creative in its reproductive function,
intellectual creativity waned.
Having established a connection between the mind and body at an
inspirational, creative level for these writers, it seems plausible to
extend the attention to the mind/body paradigm in order to see how
this influenced the content of their fiction writing. I have already
suggested the majority of these women novelists in this survey wrote
for a low-brow market. It is well documented in numerous biogra-
phies, biographical dictionaries, anthologies, that the majority of
these writers have called upon personal experience and known events.
Due to the intrinsic romanticism that many of these writers have
exhibited, personal experience influenced them in three distinct
Let us now turn to more specific textual characteristics. Firstly, the
unconscious recycling of real-life experiences: secondly, the deliber-
ate avoidance of personal exposure: and thirdly, the opportunistic
deployment of personal experience as a sort of copy. Syrett, writer of
plays, novels and fairy stories was unaware how much of her life was
the material for her work until she wrote her autobiography: the fact
is that in my earlier books I have made more use of personal experi-
ences than I quite realised when I undertook this backward glance.

To gauge to what extent this took place is difficult because in her
autobiography she openly stated: Much of the past I have no inten-
tion of unravelling at all, in spite of the modern craze for frank-
ness .
For Orczy her personal life had a more discreet and neutral
bearing on her fictional writing. She clearly affirmed that her choice
to write historical romance stemmed from her reclusive nature and a
fascination with history: I never really cared for social life I [sic]
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94 Gender, Professions and Discourse
didnt find that modern thought and modern views of life attracted
me sufficiently to place my romantic stories in the setting of today.

This aversion to contemporary times, and her desire for her romances
to have historical accuracy, did not necessitate drawing on personal
Indeed, this avoidance of the deeply personal was carried through
to her autobiography, where highly emotional areas were not
revealed. Other than to tell us of the supreme happiness she has had
from her marriage the only details of this marriage that Orczy
provided were:
I can only thank God on my knees [ ... ] It was during that time that
my life was turned from darkness into light [ ... ] that I met the man
who from that day became and remained all the world to me. The
subject is secret and sacred to me so I will not speak of it except to say
this [ ... ] My marriage was for close on half a century one of perfect
happiness and understanding, of perfect friendship and communion
of thought.
In like manner the First World War was a closed subject: Those terri-
ble years 191418, on which I cannot bear to dwell in thought even
after all this time, were as far as my lifes work was concerned very
fruitful for me.
Neither Syrett nor Orczy had consciously used pri-
vate thoughts and affairs in their work. Syrett was frankly surprised
that her life had seeped into her fiction. This could also be true for
Orczy but, due to her withdrawn existence and silence in her autobi-
ography it would be difficult to make connections. These aspects of
silence are an important theme and will be examined in a later
Writers like Humphreys, Glyn and Jameson consciously drew upon
their lives as subject matter. Humphreys found that her fictional repre-
sentation of painful experiences had been cathartic and had obviated a
need to include them in her autobiography. She wrote: the first years of
my marriage are the most difficult to endure. What they meant to me
may have been betrayed by my books. [Dians Kiss, Saba Macdonald, and
The Grandmothers.] I cannot describe them here.
Yet Glyn, a consum-
mate romantic, robustly recycled her own disappointing experiences in
her fiction. I have written above that part of her driving force as a nov-
elist was to earn money; but I would suggest that it was important for
her also to explore her disappointments, especially the lack of romance
in her marriage.
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Women Writers 95
Glyn lays bare in her autobiography various snubs from Clayton. How
a friend of his had made a pass at her and had kissed her. She told
Clayton whose reaction: No! Did he? Dear old Bob! and he continued
to tie his tie.
Similarly a few years later in Switzerland, she was again
spurned by Clayton: The setting was ideally romantic, but Clayton
only laughed at my spring fancies [ ... ] I felt much aggrieved at his
want of sympathy, and wrote detailed descriptions of love-scenes with
an imaginary lover in this idyllic setting.
At this time Glyn bought a tiger skin (which caused her to be immor-
talised in rhyme).
She sensually draped herself: caressed its fur, look-
ing, I imagine, much as my caricaturists have portrayed me ever since.
Instead of being impressed with my charms Clayton laughed so heartily
at me I was snubbed.
She claimed that: my romance, I realised, was
over, after only two years of marriage.
Yet her unrequited emotions
acted as a catalyst to write and to fill the demonstrative void in her life.
Ten years later these incidents were re-lived in Three Weeks, her most
famous novel. Glyn mused: Perhaps if I had really had a lover there I
could not have written all my wild imagination pictured in my disap-
pointed soul.
Later, in her autobiography she records a measure of
contentment from these emanations.
Thoughts seemed to flow into my head as though a force from beyond
was putting them there [ ... ] I felt every word that I wrote most
intensely [ ... ] The book meant everything to me; it was the outpour-
ing of my nature, romantic, proud, and passionate, but for ever
repressed in real life by the barriers of custom and tradition, and held
fast behind the iron mask of self-respect and self-control which had,
perhaps fortunately, been locked round my throat by Grandmamma
long years before.
But these were by no means the only episodes appropriated in her
novels. Elizabeth Visits America, His Hour, Letters from Spain, and Loves
Hour fictionalise (respectively) pre-war America, Imperial Russia, Royal
Spain and post-war Hungary. The Damsel and the Sage was generated
from talks with Lord Milner. It is of interest that unrealised emotions
can engender just as strong a driving force, and affect creativity just as
much as those of illness and near death experiences.
Jamesons use of personal experience was more straightforward. It
was her habit to write things down as soon as they happened and in as
much detail as possible. This recording was a crucial tenet of her
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96 Gender, Professions and Discourse
practice as a writer both in her fiction and for her autobiography. She
recalled from a note in the margin of a notebook that:
I began my first attempt to write well that is, with unromantic
plainness. That Was Yesterday was meant to be an account of what
happened to me between going to Kettering in the autumn of 1913
and the setting off to London at the end of 1918 [ ... ] I wrote in the
third person, and omitted or changed the order of events to give it
the form of a work of imagination.
But she was at pains to point out that she did not leave out events:
humiliating to me or try to: soften my own follies, failures, and the
atrocious flaws in my character.
Similar to Glyn, they were an
attempt to lay to rest her own painful memories but, unlike Glyn,
they were not embellished into an escapism or romantic idealism.
For example, in Glyn and Humphreys et al., fact and fiction were
often confused, inflated and conflated; in Jameson they were woven
closely together. To illustrate this it is necessary to undertake a close
reading of a specific episode in None Turn Back (1933) and to look
closely at Jamesons use of the same source material in her autobiog-
raphy (1969). In None Turn Back, Hervey Russells life parallels that of
Jamesons own.
Hervey, the heroine of a number of Jamesons novels, and her alter
ego, suffers through pre-and post-operative episodes that fictionalise
Jamesons own ordeal. In fact sentences and paragraphs, word for word
can be traced from her fiction to her autobiography. For example in her
autobiography Jameson writes: Poor Thrawn girl, come back again.
In the dream I wondered what on earth thrawn meant. I half turned
my head. The hill, the night, the voice, lapsed into vapour.
In None
Turn Back it became: Poor thrawn girl, come back again. In her dream
she wondered what on earth the word thrawn meant. She half turned
towards him.
Moreover, in her autobiography she wrote: I was furi-
ous with my body: it had been as soundly and strongly built as a ship or
a tree, and ought not have succumbed to my neglect. I could not forgive
The fictional working of this was: She felt very angry that her
body, as strong and soundly built as a tree, should have been spoiled by
her long neglect and hard youth. It had rallied so many times to her will
that she could not forgive it for failing her.
Illustrations like this are
countless in her writing. When Jameson had exhausted the usefulness
of her notebooks, full of events in her life, she announced that she
intended to have control and to maintain this control over them: Over
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Women Writers 97
twenty years or so I recorded many thousands of spoken words. I shall
destroy the lot when I have finished this book. (Destroyed on the 26 of
March, 1965.)
The examples from Glyn and Jameson show that they drew heavily
on semi-autobiographical material for their fictional writing. To have
this amplified and acknowledged in their autobiographies can be
both informative and problematic. The conventional wisdom and
methodology surrounding truth in fiction/autobiography is fine, as
far as that aspect goes. Paul Eakin has argued that it is reasonable to
assume that all autobiography has some fiction in it; as it is recog-
nised that all fiction is in some sense necessarily autobiographical.

The embroidering, romanticising and fictionalising of these episodes,
taken from their lives, did not matter. They were creating a novel and
there was possibly a cathartic release. They would not have had any
inkling that they may one day write an autobiography. My point is
that the writing of these fictions often closely followed the events
that were utilised and the autobiography followed after some time-
slippage. This is a point I shall return to in the chapter, Memory and
The most popular and least acclaimed of literary genres was the low-
brow historical romance and romantic fiction. Journalists such as
Andrew Lang enthusiastically promoted romance (historical and con-
temporary) as a serious alternative to domestic realism, and had taken it
seriously down-market.
Indeed, Malcolm Bradbury derided romantic
fiction in his largely misogynist, The Modernist British Novel 18782001:
Women writers produced pieces of well-done tosh [ ... ] Glyns sex on a
tiger skin in the age of imperialism [ ... ] and sentimental tracts.

Humphreys was told that her earlier novels were: not of such special
merit [ ... ] these six books [ ... ] too romantic an idealism for the ordinary
Faced with such disparaging serious critical acclaim, I would
suggest that, many of these women novelists saw autobiography as a
medium in which they could raise their status and achieve critical
For the most part, these autobiographies begin in childhood memo-
ries; expand on family lineage, progress through education and their
journeys into a career in writing. They record their personal struggles
and successes and incidents surrounding friends, family and profes-
sional acquaintances as one would expect. In Humphreys autobiogra-
phy, chapter headings are as the reader would imagine; First Memories,
Youthful Experiences First Results of Popularity and so on. Then, for
some, there is a marked shift. The style becomes an invective, typical of
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98 Gender, Professions and Discourse
an improving article. Without warning, the reader is then regaled with
an essay on moral issues. Humpreys made candid attacks against,
Suffrage and the New Woman who she found: More and more lax [in]
her moral standpoints, less and less evident [in] her feminine charm [ ... ]
girls took to cutting off their hair and cutting up their skirts and smok-
ing cigarettes in the street.
And underneath this proselytising tone
appears the desire for women to remain romantically feminine: But as
I studied the New Woman and her pretensions I foresaw that she would
not be of essential value in the making of our laws [ ... ] she could not
utilise a mans methods of independence without loss of her own femi-
nine values.
Humphreys followed these commentaries with her earlier style of
autobiography as if nothing had taken place to interrupt the flow. There
is no longer the use of I or me. But this attempt at objective, authorita-
tive writing of a higher calibre is compromised by her use of emotive
punctuation and italics for emphasis. Although the reader is presented
with her attempt as a serious-minded philosopher of life capable of
discriminating comment on social and cultural changes, her interroga-
tive rhetoric lacks impartiality and a measured tone.
To her credit, she recorded some belittling remarks about the serious-
ness and intellectual standard of her writing. The fame and success she
had from writing light-weight romances became a disadvantage when
the novel Calvary was published. In this she wanted to tell the tale of
the soul and its journey to the light. Critics commented: We accept
Rita as a writer of pleasant stories, we cannot accept her in any sense
whatever as a teacher of religious dogma!
The critics were hostile to
her work, and she believed their dislike was due to her change of genre:
Is ones work never to progress? Never to speak of anything but
trivialities even when trivialities have ceased to exist as work?
had to accept that her intellectually inconsequential novels stand as
the high-water mark by which she was judged and recognised.
A sense
of embarrassment, discomfort and frustration mark her defensive, short
spirited sentences: A groove for everyone, [sic] and everyone for his
groove [ ... ] and so on, and so on.
More than 20 years after Calvary was
published she again attempted to disseminate dogmas and opinions in
her autobiography, in an endeavour to present work of a more
intellectual genre.
Although Glyns autobiography is similar to Humphreys in its
underlying aim that of a conduit to recognition as a serious writer
she lacks Humphreys unease with the genre that had made her
famous. Glyns autobiography began with her opinions on writing
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Women Writers 99
this history and the first sections concern romance in life as it was
her overriding concern: the dominant interest, in fact the funda-
mental impulse behind every action, has been the desire for
Chapter titles reflect various stages in her life: Out of the
Past, Looking back upon the naughty nineties, and The writing of
Three Weeks. But at chapter 11, similar to Humphreys, there was a
change; the autobiographical writing ceased and a discursive treatise
entitled: An Earnest Discussion of the Theory of Re-incarnation fol-
lows. This change in orientation is accompanied by explicit political
Glyn made pronouncements about the war on everything from
French etiquette, French soldiers, inefficient womens fund-raising, and
stress of war on manners. Another chapter has remarkable discussions
that cover the morals of society, divorce, sex, social opinions and much
more. Her anger was razor sharp and contemptuous when faced with
what she took to be the idle attitude of the French: One should never
judge a nation by the scum which appears upon the top.
It hardly
appears to be the same writer, the blunt and acerbic pitch is disquieting,
even shocking, compared to the tone of her novels. Open any page at
random in Three Weeks and one is assailed by sentimental and romantic
narrative: and she smiled a strange, sweet smile, do you know, I find
you like a rare violin which hitherto has been used by ordinary musi-
cians .
Yet in her autobiography there is an intransigence that belies
her hitherto sentimental romanticism. This expositional writing is sim-
ilar to that of Humphreys in that many paragraphs open with a ques-
tion, followed by the answer: What has become of the proud old French
race? The French of today are an astonishing people. Ungrateful, emo-
tional, dramatic, crafty and self-seeking; polite only for appearances
The abrupt change from autobiography to political and social
commentator changed swiftly back to conventional autobiography. It
appears that once they have, in their opinion, established themselves as
serious writers, they can move on without rancour to the next stage of
their autobiography.
This lack of rancour might be explained by Nietzsches notion of
Both Glyn and Humphreys were steeped in romanticism.
They deployed disappointments and various hurts in their lives as mate-
rial for their novels, thus experiencing the comfort of a natural cathar-
sis. They were forward-looking, well-travelled and prepared to develop
their next novels. To have rancour, they would need to hold on to past
injustices, remember and recast negative events. But their reworking, in
the form of novels, made negative aspects positive. According to
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100 Gender, Professions and Discourse
Nietzsche, to be motivated by rancour and resentment, a person looks
for evil and needs to recriminate and distribute blame. Furthermore,
they want others to be evil in order to consider themselves good.
consummate romantics, such attributes would be impossible. In fact,
from the analysis of Glyns autobiography, it seems that criticisms of her
novels did not rest very high on her agenda. She was a successful and
popular novelist; her works reprinted many times. In her estimation:
given a good deal of happiness to a large number of people in all parts
of the world [ ... ] the million-copy edition of my books which was pub-
lished in 1917 helped to keep up the spirits of lonely wives and
Glyn believed that she faced censure because of her status in soci-
ety which frowned upon a society woman becoming a novelist. This
led, she believed, to an image as a pioneer in feminine causes, which
was in fact untrue: I always opposed the giving of the vote to
The other assault was upon her poor literary style, in par-
ticular her faulty and ungrammatical blunders. Titled people, among
her friends, point to the actual grammar [and] wording [ ... ] her
cursed facility [ ... ] that has robbed me of serious consideration of
literary people.
These defects convinced her that this was the
cause of her being debarred from achieving the literary status she
desired. It did not occur to her that her low-brow romantic plots were
part of the equation.
To pursue this theory of low-brow writers seeking a more polemical
status from their autobiographies, an examination of Storm Jamesons
autobiographical content, high-brow novels and intellectual capital will
provide balance and inclusiveness for this part of the survey. Armed
with a first class Honours degree in English Literature and Language
and a M.A. in modern drama in Europe, she began to write and secured
a position at a publishers. Her first book, the genesis of which was her
M.A. dissertation, was earnestly reviewed:
The dramatic critics took me seriously and very hard. In a majestic
column in The Times, A.B. Walkley spoke of a female Nietzsche: at
even greater length, under the title The Young Person in Print,
Mr St. John Ervine dismembered the book with Ulster savagery; for
good measure he said I ought to be spanked.
At the time she was terribly mortified and astonished but not
sufficiently so to prevent her writing and publishing her first novel,
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Women Writers 101
The Pot Boils. Jameson entered the genre of social and political novels,
which dealt in particular with the encroaching brutalities of fascism,
the General Strike, war and the problems of mens and womens rela-
tionships. She also published many articles and in time became the
first woman president of the International Association of Poets,
Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists (PEN), succeeding from
such distinguished writers as John Galsworthy, H.G. Wells and
J.B. Priestley.
Her public success and literary acclaim came from her serious, high-
brow novels and recognition of her intellectual competency. So for
Jameson there was no need to use her autobiography to disclose and
display her ability to have opinions on public issues; her novels and
articles were witness to this. Instead, Jameson wrote from the: wish to
discover before it is too late what sort of person I have been, without
allowing vanity and cleverness to soften the outline of the creature.

Although she had drawn hugely on her own life experiences for her
novels, her wish was to write with sincerity. Throughout her autobiog-
raphy she displayed a self-consciousness of the effort this required. The
reader is told how she began each day of writing by: tearing up part,
much or little, of the previous days work and rewriting it in the inter-
ests of dryness and accuracy.
Unlike Orczy and Syrett, Jameson did
not shy away from painful episodes. For example, she described what
she considered to be her only passionate affair in her life: What fol-
lows has been torn up and rewritten five times; I must finish with it,
lying as little as possible.
this intrusion into her own narrative dis-
course highlights her concern that readers may forget that this autobi-
ography was not fiction. Similar reminders are provided throughout
the text by the insertion of date references as a self-conscious reminder
to its factual content: I am writing this on the 17 of November,
Jamesons autobiography is candid and unembellished. It is undoubt-
edly about her and not a platform for political or biographical com-
ments. The exacting effort she took makes her style refreshingly
straightforward. To cite an instance, in her upfront manner, Jameson
would write a private thought, quite likely held by many, that would
pass unvoiced. For instance, during her pregnancy she remembered: I
loathed the deformation and heaviness of my body, and envied every
thin young girl I saw, the poorest and the plainest.
In another raw
incident before her divorce from her first husband she clearly recalled:
One icy night in the winter of 1916 I exasperated him into throwing
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102 Gender, Professions and Discourse
me out of the house. I had nothing over my sleeveless cotton overall,
and I crouched against the hedge, shivering, raging helplessly, for two
or three hours.
Such candour had been hitherto unseen in the record-
ing of these times. Divorce is skimmed over and certainly no incidents
of marital brutality have been aired. This bleak period in her life is
fictionalised in That Was Yesterday (1932). But for Jameson her autobiog-
raphy is about her, not a biography of others, not a channel for dogmas
and not an outlet to gain public status.
From this research the need for these writers of fiction to write auto-
biography was not high on their agendas; 95 per cent did not undertake
the task. But the majority of those who did were writers of low-brow
fiction. If we follow this paradigm what becomes clear is the desire for
recognition from the critics, their peers and presumably the public.
They already had a huge following from the public; witnessed by the
number of their novels that were published; for example, Glyn wrote
over 80, Ruck about 150, Mitchison around 80 and so on. However,
although they were prolific, they did not achieve the high status for
their work that had been reached by many women writers in the nine-
teenth century. During that century, writers such as George Eliot, Jane
Austin, the Brontes and others had dominated the literary scene and
had held cultural power. From the 1890s onwards there seems to have
been a concerted effort by male writers such as Henry James, H.G. Wells
and so on to retake the central ground and marginalise womens writ-
ing. With this they had some success, and these romantic writers found
that their creativity was not given credence. It was not valued, and
indeed, was unlikely to be appropriated later as part of the Great
Tradition. This snub to their productions obviously had an effect. The
remedy which some took up was to write autobiographies. The other
side to this model that of the high-brow writer bears witness to the
above, as writers like Jameson, herself prolific, writing some 45 novels
in addition to serious articles and pamphlets, had no need to seek intel-
lectual success in her autobiography. Unlike the low-brow writers, she
had achieved praise and high status in her public career. There was no
need to prove the critics wrong or, more importantly, increase her
In the introduction the inherent difficulty in analysing the work of
professional writers was pointed out. The narrative control could, at
times, be in danger of becoming banal and a series of platitudes. This
style is put to one side when they write about the events which subse-
quently become part of the plot in their novels and again, when they
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Women Writers 103
break from autobiographical recording to that of narrating their stric-
tures on various themes. This narrative becomes dynamic. The change
in syntax and style indicates that much more is attendant here than the
retelling of a particular controversial point. Rhetoric, interrogative
markers, clipped sentences are all suggestive of a writer unused to devel-
oping a sustained discussion. It gives rise to a sensation of constraint
and the struggle to provide a worthy logical discourse. This emotive
style undoubtedly destroys the objective polemical tone needed for
earnest recognition and would certainly negate the serious content
receiving the critical acclaim they desired.
If we remain with the idea of Glyn and Humphreys as representative
of low-brow writers and Jameson as representative of the high-brow, the
question of the connection of the mind and body as a joint creative
force has no noticeable differences in the outcome, in the writing of
these two groups. They were equally subject to the powerful pull of ill-
ness, death and love as stimulating to their work; and did recognise
this. It is the emotional temperature and cultural capital of their dis-
course that separates them. Thus as a body of autobiographical writings
they provide useful ammunition for some aspects of Cixous and her
promotion of, the lcriture fminine position. But it is only in these
autobiographies that it is a useful concept.
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Part Two
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The chapters that follow, unlike the earlier five chapters, are organised
by theme. The first in this section of the book discusses the hitherto
ignored aspect of the frontispiece photograph, and is closely linked
with the chapter that follows, Prefaces, Prologues, Forewords and
Introductions. The study of frontispiece photographs has significant
importance in the formation of womens personal identity and
consciousness. Linda Haverty Rugg wrote that: This [the photograph]
is a subject deserving serious attention, for it is precisely uninterro-
gated presentations of photography and autobiography that can work
toward the most powerful support of ideological assumptions. But, I
decided instead to concentrate on [ ... ] the self in language and
Photography, placed in conjunction with autobiographical texts,
helps us to unpack these identities and the notion of self. In my opin-
ion, the function of the Frontispiece Image raises many questions. What
are we to assume from the first images that the writer wants us, the
reader, to take with us through the book from the beginning? How does
the introduction of photographs into autobiographical texts help or
complicate the autobiographical form? Why did the autobiographers
select that particular image as a portrayal of the self? Do women from
different professions or classes tend to select similar or different images
of themselves? These questions need a full discussion because, as a part
of the autobiographical narrative, these images are allied to notions of
personal identity and consciousness contained in the body of the text.
Therefore we need to look at what makes this meaningful, and see how
conscious and unconscious processes and social mores take on meaning
and exercise an effect.
The Frontispiece Image
in Autobiography
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108 Gender, Professions and Discourse
The photograph is the first representation of the author that the
reader encounters before a word has been read, and is therefore intrinsi-
cally involved in the construction of a character and its biography.
Hodge and Kresss notion is appropriate that, it is not enough to simply
analyse language [ ... ] meaning resides so strongly and pervasively in
other systems [ ... ] in a multiplicity of visual, aural, behavioural and
other codes.
It is through ones looks that we become superficially
known and it is this symbiotic relationship between character and
appearance which informs our preconceptions. But whilst photographs
are powerful, they do not speak for themselves and as Susan Sontag
suggested, they are invitations to deduction.
Often these frontispiece
images have either no text and date or no caption to provide the func-
tion of anchorage and relay as demonstrated by Barthes.
It seems to
me that these images invite an array of interpretations. It is crucial not
to argue that the portraits perform a means of straightforward disclo-
sure. I would suggest that these images function as a form of conceal-
ment, a cloak or obfuscation and present the reader with a puzzle to
Before analysis of specific visual texts, a brief historical background
to photography and explanatory details of visual concepts that will
be drawn upon is needed. Since the first photograph in 1826, the
popularity of photographic portraits swiftly grew for mid-Victorians,
and by the 1850s there were fears that the endless reproduction of the
individuals image would impinge his uniqueness.
For some people,
photography was accepted as a trade and, as such, it reinforced formal
divisions between art and manufacture, and created new ones.
1890 photographic societies were forming, and the medium became
increasingly popular. Following the trend in this period of market
and industrial growth, the demand for photographs necessi-
tated further mechanisation and simplification for individual, non-
professional use.
Photographs began to be taken for many reasons; as a response to a
public/private occasion, to copy and conform to fashion, to please artis-
tic taste. As with existing art forms, distinct conventions developed.
These drew from the distinctive codes and protocol for portraiture
which had existed over centuries. Stock poses and backgrounds con-
formed to predictable expectation. For example, Richard Brilliant wrote
of the sanitising of facial expression, and the imposition of conformist
attitudes [ ... ] [which] allows the successful portraitist to encase his sub-
jects within the masks of convention.
It is due to these Victorian con-
ventions that we see a number of formulaic expressions and it is this
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The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 109
that formed part of the photographs repertoire. As Patricia Holland
commented: Experimentation or innovation are not welcome, and
intrusive artistic elements, or a naturalism that attempts to get
behind the mask would not keep faith with the client.
It is this aspect
of the diluting of the expression, for reasons of propriety, which can be
productive for this discussion. But people realised that unlike the
portrait painting, which was to produce an ideal of the sitter, the
photograph was more modest in scope.
Photographys use within the growing new institutions evolved
and allowed those who wanted to observe and keep records to oper-
ate this form as a documentary archive. With the invention of the
process which used half-tone plates, limitless reproduction of photo-
graphs became possible. The police, hospitals, and prisons could all
find uses for this new invention.
This opened the gates for use in
advertising, books and newspapers, and from 1880 these publica-
tions abound with photographs. These visual texts were coined
Documentary by the film critic John Grierson in 1926. In fact
documentary came to have a far wider discursive use than that of
photography and set up the rhetoric that the camera would provide
truth, facts and immediacy; a boon for advertising, journalism,
scientific, and legal evidence.
The individuals desire to be photo-
graphed expanded the value of the photograph as observation, as
evidence and as a truth.
The procedures for extracting and evaluating truth and actuality in
discourse were believed to exist in photography and the emergence of
this evidential force gave these documents the power of neutrality.
do not think photographs, even in this period, can be interpreted as
neutral and so I would agree with Jack Horley that: a good documen-
tary photograph is never neutral. It has a point of view.
Horley believed
that the notion of operating a camera to interpret man and his environ-
ment had dangers. In particular that it could develop into a plea for
pity, a committed search for relevance a sermon not a photograph.

If this is the case, to appropriate the notion that images can have
fictionality, and apply this to domestic and professional portraits, is
By 1914 it was clear that even the most direct and sincere
photograph could be tailored to any point of view, and could be dis-
torted to suit any political camp or party. This being the case for doc-
uments, newspapers and legal disclosures, why not use it for the
inventing/reinventing of an individual? It is necessary to look closer
and specifically at the contexts of photographs as autobiographical
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110 Gender, Professions and Discourse
endorsement. This being the case, what becomes of paramount
significance is the selection of the photography which is to represent
the author on the frontispiece. The capacity of these photographic
images to persuade, cajole and manipulate the reader should not be
Initially, the discussion will engage with the suggestive and produc-
tive ideas of Barthes and later in the chapter the ideas of Susan Sontag
will be selectively and critically deployed. In order to develop his theory
Barthes appropriated the Latin terms, Studium and Punctum; terms
which need defining to make my argument clear. The Studium is a
culturally informed reading of the image, one that interprets the signs
of the photograph. He used this to define what is stimulated by many
photographs of a similar topic that gives an: average affect, [ ... ] a kind of
human interest [ ... ] a general enthusiastic commitment, of course, but
without special acuity.
It is what an observer would take in if
polite interest: they have no punctum in them: they please or displease
me without pricking me: they are invested with no more than
studium. The studium is that very wide field of unconcerned desire,
of various interest, of inconsequential taste: [ ... ] it is the same sort of
vague, slippery, irresponsible interest one takes in the people one
finds all right.
For Barthes the second level and more consequential aspect of the
photograph is its punctum, the element that:
shoots out like an arrow, and pierces me [ ... ] this prick, this mark
made by a pointed instrument [ ... ] refers to the notion of punctuation,
and [the photographs] are in effect punctuated, sometimes even
speckled with these sensitive points; [ ... ] This second element which
will disturb the studium [ ... ] also: sting, speck, cut, [ ... ] A photo-
graphs punctum is that accident which pricks me [ ... ] is poignant
to me.
For the purpose of this discussion, it is the punctum within these
frontispiece photographs of women autobiographers that is of prime
importance. This is because the punctum is unintentional and is not
generalised: the studium is ultimately always coded, the punctum
is not.
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The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 111
Of the autobiographies in this research, it appears that 25 per cent
had frontispiece photographs. I say appears because several volumes
show signs that they have been filleted, and with other copies I
cannot be certain if different editions exist which contain photo-
graphs. From this cache, by far the most popular form is that of a head
and shoulders to three-quarters image, professional portrait of the
writer, often in the year of writing. Some 75 per cent of autobiogra-
phers opted for this, and it is this that I shall concentrate upon in my
chapter. The remainder were equally divided between a portrait of the
author as a child, and an amateur photograph already in the autobiog-
raphers possession.
The first study is of an author who uses for her frontispiece photo-
graph one taken as a child, Katharine West (Figure 7.1), who was a
Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD) and writer. The image presents
what Barthes would have denoted as an average affect [sic].
It is a
studio photograph.
She is posed to portray purity and innocence.
She wore the fashion of the early nineteenth century which tended to
a layered look, tiered with collars, lace and frills. But there is con-
scious artifice to the arrangement of this scene. The narrative props
were obviously provided by the studio, and from the young subjects
gaze and demeanour, hold no attraction for her. For the young West
the interest lay outside of the frame and to the left of the photog-
rapher, but does not encourage a smile. This photographers study
mimics the conventions of portrait painting of earlier centuries in
that; the photograph is a generic idealisation of young girls, not a
personal portrait.
Wests untitled image is one of novice-like ingnue; she is doll-like,
her helmet of fair hair is modestly, lightly covered with a lace, loose fit-
ting bonnet. The pursed, rose-bud mouth and demur mien transmit
stillness. The eyes gaze towards the camera almost free of emotion,
though tinged with sadness and no hint of amusement. The background
is replete with historical and deeply mixed messages. West wears a sev-
enteenth century, Puritan-style dress, and stands at an Indian marque-
try table. The light is directed fully at her long dress; this gives her face
a gentler focus which completes the celestial glow. On the one hand,
the impression is of the subjects demure appearance; and yet on the
other hand, it reminds the reader of the romanticism in a Gainsborough
or van de Neer painting. West has a navet that is controlled and
As a child she did not have authorship of this image, it is a manipula-
tion by her parents and by the photographer. The pose must have
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112 Gender, Professions and Discourse
Figure 7.1 Katharine West
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The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 113
imbued her parents fantasies about their offspring, but it also bears
the hallmarks of the dominant conventions used in professional stu-
dios to distract the viewer. Portrait conventions popular with earlier
Victorians are mimicked; the photographs deliberately conceal the
real child. Rather than the anchorage closing down a search for visual
clues, this image acts as a cloaking mechanism. This stimulates the
need for examination because there is a great deal of social fantasy
going on.
West contested the representation foisted upon her. She made it plain
that there was a difference between what she had to wear and what she
herself would have chosen. In the opening pages of her book she
described the photograph and commented:
First her fine hair is fig fluffed out around her neck, her straight
fringe combed over her forehead. Then her pinafore is taken off to
reveal a white nuns veiling dress. For where her elders see a delicate
little girl with skim-milk skin and speedwell eyes, she knows herself
to be a rumbustious tomboy keen to exercise untrammelled limbs,
and impatient.
West was aware of the mismatch between her photographic appearance
and the essence of her personality. Her text takes issue with conven-
tional upbringing and the anchorage between self and image is shattered.
For example, she recalled:
My pictures of that summer are overlaid with a yellow, bilious varnish
of irrational depression. The largest of these pictures is (as usual) of
myself, sitting this time at an upright piano in some dingy, fly-blown
morning room of the hotel. In front of me on the music rack is a
German book called DAMM. Beside me sits my music mistress [ ... ]
but my prevailing memory is of an intangible atmosphere, a pervad-
ing sense of everything being a little twisted, rather horrid, and very
far from usual.
We are not told what was twisted and far from usual, but it appears
obvious that her parents wanted to re-write the family life through
photographic fictions. But these are not included in her autobiography;
there are no other photographs in her book. She wrote: My behaviour
sadly disappointed both my parents. It became for myself one of those
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114 Gender, Professions and Discourse
shameful memories and I have all too many of them which seize
you by the scruff of the neck as you lie awake at night, and shake you
West recognised the lies that were formulated by this visual
memory, and yet she invites the reader to view her as this romantic
nave apparition. In fact this iconoclasm appears to be important to
her throughout her autobiography. She was keen to strip away the care-
fully constructed representation that her parents wanted to remain for
posterity. We cannot know Wests motives, but such contradictory
textsu (visual and narrative), in her book are puzzling. From her auto-
biography I would conjecture that West is demonstrating that a life
cannot be reconstructed by the will of others in visual images alone,
and that the ultimate control of how her life was to be depicted lay
with her written word.
It is clear that this photographic image is a fabrication. It was the
image that the parents wanted to be projected of their angel for all
time. The photograph actively promotes nostalgia and incites reverie.
As Susan Sontag noted: all such talismanic uses of photographs express
a feeling both sentimental and implicitly magical: they are attempts
to contact or lay claim to another reality.
Whilst the relationship
with her parents may have been complicated, West took control of
this parental, photographic authorship and interpretation in her deci-
sion to use this image. West used her frontispiece photographic image
against the grain. Instead of it being for the reader the likeness of the
child she once was, the reader is informed that it was in fact a false
representation. The distorted and falsifying aspect in this photo-
graphic arrangement sets up a fiction or puzzle that needed to be
The question and establishment of the notion of masking in photo-
graphs of autobiographers as young children, raises a similar question
as to whether the masking trait is apparent in frontispiece photographs
that depict the autobiographers as adult. This scrutiny is divided into
two parts, each of which focuses upon a different facet of these por-
traits. The first examines the use of a snapshot from a private album
and the second, and by far most popular with these autobiographers,
examines the studio photograph.
Actress and writer Nancy Price (Figure 7.2) is of particular interest
because she employed both amateur snapshot and studio portraiture in
pivotal roles.
She used a non-studio photograph for the frontispiece
and one taken in a studio for the back dust-jacket. Price was a distin-
guished actress and part of Sir Frank Bensons Company; a benefactress
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The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 115
Figure 7.2 Nancy Price
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116 Gender, Professions and Discourse
to the theatre when she sold her yacht and all her possessions to help its
survival; and a patriot, when she spent a gruelling ten months at sea in
the First World War . These alone attest to her role as a commanding
and committed public woman. But throughout her autobiography she
referred to herself as a countrywoman: I find myself ever more at ease
with country-folk than city-dwellers, with the vagabond rather than
the sophisticated.
Her text is peppered with anecdotal tales of coun-
try people and her many pets and animals. There is a generous selection
of photographs throughout, the majority of which are of animals, with
their owners, in country settings.
Equally, we are told of her career, political and social milieu. She
was held in affection and esteem by Princess Louise, Queen Mary,
Ladies Oxford and Asquith and the Duchess of Hamilton, to name
but a few. Of the literary greats almost too numerous to list, she
recalled: That men have both accepted my companionship and also
given me theirs has been a source of rich experience to me.
companions included Yeats, G.K. Chesterton, Kipling, de la Mare,
Sitwell and Sackville -West. She was herself the writer of more than a
dozen novels. At the political front she was the acquaintance of and
dined with, Chamberlain, Lloyd George, Baldwin, Macdonald, Attlee,
and Winston Churchill. She had lived in Hampstead, Russell Square,
Bloomsbury and Kensington, and at the time of writing, owned a cot-
tage in Sussex and a flat in London. Her autobiography shows the two
very distinct spheres of her life; the private countrywoman and the
very public actress, who was author and friend to the rich and
The point here is that Nancy Price was much more than the country-
woman image that she chose to exhibit on both the dust-jacket and in
her frontispiece photograph. The frontispiece photograph appears to
have been selected from her album and bears the legend, Boneys
Service Love Nancy. Boney, a parrot is perched with flapping wings
upon a tennis racket held by Nancy. She is in profile, laughing, eyes
twinkling with obvious enjoyment and totally absorbed in the game
between the two of them. The parrots wings, either flexed ready for
flight, or pointing skywards as he settles down, suggest lightness and
exhilaration, a stretch for freedom. The energy and movement evoked
by the parrots wings truly capture the slice of a moment-in-time.
Barthes has argued: that this insertion of the natural and universal
in the photograph is particularly forceful because of the photographs
privileged status as a guaranteed witness of the actuality of the events it
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The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 117
The naturalness of the mise en scne ascribes more truth to the image.
Prices status here is predicated on the realism of the codes which
articulate the essence of her subject, and it is this latent power that
ascribes meaning to the reader. With this visual text there is a full con-
sonance between image and written text. The area of difficulty lies in
its relationship between the text and the image (Figure 7.3) on the dust
jacket. The back cover photograph on Prices book is obviously a studio-
posed image required by the publishers. Price, seated with her three
dogs, appears perfectly groomed.
She gazes directly at the camera lens with a merest hint of a smile. Her
simple dark jacket, skirt and checked cravat are subdued and suggest coun-
try comfort rather than a fashionable town suit. The deliberate position-
ing of the dogs, although asymmetrical, does create balance to the image.
But coupled with the lack of narrative background and the stiffness in this
photograph, the deliberately arranged poses appear contrived.
We know that the function of this dust-jacket studio picture is to be a
visual message, aimed to sum up a character, along with the blurb, to
give a pre-taster to the prospective reader of how to appreciate and
understand this writer. But I do not believe that these stylised images,
do in fact lead to a true representation of the writer. They are cold and
sterile and produce what Barthes described as an average affect. What
the reader sees is a codified version constructed by a professional eye. It
is brash, clear and uncompromisingly bland. It tells the reader little
and, with a cursory glance, does not invite speculation. This studio
photograph is squarely set in the sphere of advertising. The hollow
effigy is a glamorised, theatrical representation of a marketing ideal of
a countrywoman. Some frontispiece photographs deceive in a more
subtle manner. However the question remains; are all studio photo-
graphs so obvious in their portrayal of myths? Do such photographs
automatically foreclose speculation? And do some signifiers escape and
cause a punctum and conjecture? It is possible to argue that this studio
photograph attempts to co-operate Price into a discourse about repro-
duction and family life. The puppy is the same breed as the parent
dogs. Thus this image allays any anxieties the reader may have about
the sexual orientation of the writer.
But how do studio photographs operate for women in public offi-
cial roles? For this, photographs of headmistresses, Frances R. Gray,
first High School Mistress of St. Pauls Girls School (Figure 7.4) and
Lilian M. Faithfull, formerly Principal of the Ladies College
Cheltenham (Figure 7.5) will be used.
Both women had had highly
successful careers as headmistresses. Gray was also a J.P. and awarded
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118 Gender, Professions and Discourse
Figure 7.3 Nancy Price dust cover
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The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 119
Figure 7.4 Frances R. Gray
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120 Gender, Professions and Discourse
Figure 7.5 Lilian M. Faithfull
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The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 121
an O.B.E. Faithfull, also a J.P. was a Fellow of the Kings College
There is a strong narrative content in Grays clothing which is refer-
enced by the broad social context of wearing a university gown. The
background is out of focus with only a blurred outline of a high, stone-
carved mantelpiece. One of the few props is an imposing chair similar
to that in a courtroom and used by a magistrate. It has a shoulder height
back, leather padded seat and back-rest with wooden arms on which
Gray rests her arms. There is a formality and seriousness displayed
which conforms to societys expectations in its parodying of the con-
ventions of masculine portraiture of statesmen, generals and aristocrats.
Gray is seated and turned three-quarters to face the camera. The steady
gaze is directed uncompromisingly towards the viewer. Her features, of
full, pleasantly shaped eyebrows, wire-trimmed glasses, nose and mouth
in proportion and mouth bow-shaped, slightly upturned present an
enigmatic and controlled self-awareness.
The image is lit to the left of the photograph to create a glow to her
face, accents the white of her blouse and adds emphasis to the white-
ness of her hand which holds her mortar board. The left hand is in her
lap, the palm open and faced upwards in a manner that suggests vul-
nerability and openness. They are small, fine and white; the hands of
a sensitive woman. Gray leans slightly towards the camera, taking
control of the frame. This is a woman who is comfortable with herself,
her achievements and at ease with the power she wields. It is as if the
assemblage of a dignified appearance is necessary to legitimate her
place in the public arena. Again this composition is what Barthes
would define as, an average affect, almost from a certain training [ ... ]
a kind of general enthusiastic commitment [ ... ] but without special
This photograph has a studium which presents a summing-up
of a life common to people who occupy exemplary positions in the
public eye.
Headmistress Lilian M. Faithfulls photograph (Figure 7.5) has many
similarities to Grays. There is the three-quarter pose with the lighting
to the left of the camera. It illuminates her forehead and whitens part
of her hair, drawing the eye to the forehead, accentuating the serious
mind. The gaze directed at the camera in a similar steadfast manner to
that of Gray. Then the comparisons diverge in a subtle way. There is
no background or props to signal this persons status. The dress she
wears is completely plain and is barely identifiable. It blends into the
dark background and dissolves totally into nothingness at the bottom
of the frame. Faithfulls left hand is raised to the chin in a classic,
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122 Gender, Professions and Discourse
contemplative pose. Her only adornment is a ring on her middle
finger, which is centrally placed within the frame. The exposed fore-
arm and wrist are slightly thick which suggests capability. In a similar
fashion to that of Grays, her hair is long, taken-back in a bun, not
entirely grey.
There is a short, tightly curled fringe, divided symmetrically from the
centre of her hairline to either side of her head. It is symmetrically
arranged and underscores a nature that is controlled, ordered and
trained. Her expression restricts most of the potential to read, and
gives rise to an impassive face, captured in the instant of posing. There
are no narrative signifiers to identify her social status. To all intents and
purpose an average affect has been imposed. What is the viewer/reader
to make of portraits with so few cultural signifiers? We need to ask
ourselves, Why so much concealment?
However concealment is not the entire case. It is important to recog-
nise that for both of these stock poses, the sanitising studio production
did not cloak everything. There is a punctum or sensitive intent present
in the photographs. Here, it is Grays expression of her inner self. In her
photograph, the mortar board, gown, dark jacket and skirt, and the
chair, play homage to the masculine oeuvre of respectability and pro-
vide the anchorage. But the latent competence is emitted firstly by the
feminine blouse. This is not a sober, masculine shirt and collar. From
neck to waist there is a white, narrow lace ruffle, topped by a rounded
neck edge that is gently rolled. From the drape of the neckline this is
probably silk, soft and sensuous.
Moreover, the hair which at first glance appears to be stereotypical of
a Victorian/Edwardian Headmistress was taken up in a bun. The style
demanded a tightly coiled finish at a time when womens lives were
constrained. Grays style bears fealty to that fashion but, and an impor-
tant but, hers is softer with a suggestion of allowed disorder. There is a
slight wispiness in the natural silver-coloured wave which is allowed to
express a soft ripple across the hairline. This marginally untrammelled
style suggests approachability.
According to T.J. Clark, there need only
be a merely suggestive sign of allowed disorder; which is convention-
ally seen as a sign of womans sexuality.
In both male and female formal portraits the wearing of a hat, cap,
and so on, would be considered essential to complete the ceremonious-
ness of the image. Gray rebuffed this convention and chose to hold her
mortar board and reveal her hair. Wendy Cooper stated that all women
are aware of the effect of their hair and in this simple act of eschewing
convention Gray appears to be no exception.
The pose with all its
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The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 123
signs of conventionality to reveal, in fact, deliberately cloaks the con-
cealed woman and promotes orthodox standards. The popular mythol-
ogies, as enacted by the photographer, serve to protect and promulgate
protocol; but the incomplete uniform, as a small act of defiance,
thwarts the code of false openness to emit a snatch of a candid and
unfeigned image. There is a lack of congruence between the structure of
feeling of the written text and that of the visual text. It is this feeling
in her text that I believe has escaped to disturb the intended cloaking
Faithfulls photograph was taken when she had retired. This may in
part answer why she chose not to wear her gown. It does not answer
why there are no cultural references in the background and no visual
clues to limit conjecture and provide anchorage. The composition privi-
leges the subject and avoids loose signifiers which would be open to
interpretation. But I would suggest that other codes have prevented this.
Faithfulls display as a content and contemplative older woman, with
no attachment to cultural codes of representation, is once again not
what it purports to be. Her life was defined as a headmistress. She lived
at the school and the college for many years and it was only later that
she bought a cottage a short distance from the grounds. Her social life
was with people connected with education, and marriage, if under-
taken, would have ended her career. For Faithfull, retirement was prob-
lematic. She wrote: to become a woman of no importance! Already
there is a subtle change in the attitude of friends and acquaintances, or
does one imagine it? a suggestion that one is a back number, or a
rather faded likeness of oneself.
Interestingly, the blank background of this composition, rather
than providing closure to speculation, instead connotes in Faithfulls
life: the silence all around one is very strange and oppressive and
rather ominous for the future.
Faithfulls self-image changed from
one of a powerful and professional woman to that of, in her terms, a
nonentity. In this scene, the punctum is produced by the lack of signi-
fiers to guide and inform. She is stripped of status both pictorially
and in life. The exception to this is the studio lighting privileging her
forehead suggesting a subtle, luminescence and offers hope, Here lies
salvation [ ... ] it will sting one into indignant refutation. Something
must be found to be done [ ... ] One cannot sit meekly for the rest of
ones life.
But a resolution and understanding of this portrait can
only be perceived when combined with the last chapter of her autobi-
ography. Therefore this photographs position at the frontispiece
causes obfuscation. The tranquil image becomes one that is closed
9780230_219922_08_cha07.indd 123 8/21/2008 2:45:48 PM
124 Gender, Professions and Discourse
and bleak. She has reached a turning point. The photographic back-
ground shows her without clues to her past or her expectations for
the future. The desire to present a secure contemplative woman has
an unconscious hidden agenda, that of a dissolved past without a
concrete future. Here there is evasion and obfuscation. In the linking
of the photograph to the text latent codes fuse which essentially
unmask and become authoritative.
It therefore appears that studio portraits, more than personal snaps,
can complicate the efforts of the viewer to read the image. These pro-
fessional frames aim to represent the manner in which their subjects
would appear to view life. But there is a further level of complexity
when the frontispiece photograph is one of a painted portrait. Richard
Brilliant wrote that portrait artists avoided strong expressions of feeling
because traditionally they are thought to reflect transitory states of
being and are therefore an obstacle [ ... ] to capture[ing] the essential
self, existing beneath the flux of emotions.
Writer Elinor Glyn (Figure 7.6) used for her Frontispiece Image a por-
trait by Philip de Laszlo. Glyns full-face likeness projects a level gaze,
but is winsome and fey. The frame is designed to focus the viewer on
this face. Of course, this is a photographic reproduction of a painting,
probably a charcoal drawing. But we do not need to apply different
analytical methods to it because the use of this particular image is an
act of choice, similar to the selection of a photograph.
There are no narrative background distractions and only a large-
pearled necklace and earrings to offer social status. The one bared
shoulder is seductive, and entices the viewers eyes to the pale slim neck
and red lips. The long fiery-red hair has a reasonable amount of styling,
but is not too organised with its suggestion of soft femininity. The silk-
organza shawl is seductively draped over her hair. Both ends seem to
emanate from the same side, baring the shoulder evocative of discarded
propriety. The muted iridescence of the gowns colour created Glyn as
an ephemeral winged creature. She appears as a fantasy apparition;
romantic and inaccessible. This is an image which would be in keeping
with the expectations of readers of low-brow romantic novels. But, as
her autobiography attests, Glyn was a prolific, hardworking writer.
Aristocratic by birth, she became the family breadwinner and churned
out some 80 volumes to pay her debts. For Glyn to select this representa-
tion of herself for her frontispiece conceals much of her character. It is
candid in its aim of signifying a public image of a writer of romance and
candid in recognising what Glyn considered herself to be; a true roman-
tic. In this it is shrewd marketing. But Glyns autobiography does not
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The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 125
Figure 7.6 Elinor Glyn portrait by Philip de Laszlo
9780230_219922_08_cha07.indd 125 8/21/2008 2:45:48 PM
126 Gender, Professions and Discourse
define her life as a romance. Indeed she frequently found herself
unrequited in sterile situations.
To be successful, an early photographer needed to adhere closely to
portrait painting conventions. From what I have shown above, this is
relevant for women autobiographers. As Patricia Holland wrote:
Photographers are commissioned because they conform, and any intru-
sive artistic elements [ ... ] that attempt to get behind the mask would
not keep faith with the client.
These stock poses and backgrounds pro-
duce the desired average affect of a studium style photograph and are, I
believe, beneficial as a cloaking mechanism. In their predictability they
reduce the incisive and interrogative gaze at the sitter. With the compli-
ance of the sitter, the professional photographer can forge a photographic
image through judicious and artful manipulation. The writer maintains
some authorship of his/her image. But the photographers intervention
into the creation of this conceit highlights the fact that the portrait is the
work of two people, and the autobiography, by definition, the product of
an individual. The effect of this intrusion is clearly displayed in Nancy
Prices image on the dust-jacket of her autobiography. The authorial role
played by the photographer in the process of composition, pose, framing,
editing, and other means of control changed the power of Price in the
subtle ways already discussed. The reader is made aware of the differences
in the two projected images. As Barthes noted: In front of the lens, I am
at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I
am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of
in his art.
Studio photographs may distort aspects as in Prices dust-
jacket photograph; or self-glorify, as in Glyns oil painting, which has
exotic and narcissistic elements.
From selection and arrangement there emerges a tone which is
personally and socially revealing. This will be more evident with an
amateur photograph, which will often be taken at a time when the sitter
was happiest, and will radiate vitality because an actual situation has
life and a fascination. It is the subjectivity of a natural image that
encapsulates the individual. But for both studio and amateur photo-
graphs, the punctum is an unknown and unreliable element. Gillian
Rose reminds us: many writers argue that an image may have its own
effects which exceed the constraints of production (and reception).

Fragments from these studies can punctuate the image for the viewer in
a personal manner.
In all the studio photographs of the autobiographers as adult, there is
an absence of surrounding narrative background, contrary to Romantic
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The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 127
portraits of the first half of the nineteenth century. This lack can be
seen as an attempt to prevent loose signifiers, and would suggest that
the meaning of the photograph can be arrived at without this visual
aid. There is a preconceived agenda, no spontaneity and no intended
element of chance. When a background is introduced, as in the photo-
graph of a young girl, there is an element which makes the deliberately
arranged pose in the studio appear disruptively contrived and invite
examination. If a background is present in the adult poses, it is indis-
tinct as can be observed in Grays portrait.
These absences focus attention onto the sitter. These portraits con-
formed to the formality of a portrait-making situation and appear also
to conform to the expected demeanour of the genre. There is gloss, for-
mal stillness and a heightened sense of composure. What I find impor-
tant in the art of concealment is a distanced, unaffected expression,
and a lack of emotion. In the main, the sitters pose exhibits a three-
quarters image, their gaze is not at the viewer so eye contact is avoided,
which draws a veil across the soul. As Sontag noted: In the normal
rhetoric of the photographic portrait, facing the camera signifies solem-
nity, frankness, the disclosure of the subjects essence. [ ... ] For politi-
cians the three-quarter gaze is more common: a gaze that soars rather
than confronts.
This is the look of most of these professional women. The exception
to this occurs in those portraits of actresses. We see this in both Price
and Vanburgh and interestingly in Glyns painted portrait. For the
actresses I would suggest that this is due to their being used to all man-
ner of poses. But for others, such as Glyn, Sontags observation that,
facing the camera signifies solemnity, frankness, the disclosure of the
subjects essence has more validity.
In the chapter, Women Writers I
showed how low-brow writers like Glyn were often at pains to exhibit a
seriousness not shown in their work.
The clothes remain an explicit part of the narrative because as I
observed, the dress of headmistresses Gray and Faithfull presented a
dignified appearance which was essential to their participation in the
public domain. Of course, an analysis of the costume narrative has
been an important part of film analysis.
But it is important to extend
such analyses to the photograph. As John Tagg rightly noted: Power
then, is what is centrally at issue here: the forms and relations of power
which are bought to bear on practices of representation or constitute
their conditions of existence.
This dignified yet feminine approach is
also exhibited in the photographs of women doctors. These professional
9780230_219922_08_cha07.indd 127 8/21/2008 2:45:50 PM
128 Gender, Professions and Discourse
women needed to emulate masculine seriousness, but also desired to
show their feminine side. As Joan Riviere noted:
women who wish for masculinity may put on a mask of womanli-
ness to avert anxiety and the retribution feared by men. [ ... ] Not
long ago intellectual pursuits for women were associated almost
exclusively with an overtly masculine type of woman, who in pro-
nounced cases made no secret of her wish or claim to be a man. This
has now changed.
These studio photographs conform to the de rigueur of both portrai-
ture and masculine formal pose. Social roles, however enacted, are like
masks or disguises, carefully assumed by these women in order to
locate themselves in a society conditioned to recognise and identify
these forms of representation. Tagg claimed: The portrait is therefore
a sign whose purpose is both the description of an individual and the
inscription of social identity. But at the same time, it is also a com-
modity, a luxury, an adornment of ownership of which itself confers
As such, as Barthes recorded, myths in photographs aim at reconcili-
ation with society.
These women were buying into the hegemony of
the myth of a professional image.
This visual biographic information has important consequences for
how we read a character and events within a life. According to Rugg:
Photographs and autobiographies work well together as signs to tell us
something about the selfs desire for self-determination.
The enfold-
ing of text and image leads to a more conclusive and encompassing
interpretation of the autobiographers life, and in some instances a new
and different perspective maybe emphasised. These autobiographical
images, upon close examination, can necessitate a re-thinking of their
It is for these reasons that I believe these frontispiece photographs
can obscure, deflect or act as a cloaking mechanism. The reader
begins the autobiography with a visual signifier of the autobiogra-
pher. This sets up certain expectations which often are not realised
in the manner expected. This revelation causes what Barthes
described as photographic shock .
This surprise may not only be
for the viewer/reader but also for the sitter. As Barthes pointed out:
photographic shock [ ... ] consists less in traumatizing than in
revealing what was so well hidden that the actor himself was una-
ware or unconscious of it.
Autobiography is rarely intentionally
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The Frontispiece Image in Autobiography 129
fictionalised; it is usually a fault of memory. But with chosen
photographs the writers intent is to present the image of how they
would like to be seen; an exaggerated image based on a truth.
Therefore I submit that these photographs are often evasions rather
than display and identification.
9780230_219922_08_cha07.indd 129 8/21/2008 2:45:50 PM
Set alongside the frontispiece photograph, these introductory sections
are the first contact the reader has with the writer and I believe instigate
similar questions. For example, what expectations is the reader given in
these antecedent chapters? Do these preliminary guides all perform in
a similar manner? Do women from different professions tend to include
similar or different topics? Does the use of a prefatory work help or
complicate the autobiographical form? Given the position of these
chapters as part of the marginalia, we need to ask whether a similar eva-
sion is undertaken by these texts. Finally, with these questions in mind,
it will be of interest to establish if the writing at the margins of their
work is representative of that in the main body of the text. Within the
cohort of autobiographies examined for this book, 80 per cent of profes-
sional writers and doctors, 60 per cent of nurses, and 50 per cent of
artists and headmistresses produced prefatory chapters. The most popu-
lar designation was preface (50 per cent), followed by introduction
(26 per cent), and foreword closely followed by prologue (14 and 10 per
cent respectively).
From the outset, any coinage for these precursory texts raises issues of
All these prefatory titles in some form are perceived as
introductory remarks at the beginning of a book, as an explanatory sec-
tion, or as a treatise on the subject. In fact these prefatory chapters use
the summarising function least of all. To varying degrees, the main
areas highlighted by these autobiographers are: the encouragement by
friends to write, self-deprecatory remarks, use of linguistic devices such
as metaphor, and concerns about memory which entails problems of
verisimilitude. Moreover, although these preliminaries come before the
main body of the work, it is highly unlikely to be the first section to be
Prefaces, Prologues, Forewords
and Introductions
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Prefaces, Prologues, Forewords and Introductions 131
These women were not only among the forerunners in their chosen
professions, they were among the forerunners of professional women
who chose to write about their experiences. There were few antecedents
for them to follow. The readily available models would be from male
autobiographies. Because of this I briefly examined examples of male
texts, as similar prefatory texts may have had some influence on the form
and content for these women. Fifteen male autobiographies were
selected from professions comparable to those of the women autobi-

What is very noticeable is that all of these male autobiogra-
phers, in some form or other, display self-confidence.
For example, if friends and colleagues are mentioned it is in the
manner of a formal acknowledgement. Painter John Lavey extended:
grateful thanks to Katharine Fitzgerald and John Stewart Collis for
helping me to put my stray memories together.
Headmaster Guy
Kendall wrote both a preface and an introduction. In the preface he
recorded that he was encouraged to write by the success of his two books
on education. But in the introduction that followed, he noted the dis-
couragement of friends who stated that: I dont think you will find a
large public for a book of that kind.
Yet he had the confidence to go
ahead. If there are any self-deprecatory remarks, they are tinged with
humour and would cause the reader to query any implied humility.
Adrian Brunel, a film editor, noted his: unspectacular part in a spec-
tacular background [ ... ] and I apologise if I appear to have recap-
tured that feeling of importance.
Such confidence in the legitimacy
of writing about their lives is epitomised in the forthright address by
schoolmaster Frank Fletcher. He encapsulates the style of many male
This book is neither an autobiography nor a treatise on the theory of
education. It is a volume of reminiscences, personal and educational,
set in an autobiographical framework. I proclaim no dogmas and
denounce no heresies: such principles as I suggest are those I have
worked myself [ ... ] The result is an incomplete but not, I hope,
untruthful picture.
Finally, in a similar vein, Lord Riddell was even more succinct and
This begins in October 1908 and ends in July 1914, thus covering,
more or less, the six years before the war [ ... ] Some of the entries may
perhaps be regarded as of historical importance. As before I have
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132 Gender, Professions and Discourse
thought it necessary to make certain omissions. The profits will go to
the Newspaper Press Fund.
However, although this accomplished self-possession does not appear to
be the province of female autobiographers, there is evidence that some
did attempt to emulate this style.
Nearly half of the autobiographies by women doctors and headmis-
tresses used the introductory section as a preliminary treatise of the
scope and subject that was to follow, compared with 10 to 15 per cent
of novelists, nurses and artists. This summarising device produced
preliminary sections that are the longest of all the prefatory chapters
and cover three to five pages. Lilian M. Faithfull laid bare the difficul-
ties of running a large girls college, how successful she was and her
methods of achieving this eminence. Nothing external to the college
is mentioned here. There are no concerns or opinions about difficulty
of remembering, difficulty in writing, help from friends, or questions
of veracity. In fact in their delivery and content many headmistresses
follow the male paradigm described above (headmaster Frank
Fletcher). For example, Faithfull recorded: I give the result of per-
sonal observations and reflections on the happenings of a working
life some record of its humours, its problems, its joys and anxieties.
The pressure of professional life leaves little time for ordered
However, Dr Mary Scharlieb used her opening remarks to encourage
other women to take up the cause of medicine. Her autobiography had:
been a delightful task and not written for my own sake [ ... ] [but] to
convince medical women students and junior practitioners that a
successful, happy, and useful career can be, and ought to be, the guerdon
of their toil.
To survive and be proficient headmistresses and doctors
would need to acquire a mode that was common currency. This approach
leads me to believe that their formal training for their professions has,
for some, provided them with confidence, and a tone and style of writ-
ing that is exhibited in the antecedent chapters, is bolstered by profes-
sional training and provided a means of overriding inherent patriarchal
We need to remember that these women grew up in the late
Victorian era, where there were strong patriarchal controls, and pow-
erful definitions of femininity which partially continued into the
Edwardian period.
It is therefore not surprising that they needed to
assuage charges of unfeminine behaviour that could accrue from this
form of self- promotion. These women enlisted distinguished males to
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Prefaces, Prologues, Forewords and Introductions 133
write brief testimonies in the margins of their texts, or cited male
friends who encouraged the project. For example, Violetta Thurstan
claimed Prince Yusupov in Russia among her friends who had urged
her to write down all this.
Others gratefully acknowledged the sup-
port and advice that they had received from literary men. Dr Isabel
Hutton noted the help she had experienced from Mr H. Fitchew with
revisions to her work.
Similarly, painter Estella Canziani thanked
her friend Mr S.C. Kaines Smith for, worrying me until I wrote this
book; and the late Mr E.V. Lucas for [ ... ] his untiring interest and kind
A more fulsome intrusion and endorsement could be achieved when
these antecedent chapters were written by acclaimed men. Voluntary
Aid Detachment (VAD) May Wedderburn Cannan had a Foreword by
Basil Blackwell in which he praised her integrity, courage and loyalty.

Rita, Mrs Desmond Humphreys, was plied with accolades from Sir
Philip Gibbs. He wrote that:
In the history of English fiction the name of Rita will not be
forgotten [ ... ] a pioneer of freedom in using fiction as a medium for
truth and reality at a time when England was still very Victorian [ ... ]
I salute the author of Peg the Rake and of many other tales.
Although Lillah McCarthy secured An Aside from George Bernard
Shaw, the extraordinary regard he felt for her was limited to her work as
an actress, and he makes no mention of her prowess as an autobiogra-
pher. Nevertheless, these assertions of the autobiographers credibility
are a feature that is not present in male autobiographies. These women
needed to have their confidence bolstered. Thus recommendations by
men functioned to legitimise the writing and frequently drew attention
to the feminine qualities of the writer, which would assuage charges of
unfeminine self-promotion.
The endorsement for them to write was not only forthcoming from
eminent patriarchs. Artists, more than any other group, focused on
the role played by friends within their peer group. For example in
their prefaces, Lillah McCarthy, Maude V. White and Estella Canziani
(actress, composer, painter, respectively) foreground their friends as
instrumental in their decisions to record their lives. McCarthy
acknowledged that it: would be worse than ungracious, downright
dishonest: this book owes its very life to them. Without their help I
should never have been born in print. Without them I could not have
learned to talk alone.
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134 Gender, Professions and Discourse
White recounted that she was: very much astonished, for it never
occurred to me that anyone would care to read anything I had to say
about myself.
In a similar manner Canziani was pressed by friends:
to write some of my reminiscences.
Over three-quarters of Canzinis
preface is allotted to a declaration of the part each friend played in
encouraging her. Support from renowned patriarchal figures and friends
provided the cachet of approval and highlighted their insecurity about
their writing. However, this lack of self-belief is further disclosed, in the
marginalia, by the presence of self-deprecatory remarks which allude to
the worthiness of the project.
The novelists, as professional writers, were aware of the difficulty
and complexity of the autobiographical genre. Nancy Price wrote: it is
just a glancing back [ ... ] what mattered to me and this in a very inad-
equate way I have tried to set this down.
Similarly, Netta Syrett
believed her life: too ordinary to be worth recording.
But the self-
apologetic prose of the nurses and VADs is very different. Had their
careers not led them to take part in war work, their experiences would
not have been incredible enough to inspire any interest to record it.
The awareness of this did cause anxiety, insomuch as 25 per cent of
this profession and a similar percentage of writers recorded their con-
cerns. VAD and journalist May Sinclair noted: This is a journal of
impressions and nothing more.
Nurse M.A. St Clair Stobart is more
explicit about the worth of her writing:
from personal intimacy of disentangling my humble life [ ... ] I want
to stress the fact that I lay no claim to greatness or notability [ ... ] as
an unknown and insignificant individual, I have just done through-
out the years those things, normal or abnormal, that came along to
be done [ ... ] I trust that some interest may be found in my simple
Even VADs such as Baroness de TSerclaes, who acknowledged that
she had had a short and shocking adventure as the Heroine of
Pervyse, deflected any form of self-promotion by closing the prologue
with a quixotic tone: Did it all really happen to me? Sometimes it is
hard to believe ... . What a life its been! What a life!
In a more
direct manner, headmistress Marion Cleeve confronted the issue of
self- promotion: The egotism of such a record is inevitable and must be
These various devices presented a lack of self-advocacy and
provided a buttress against charges, by the reading public, of unfemi-
nine behaviour, in that they presented themselves as non-assertive
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Prefaces, Prologues, Forewords and Introductions 135
Edwardian women. I now want to look at the use of metaphor, and its
effect, in the marginalia. This device was not used by any of the artists;
but it was taken up by almost 20 per cent of doctors, practically 25 per
cent of the headmistresses, nearly 50 per cent of nurses and 80 per cent
of the writers who were part of this survey. My research uncovered that
two main strands of feminine metaphoric imagery were used. For doc-
tors and nurses images that smouldered, seethed, fermented and blazed
with desire were employed. Whereas professional writers put to use
metaphors from a similar semantic field of tangled wools, threads, and
roots. The doctors and nurses appear to have recourse to romantic nov-
els and those of the writers employ imagery from a domestic and pri-
vate sphere.
Dr Elizabeth Bryson began her introduction with a meditation on the
complexity of memory. She questions in a self-reflective manner: We
cannot understand memory. It seems certain that everything we expe-
rience, see, hear, or feel, leaves an impression perfect, indelible and
inevitable in the mysterious region of memory.
However a complete change in style and tone follows. The passage
reiterates the tenets of the earlier paragraphs, but a writerly expression
and tone take over. The memory became:
a long tunnel of the past, cheered on by bright gleams of sunny
memories and flickering lights [ ... ] then we come unexpectedly to a
red smoulder of desires not understood and strange and sullen resent-
ments, and the red smoulder may blaze up into a fierce flame [ ... ]
and we come out of the tunnel and the gleam and throb of feeling is
gone too [ ... ] and how illuminating as their uncertain light makes
known to us unsuspected preferences and unacknowledged
In a similar shift in style, former nurse and Commandant in Chief of
the VADs, Dame Katharine Furze, began in a reflective mood and with
a philosophical spirit.
The tone and style then change: to express on
paper what has been seething inside [ ... ] the urge to write has been like
a [sic] ferment at work inside me.
These novelistic traits are taken on
more fully by headmistress Sara Burstall.
She launched her autobiog-
raphy with passionate, emotional imagery, delivered in the third
On a spring evening in 1874 an ardent schoolgirl stood on Westminster
Bridge to look at the sunset. [ ... ] The passionate force of youth seethed
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136 Gender, Professions and Discourse
within her; the beauty of that storied scene and that flaming sky
stirred her soul to a burning indignation [ ... ] Turning westward she
saw between her and the crimson of the clouds, a vast black bulk,
Milbank Prison, like some monstrous beast from the river of slime.
Women may be and are, she remembered, prisoners. [ ... ] Fifty years
after, a grey-haired woman [ ... ] remembered her girlhood and its
passionate despair.
The flaming sky suggests a Turner painting whilst monstrous beast [ ... ]
river of slime reminds the reader of Dickens Bleak House. The alliterative
use of soft feminine/sexual sounds as in, seethed, storied and stirred her
soul exhibit her intensified emotional temperature. There is strong sex-
ual tension and a suggestion of impropriety. However, when Burstall
wrote about social/political issues and on womens struggles they elic-
ited the strong plosive, masculine sounds of black, bulk, and beast. But
it is important to note that all of this excitable writing is conveyed in the
third person. At one and the same time the reader is drawn into Burstalls
ardent fervour, but also is distanced by the defamiliarising aspect of
third person delivery. Here the particular interest in these extracts rests
on two main points; the conspicuous effect of these metaphors, along
with the intensity of the language which resides in the margins of their
work. Both Burstall and Bryson use a colour code in the symbolism of
this emotional observation, which in these very visual renderings,
appear to draw on images from Victorian narrative paintings.
rather than disguising or softening the underlying social/political mes-
sage, the idiosyncratic semantic field draws attention to the ideas which
are not totally subsumed by their novelistic tone.
For headmistresses and doctors, schooled in professional methods, to
write of emotional subjects would have been anathema. Their efforts
to secure an exemplary feminine discourse in the main body of the
text are compromised as their emotional temperature has broken
through. So in a last ditch attempt to express sentiments through met-
aphors, they lacked the nous and nuance to produce a ratified account
which would escape particular notice. Instead it appears that in the
move away from their constraints of official writing, they were unable
to rein in their delivery. From this breech in normative discourse, the
reader witnesses an atypical bodice-ripping display of pent-up agita-
tion as the writers shrug off their professional attire and release
subjugated emotions.
Bryson, Furze and Burstall all show, in varying degrees, strong sexual
tensions and hints of impropriety. Also, in Bryson and Furze we read
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Prefaces, Prologues, Forewords and Introductions 137
different and competing discourses in the prefatory chapters. There is
no reason why these should not be coterminous, but such a stark con-
trast of discourses raises important and interesting issues of these wom-
ens struggle with their intrusion into male dominated professions. The
prefatory discourses display their anxieties of their role in society. To
use a learned female professional voice would support their incursion
into the public domain, but the pointed intrusion of novelistic devices,
that they were unable to control, exacerbates this uncertainty. In fact
this novelistic phrasing displays a range of authorial quotation and
vitiates the autobiographical genre.
However, the metaphors used by professional writers in the prelimi-
nary chapters refer specifically to the difficulties of the genre in par-
ticular, where to start and how to edit the numerous references they
have acquired. The process, which is so unlike writing fiction, appears
to them as a muddle. Storm Jameson found that she had to wrestle with:
the dark tangled roots of feeling and action.
H.M. Swanwick was:
reminded of dealings with a bag of wools, not too carefully kept, when
the first ball taken out is entangled with a second and that with half a
dozen more.
In a similar vein Netta Syrett wrote: Actually I find the
task of deciding where to begin unexpectedly difficult. Which thread
out of the tangled skein memory shows me shall I choose for the unrav-
elling of the past? [sic]
The use of metaphor by these professional
writers is as an illustrative tool. The reader can easily identify with the
difficulty of the task and is moreover, subtly led to expect veracity from
all this effort.
What stands out from this analysis is the difference in the tone and
language that these different professions engage in. Obviously writing
competency is expected from the wordsmiths, but what does surprise is
the lack of restraint on the part of headmistresses and women doctors.
The novelists analogies are reasonable, neutral and under control. The
images appear to be selected to illustrate, in an unaffected manner, an
explanatory model of the initial problems that beset them. As skilled
wordsmiths the novelists understood, and are comfortable with, liter-
ary devices. Hence the reader is given metaphors that do not transgress
the tone and structure that surrounds them.
It appears that in the margins, the literary style is determined by the
degree to which the experience of writing is new. With the headmis-
tresses and women doctors, the contrast with the lack of vitality in the
main text may be accounted for by their attachment to a mode of writ-
ing that they used in their professional lives. Therefore, to record their
lives accurately they resorted to the similar emotional economy needed
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138 Gender, Professions and Discourse
daily in their professional world. For doctors and headmistresses this
was one of duty, caring, probity and control. In point of fact, these auto-
biographers called attention to this absence of passion. Burstall remem-
bers: her girlhood and its passionate despair
and in similar manner
to the others, Swanwick recorded: the wish to express the intense desire
which possessed me all my youth.
In the early period, or in the mar-
gins of their lives, passion abounded. Later in the main part of their
lives, as in the main body of the text, professional conduct dominated.
Frivolity and passion appear to be subsumed and are excised from the
From this analysis on issues of confidence and the use of literary
devices the importance of probity and veracity need to be discussed.
This feature was totally ignored by all headmistresses, broached by only
a fifth of all doctors and artists, but three-quarters of nurses declared an
interest, and interestingly, all writers called attention to this intractable
subject for autobiographers. Further, these writers commitment to
aspects of verisimilitude divides into three categories, intentional edit-
ing, meditations on the elusiveness of truth and memory, and a desire
to be as candid as possible.
The omission of this topic of truthfulness by headmistresses, the
majority of women doctors and artists may be explained in two ways.
The artists who omitted any thought on this had produced in the main,
charming poetic memoirs. The exclusion by all headmistresses and the
majority of doctors needs to take into account their professional ethos.
They would take integrity as a given, and would take into account the
content of their autobiographies. Firstly, their autobiographies were
chiefly about their professional, public world. Therefore there would be
little need for evasions of a personal nature or for the benefit of friends.
Secondly, for headmistresses making inroads into a patriarchal profes-
sion, their training would cause them to emulate masculine modes of
rectitude in their report writing. This appears to have impinged into the
record of events in their autobiographies to produce a pedestrian man-
ner, cool and factual. Degrees of emotion and bias would not be part of
their work and writing. For doctors, similar codes would obtain. In
addition, their scientific background did not call for conjecture and
passionate delivery.
Concerns about the possibility of a candid and accurate account are
by far the most common issue in the margins. The autobiographers who
raise this problem display a rigorous exactitude to produce a frank and
forthright autobiography. The main reason presented for explicit self-
censorship tended to be the desire to protect others. Romantic novelist
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Prefaces, Prologues, Forewords and Introductions 139
Elinor Glyn made reference to Pepys diary as a genuine and intimate
record because it was not intended for publication. For herself:
I have kept locked diaries for years, in which I have tried to set down
the unvarnished truth [ ... ] but I cannot publish these now, since
many of the people referred to in them are still living. [ ... ] [I will] set
out truthfully [her italics] [ ... ] as can be published at the present
Whilst Glyn was unequivocally keen to protect her friends from expo-
sure, Jameson exposed the problems that ensue with gaps and ellipses:
I feel an ineffaceable repugnance to writing about close friends [ ... ]
This falsifies the record at once. But what else can I do? Nothing.
resigned tone illuminates her frustration in this. Actor and writer
Nancy Price used active, demonstrative verbs: I will set down as truth-
fully as I can the images I see. These images I have endeavoured to
present as they appear to me.
In a similar manner, nurse and writer
Amy Borden noted: I have not invented anything [ ... ] they [memories]
recount true episodes that I cannot forget [ ... ] Any attempt to reduce
them to order would require artifice on my part and would falsify
Although Furze recognised that in order to be accurate they may face
problems of objectivity, she shared the sentiment that honest expres-
sion was more important:
Though I have tried to write objectively almost laconically and in
pedestrian style some people may find parts of this book too emo-
tional [ ... ] describing not only the events and contacts but also their
effect on ones personality. I have chosen the later process hoping
that it may be accepted as an honest and sincere expression of deep
feeling [ ... ] we should not waste time on maintaining reserve [ ... ] it
is of human realities, as such, that I have tried to write.
For professional writers issues of veracity were of especial concern. An
accomplished exponent of such rigour is Storm Jameson who ques-
tioned whether she had the coolness to be able to produce an objective
and dependable account. But it was only a momentary wavering. She
warns the reader that nothing would have been easier for her than to
have written: one of those charming poetic memoirs which offend no
one and leave a pleasant impression of the author.
But Jameson wanted
to produce a warts and all rendering of herself, but as I mentioned
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140 Gender, Professions and Discourse
above, friends were not exposed to this explicitness. In this she faced
and understood the duality of perception: I am trying to do some-
thing entirely different. Trying, in short, to eat away a double illusion:
the face I show to other people, and the illusion I have of myself by
which I live. [sic]
This double illusion is also raised by dancer
Isadora Duncan: How can we write the truth about ourselves? Do we
even know it? There is the vision our friends have of us; the vision we
have of ourselves; and the vision our lover has of us. Also the vision
of our enemies. [sic] And all these visions are different.
In these
quotations we see the problem, similar to that mentioned in the above
chapter on Images, ( raised by Barthes in Camera Lucida and again
examined in The Lovers Discourse) that of multiple layers of
The act of writing a prefatory chapter, rather than providing clarity,
adds a further layer of perception. Derrida found it necessary to view
prefaces in the terms of supplementary and supplement.
The term sup-
plement implies a thing or part added to remedy deficiencies, to pro-
vide further information to something already complete.
Therefore, if
we consider the etymology of the various prefatory terms, it is clear
that, as Derrida noted: the preface harbours a lie.
In Derridian terms,
if a text is self-sufficient, there is no need for it to be added to. The sup-
plement/prefatory chapter is an exterior addition and surplus. As I have
already suggested, these additions similar to those of the frontispiece
photograph, can act as a cloaking mechanism in their strange and
deceptive status.
Indeed we may do well to heed Hegels comment
which advised his readers: Dont take me seriously in a preface [ ... ] and
if I speak to you outside of what I have written, these marginal com-
ments cannot have the value of the work itself.
I began this chapter with a series of questions about the function of
the prefatory chapters in these autobiographies. To perform in an intro-
ductory capacity, and to elucidate in preparation for what was to follow,
does not appear to be crucial. There is a division between those like
Faithfull and Scharlieb who took on the template provided by male
autobiographers in similar professions, and between those who pre-
sented and almost floundered under considerations for contemporary,
cultural mores. This division indicates a sense of confidence and accom-
plishment on the one hand, but on the other hand the category has
those who appear uncertain of the image they wished to present. Their
narrative presents the problems that they had in trying to make a fit
with the earlier genre definitions. Should they present themselves as
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Prefaces, Prologues, Forewords and Introductions 141
self-confident and forthright, similar to their male contemporaries, or
should they present themselves as self-effacing individuals and thus
avoid public vilification? If they chose the risky route, the above study
indicates that there was a conflict between the expectations given in
the marginalia and between the actual content in the main body of the
text. This anomaly between the introduction and the main text can
perform as a cloaking mechanism as witnessed in Bryson, Burstall, and
Furze; it can become exceptionally revealing and provides a powerful
contrast with what was to follow.
It is worth repeating that, in the autobiographical genre, women
were trying to insert themselves into a discursive practice which was
largely masculine. In this they would encounter a range of power nex-
uses within the patriarchal, professional practices. Already in the pub-
lic sphere, male autobiography had normative legitimacy and had
accrued powers of correctness. But if women were to deviate from the
genre as determined by centuries of male writing, they might be viewed
as outsiders and not seen as role models for other women. For the auto-
biographers who followed the male template, it appears that a prefa-
tory chapter would, for them, anchor or stabilise the reading of the
main text that was to follow. With this aim in mind, the use of male
endorsements and the adoption of male prefatory styles played an
important role. In a similar fashion, comments by friends, urged them
to write and provided what Roy Porter calls a modesty formula.
is, to produce a text at the behest of someone else, preferably that of a
distinguished male.
Yet in their function as an expository exercise, the chapters examined
here cloak rather than elucidate. Whether the summative function of
the prefatory chapter is used or not, there is, in common with most auto-
biographies (male or female) an element of authorial control in the man-
ner that the reader is enjoined to read what is to follow. This control is
extended when the question of the difficulties which surround truth-
fulness were raised in the margins. The authors control and intention
of a premature closure in this is clearly presented, and leads to a cul-
de-sac for the reader, closing off lines of expectation and enquiry.
This cloaking device extends to examples of the use of further literary
devices which trouble the prefatory chapters, in that the sentiments
expressed and the manner of expression are not those of the main text.
The autobiographers that used metaphors elicit different realms of
experience that are aspects triggered by oppression within their profes-
sional lives. This is witnessed in Bryson, Burstall, and Furze. Metaphors
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142 Gender, Professions and Discourse
are always available from other discourses and may have given these
writers a space to express what may have been unsayable. This issue of
silence will be investigated in the next chapter. For now, it is sufficient
to recognise the role of the metaphor in these marginal chapters. These
professional women had written intelligent, logical narratives with
appropriate decorum. Then, having done justice to their careers and
provided a text as a role-model, they release a fragrant nose-gay of the
feminine woman that was subsumed under a professional cloak. Much
in the manner of the punctum witnessed in the frontispiece image,
which these texts are set alongside, these prefatory chapters subvert and
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This chapter works on the premise that what is not here in the text is
often as meaningful as what is. I want to produce a method of interpret-
ing these absences or silences. Silences have an identity and we need to
establish what it is. Susan Sontag noted: A genuine emptiness, a pure
silence are not feasible either conceptually or in fact.
This discussion
will attempt to construct an explanatory model to address the problem-
atic area of silences, and to produce a method whereby silence, in its
many forms, can be constructively analysed and shown to be as inform-
ative as the written word. Textual silences are the aspects that can be
revealed through the appraisal of various stylistic configurations and
devices, such as punctuation, ellipses, pace, tone, and spatial use of the
page. Since silence is such an umbrella term and comes with a raft of
connotations, I have chosen to describe all these configurations of
silences under the term of textual gap. This I believe, will provide for a
freer examination and give cohesion to the various forms into which
this rhetorical device can morph.
There are few theoretical works on autobiographies which address the
subject of silence. For example, William Dilthey, James Olney, Simon
Denlith, Regina Gagnier, Mary Jean Corbett, Liz Stanley, Laura Marcus,
Julia Swindells, Mary Evans, and others, have not considered silence as
part of their remit.
Silence, when it is addressed by Virginia Woolf and
later by Dale Spender, is read by them in the light of the gendered sen-
tence and gendered language, and is almost exclusively stylistic.

Woolfs points were echoed by Hlne Cixous and the criture feminine
school who aimed to celebrate womens writing and thus remove the
repression that could produce silence. In 1995 Maroula Joannou posi-
tioned the feminine as identified in silence, absence, and incoherence.
She identified the reason for this as the dominance of patriarchal
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144 Gender, Professions and Discourse
discourse. But for Tillie Olsen, Joanna Russ and Philippe Lejeune, it is
the silence of the unwritten; the reasons why, in the past, women and
(Lejeune included men) have failed to commit to paper, be it fiction or
In Olsens ground-breaking book Silences, her concern was with the
reason why women have produced little written work. She was not con-
cerned with what she called natural silences, but the unwritten the
hidden silence of work aborted, deferred or denied, which did not
come to fruition.
She accounts for this silence by censorship in one
form or another. Censorship by the self, political or cultural, self-doubt,
fear of reception, are all suggested by her as reasons for not writing.
Whilst it could be argued that the textual gaps that are of interest in the
current chapter are a form of Olsens censorship model, I would sug-
gest that the textual gaps of interest here were attempts to break through
or subvert repression. It seems to me that, if we deploy Olsens para-
digm, the achievement of these professional women in writing their
autobiographies is all the more impressive. Olsens model, of course,
deals with the constraints which pre-date the act of writing, or inhibit
it altogether. What I want to address here is the silence which occurs
during the act of writing itself.
Literary theorists, however, do address the problem of silence in
fictional writing. Roland Barthes, Pierre Macherey, Patricia Laurence,
Sanford Budick and Wolfgang Iser, recognise and engage with gaps and
omissions in fictive situations.
For example, Iser and Laurence cite spe-
cific novels and each concentrate on a particular area. In their separate
works, both examine negation and absence as a starting point, which
can then be linked to the social context of oppression and exclusion
from public spheres. Laurence brings to the fore the position of women
as silent and observing rather than as speaking subjects of their own
In this work on silences Macherey, as a Marxist philosopher, does
imply that texts should be investigated to find the hidden ideological
views of the writer. I intend to ignore this aspect of political affiliation,
as this is not part of my remit. Instead his theory on the unsaid and
the unsayable may be used in creative ways, to engage with his rhe-
torical question: Can we make silence speak?
But it needs to be remem-
bered that these theorists are working from an exclusively literary
However, the work of theorists John Cage, Michel Foucault and Susan
Sontag can be helpful in this. John Cage, writing in his seminal work,
Silences in music, insisted: There is no such thing as silence. Something
is always happening that makes a sound.
Sontags essay The Aesthetics
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Silences 145
of Silence is directed at the artist who works in the audible, visual and
performative fields.
What is useful for this study is the way she insists
that silence does not exist in the literal sense, and her idea of silence as
termination and as continuity is thought provoking. Of particular inter-
est is her notion that silence implies its opposite and that it has an
identity: Silence never ceases to imply its opposite and to depend on
its presence; just as there cant be up without down [ ... ] so one must
acknowledge a surrounding environment of sound or language in order
to recognise silence [ ... ] any given silence has its identity.
Sontag is
useful as a spring-board for this study of textual gaps as her ideas may
be critically and creatively used as part of my overall work in this area,
to enable a model of reading silence in its many forms.
To read a text for what is not there is difficult as the exploration of
silence uncovers a number of problems in the limits of language. As I
showed in earlier chapters, narrative can both reveal and conceal. The
question therefore arises; can the same be said of silence? The reader
must be able to understand the implications of the moments of silence
to establish the relevancies to the adjacent events and the context in
which it is found, as this will reveal much about the meaning of that
particular silence. Furthermore we need to examine if there is a clear
division between experiences that can be articulated and those which
are inexpressible.
Since there are many forms of textual gaps, it is necessary to establish
the distinctions and, where appropriate, the reasons for these omissions
and examine the stylistic devices utilised. To help formulate this
approach these textual gaps will be analysed under the following head-
ings: first, silence as a deliberate play for reasons of tact and protection
of the living, second, silence as reticence and fear of reception, and
third silence due to tragedy. Before this, in order to provide the rigour
for a useful methodology to examine silence, it is necessary to start
with an appraisal of the fundamental authorial capital of the autobiog-
rapher. There is, it must be said, a degree of ambiguity in silence as a
communicative tool, and an effort must be made to minimise this and
prevent claims of textual gaps which in truth, do not exist. For exam-
ple, Laura Knight, the painter, was keen not to have any material ties.
When she married in 1903 she recorded: Harold and I did not intend to
set up house. Neither of us wished to do so, nor could we afford it.
Everyone knowing this gave us trunks, hatboxes, writing-cases and
collar-boxes as wedding presents.
In point of fact, they spent their time travelling from Nottingham to
Cornwall, to Holland, to London and many more locations. They lived
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146 Gender, Professions and Discourse
a bohemian life alongside other artists, often in a communal house. It
is apparent that for her and her husband their art was all important. For
them, freedom from domesticity and to be itinerant was essential.
Knight does not write about babies or children either for herself, or for
any of the other artist couples. Yet this should not be read as an avoid-
ance of the question of a childless marriage. Whilst not explicitly stated,
it is implicit that their lives did not permit domesticity, and was com-
plete without its encumbrances.
Similarly, there are two notable absences in headmistresses autobi-
ographies. One perspective, the absence of any record of male rela-
tionships in the headmistresses autobiographies could appear odd.
But placed in context, it can be seen that these women worked in a
landscape often insulated from society at large. Many lived a clois-
tered existence on the school premises, where social contact with men
would be minimal, and in addition to this, marriage would have cost
them their position. From another perspective, their important role as
the educators of middle-class, female children, would make the public
airing of their opinions on current movements and political contro-
versies unprofessional. Therefore it was not until they retired and
moved away from the school that they recorded personal intimacies.
The actual silence in their professional working life remained a silence
in their autobiographies. For example, Marion Cleeve and Frances R.
Gray made no mention of a private life other than very minor isolated
Therefore as far as can be ascertained, these textual gaps
are not silences or evasions. These brief examples outline an impor-
tant area of this methodology and need for rigorous awareness of the
I now want to deal with my first aspect of silence; the need to protect
others. At least 50 per cent of headmistresses made fleeting references to
female companions throughout their autobiographies. Few were ever
named, and some were given the nomenclature of initials which at first
glance appears suggestive of the eighteenth century novelists and
Victorian novelists device; a letter followed by a dash or a date. But on
closer examination there appears to be censorship surrounding particu-
lar individuals. For example, headmistress Lilian M. Faithfull noted
that she: was blessed with a [unnamed] friend who made my holidays
[sic] perfect refreshment. She also had more leisure; so she made the
When Amy Barlow introduced L to the reader it is initially
unknown whether the person is male or female. She wrote: L. and I
managed to find a very delightful old cottage in the country, three miles
from the school, and here we spent a very good three years.
There is
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Silences 147
nothing unusual with that; but there follows a few pages on: L. played
centre forward and Margaret Thornton, who had been at Roedean was
an outstanding back.
This anomalous treatment of fully naming one
friend and of cloaking the other friend in mystery stands out starkly.
The reader is jolted by its oddness. The narrative itself moves swiftly
along, in an attempt to normalise the memory, and to prevent the
reader from having a moment to contemplate the nature of this
Barlow could have omitted her friends full name at the friends
request, or it could be an attempt to diminish the importance of the
relationship and elicit closure. As a means for both of these, it fails dis-
mally. If we look at her treatment of other friendships and relationships,
a pattern emerges. Barlow recorded her early romances with her broth-
ers cricketing friends and with grammar schoolboys, and used their
full names. Men friends in her early twenties were named except for
three. These three had made romantic advances and were rejected: T.F.,
H.H., and W.J.
It appears that throughout her autobiography there are
dual standards. Acquaintances were noted in full, whereas close or
intimate relationships were coded in initials.
The rejected young men may have gone on to marry and would not
want their advances made public, and her close female companion
would most probably have had professional status and a need for
anonymity. Equally in these instances Barlow may well have feared
disapprobation, loss of reputation and loss of social respectability for
these intimate friends. Silence here is due to the social values which
foment the need for censorship as a means of self-protection. The gap
between public opinion and private opinion appears to be too great,
and leads to silence. However, rather than rendering invisible, the use
of initials has in fact drawn attention to the friendships, and leaves a
space for alternative readings. The question arises as to why an autobi-
ographer would leave a topic unresolved and susceptible to interpreta-
tion by the reader.
Marriage, divorce and the deaths of parents are all central moments
in anyones life. It is thus of some consequence that the record of these
received summary attention in these narratives. Headmistresses record
little or nothing of their family background. Their parents, if referred
to at all, are shadowy figures, and in fact few begin their autobiogra-
phies with any detail of childhood. None relate the death of either
parent. When we come to look at writers/artists and especially
actresses, the involvements are more pronounced, and as we have
seen, the father is nearly always the major force. An exception to this
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148 Gender, Professions and Discourse
is if the daughter inherits her mothers artistic talent to become a
painter (Laura Knight), or musician (Liza Lehmann). However the
records of their fathers or mothers only extend to the help or influ-
ence on their careers. Nurses and, to a slightly lesser extent doctors,
gave the family genealogy and began with grandparents, followed by
parents and siblings. Aside from sketchy references to the family in
their early lives, the family, in the main, had little place in these
autobiographical texts. Parents and siblings often received no further
mention until their deaths.
The cursory manner in which they are dealt with within the text is
not the only point of interest here. It is noteworthy that the emotional
temperature is volatile. Dr. Gladys Wauchope and Dr. Octavia
Wilberforce are two fine examples of this. Wauchope wrote: My father
died in 1917. As soon as I qualified I was appointed the lowest post.
a similar fashion Wilberforce recalled: My father was desperately ill
and he died two days later on 19 January 1914. I had thought that at
Christmas [ ... ].
Musician/composer Mathilde Verne record of her
mothers death is no different: My mother died in August, and a few
weeks later I travelled to Frankfurt.
This peremptory treatment of
their parents death raises two concerns; what is missing from the text,
and the emotional economy engendered when the deaths are
Unlike my first example of the silence in which the autobiographers
discretion is activated, this gap may arise from the writers social and/
or emotional proclivities. These women were at the forefront of profes-
sional innovations for their gender. Working in the public sphere, they
were determined to shake off societys dominant patriarchal myths
that had ossified to make a rigid formulation of what made a woman
feminine. They had set themselves apart from normal emotional fam-
ily life to strike out alone and make a career for themselves, and fur-
thermore, to write about this experience. For them, it was their
professions that made them different and warranted the recording, not
their family experience. This textual gap during these womens middle
years focuses the readers attention exclusively on their independent
It is of interest that this undivided concentration on career interests
was exemplified by Freud. In his autobiography, he covered in detail
his desire to secure space away from his parents. He pushed his private
affairs to the margins of his autobiographical text because the only
relationships that mattered to him were those with science. He did not
write of his mother and only fleetingly about his father.
Freud had
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Silences 149
recognised that he emphasised his intellectual achievement to the
detriment of writing about his mother, and it appears that this can
also be said of these professional women, although they do not
acknowledge this in the narrative. But this does not answer the ques-
tion about the briefness of delivery and the prolepsis when death is
The emotional and written economy that envelopes the autobiogra-
phers account of their parents death can be a consequence of social/
cultural aspects. At the turn of the century, people still died at home
often surrounded by family and friends which gave a strong support
mechanism. Death was more visible and seen as inevitable. Chris
Shilling noted: There was a resignation about ones own death, an
acceptance that nothing could be done about it.
Doctors and nurses
would be able to rationalise death and accept what Shilling refers to
as its inevitability and universality.
Moreover, the prospect of
death would not alarm and disturb so much, as religion would allow
for the possibility of a good death.
Where the silence does occur is
in lexical breakdown. In the attempt to speak of that which is beyond
words or narrate the unnarratable, such as death, a textual gap
In these texts of Wauchope, Wilberforce and Verne, these prolepses
strike as non-sequiturs because the chasm from the subject of the par-
ents death to the subject that follows, impresses upon the reader in its
stark contrast. The disharmony in the content produces a rupture in the
time-continuum and the tempo of the narrative does not allow time for
contemplation of this important event, and the reader is moved onward.
Unlike the ellipses accentuated by punctuation, which I examine below,
the pace of the narrative does not allow the reader a spatial arena to
assimilate their own reactions. The impulse from the swiftness of the
change in topic should divert attention away from the textual gap, and
allow the autobiographer to disguise or conceal their emotions in an
attempt at a discreet change of emphasis. We should take on board
Vieda Skultans assertion that: emotions are culturally constructed,
they have a bodily base.
We can suggest that these women, brought
up in the self-restrained Victorian era, would find it almost impossible
to encapsulate their emotions in this difficult experience. It would be
what Macherey refers to as moments of silence in areas where written
speech would be insufficient. These moments of silence are able to
reveal what the text cannot say.
From this as readers we should take
the writers inability to describe her emotions as a clearer expression of
these emotions and as a testament to their power.
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150 Gender, Professions and Discourse
If we consider Machereys theory in his chapter, The Spoken and the
Unspoken where he urges the reader to recognise a certain absence [sic]
in order to have knowledge of the text that silence shapes all speech.

But we also have to consider whether this silence is hidden and what it
is. It is pertinent that: What is important in the work is what it does not
say. This is not the same as the careless notion what it refuses to say,
although that would be interesting: a method might be built on it,
with the task of measuring silences [sic] whether acknowledged or
In the broadest sense my chapter is about measuring silence, the issue
that Macherey chooses not to address. However, from the examination
of the various forms of textual gaps a methodology for measuring
silence will emerge.
Marriage, another family issue, received in many ways comparable
treatments when the episode was highly emotional. For the most part,
the reader is not introduced to the prospective husband and often mid-
paragraph an announcement is made. Bertha Ruck, writer and illustra-
tor, had written on various small assignments she had received, when
she blandly interjected: Shortly after this I got married to Oliver
In a corresponding fashion actress Lillah McCarthy remarked:
In April I was married.
This is swiftly followed by a letter from George
Bernard Shaw. Three chapters later we are told of a Desmond McCarthy
who was: quoting with punning aptness.
The reader can only conjec-
ture that this was her husband. But nothing more was written. Towards
the end of the book McCarthy recalled meeting, at a golf club, a charm-
ing man, whom within a week: I promised to marry.
There had been
no mention of the divorce or the death of her first husband. It is only by
close observation that clues are to be found in the text, from which
assumptions can be made. She wrote that in the spring of 1910: I was
very ill and, a weak suffering creature, was taken off to stay with Mr and
Mrs H.G. Wells.
There is no mention of her husbands concern or role
in this. A year or two later she received a death threat and had a stalker.
A girl friend moved in with her until the man was caught: I was so ill
afterwards that I went away to Partenkirchen to rest before the trial.

Once again her husband was not involved. McCarthy appears to have
censored her first marriage difficulties and subsequent divorce because
of her fear of public disapprobation. As May Wedderburn Cannan had
stated: in those days, of course, divorce was a rarity and a stigma.
This huge textual omission in her autobiography cannot fail to be
noticed by the reader. McCarthy had constructed a wall of silence
leaving a lot of unanswered questions.
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Silences 151
These breaks in the continuity and the ensuing silence require an
active reader and permit alternative and multiple readings. There is
doubt and uncertainty in the texts. In the example above, it is implicit
that Desmond McCarthy no longer existed for Lillah McCarthy, but the
whys and wherefores intrigue the reader. Iser noted when writing
about fiction that: Whenever the reader bridges the gaps, communica-
tion begins. The gaps function as a kind of pivot on which the text-
reader relationship revolves.
As a literary device this is only partially
true for a reader of autobiography. In a work of non-fiction these gaps
engender distrust which in turn can weaken the narrative. What is
implicit here has undermined McCarthys position, and left her open to
the risk of conjecture.
At this juncture it would be useful to appraise the use of extracts
from complimentary reviews and documents found in artists and writ-
ers autobiographies, followed by the use of letters found in doctors
and nurses autobiographies in their use of filling silences. It is com-
monplace to think of these quoted extracts as a strengthening agent, a
supporter of the truthfulness of an event. But, as I pointed out in my
earlier chapter on prefaces, due to the deprecatory nature of many of
the womens texts, quotations can also be taken as a means of using
anothers discourse. They can explicate what may be difficult or embar-
rassing for the autobiographer to write. However, if this is the case, why
do they include extracts at such length and quoted in full? This textual
gap operates on two levels. First, it acts as a barrier against charges of
immodesty and embarrassment, but in the second instance, the sup-
posed indelicacy that they wish to avoid is forfeited in the self-promo-
tion and obvious pride that these artefacts narrate. The composer, Liza
Lehmann, presents sections which run from five to ten pages and all
are flattering: The Press however, was most kind, [ ... ] the composer,
who is Mme Liza Lehmann; and excellently has she done her work.
Delighting all hearers with melodies that are fresh and spontaneous [ ... ]
She was simply clad. [ ... ] In personality charmingly English, artistic
temperament in every line and movement. [sic]
Further reviews, arti-
cles and interviews which shed light on her character and appearance
Actress Lillah McCarthy concentrated on the use of letters from fans
from all strata of life; the general public, titled admirers and famous
people. To further increase the narrative authority of letters from friends
such as George Bernard Shaw, Mr Asquith and John Masefield, they are
reproduced in their own handwriting. Letters were selected to demon-
strate her acting ability. Henrietta Watson wrote: you positively
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152 Gender, Professions and Discourse
mesmerised me. I was glued to your extraordinary expression I never
knew you possessed that wonderful, terrible power.
In a similar vein Lady Tree wrote: I cannot tell you how splendid and
wonderful I thought you this afternoon. I was moved and enthralled.
The information imparted in these insertions would have been difficult
for the autobiographers to have written. It is what Foucault noted:
Silence itself the things one declines to say, or is forbidden to name,
the discretion that is required ....
The use of third party narrative gen-
erates an objective temperature to a subjective impulse. But this usage
entails a latent and faux modesty. Their silence about their achievements
contrasts with the fulsomeness of these artefacts, and creates an imbal-
ance. These writers are implying that it is not they but others who are
saying it; a form of modesty by proxy.
There would be a natural reticence imposed by cultural and ideologi-
cal discourses of Victorian/Edwardian women in public and private
spheres. Of all the professions for women, performers would be aware of
public opinion, and in some quarters, of the low status given to actresses.
They were happy to make references to their work, placing it within the
general milieu of its kind, but felt unable to articulate how they saw,
interpreted or evaluated their own worth. Rather than risk vilification
by creating wrong impressions, they preferred to present their proof of
competence as established by the press and fans, to speak for them.
Their silence made a safe space for them to step back into and, in a figu-
rative manner to say: here is the proof, it has been established in the
public domain.
Doctors and writers tend to employ letters as a medium when deli-
cate topics need to be addressed. Dr. Octavia Wilberforce used letters she
sent to and received from Elizabeth Robins to make known her emotions
during times of particular difficulty with her family. Miss Robins, her
friend and confident, was almost her only emotional support at a time
when the family were trying to force her to marry, and had refused
financial support in her quest to become a doctor (her father had cut
her out of his Will). The letters back and forth were so extensively used
that in places her narrative became an epistolary form. This usage gives
the autobiography a sense of immediacy and leads the reader to believe
in the veracity of the telling. But there are many occasions when there
is a blurring of the boundaries within the narrative between her writ-
ing, and those of the letters. They are included in the autobiography
without the usual notifiers of date, addressee, or of closure, by the let-
ter writer, and without indentation on the page. This indistinctness
causes confusion about the authorial voice. The letters allow the
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Silences 153
autobiographer to remain silent, but her position is implicit. Similar to
the articles and reviews used by actresses and writers, letters present a
distanced rhetoric which anaesthetises the experience.
M.A. St. Clair Stobart, nurse turned writer, combined a clinical exact-
ness in a documentary format which implies a full account, but in fact
contains important evasions. Each paragraph began with an italicised
heading; Tennis, Cricket, Music and so on. Stobart was adept at appear-
ing to tell all in her rigorous record of her life. It continued through-
out, whether the narrative covered family events or listed literary
achievements. There is neither emotional attachment to this work in
the public domain, nor attachment in the writing of personal family
detail. She did not miss a beat when in mid-paragraph she moved from
the tale of her Corps being honoured by an inspection by the Duke of
Connaught, to: In 1911, I committed matrimony for the second
time. [...] He accompanied me on all my expeditions, but always and
only, as had been understood between us, in the capacity of an orderly
[Red Cross]. I seldom saw him.
This appears to be an unambiguously positive account; but the word
committed jars. To commit murder, to commit suicide, to commit
adultery is appropriate for a description of those dispiriting acts. But
to commit marriage, whilst lexically correct, is suggestive of a joyless
occasion rather than one of celebration. Stobarts husband, a retired
barrister and former judge, could precipitate the use of commit due
to connotations of legalese. But I submit that it is more than this, and
that there is a latent shadow of a passionless marriage, a prosaic con-
tract between the two of them. The narrative is incomplete. It is what
Macherey describes as an area of shadow; there is a possibility of
something more, much remains unsaid.
This is borne out when, later
in the chapter, she admitted that she insisted that a promise of obedi-
ence was removed from the marriage service and how her husband: a
kindly and most self-effacing man who ever breathed. [...] and played
so graciously a subsidiary marital role.
From this point on, a quarter
of the way through her book, her husband received no further
Sandwiched as these extracts are between the autobiographers own
words, like a ventriloquist, they speak for the autobiographer without
causing the calumny possible from their own writing. By this I mean
that it allows images and emotions to be articulated to the reader
through a mediator. There is safety in this. The autobiographer is say-
ing; this is a view of me, but I did not write it. She controls the divisions
between her narrative and silence. If the reader is offended or disagrees,
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154 Gender, Professions and Discourse
it is not the autobiographers words, and can only work if, as readers, we
forget that it was selected by the autobiographer. Their silence over
immodest issues can secure their approbation.
I now want to examine how the layout on the page has significance
in the role of textual gaps. The first part of this examination concen-
trates on the use of elliptical markers and the second part will focus
on the combined effect of these elliptical markers and the language.
First, it must be stated that elliptical marks do not always indicate a
sense of pain or gravity. Cannan, a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD)
in France, sprinkled her narrative with ... as the final notation to a
paragraph. In parts one and two of her autobiography which she called
Growing Up they were less frequent and reinforced a trailing-off of
the paragraph subject, rather than an end. For example: so I think it
must have been a private arrangement of our own ..., or Theyll be a
handy lot ....
However in Part Three, The War Years, these elliptical
markers increase in frequency and start to appear mid-sentence as
well. At the same time the level of detail increases: He [Major Quiller-
Couch, became her lover] had to ride over to an Aerodrome ... The last
mile through a wood full of honeysuckle, broom and wildflowers and
cornflowers ... The ride home, about ten oclock with the moon still
up, no wind to speak of.
This usage of ... has a literariness and a fictionality about the style.
There is a dream-like quality and ephemeral beauty that the reader is
encouraged to complete. It maybe possible to say more in another man-
ner but: does it denote a true absence?
At this stage of her writing, the
elliptical marker simply indicates what might be missing in the text; an
emotional shorthand, or silence as the source of expression.
diegetic excess appears to make the writing poetic. However this usage
Cannan and Quiller-Couch rendezvous in France. It is at this point
that the minutiae of detail are coupled with an extraordinary excess
of ... and both alternate with an extraordinary economy of implicit
writing. To make this plain it is necessary to use a quotation of some
There, looking down into the waters of the Seine, hurrying by and
having known other wars and other lovers, he asked me to marry
him ... And then went back to Rue Turbigo and in that queer high-
ceilinged room in the Paris-France that had suddenly become home,
sat on his bed and darned some socks and sewed on a button. He
had washed a shirt and hung it to dry on a piece of string stretched
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Silences 155
across the room; and we did not know that it was to be our only
housekeeping ... It was our last day so we went out to Meudon and
walked there [ ... ] I walked with him to the Gard du Nord, he carry-
ing his pack. I was wearing his ring and as the train pulled out he
put his dark head down on my hands and kissed them ... The train
pulled out. When I could see and hear again I found the entrance to
the Metro ...
Notwithstanding that the reader is given a huge amount of detail,
there are textual gaps. The excess of detail serves to both anaesthetise
the emotion and deflect from it, and importantly to imprint this very
visual experience onto the reader, in the manner it exists for Cannan.
The mimetic detail keeps her memory alive. This also allows her to
skip over the painful cracks. The ellipsis suggests that text is missing
from the sentence and that this creates the illusion that the missing
text occurs through a gradual trailing into silence. In essence, this
literary device both draws the readers attention and emphasises the
silence. Silence here is symbolic of something she was unable to
express in words. We can begin to understand silence as a voice.
Where the autobiographer cannot speak, silence does so in her
Cannan appears to be giving an unexpurgated telling but it is in
fact, in part, a filled silence, and in part, a foreshadowing. By leaving
out elliptical markers, she does not give the reader space to contem-
plate this. Instead she moves swiftly to forewarn what is to come;
mask the sexual element and give poignancy to the above minutiae of
detail: The train pulled out. When I could see and hear again I found
the entrance to the Metro.
The detail is incomplete and the short
prolepsis conjures the depth of her suffering on the station. There fol-
lows an extract from a letter Major Quiller-Couch sent to his father,
stating his intention of marrying Cannan. The position of this letter
is poignant. It provides a buffer and the illusion of mental space to
write a difficult passage. Cannans writing becomes staccato and
There were letters. It was very cold [ ... ] A bitter cold. Then the par-
lourmaid brought a telegram. I got up. A voice I didnt know said, I
think this is for me. I took it from the silver tray [ ... .] The Army
Council expressed sympathy.
Actually I had known it for some time, but I still hoped. Now there
was no hope. It was the end of the world.
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156 Gender, Professions and Discourse
Her Major had died. The evident change in her style from long sentences
sprinkled with elliptical markers, which slow the narrative pace and
allow the reader to think, to a tone that is curt with fore-shortened
sentences, firmly encase a silence around his death and her pain. This
different rhythm denotes a more psychological textual gap than
However these elliptical markers are deployed to an even greater effect
in similar psychologically stressful situations. An accomplished com-
poser, Liza Lehmann wrote an account of the death of her son, during
the war, from pneumonia. Hitherto her writing had composure and
freely flowed with a plethora of lightly romantic expressions. For exam-
ple, Meanwhile my two little boys had been born and I was far more
wrapped up in living poems than in any art.
The chapter, My Sons
entices the reader to anticipate a full account of a painful, but unknown
nature: I now approach a part of my lifes story of which I can scarcely
bear to write. But it must be done for the sake of continuity and com-
pleteness, as well as other reasons which I regard as a duty.
Her son
Rudolf, 17 and a soldier: was just able to reach home - literally in time
to die.
It is at this juncture that her narrative style begins to show,
what she herself believed, she had kept under control. She continued:
he was past saving and in one week on March 12th, 1916 he was
The strain of writing out such painful memories is palpable and
its force impinges on the reader. There is a tautness apparent which
makes articulation difficult and which allows only the bare-bones to
be given for the sake of other boys and mothers.
To articulate this
suffering, which at base she does not understand, Lehmann resorts to
rhetorical questions:
Oh! How can I write of it? How can I bear to speak of such anguish as
I have endured? Truly I do so only from a sense of moral obligation. I
wish to blame no one; such feelings of bitterness as I may have felt I
have tried to conquer.
But there appears to be a conflict between the momentum of the
desire to expel the episode, and the intensity of the rational need to
stifle expression. The silence here is the withdrawal from the facts of
the event. It is self-denial of the awfulness of what has happened and
could also reside in societys expectation of self-control and a stiff-
upper-lip in conditions of extreme adversity. Her language has become
burdened by the emotion of this tragedy, for which she can find no
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Silences 157
meaning, and it is at this point that her hard-held fight for narrative
control is overrun and the unchecked emotions burst through. The
frequent use of rhetorical interrogative phrases erupts harshly from
her earlier style, creating a gulf between pre- and post- Rudies death.
The heartbreak in the short imperative and interrogative sentences is
linguistically crushing:
How do you bear it? ... I have not the solace of a strong faith; my
religion had been of the vaguest; [ ... ] But now! if it were humanly
possible to penetrate behind the veil to find a clue to know a
little ever so little more could any effort be too great? I wanted to
find my child! [sic] God help us!
These short sentences combined with exclamatory marks and frequent
dashes create a sense of haste and omission. Lehmann wanted to gal-
lop through this and have done with re-living the experience. These
spurts of narrative and stops and hesitancies realise a sense of emo-
tional and textual stammering. Again, this rhythmic patterning and
incomplete sentences is redolent of novels of the nineteenth and twen-
tieth centuries. The elliptical marks: ... add to the pause which strength-
ens the earnestness of the record; a case where less is more.
To cope
with the enormity of the tragedy her mind needed to reduce the experi-
ence into smaller bite-sized compartments. In times of extreme suffer-
ing the easiest way to handle the pain is to segment thoughts, and
Lehmanns divisions showed the cracks and blanks of the emptiness,
and the grasp for some reality to make sense of her injury.
Indeed, writer Rita, Mrs Humphreys did declare that: One has to keep
ones brain in compartments, so to say, and it is not always an easy
Humphreys wrote incompletely about her two marriages and
divorce. She broke off an arranged engagement and resolved to marry
without consent. I render the quotation below as it appeared spatially on
the page:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I had begun to care very much for someone else [sic] [but] Over that
troubled time of family dissension I will drop the veil of silence. All
concerned in it are long dead. I wish them no worse purgatory than
the recognition of their mistakes and their effect!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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158 Gender, Professions and Discourse
Not only had Humphreys mentally compartmentalised difficulties in
her life she compartmentalises the page by using elliptical markers and
line breaks as firewalls. The next record of her marriage, a few years
later, indicated problems. Humphreys was prepared to acknowledge
that there were mistakes, a particular compartment in her life, but she
was not prepared to elaborate.
The use of close textual reading has allowed the possibility of a pattern
of devices to emerge which expose silence. Interpolations such as paren-
theses, brackets, dots, dashes and ellipses create a physical space and
forewarn a textual gap. The autobiographer may have imagined that by
drawing a line literally and metaphorically under a subject, their cen-
sorship would be accepted by the reader, and that it would be accepted
that there was nothing more to be said. But these devices mark an emo-
tional tone which changed the pace and they are a form that needs to be
read. As Sontag aptly wrote: Notably, speech closes off thought [ ... ]
silence keeps things open, everyone has experienced how, when punc-
tuated by long silences, words weigh more.
The examples above have
shown how this pause or silence gathers attention and are invitations to
explore what is not written; a space for conjecture.
But for Lehmann, to rationalise her experiences into compartments,
and to be honest, induced incoherence in parts of her narration. Her
style oscillated between the broken sentences and passages of prose that
pour paragraph upon paragraph which form a eulogy to her young sons
attributes: As a tiny mite, [he] wrote some verses that were quite out of
the ordinary, besides composing little melodies of much character and
These sections relate positive aspects; they tell of happier times
and convey hope that some good may occur from her tragedy. From the
prose style it is evident that Lehmann experienced comfort in this recall.
The distortions in her language are signs of the struggle between pure
explicit grief, an inevitable reaction, and a conscious effort to consider
the wider and more altruistic arena of moral obligation.
This desire for something concrete and positive from shock and
chaos is not unusual. As a consequence, the breaks in language mir-
ror the breaks of silence accorded to the problems of how to write of,
and bear her disconsolate grief. This inner battle is apparent not only
in the lexis and syntax but also in what might be called a technique
for catharsis. This unvoiced silence is embodied in Lehmanns syn-
tax. By this I mean the manner in which the divisions of paragraphs
and incidents are amplified visually to the reader. For example:
My son never complained; and when he lay ill at home, his one desire
was still to go back to Woolwich and his work there, for he loved it.

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Silences 159
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
After Rudies death, his instructors and the Commandant wrote
that he would have made a splendid soldier. I think, however, that,
failing the spur of war, his natural gifts lay more in the direction of
art or literature An omnivorous reader from childhood (he learnt
to read surprisingly early) he had an innate love of beauty.
I would suggest that this is a method for handling pain; and that it is a
therapeutic technique for making the whole into containable seg-
ments. It is not an attempt at a modernist structure. Modernist texts, of
course, although they can use ellipsis, work by radically destabilising
the central speaking voice and by working with juxtapositions which
draw from different contexts. The ellipses in these texts do not function
in this way.
Indeed Laurence Sternes writing is emblematic here. This narrative
type has its origins in Tristram Shandy, where structure was also con-
cerned with figurations of silence.
Sterne used his designs to chart
themes and emotions into his work. In a less graphic form, these autobi-
ographers employ similar tactics. Chapter divisions and divisions within
chapters, syntax, semantics and tense shifts provide the initial markers
which make up the lexicon of silence. The structure on the page mirrors
the emotional turmoil; it is horror that has stimulated stylistics. It
appears that, at the time of writing certain events were inexpressible or
the autobiographers language was inadequate. The compartmentalised
experience with its emotive burden produced a marked consonance
between form and content. In an effort to censor, the autobiographer
allows jumps, jerks, and lumpiness into the narrative. In fact, the more
the autobiographers emotions were aroused, the more the emotional
content became unbounded, and structures of silence were brought in to
shore-up against the impossibility of telling all. It appears that the
greater the emotional content, the less there is written.
There remains one unexamined aspect that I alluded to earlier; why
an autobiographer would leave a topic unresolved and open to conjec-
ture. Why place themselves in a position to be mis-read? Why would
they take that risk, given that with silence, people will always assume,
or think the worst? Yet this aspect of silence a form of risk-taking is
prominent in these texts. It could be that some did not have the imagi-
nation to see any risk to themselves; that they naively believed that the
words on the page were sufficient to contain and provide closure, and
that the reader would accept this and move on unquestioningly. This
notion can only apply when there is conscious control in the writing,
under the assumption that words invite an opinion and that with the
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160 Gender, Professions and Discourse
unwritten no inferences can accrue.
But for some, it could be that the
risk-taking was all important.
These professional women had marked themselves off as different
from other women by the fact that they had entered new territory in
their professions and in the public arena. They had differentiated
themselves, and would be thought of as exceptional. But maybe some
feared that they were not exceptional, and that to leave spaces in their
narrative for the reader to fill would make them more interesting. The
myths created would become the explanatory model of who they were.
Roland Barthes work in Mythologies is pertinent here.
In this he
showed how certain images or ideas constitute a first layer of meaning
which, in turn, is transformed into myth. The original image of these
women was possibly that of a blue-stocking, dowdy, professional
woman. This is emptied out, and becomes a signifier for a second,
mythical level of meaning. For example, the intimidating, blue-
stocking headmistress can become a woman of mystery and intrigue
when she chooses not to reveal her relationships. The professional
womans original history is crushed by the new myth and her image
becomes instead the form that carries the concept of a risqu and more
interesting woman. If we understand myths as explanatory frameworks
in which cultures can make sense of potentially confusing schema,
then we can argue the notion that these women wanted to break out
from the defined image that society had for them, and then to remould
the myth which was a risky undertaking. The fear expressed in their
prefaces of their worthiness to write an autobiography can be quashed
by engagement in the formation of a new myth. This confirmed them
as exceptional.
Yet these areas of incompleteness invite active intervention. In effect,
the autobiographer has used silence as a way of opening up a distance
between the reader and the author. The space on the page is suggestive
of providing a time for exploring thoughts. So if the reader decides that
an issue is not closed, it is not. It is this silence that gives the text life.
The reader is given power to fill the spaces. Macherey, writing about
fiction, advocates that a book may appear: incomplete; because it has
not said everything, there remains the possibility of saying something
Of course I am not advocating that every tiny detail of every
thing that can be written in a given situation must be included. But as
Macherey explained: all speech envelops itself in the unspoken , in
other words: in order to say anything, there are other things which
must not be said.
Robert Lougy proposes that: It is the opposition or
otherness which bestows such structure on the work, and even though
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Silences 161
the text cannot speak of such divisions, it identifies through its
We understand the narrative when equal significance is
given to both words and silence. This is a statement that holds true for
these autobiographies.
I noted in my introduction to this chapter that Cage and Sontag
contended that there is no such thing as silence. I believe that this
chapter has shown that their statements hold true for these autobiog-
raphies. I also acknowledged the usefulness of Machereys literary
theories to enable readers to look beyond silence to reveal the text
and consider: What is important in the work is what it does not say.

I shall make three assertions. The first is that silence prohibits closure.
The second is that psychological inhibitions usually lead to uninten-
tional silence. The third is that silence is an indication that things are
not as they should be. Silence has an identity and can be measured.
But in order to make full use of my methodology and the insights that
it provokes, we now need to judiciously incorporate the notions of self
and identity of these autobiographers, and to follow this by an
examination of memory in Chapter 11.
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This chapter discusses the usefulness of autobiography in historical
research. It is recognised that this is, to some extent, still a controversial
area of study. All earlier chapters written about each individual profes-
sion have, without a direct allusion to subjectivity, dealt with what
these women understood to be their world and, in some cases, an
acknowledgement of the difficulties of writing about it. Identity will be
studied in this chapter and memory in the following one, to show how
they can be used to expand on the historical understanding of a period
and that, if analysed with intellectual rigour, can have a valid historical
To help provide a clear understanding it is necessary to give a brief
rsum of a number of significant signposts in the development of the
study of the subjective and its ambiguous position in historical studies.
The problem with analyses of womens autobiographies is that, for the
most part, the debates are heavily theoretically based with few illustra-
tions from autobiographical texts and indeed, use few examples of auto-
biographies to substantiate their position.
This does not apply to the
seminal work of Regenia Gagnier who undertook a comparative study
across social class and gender, utilising middle-class and working-class
autobiographies in the nineteenth century.
My approach will fore-
ground the conclusions I have drawn from close textual analysis and
not from an inductive, a priori, theoretical position. I want the theory to
emerge organically from my response to the texts and not as Corbett
suggests to have: valued the observer over the participant.
The object
of my work here is to redress the ratio of primary material to that of
theoretical analysis and make a sound case to show how these autobiog-
raphies can be used to expand on the historical understanding of a
Self and Identity
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Self and Identity 163
Individual identity is necessarily a problematic concept but the
work initiated by the School of Annales in France, in particular their
work in promoting the histoire de mentalits in an interdisciplinary
approach, is germane to my examination.
I intend to take up and
continue with the position stated by Malcolm Chase: Historians
working in the documentary tradition see subjectivity and gaps in a
piece of evidence mainly as mechanical problems: I want to argue for
taking subjectivity and silence more seriously, and for their admission
as evidence.
The issue of gaps and silences was addressed in my two earlier chap-
ters and I aim to illustrate here that they are both part of the subjective
moulding of a text and cannot be dismissed as mechanical problems.
However, some historians find difficulties in the autobiographical
mode. For them, the problem is that no matter how closely autobiogra-
phers stick to the facts, the writing down of them storifies both the
protagonist and the events recorded. Indeed many of these autobiogra-
phers concede this. Burstall, a headmistress, professed: A difficulty
confronts me here. The exigencies of a connected and continuous nar-
rative may lead me to convey the impression that all ideals described
were reached, and that this is a record of a perfect performance. Nothing
could be further from the act.
The tradition of autobiography necessitates a coherent narrative at its
centre. But autobiography is predicated on intense and sometimes half-
remembered moments which structure the tale. It is essential to human
culture to construct coherent narrative, even though subjectivity and
the self may be structured by the contrast between intense epiphanies
and longueurs. My overall objective is to argue for taking these subjec-
tive texts more seriously, and for their admission as useful evidence in
the compass of history.
The arguments against using self-writing to form an understanding
of identity in a period are derivatively summarised by the notion that
history is objective and autobiography is subjective. On the question of
identity, Patricia W. Romero congratulated Martin Pugh for being:
among the first historians [ ... ] to recognise how invalid most memoirs
of the period are.
But Mary Jean Corbett suggests that if enough sub-
jective accounts are read: the grounded position of the writer in her
own experience as constructed in autobiographical texts will provide
a fuller version of historical truth.
However, Wilhelm Dilthey, consid-
ered as one of the founding fathers of modern autobiographical theory,
offered a broad concept of autobiography: In autobiography we
encounter the highest and most instructive form of understanding of
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164 Gender, Professions and Discourse
He saw it as a mode of understanding to which everyone has
access, and it is this inclusive concept of historical consciousness,
which is similar to that propounded by the Annales School. More
recently John Tosh takes the view that: No picture of the past could be
complete without a reconstruction of its mental landscape.
and that
the study of collective mentalities is concerned in the first instance to
recreate the emotions and intellect of people living in conditions very
different from our own, so that their humanity can be more fully
Henri Berr greatly influenced Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch empow-
ering them to found the Annales dhistoire conomique et sociale which
became, in the 1950s, a very influential historical journal.
Duby followed on closely from Bloch; he believed that the study of par-
ticular crises can give a privileged access to an understanding of the
way people thought.
Their aim was to make the New History compa-
rable with real sciences, and to argue that the study of mentalities was
not just a matter of insight and imprecise moments of understanding.
But the most fascinating development to come was the new study of the
history of mentalities and ideologies: the study of the beliefs and the
ways of seeing in a given culture. Febvres classic text A New Kind of
History caused some controversy, but was necessary for redefining his-
torical time, because these academics were not dealing with events, but
attitudes which needed to be studied over a longer period.
It seems to
me that the approach of the Annales history is most fruitful for this kind
of work. This may seem surprising, since they do not concern them-
selves with female writing or aspects of feminism. However, subjectiv-
ity is a broad issue and should not be corralled into debates about
feminism as it has often been.
For the second part of this study, I propose to use recent work on
memory undertaken by psychologists who have investigated autobio-
graphical memory.
I find it thought-provoking that, after having
formed this practicable approach, I unearthed two quotations; one
from each discipline, but proceeding from a similar position. Adorno
suggested that subjectivity: is the form of the objective, the how (not
the what) of reality.
The later observation by social psychologist
Jerome Bruner: a life is not how it was but how it is interpreted,
reinterpreted, told and re-told because in turn this provides a study
of the social and cultural factors of the period.
Dilthey had pleaded
the case for social psychology to be used to substantiate historical
analysis, but this was not incorporated until Fromm joined the
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Self and Identity 165
Frankfurtians in 1932. In this connection, the work in the 1980s
of social psychologists such as David Pillemer and others will be
useful to the argument that I shall develop here, and continue in
Chapter 11.
The history of the mentalities of an era needs to include the remem-
brances of many perspectives in order to illuminate social, political
and cultural phenomena. Earlier chapters have demonstrated that the
professional women discussed in this work have exhibited shared
frames of mind and dispositions within their specific groups. Their
professional accomplishments, within their groups, nurtured cer-
tain characteristics. However, my research demonstrated a variation
between the professions in the emotional temperature of their writing.
I now want to take this one stage further, again in an all-inclusive
sweep of these professions, to examine the treatment of personal iden-
tity. This should provide a riposte to the dominant public/historical
opinions which abounded, and were privileged, at the time. For exam-
ple, Edwardian novelist, Netta Syrett notes: In writing of the Victorian
era the younger novelists seem to have forgotten that what is known as
the Womans Movement was in the eighties already well recognized,
and in the nineties in full swing. She continued that she believed a
counterblast is necessary to correct the many novels, dealing with
the terribly restricted life led by women whose youth coincided with
Indeed, feminist historians and critics have applied a not dissimilar
template. For instance, although a fin-de-sicle phenomenon, the New
Woman has been used in more recent years as an explanatory model
by late twentieth century feminist literary historians. However, they
historicized it as: first generation, 18801890s and second generation
up to the 1920s New Women. Firstly, I intend to use examples of these
womens writings to mount a rebuttal to the popular images depicted
in the press. Secondly, I want to take this a step further and analyse
the unspoken elements of the New Woman, those of clothing and
hair. These are issues which are traditionally an exclusive female pre-
occupation; topics which are rarely disinterested. Fashion and hair are
never merely decorative or neutral, according to Konig: Fashion is a
code, a symbolic vocabulary that offers a sub-rational but instant and
very brilliant illumination of the characters of individuals and even
entire periods.
Such an important point as this needs developing.
However for the purposes of this chapter it is sufficient to briefly intro-
duce it as an exemplar of the usefulness of subjective observation to
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166 Gender, Professions and Discourse
the social and cultural identities of the era. It is quite clear that these
are enabling devices for the exploration of female identity and self-
hood in these autobiographies.
Sally Ledger describes the New Woman as having a multiple iden-
tity: a feminist activist, a social reformer, a popular novelist, a
suffragette playwright, a woman poet; she was also often a fictional
Yet, in spite of later mentioning that the availability of
higher education for women was blamed by many for their push into
the public sphere. Ledger does not include any of the professions in
her description. If, as Ledger continued: the centrality of marriage,
dissipation in the role of motherhood, and economic imbalance were
seen to be in jeopardy
by this new circumstance, prominence needs
to be given to what women in the professions understood as their
position. Although not named by Ledger these professional women
were clearly forging new identities for their gender. It would be diffi-
cult to trace, in a manageable way, all the historical nuances and def-
initions of identity, self and subjectivity. The history of subjectivity
has been extensively discussed elsewhere, but I will give a simplified
overview and say something of the current position which informs
my argument.
The Oxford English Dictionary records that the self
was recognised as a living formative element, sometime between the
mid-sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries, and that the modern
idea of selfhood or integrated rhetoric of self emerges. During that
time there was an increased self-awareness and the sense of self as
connected to natural and moral philosophy, as well as society. It was
Descartes use of I that marked a point in the beginnings of explor-
ing the self, as an individual as opposed to a social act. This writing
hailed a heightened sense of self and some historians suggest that a
preoccupation with the subjective characterises modernity.
In the
late seventeenth century John Locke argued in the Essay Concerning
Human Understanding (1690), that the self is a product of experience
and education and consciousness, self-consciousness and human
nature gained common usage, accepting the relationship between
individualised subjectivity and a shared or common nature.
established the basis for the definition of modern subjectivity. This
rise of the rational self in the early eighteenth century coincided with
a decline in religious belief, and the seeing of man as rational, auton-
omous, and in control of the universe. The new intellectual
Enlightenment myths preferred the elitist model of the self-made
man, whilst the masses, that is, the lower classes, women and
irrational others, continued to practise the relegated religious beliefs.
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Self and Identity 167
Concerns were expressed that due to commercial pressures and
egotism, individuals were becoming divided selves and not to be
relied upon for a genuine sense of moral duty.
Hume maintained
that this limited interest in others was accounted for in terms of
self- interest.
Moving into the nineteenth century, the hallmarks of Romantic
thought placed a greater faith in the individual imagination and
de-emphasising rationality. They concentrated on the soul for the
nature of understanding as a means of exploring an intense inner
consciousness. Memory and the uniqueness of personal perspective
was a more meaningful guide than objective observation. The journey
of self-discovery became the crucial Romantic practice.
As the nine-
teenth century progressed, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche envisaged
the lone individual in complete isolation from the universe. And in
the fin de sicle, psychology focused upon the meaning of individual
The discovery of the unconscious was a crucial breakthrough by
Freud. He opened up new notions of selfhood and dark and dangerous
desires. The fashion became to understand yourself, to express your-
self, to develop your potential and be yourself. The autobiographers in
this survey would have been aware of this new ethos and the search
for an inner truth. So it would not be unreasonable to speculate that
they would, to greater or lesser degree, have been influenced by
Freudian thought. In which case, the notion of verisimilitude and
inner subjectivity would be paramount in their autobiographies. In
recent times, we now challenge the notion, held since the Renaissance,
of a core inner personal identity. Work by Derrida and in particular
that of Foucault challenge the belief in human agency. They argue
for the primacy of semantic signs and the death of the author and
they consider conventional understandings of subjectivity to be
Finally, before proceeding with my analysis, I want to make plain
how I shall be using some terminology, which is in itself an area of
discussion between different academic positions. Theorists sometimes
refer to identity, sometimes to the subject, subjectivity or the self.
These different terms are not always particularly significant because,
in some way or other, they denote interest in the individuals subjectiv-
ity. However, for some theorists, these differences are worth close atten-
tion, if only because they may suggest deep historical and political
For the purposes of this book, my position is that these
expressions are interchangeable. It is the identity that is the object of
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168 Gender, Professions and Discourse
this study, which is formed through a personally created, interpreta-
tive understanding of that individuals experience, which is then
subjectively recorded.
Some academics argue that the self can be studied as an object, with-
out concern for the context or self-portrayal of the individual. Charles
Taylor does not participate in this view: We are selves only in that cer-
tain issues matter to us. What I am as a self, my identity, is essentially
defined by the way things have significance for me.
Anthony Elliot
expresses a similar position, noting that self-interpretation is crucial to
the formation of the self, although this will not provide complete trans-
parency. Further, he maintains that in self-fashioning, an individuals
subjectivity is shaped by external influences, which constitute a: col-
ourful backdrop for the staging of human experience and the drawing
of self-identity.
These are views that I share. That is not to say that it
is simply a question of external influences, because social, cultural,
political and historical contexts are embedded. It is for this reason that
the subjective writing of these women has importance in the widening
of knowledge of an era. As Taylor recorded: My identity is worked out,
only through the language of interpretation which I have come to
accept as a valid articulation of these issues. To ask what a person is in
abstraction from his or her self-interpretations is to ask a fundamentally
misguided question.
In summary, the womens autobiographies that are part of this survey
share in common many elements of a similar backdrop. Their different
professions meant that the social, cultural and academic influences
would operate in complex ways. They would produce representations of
subjectivity which were heterogeneous. It is these selves, these subjec-
tivities that develop the mentality of an era.
In The Times newspaper from 19001920 it is quite clear that on the
whole, female topics are either trivialised or treated ironically. The jaun-
diced tone is focused on Suffrage, demonstrations and the New Woman.

Other columns relating to women are short and in the minority. These
focus on Womens Union, Women as Medical Inspectors, District
Councillors and Factory Inspectors. The main impression of the New
Woman is one which gives rise to images of rioting and civil disobedi-
ence. This partial journalism engendered a letter in The Times, 16 July
1907, signed: A Woman who writes for her Bread. The lengthy letter was
printed in full for many column inches, displaying fervent emotional
prose. She writes of the: ill of sex jealousy [ ... ] Men are jealous of every-
thing women do outside the nursery and the drawing room [ ... ] they
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Self and Identity 169
want to keep women out ... they are jealous of all intellectual work that
women attempt, of all the success they achieve.
This fervent (albeit marginal) reaction appears to be atypical within
the central forum of professional women. Yet in printing this lengthy
and extreme position the establishment found their opinions justified,
and the myth of the New Woman (as radical, as decadent, as having mas-
culine attributes, as poor mothers, as lesbian), was fuelled. Ethel Raglan,
among others, redresses the casual misogyny present in popular journal-
ism: If the poor girls can do nothing right and exhibit so many faults, it
is curious that they have the brains to occupy important positions in the
work place.
Her tone became ironic as she rightly identified that heads
of influential businesses employ girl secretaries: Was it because they were
fortunate enough to get the one girl who happened to be the exception
to the rule?
Rose Macaulays weariness with the biased commentaries
was recorded by a reporter from the Guardian, 13 November 1925.
Macaulay was lecturing on Women as News:
An enormous number of books were written about women, and as for
the press, she thought sometimes that if a future chronicler were to
study the files of our newspapers he would get the impression that
there had appeared at this time a strange new creature called woman
who was receiving great attention from the public [ ... ] Men insisted on
generalising about women. Instead of regarding them as so many mil-
lions of individuals with separate temperaments and outlooks [sic].
Unfortunately for women at this time, articles and letters directly pro-
moting womens points of view in the public domain were in the minor-
ity. As a rebuttal, these women wrote articles and books which positioned
them in a resistant stance against the dominant patriarchal point of
view. The idea of woman as represented in the dominant codes, and
circumscribed by male views, motivated them to write. They used a
register and tone which had a scholarly objectivity, which was set
against the emotive outbursts of both the male journalism and the
emotional female stance. They have both inserted themselves into, and
taken on, the male, public writing arena and mode of writing, in order
to assert their own sense of identity.
One distinctive view emerged as a rebuff to the use of New Woman
as an identity; that of the term modern girl. This coinage was taken up
by these women autobiographers. It suggests that for them, the term
New Woman may have had pejorative connotations. They did not
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170 Gender, Professions and Discourse
decry, deride or find the new woman too extreme. Instead many women
thought her commonplace. Raglan recorded:
It is a fashion to deride the modern girl, just as if no modern girl had
existed before; but if we took the trouble to consider the question at
all, we should be bound to realise that in every generation the girls
of their particular period have been labelled modern.
Unlike Raglan, who was an observer of these young women, Diana
Cooper was a young modern. She recalled: There was among us a
reverberation of the Yellow Book and Aubrey Beardsley, Ernest Dowson,
and Max Beerholm. Our pride was to be unafraid of words, unshocked
by drink and unashamed of decadence and gambling Unlike Other
People, Im afraid.
Much of the thrust of both primary contemporary
sources and later secondary sources dwelt on the word, rebel and rebel-
lion. Yet, the female autobiographers that I have examined, who existed
at the centre of these areas, did not seem to have such feelings and did
not view their actions as seditious. Raglan continued:
We did not hear so much talk then about insubordinate daugh-
ters, but I think this was chiefly due to the fact that we were so
intent on enjoying ourselves. We did not think about rebelling, for
the simple reason that we were unaware we had anything to rebel
against! [sic]
This notion of incorrect reporting was taken up by Faithfull: I do not
think there has been much subjection of women in bygone ages as is
commonly supposed; the limitations of their activities were often self-
imposed [ ... ] Few had ambitions for any other life.
Notice needs to be
taken of these personal observations to address the balance of the
extreme and partial position projected in the newspapers and to ensure
an inclusive record of the mentality of the period.
That is not to say that there was a clear-cut perspective from women
who were not active suffragettes. Novelist Bertha Ruck also used the
terminology modern girl. When asked by interviewers her opinion
on this Modern Generation she became quite cross with the idea that
the modern girls were so very different from me.
She was at pains to
show how alike each generation is; instead of cars she whizzed about
recklessly on bikes, and became perfectly cheery on soda [and] never
employed Darling, if I dont have a drink right now I shall pass out
However she did not decry the young, but noted that they lived
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Self and Identity 171
on their nerves more and have speeded-up standards. Twice married
and a nurse in war time, Baroness TSerclaes exhibits a different per-
spective of women in the public realm. TSerclaes as a keen motor
cyclist in 1912 competed in trials on her open-framed Scott, a power-
ful but trustworthy machine. [ ... ] I taught myself how to take a motor-
bike to pieces [ ... ] I did not want to depend on anyone if I could help
In fact, these unusual skills of mechanics and self-reliance served
TSerclaes well when serving in Flanders. Granted, this was not run-
of-the-mill, but points to the feeling of equality that some women
In this era of changing female identity, Headmistress Sara Burstall
recognised the need to provide curricula that would give: a sound
preparation for professional or business life. But the difficulty lies in
the fact that the future of so many girls is uncertain. They may
not eventually decide or need to earn a living in a professional
When young, Dr Gladys Wauchope suffered from similar uncertain-
ties. She recollected hankering to go to Oxford to read classics, but
instead: my parents thought French an essential part of education and
finishing school .
But schooling and parental opinions were not the
only categories which tried to maintain the traditional identity of young
women. For example, Dr Scharlieb who had attended university and
proceeded to study medicine, remembered good-natured surprise and
acceptance when: Giving the results of an examination Dr Gervais
remarked Oh, to think that I have lived to give the Scholarship in my
own subject to a woman! But there, it was an excellent paper and it cant
be helped!
Headmistress Lilian M. Faithfull similarly found support:
We were breaking new ground, and, although on the whole kindly
help was more abundant than unkindly criticism, we were aware that
women were on their trial as administrators, and we often had to plough
a lonely furrow.
These autobiographers vouchsafed a female identity on the cusp of
inevitable change, by dint of hard work; not change wrought by
extremes and rebellion. In Faithfulls words: We were very conscious of
the fact that we had to establish traditions.
These shared experiences
provide a less sensational telling of the New Woman. They show a
thoughtful resistance to extremist images of professional women, and,
provide in answer, a measured and realistic portrait.
This is not to say that these women did not anticipate or experience
hostility or obstruction. Simply, the majority of educated women who
moved into public and hitherto male spheres acted pragmatically in
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172 Gender, Professions and Discourse
accord with the demands of the moment. Moreover, they did recognise
and deal with adversity. Faithfull taking up the masculine metaphors
from the grand narratives observed:
Like men, women wanted new worlds to explore, and the old
well-worn tracks would no longer satisfy them [ ... ] they longed for a
great adventure [ ... ] facing the supreme difficulties and strain of an
Antarctic or Mount Everest expedition [ ... ] so the pioneers of the
womens movement ignored opposition, met difficulties with a
high-hearted courage, lived Spartan lives of incessant work and
Nevertheless, not all women approved or identified with the modern
girl but their disapprobation fell short of any condemnation.
Headmistress Marion Cleeve had more steadfast and disapproving
observations to make in relation to teaching, it must be said. She
feared that new trends would dissipate the dignity of the teaching
profession: With the best will in the world, I am not able to admire
the modern girl. I see in her vaunted independence only the
satisfaction of self-instinct. I ascribe her scorn of tradition to
But these were not concerned with rebels as portrayed in the over-
blown propaganda. Novelist Rita Humphreys was excited by: the first
eight years of this new century [which] were years of marvels!
But as
time progressed she claimed to: have studied the New Woman and her
pretensions. And Humphreys used New Woman in a pejorative way.
I foresaw that she would not be of essential value in the making of
Her experience informed her that the more liberty achieved,
the more and more lax her moral standpoints, less and less evident her
feminine charm.
Humphreys recognised that, as with many new
movements, the essence of the original drive can be corrupted. She
presented a commonplace fear of decadence and immoral descent
which may arise from these changes. But hers was an opinion rarely
expressed by these autobiographers.
It is appropriate to end this section with a quotation, at length, from
headmistress Frances Gray who summed up an alternative and realistic
sentiment on the modern girl:
It is surely ridiculous to maintain that each generation since the days
of Queen Elizabeth has been worse than its predecessor [ ... ] And
finding that it is the young who are in fault. One is sometimes
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Self and Identity 173
tempted to think that our dissatisfaction is with ourselves, which we
thrust deep down below the level of consciousness, undergoes some
transformation in the mysterious crucible of the unconscious mind
and reappears in the dissatisfaction of others [ ... ] There are many
things done by young people of the present day that I could wish not
done, [ ... ] But the outrageous libels on the younger generation that
some novelists and playwrights have produced have very little foun-
dation in fact [ ... ] But any woman who has lived half a century in
close touch with young people [ ... ] knows the tales of the novelists
and the playwrights are wildly exaggerated and are often manipu-
lated so as to be utterly untrue.
There were few female journalists in the period 19001920. Therefore
the commonly held, and read, views of what women thought, were
put into the public arena by men. These female autobiographers,
sought to redress this articulation. However, whilst they have not used
the terminology, subjectivity identity or point of view, they wanted
to address the incorrect, negative and largely male partial opinion
engendered by the Press. Their writing demonstrated their under-
standing of this new coinage of womanhood, and caused them to set
into action a rebuttal, by using their own terminology; that of the
modern girl.
This awareness of their identity in society can be further developed
through an examination of non-verbal expression; in particular the
aspect of image through dress and hair, which can provide an articulate
image of selfhood. The chapter on nurses did examine the attitudes
towards uniforms. But what I want to do now is to read their subjectiv-
ity through the evidence of non-verbal signifiers. For example, the
opposition to women doctors was crushing. Institutional, social, eco-
nomic and sexual obstacles needed to be overcome, all of which would
be seen as de-sexing or en-masculating. At the start of medical college,
Bryson was keen to appear grown-up: I was eighteen. My hair went up
and my skirt was let down. The hair was easy; the tadpole tail was
turned into a coil at the nape of the neck and pushed under my academic
This was just the beginning of Brysons fascination with fashion
detail. She qualified as a doctor and moved into surgery, but her interest
continued to fill the pages. We learn that when she first began:
Walking the Hospital skirts were still long [ until a student appeared
in a skirt ] at least six inches off the ground, and attracted a great deal
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174 Gender, Professions and Discourse
of attention especially from the men: we gazed in wonder at her
boldness: when we spoke she tossed her head. Soon we were all wear-
ing shortened skirts!
Moreover, her parenthesis bookmarks the phrases into the readers
mind, and the elliptical silence which follows from the exclamation
mark: skirts! make it plain that these young trainees understood the
mores of sexual attraction. She remembered many:
beautiful heads of hair Alice, with golden curls; Jessie, nicknamed
Coppertop, with shiny masses of smooth hair coiled on top of her
head [ ... ] Any painting of the face belonged to the theatre, or else
to the scarlet woman of the street [ ... ] I remember being asked to
speak to one of the newcomers who was offending our sense of pro-
priety by wearing her towsy hair adorned with splashes of pink and
lavender ribbon.
These value-laden and subjective elements which occur here are a
tiny extract of the amount given each time Bryson remarked on
fashion. Her detailed observations which were always partial if not
censorious set strong boundaries of the acceptable and non-
acceptable. In fact the details she used about hair and looks is more
commensurate with the public idea of the acting profession than
that of medicine.
For example, actress Liliah McCarthy not only mentions hair colour
but bolsters public myths that surround ideas of hair colouring as
sources of identity. She recorded audience reaction to two characters
that she played: Mercia with auburn hair, Helena with golden hair and
other roles with her own naturally dark hair: Flowers came, jewels and
letters. I now know why it was that Mercia used to break so many
hearts; [ ... ] I have found the clue. It is the golden thread of Ariadne.

There followed several years without such adoration until she played
Helena in A Midsummer Nights Dream: Then, suddenly, the sun of ado-
ration shone again and lo! The clue was clear. Those intervening years
were dark because my hair was dark. Mercia had auburn hair. Helenas
was pale gold.
She further implied that when she did not wear a wig
of auburn or gold she could win approbation and cast a spell on her
audience and critics: but they never loved me. But as Helena in a
golden wig, I was again beloved.
From two very different professional
arenas these writers display a strong sense of a feminine self and a com-
mon point of view. The reasons are not too dissimilar. In both arenas
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Self and Identity 175
they want sexual attraction. For the women doctors, it was important
to show their femininity as disproof to assertions by the male medical
fraternity. For actresses it was not only their personal success with
admirers, but it also had importance as a measure of professional
Dr Isabel Hutton is one of many doctors who showed a similar preoc-
cupation with hair and dress codes.
She questions the motives of a
lecturers wife who attended the classes each day, seated in the
front row:
Was it [ ... ] because she enjoyed admiration? She wore violets or
lilies of the valley, little sable tippets, high-heeled shoes, smart
clothes and a delicious musky perfume. One morning she tripped
into the lecture theatre with ash-blonde hair, which had been mid-
brown on the previous day [ ... ] From that day it began to be (quite
erroneously) whispered by some that, before her marriage, this
lady had been a tight-rope walker, by others that she had been
nightly shot out of a circus cannon and, worst of all, a ballet
Although Hutton is not expressing her own point of view, she remem-
bered the mentality of a certain class and its disapprobation in a spe-
cific era. She then appears to contradict herself. In the following extract
the reader is left uncertain as to whether Hutton was, or was not, a
[ I ] admired this gentle lady, had played her accompaniments when
she sang innocent little songs [ ... ] I felt a great affinity with her, for
I too was a dancer, though I had the sense to keep it very dark! A girl
might sing and play the piano or a stringed instrument though not
a wind instrument, but might not dance except in the ballroom in
the arms of a man.
In passages such as these, we see a wide range of concepts about the
formation of personal identities. The stricture of social rules and
standards illustrated here expressed how important it was to do the
right thing. The lecturers wife appeared to break the guidelines for
acceptable behaviour and was immediately denigrated by general
consensus. We can only conjecture her reasons for taking such a step.
She cannot have been unaware of the risk. Seated in the front row of
lectures she openly courted attention and possibly this was her only
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176 Gender, Professions and Discourse
way of making her move towards that of the New Woman; possibly
the staid and subdued role of a lecturers wife allowed for little
self-expression or passion. She openly desired her feminine self to be
In my final extract from Hutton:
The graduation ceremony [ ... ] We were solemn of mien, dressed in
the unaccustomed garb of black academic gowns and fur-edged
magenta hoods [ ... ] We women wore white dresses, with which we
had taken the greatest care as if we had been arrayed as brides, but
they were all hidden by the voluminous black gowns, made only in
male sizes. We had every right to be robed in the purest white, for we
were indeed vestal virgins who had led nun-like lives, resisting all
amorous delights and leading what was in fact a cloistered life. There
was a variety of hair-styles, [ ... ] Merry Widow curls were the most
bewitching, but there were top-knots, pompadours and great plaited
This paragraph is packed with social and cultural subjective signifi-
cance, juxtaposed with that of the fairytale reference; the transform-
ing of the ugly duckling into the swan. Although not explicitly
mentioned, there is a rebuttal to the falsehoods being plied to society,
via the Press, about the de-sexing aspect that professional training,
especially medical, was said to have upon women. For example, Sir
Almroth Wright, an eminent pathologist believed that education
would cause: extinction of a womans reproductive faculty.
fully understood the powerful connotations that a severely tailored
costume, woollen, grave and aloof presented, as much as she knew
the power of sweeping skirts, the sensual purity of white kid, the
luxurious haptic stimulation of silk underwear, and of yielding and
smiling to emote the senses. The former served as a mask which
identified with the power and sobriety of the masculine world of med-
icine. She drew attention to her feminine appearance and seemed to
confess to, and display, a feminine identity to the reader. Her autobiog-
raphy gives the impression of a narrator who was determinedly femi-
nine, and that this was superseded and suppressed by the pressure of
her professional life. Their sense of self determined to combat the mas-
culine scientific world of anatomy and human dissection with femi-
nine sexuality. This appreciation of the dual identity acted as a
shoring-up against popular claims of the emasculating affects that
professional careers engendered.
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Self and Identity 177
Interrogation of autobiographies written by headmistresses
revealed a similar sense of self. When Faithfull attended an inter-
view she knew that: For women on these occasions dress is a matter
of almost as great importance as a suitable manner. It is wise not to
be too smart, for it may argue that you are not serious-minded, but
rather on pleasure bent. On the other hand, dowdiness means
Exact fashion detail followed: I was conscious that I was at a dis-
advantage in being young, and chose discreetly a black-and-white
dress and small cottage bonnet with strings, quite in the fashion.

Faithfull understood the power generated by correct use of fash-
ion. Her dress, in a subtle manner, is imitative of male formal attire,
the black-and-white dress. But this signal to masculine formality
is set against a feminine bonnet with strings. To combine the two
spheres produced a discreet mix of social identities; namely those
of abduction/assimilation of male power signifiers, blended with
the essentially feminine. Following a later appointment, Faithfulls
accomplishment with non-verbal communication prevails when
she decided: quite seriously to wear always sumptuous dresses of
moir antique, and to rustle along corridors! [ ... ] to create an
It is here that the visible lushness of silk is combined
with the swishing sound of a body elegantly clad, to produce a
mode of power-dressing without compromising her femininity. As
Peter Corrigan writes: The fabrication of a dignified appearance is
essential to legitimate participation in the public domain.
an image similar to that created by female doctors, these women
metamorphose to state new public identities.
However, headmistress Marion Cleeve had a different notion of
fashion and identity. Cleeve noted: I sometimes wonder whether dig-
nity and devotion have not gone out with dowdiness.
In contrast to
Faithfull, she associated drabness with vocation and quiet dignity.
She continued: I remember when the purchase of a new costume was
an excitement for the whole staff room and the mere mention of a silk
lining a thrill.
What is compelling here is that the silk clothing
Cleeve admits to is a hidden silk lining, unlike the: show of a bright
silk petticoat. that Dr Hutton found desirable and the sumptuous
dresses of moir antique espoused by Faithfull. Cleeve found that
clothings importance had been too elevated, and erroneously
believed that it should be ignored. Her comment: how distinctly
traceable, even in such superficial matters as dress, manners and
deportment, is the influence of the headmistress.
But she was very
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178 Gender, Professions and Discourse
much in the minority in her view that fashion was superficial. This
could account for her self-knowledge that she lacked: what is curi-
ously termed presence [sic] [ ... ] and that there was something amiss
with my manner may be deducted from the fact that I was half-way
through my headmistress-ship before strangers ceased to conclude
that I was my secretary.
In adjuring to dowdiness as an appropriate image, synonymous with
the duty and devotion of a headmistress, Cleeve had failed to have an
assertive, powerful image. Possibly her cloistered life had dimmed her
awareness to visual, non-verbal display and to an understanding of the
male gaze. This was a mistake on her part, because another, less power-
ful, image is produced, although the image was no less symbolic. She
typified a woman undertaking a subservient role rather than that of a
professional woman in command.
This difference between these two headmistresses may be explained
by the different social standing their schools held. Lilian M. Faithfull
was the Principal of the Cheltenham Ladies College which catered for
the comfortable middle and upper-middle-classes. Her perspective
induced her to see dress as an important tool. Cleeve had worked as a
headmistress in an ordinary High School, in an industrial town, and
provided education for the local burghers daughters. I wrote earlier,
fashion and hair are never neutral. To be successful these professional
women instinctively recognised the need to use the de rigueur of male
dress codes and blend them with female sensuousness, to make a
distinctly powerful and new sense of self.
From these three professions discussed, all exhibit the need to write
about visual attributes. They knowingly display knowledge of the
power of non-verbal communication. Knowingly, because women are
so often the objects of a male gaze, they are generally more likely to
be aware of the control visual influences have. Implicitly, some of
these roles reinforce a vision of femininity which is in fact covering
an iron resolve. In The Fashion System, Roland Barthes analyses the
signifying relationships between fashion and image. For Barthes,
fashion connotes: an essentially tyrannical authority.
According to
Barthes: the garments most poetic reality: as a substitute for the
body, the garment, by virtue of its weight, participates in mans fun-
damental dreams [ ... ] It is a garments weight which makes it a wing
or a shroud, seduction or authority.
Indeed, for these women it was
not seduction or authority but a distinct amalgam of the two to cre-
ate their identity in a changing society. These Edwardian women
instinctively knew how to present their different public selves, even
9780230_219922_11_cha10.indd 178 8/20/2008 7:19:20 PM
Self and Identity 179
to the point of understanding the connotations that adhere to the
weight of a cloth.
Barthes interest in the visual, that created a look, and in identity
can also be investigated using Foucaults writing on power.
power of dress could be defined within Foucaults thesis of the divid-
ing practices that play a particularly important part for an individu-
als knowledge/power paradigm. He was of course writing about
physical confinement of one type or another; prisons, hospitals and
schools, and so on. But the power I refer to is the strength of the
environment/profession of which they were part. As doctors and
headmistresses they were part of an organised system; albeit that the
headmistresses were more structured and restricted than the doctors.
The claustrophobic scholastic, all female, environment would chas-
ten all but the most avant-garde teacher. This is shown in their atti-
tudes to fashion; hidden feminine linings rather than flamboyant
silken petticoats. Observations from their peer group, governors and
parents would operate as a surveillance which would discipline their
external image. I would suggest that this strict hierarchical observa-
tional arrangement could extend to individuals identifying them-
selves with particular clothing and hair fashion.
Certainly it appears that for many of these women, teachers in par-
ticular, the arduous task of writing about their feminine aspects, from
both a subjective view point and from a political view point, was almost
impossible. The texts displace attention from direct expression by giv-
ing attention to indirect expression. Furthermore, how close did these
autobiographers want the reader to get to the way they perceived the
world? They divert the raw material of feminist issues onto hair and
clothing, and without overtly broaching the mine-field of womanliness
and femininity. They displace debates about selfhood/identity on to
the world of appearance, not a world of thoughts, and this fulfills their
desire for self-determination. It is what Camilla Stivers calls: the con-
struction of the self through the narratives about others [ ... ] intersub-
The others in these examples are non-verbal indicators, but
they spell out and shape what was occurring in the public arena of
social and cultural change.
From what I have outlined above, I am not suggesting that these texts
reflect their own period, but that they can be used to widen the debate
of their time. The distinctive voice of these educated women, although
subjective, provides a counterbalance to the myth-making popular
press, and acts as a force to re-draw consensual boundaries. Philippe
Lejeune suggests that autobiographies are: not just a summary moulded
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180 Gender, Professions and Discourse
into a stereotyped form, but a detailed and concrete narrative that
expresses a personality and provides the possibility of formulating
judgments other than the ones suggested.
What I see as important in these elements is the usefulness to history
of these subjective recordings. They lie in part with the recognition that
they were individual experiences, not an undertaking of a totality. They
are a series of revelations, emotions and expectations which can, if read
as part of the jigsaw of a period, form an aggregate of the conscious-
ness and experience in a given time. But this is only part of my
methodology. The aspect of memory needs to be examined in conjunc-
tion with these subjectivities in order to further cement the appropri-
ateness of autobiographical material to historical knowledge. This
important topic follows in the next chapter in order to do full justice to
the debate.
9780230_219922_11_cha10.indd 180 8/20/2008 7:19:20 PM
This chapter will develop a case about the usefulness of autobiographical
writing for the discipline of cultural history, by examining the peren-
nial problem of the reliability of memory, of the accuracy of its recall,
and the problematic manner of its rendering in language. I shall use
some of the recent work on memory produced by David C. Rubin,
Daniel L. Schacter, and David B. Pillemer as psychology practitioners
and theorists of memory.
My reasons for doing this are two-fold. One
is that the use of scientific findings in the structure of recall will help
us to deal with the problem of memory and accuracy. The second is
that in the conflation of two different disciplines (textual analysis and
psychology), new insights may be uncovered. The question of style
needs to be addressed as this does, in part, exacerbate the notion that
autobiographies are creative acts rather than reflections of actual
This enquiry asks whether it is the limits of narrative structure that
are the root cause of this assumption, rather than the accuracy of the
memory itself. These women autobiographers methods of presenting
the causality and the interconnectedness of events, rather than present-
ing a linear, temporal recording, make them open to charges of storify-
ing their lives According to Pillemer and Rubin, autobiographical
memory studies have become an expanding area of study since the
1980s: an area that mixes rigorous, controlled laboratory methods and
theory with everyday questions.
It is this theory with everyday
questions that is important here. Their work shows that an autobio-
graphical memory is recalled as words, often as stories and is: similar to
the narrative structure of other social communication and the recall of
autobiographical memories is usually a social act.
imagery is an important component, and it is this imagery that, leads
Memory and Accuracy
9780230_219922_12_cha11.indd 181 8/20/2008 7:21:40 PM
182 Gender, Professions and Discourse
to the specific, concrete details that make memories seem more accu-
rate, thoughtful, and believable.
Emotions are another major part of autobiographical memory.
According to Rubin: Unlike narrative and imagery, emotions are tradi-
tionally seen as outside cognition rather than as an aspect of it [ ... ]
emotions can have profound effects on autobiographical memory.
It is
for these reasons of narrative structure, imagery and emotions that
some historians take issue with the veracity of autobiographical record-
ings. I find that the science-based case studies of Pillemer and Rubin
provide a paradigm that is an appropriate study method for the truth-
fulness of autobiography. The combination of the findings of scientific
research with the textual analysis of autobiography will help to demon-
strate that these texts can contribute to the history of consciousness of
a specific group.
This chapter is divided into two interconnected parts each of which
focuses on a different facet of truth in autobiographical memory and
narrative. The first deals with the aspect of truthful accounting and the
style of writing; an area touched on in Prefaces. Second, from this
examination of the veridical
content, an investigation into the reliabil-
ity of memory over different time spans will be analysed, using Pillemer
and Rubins work on autobiographical memory/Personal Event Memory
(PEMs) and flashbulb memory. Rather than write a detailed synopsis of
their practice, I propose to present it by examples and analysis from the
autobiographies themselves.
The explanatory model for this discussion will concentrate on the
interesting phenomena of women who write two autobiographies, a
number of years apart, which cover a similar period.
Storm Jamesons
No Time Like the Present, 1933, and Journey from the North vol. 1, 1969
have long periods of overlap. Thurstans, on the other hand, first
written in 1915 as Field Flying Hospital, was recalled again 63 years
later in 1978 as The Hound of War Unleashed, and covers identical peri-
ods. Using memory work theory combined with close textual analy-
sis, I will examine style, tone, and emotional temperature which may
alter but, the core original memory may be still intact and remain the
same; it is the recall of the peripheral where these changes may take
Mark Freeman sums up the four main objections to autobiographical
writing as being none other than fiction:
For some, in fact, the entire genre can only be deemed hopelessly
fictional, since unlike real life, which presents us with question
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Memory and Accuracy 183
marks, censored passages, blank spaces, rows of asterisks, omitted
paragraphs, and numberless sequences of three dots trailing into
whiteness, [ ... ] provides an illusion of completeness [ ... ] autobiogra-
phy becomes much more problematic, for not only is there that
omniscient, synoptic, after-the-fact coherence, [ ... ] but there is also
an additional psychic load bound up with the simple fact that the
object of ones scrutiny here is oneself. In addition to the problem of
false coherence, therefore, there are problems such as wishful think-
ing, defenses, illusions, delusions, and so on, all of which will likely
find their way into ones story.
Put bluntly, what the argument of this extract does show is an inability
to uncover the appropriate mtier for analysis of autobiographical texts.
The four objections raised (ellipsis, narrative style, identity/subjectivity
and memory/accuracy) are indeed part of autobiographical narrative
structure. My earlier chapter Silence facilitated a reading of elliptical
marks and textual space. Identity issues were assayed in the previous
chapter, and throughout this book a scrutiny of womens autobiograph-
ical modes has been undertaken. What remains paramount is the ques-
tion of narrative structure. We tend to equate narrative structures which
are usually vital for the readers engagement with fictionality. When an
autobiography has an explicit fictional structure, the reliability of the
memory is called into question. Rubin is useful here, as he offers an
alternative to Freemans assertions on narrative patterning: [it] does
not get in the way of accurate autobiographic reporting or interpreting
but rather, provides a framework for both telling and understanding.

As Malcolm Chase aptly writes: All autobiographical memory is true. It
is up to the interpreter to discover in which sense, [and] for which
As the use of fictional narrative styles appears to be one of the most
problematic areas, I shall begin by answering the charge of false coher-
ence. There are limits for narrative structures when they present highly
coherent subjective experiences and a coherent sense of self, because a
sense of identity and subjective experience need to be contextualised.
To appear coherent, narratives need two characteristics: firstly, a range
of information and secondly, narrative organisation. The amount of
information gives the attributes of characters, scene, and the activity.
These provide important information about the setting within which
events occur. The other ingredient, narrative organisation, provides
temporal and causal dimensions. The need, stated by psychologists
Bruner and Feldman, is: To understand how a life history is told or how
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184 Gender, Professions and Discourse
it is interpreted is virtually impossible without a grasp of narrative
Without this grasp, the conjunction of incidents leads to
charges of storifying. So, for coherence, narratives need orienting,
framing and reference, all of which are evaluative guides and causal
links provided by the autobiographer. Yet these causal links are not
solely a fictive artifice.
According to psychologists, autobiographical memories are stored as
stories and recalled as verbal or written narratives. Rubin suggests:
The narrative structure of autobiographical memory seems similar to
the narrative structure of other social communication.
In her
seminal work on autobiography, Estelle C. Jelinek also finds that: The
narratives of their [women] lives are often not chronological and pro-
gressive but disconnected and fragmentary, or organized into self-
sustained units rather than connecting chapters.
The criticism that
womens autobiography is circuitous has been roundly made over the
years, and equally roundly rebutted by feminists. But what these crit-
ics have missed is that circumscribing an event will clarify the mean-
ing. The traditional autobiographical genre of chronological linear
recording, espoused by male writers and critics, could in fact omit the
essential core of an event by imposing the order of the next day on
the cord of the previous day.
Virginia Woolf suggested in A Sketch
of the Past why she believes so many autobiographies and memoirs
are failures:
They leave out the person to whom things happened. The reason is
it is so difficult to describe any human being. So they say: This is
what happened; but they do not say what the person was like to
whom it happened. And the events mean very little unless we know
first to whom they happened.
If, as Rubin suggests, our ways of understanding are through narrative
and causal links, then to make sense of their lives, autobiographers need
evaluative narrative to produce a candid retelling.
Causal writing is identified by Faithfull, a headmistress, as the most
natural method for exactness: There maybe some subconscious proc-
ess going on in our minds, but certain it is that in some strange way
events big and small in the far past fall into a kind of shape, and make
a clear and fairly complete picture.
Subjective evaluation provides
the framework from which the event is to be interpreted, and carries
possibly the greatest amount of input concerning the meaning of the
events. Furthermore it conveys how they should be interpreted and
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Memory and Accuracy 185
understood. Thus to understand a life history, a coherent structure
gives order to the autobiography and gives meaning to the eras men-
tality. Another part of the objections to autobiographys synoptic,
after the fact coherence relates to the fact that it is written years after
the scene that is recalled. These women autobiographers intuitively
recognised and responded to this issue of distant memories. Both
Mitchison, a novelist and a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), and
Faithfull express positive benefits from a lengthy gap before retelling
the events:
But the content of the diaries? [sic] can I fairly use these for checking
my own memories or should they be sent down the memory sieve?
Clearly the memories, as they come into consciousness sixty or
sixty-five years later have been censored. [sic] There is an element of
sub-conscious choice.
Faithfulls responds thus:
Time makes its own [sic] selection for memory, and determines what
shall remain to form the distant past, and what shall disappear.
When one comes closer to the present, however, the mass of detail
overwhelms one. It is hard to see the wood for the trees, to distin-
guish the small from the great, essentials from non-essentials, that
which is of value from the trivial and absurd. There is little or no
Clinical studies carried out by Sven-Ake Christianson in 1990 found
that memory, even 40 years after the event, held many details and were
remarkably consistent.
Faithfull has found that distance has given clar-
ity to the main issues, and filtered out the incidentals and longeurs of life.
This is not an act of forgetting according to Weber, but an act of choice.
The point I would argue here is that narratives need some evaluation
and causality to be meaningful to the reader and to historical research,
and thus advance an understanding of the mentality of an era.
Mitchison in her chapter called, The Evidence ventures: There are two
ways of writing this book. One is by an act of acute remembrance, [ ... ] But
I have something else of a very definite kind. First of all there are the
diaries [ ... ] So I can use these to check my memories.
Psychologist Craig R. Barclay remarked that context is often the ini-
tial stimulus for remembering and it is the framing process that brings:
context to consciousness.
For many autobiographers, diaries provide
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186 Gender, Professions and Discourse
framing and context, either as extracts or by alluding to them for
material corroboration to promote authority. In like manner, letters,
newspaper cuttings and reported speech are frequently used by these
autobiographers to give the appearance of authorial probity which help
to counter charges of after the fact coherence.
Interestingly, when writing their autobiographies, accuracy is men-
tioned as a concern by all the novelists, most nurses and VADs and
many artists. But there is scant mention of the difficulty of truthful
recall by doctors and headmistresses. I would surmise that, due to their
professional status and the need because of this to write factual reports
etc., they trusted their ability to recall and record accurately. On the
other hand, due to the interpretative nature of their professions, writ-
ers, painters, musicians and actresses would be more aware of possible
variants. It seems likely that the coherence within the professions which
I have noted in terms of approach, style and discourse, also extends to
the field of memory recall.
As part of the narrative construct, diaries are useful in situating
memories in the correct time frame. But if diaries are not available, are
we to trust the autobiographers remembrance of incidents? Duncan, a
dancer, and Humphreys, a novelist, express these concerns showing the
reader that every effort has been made to give accuracy. In A Chapter of
Memory Humphrey recalls: how often I had agonized and suffered in
my own search for truth.
Similarly, Duncan notes: I am trying to
write down the truth, but the truth runs away and hides from me. How
find the truth?
According to studies by psychologists Steen F. Larsen,
Charles P. Thompson, and Tia Hansen,
people in general are quite
accurate in judging everyday time events: temporal judgments are nor-
mally unbiased estimates of actual time in the past.
In essence, scien-
tific research affirms the probability of accuracy in these accounts.
Autobiographies examined here use canonical narrative framing devices
for the purpose of coherence, and so does autobiographical memory.
Autobiographers rely upon causal links for orienting context across a
time span, and so does the memory.
I have asserted that causal links and after the fact coherence are not
purely story-telling, but a scientifically established part of remembering
an event. I now want to look briefly at imagery and emotions as part of
this remembering. Imagery is a part of the metaphor of taking a picture:
it makes vivid memories vivid.
and leads to the specific, concrete
details that make memories seem more accurate, thoughtful, and
Pillemer found that: Women could recount experiences in
the past and provide compelling, precise, and often visceral detail.

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Memory and Accuracy 187
For example, Dr Caroline Matthews graphically captures a memory of a
Field hospital:
Orderlies, Serbian and Austrian, removed dressings, as at each table
a surgeon examined the injured limb. Here were exposed huge
gaping wounds in the quivering flesh, there a leg lay bared with
muscles and vessels veritably dissected out from knee to ankle the
stench abominable (a case of post-typhus gangrene).
Matthews was describing a dreadful scene. In this she brings
together non-verbal, vivid, visual and sensory images, into a cohesive
narrative. Pillemer remarks that in clinical studies, highly emotional
memories have a: highly sensory component which becomes a:
story-like verbal memory narrative.
He records that: Research stud-
ies on the whole have shown that memories of momentous events are
almost always accompanied by visual imagery, and other forms of
sensory experience.
Further, he implies that this visual detail is also
found in less powerful circumstances.
In fact a study by Brewer in
1988 provided evidence that visual imagery helped to give people
confidence about their accuracy of recall.
So far from being a
colourful fiction, these detailed writings are indeed a more accurate
A further component of imagery in memory is its pervasiveness,
something that was observed by Dr Bryson, a female doctor:
How strange a thing is memory! How continuous it is! How the
emotion of an early experience remains to colour and tinge and
flavour all succeeding similar experiences! [ ... ] Here memory becomes
clear and sharp as her very words and the very tone of her voice come
back to me.
Pillemer notes that these involuntary memories are triggered at any
time and by various stimuli.
Accordingly, details in these autobiogra-
phies add to the texts authenticity, but do not render them more fic-
tive. The more importance that is attached to a memory, the more
consistency there is in the reconstruction, and the more vivid is the
visual imagery attached to it. If this is so, the wealth of details women
autobiographers supply in their imagery and causal links is far more
than a fictive device, it is the essence of their accurate recall.
One final point of memory recall that is relevant to my research is
that of Flashbulb memory. This is a term coined by R. Brown and
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188 Gender, Professions and Discourse
J. Kulik in 1977 and connotes the recalling of novel or shocking
incidents. Flashbulb memories are a sub-category of PEMs and have
the categories of who, what, and where, similar to those of news
One special feature of this type of recall is the vividness of
the memory, which suggested the photographic flashbulb metaphor.
Another feature, according to Pillemer, is the unusualness of flashbulb
memories which come from: their content, which focuses on mun-
dane personal circumstances that are not linked in a meaningful way
to the facts of the newsworthy event itself.
He continues: At times of
high emotion, concomitant details may be automatically recorded in
memory alongside more general structural characteristics.
appears to be true not only for extreme incidents but also for less trau-
matic occurrences and those of a celebratory nature. Put plainly, there
is strong evidence that people never forget the circumstances in which
they heard the news. From various researchers work, spanning some
20 years, Weaver concluded that this special property of flashbulb
memories leads to their high (absolute) level of confidence in the
For example, Louise Jermy, a VAD, links the invitation from
her father for a place to see the Grand Coronation Procession of King
Edward VII with an anecdotal tale of Sir Oliver Lodge and the occasion
of: a gentleman to dinner who was one of the pioneers of the X-Ray
light, I forget his name,
[ ... ] he was one of the martyrs to science.
She recalls the episode of this gentleman upsetting the wine and drop-
ping things, and his subsequent distress. The memory remains for this
particular dinner party among many, because of the invite to the
Coronation Parade.
Neisser and Harschs studies in 1992 used flashbulb memory data
designed to address the issue of veridicality.
Brewer used these obser-
vations to show that most of the errors in the data recovered were
retrieval errors and not reconstructive errors. By this, Brewer means
that there was an accurate recalling of the wrong time-slice, due to
strongly emotional circumstances. Wrong time slice in these terms
means that the correct action itself was recalled, but the initial begin-
ning or knowing of the experience can be confused. Brewers research
found that 97 per cent of respondents recall contained retrieval errors,
and only 3per cent reconstructive errors. Furthermore: it [Webers Law]
implies that the increase in errors with time does not reflect forgetting
in the ordinary sense. The information in memory is not decaying or
disturbed by interference; small differences become less noticeable at a
larger distance in time.
Also, recall increases with the importance of
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Memory and Accuracy 189
the event remembered. This finding is important for the scrutiny of the
veridicality of autobiography, because it is always formed at some dis-
tance in time from the events.
It is this aspect of PEMs or autobiographical memory, those of retrieval
errors, rather than reconstruction that is evident in Violetta Thurstans
work. Because of the unusual nature of narrating the same experience
60 years apart, they provide the ideal vehicle as witness to the memory
work study. My sense is that this is the nub of the issue: that the auto-
biographers repeated use and careful location of PEMs helps us to use
them as evidence for a history of mentalities. The complexity and many
facets of core memories, differently woven over the years, need to be
studied. One further point, before presenting my analyses of these
accounts; I must confront at the outset a charge that these autobiogra-
phers simply copied and adapted from the earlier autobiographies. This
would be an obvious premise were it not for the complexity of the struc-
tural changes, tone and identities presented in the recall (alas too many
to address here). Suffice to say, as a general overview, that if these were
cases of simple stealing or reproduction of events, it would be transpar-
ent. But what they in fact show is commensurate with the scientific case
studies mentioned earlier.
An interesting example of retrieval errors occurs when Thurstan
attributes her reasons for writing her memories. In 1915 the writing of
this life story was a means of being useful during convalescence.
1978, she ascribes it to a meeting with Prince Yusupov, who had fre-
quently featured in this autobiography: You must write down all this.
There are so few people now who know [ ... ] and how poignant was the
suffering of the people. [ ... ] All the time I was in Russia I used to scrib-
ble notes about the places we went to.
The distortions between the
two autobiographies (usefulness in 1915 and instigation by a Prince in
1978 version) do not point to the unreliability of autobiography, as
many detractors would assert. It does in fact confirm Pillemer, Rubin
and others assertions that PEMs and autobiographical core memories
are sustained over the years. As Pillemer writes: Memories of personal
life episodes are generally true to the original experiences, although
specific details may be omitted or misremembered, and substantial dis-
tortions occasionally do occur.
It would not be unreasonable to sur-
mise that in 1915, things she had taken in her stride and appeared to be
the right action, 60 years later appeared a heroic adventure. The medal
she received, accolades from peers, press, and friends, over a lifetime of
achievements, would surely present her actions in another vein.
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190 Gender, Professions and Discourse
These two accounts of Thurstans experience are when she and fellow
VADs were ordered to leave Belgium by the Germans. The first extract
is from 1915, the second 1978.
I was personally very thankful not to have my belongings looked at
too closely, for I had several things I did not at all want to part with;
one was my camera, which was sewn inside my traveling cushion, a
little diary that I had kept in Belgium, and a sealed letter that had
been given me as we stood outside the station at Brussels by a lady
who had implored me to take it to England and post it for her there,
as it was to her husband in Petrograd, who had had no news of her
since the war began. I had this in an inside secret pocket. [ ... ] We
were ordered into the train ... At the next station we stopped ... we
were each given a bowl of soup. It was very good and thick [ ... ] At
Cologne [ ... ] We were ordered out of the train [ ... ] Some coffee was a
great comfort, and we were able to buy rolls and fruit for the journey
[Days later in Petrograd] One errand remained to be done. I had not
posted the letter given me by the English lady at the Brussels station
to her husband in Petrograd, wishing to have the pleasure of deliver-
ing it myself after carrying it at such risks all through Germany [ ... ]
I made inquiries for this Englishman, picturing his joy at getting the
long-deferred news of his wife ... but imagine the blow it was to hear
that he had a Russian wife in Petrograd!
Part of the Brussels station had been cleared for our large party of
about one hundred and fifty English women [ ... ] The crowd
thinned, but there were still a number of people waiting to see what
was going to happen. I felt a tug at my skirt and I looked around.
Hush, whispered a voice. Dont look at me, [sic] I want to ask you
a great favour. She produced a letter, I have not had any news of
my husband since the Boche arrived. I have no money. He must
help me. I have written to him and I ask you to take the letter. I am
so sorry, I cannot do that They are sure to search us. [ ... ] You are
English, Yes? I am Belgium, but my husband is English [ ... ] I have
no money I shall starve. She said beginning to cry. I wavered, [sic]
it seemed awful not to help this poor woman. Where is your hus-
band? He is in St Petersburg. He is a teacher of languages there. [ ... ]
the envelope had been pushed into my hand ... I hastily put it under
my left armpit [ ... ] I managed to put it under the elastic of my
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Memory and Accuracy 191
knickers. I thought it would be safe there for the present. [ ... ] it was
Cologne. We were allowed a cup of coffee and a biscuit each
[Petrograd] As I threw off my dirty clothes I found in the hem of my
coat the letter [ ... ] I had folded it up small and had managed to hide
it in what I felt sure was a very safe place [ ... ]The envelope had a
Petrograd address on it and I thought I would try to find this hus-
band of hers somewhere and give myself the pleasure of telling him
I had seen his wife, [ ... ] One of the clerks at the reception knew the
name [ ... ] Oh yes, he has been here nearly a year. He is a teacher of
English, and he and his wife live quite near us. But his wife is in
Brussels! No, I assure you Madam, they have a little flat just across
the road from us. I showed him the envelope. Then I am afraid he
has two wives, Madam.
There are two very different styles presented in these two extracts. The
first, written in 1915, is plain, informative writing without emotion;
matter-of-fact realist observation. In its simplicity there is no space for
flowery sentiment. We are told that she wrote this autobiography: in
snatches and at odd times, on all sorts of stray pieces of paper and far
from any books of reference.
The freshness in the extract is indicative
of the whole; an immediacy that is created by her unvarnished style
and by the lack of time she had to order or make sense of the events.
Thurstan asks her co-workers to: perhaps forget the imperfections in
remembering that it has been written close to the turmoil of the battle-
field (my italics).
This close proximity does not allow her to attribute
meaning and significance. It has a rawness which captures the mental-
ity of the time; an ethos of doing your duty without recognition would
have been natural at the time. For Thurstan, to deliver a letter was a
simple, yet risky, act of kindness. Her narrative looks out towards the
suffering of the soldiers, the peasants, and the country with an over-
arching concern for the wounded. The heroes are other people. She
records peasants fleeing: some on foot, some more fortunate ones with
their bits of furniture in a rough cart drawn by a skeleton horse or a
large dog. All had babies, aged parents, or invalids with them.
finely drawn observations replicate the suffering and allow her under-
standing and feelings for others to shine through. In this version,
Thurstan is more effaced and is more inclusive, using we and our. But,
in the telling of others misery, she tells about herself as a nurse and a
In the 1978 retelling, she places herself at the centre as a heroine,
which indeed she was. It was not until September 1917, two years after
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192 Gender, Professions and Discourse
writing her first autobiography, that she was awarded the Military
medal, (one of only 20 women to be so honoured).
Written from the
perspective of some 60 years, feted as a hero, the style became that of
romantic retrospection and romantic sentiments. She uses her novelis-
tic verve to aggrandize her achievements. The tone is intimate, persua-
sive and conversational. Her use of interrogative and exclamatory
punctuation, and reported dialogue heightens the drama. It is a style
that should bolster the immediacy and realism.
My intention here is to expand and consolidate; one, the effective-
ness of autobiographical recording and two, demonstrate how the
different identities which form from writing about the same experi-
ence do indeed provide an interpretation of the mentality of that
era. This does not mean that the autobiographer is falsifying or foist-
ing meanings onto it. From his contemporary studies, Mark Freeman
notes: What we are doing is remembering and narrating, which
means situating the experiences of the past rewriting them in
accordance with and in relation to what has happened since, as
understood and reunderstood from now, the moment of narration.

Therefore the cultural impact of a given era and experiences of the
autobiographer impose changes on the mentality of the writer. This
in turn, is reflective of the era it is written in, but the core memory
remains intact.
My point here in using close textual analysis is to show that, similar
to Pillemer and Rubins findings, the core remembrance of written
autobiography remains. The changes that have taken place are in the
meaning given to the episodes. These meanings are not only personal,
but help us to establish the mentality of one specific group in one spe-
cific historical period. For example, what does suffer in the second
telling is her identity as a self-effacing, sensitive and caring nurse and
woman. The pronouns we and our are rarely used and the I becomes
all too prominent. The narrative content also suffers from a sanitizing
vocabulary. The: Blood-stained uniforms hastily cut off the soldiers
were lying on the floor half-open packets of dressings were on every
locker; basins of dirty water, men were moaning in pain, calling for
water [ ... ] and the canon never ceased booming.
This is typical of her writing in 1915. By 1978 accounts of similar
incidents were recorded: A Major told us that a very fierce battle was
going on at Mons, there was great confusion and a large number of
wounded were lying unattended.
The horror becomes marginalized
and the import of the second autobiography has drifted to who she met
and the ensuing dialogues.
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Memory and Accuracy 193
Storm Jamesons two autobiographies present similarities to those
of Thurstan in that they were written decades apart. But they differ.
Jamesons autobiographical structuring alters; the first text is more
thematic and the second text is chronological and linear. A major dif-
ference in Jamesons two retellings is the manner in which she deals
with emotional temperature in her writing. To demonstrate this I
have selected extracts telling of the death of her brother in the First
World War. In 1933 Jameson recalls this terrible time alongside other
incidents that show how the quick spirit was drained from her
A few months before his seventeenth birthday he had joined the
Flying Corps, and he was not seventeen when the War broke out
and his squadron was posted to France. He earned the Mdaille
Militaire on the retreat from Mons, and in 1915 the D.C.M., for
conspicuous coolness and gallantry on several occasions in connec-
tion with wireless work under fire. My mother was not surprised
but she hid her feelings. That year, too he passed his pilots tests in
France 2nd Lt. Harold Jameson, No. 6 Squadron. No. 19 Squadron.
No. 48 Squadron. No. 42 Squadron. In 1916 the Military Cross, for
conspicuous gallantry in action. He attacked a hostile kite under
very heavy fire. Later, his machine descended to within 150 feet off
the ground, when he got the engine going again and recrossed our
lines at 1,300 feet and returned to safety. He has on many occasions
done fine work. He had a little longer, then on January 1917 he was
shot down while observing an enemy battery. His machine fell in
no-mans-land and some one [sic] of the infantry ran out and
brought him in he was dead.
In 1969 this tragic event follows on in the chronological sequence of
events. In 1915 she suffers a miscarriage, by 1916 she has a son, she
finds a publisher, her fathers ship is sunk and he is in a concentration
camp. The death of her brother in 1917 fills the chapter: Harold was
now a 2nd Lieutenant in the Flying corps. He had done his pilots train-
ing in France, in June 1915, after being given the D.C.M. For conspicu-
ous coolness and gallantry on several occasions in connection with
wireless work under fire.
There follows a chatty letter and the recounting of his time on leave
and his keenness to return to France in order not to be overlooked for
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194 Gender, Professions and Discourse
In April he went back to France, to No.19 Squadron, and after four
months was promoted to Flying Officer. It must have been the late
summer when I saw him again, in Whitby. He seemed little changed,
still a broad-shouldered gawky boy in the R.F.C. tunic, no lines
around his eyes, and no hardening of his slow shamefaced smile. [ ... ]
His name was in the London Gazette again in December. Military
Cross. For conspicuous gallantry in action He attacked a hostile
kite balloon under very heavy fire. Later, his machine descended to
within 150 feet of the ground, when he got the engine going again
and recrossed our lines at 1,300 feet and returned to safely. He has
on many occasions done fine work. That month my mother was
staying with me in Liverpool, [ ... ] She was still there in the first
week of January when the telegram came, [ ... ] I stood in front of
my mother with the telegram in my hand. Open it I opened it and
gave it to her ... Deeply regret to inform you that 2nd Lt Harold
Jameson Royal Flying Corps was killed in action January fifth the
Army Council expresses their sympathy ... She made the inhuman
sound women make when they lose a son, a cry torn from the
empty womb, and turned blindly, to go to her bedroom. I did not
try to comfort her. What use? [ ... ] Later we heard what happened.
He had been ranging our guns on a German battery when he was
attacked from behind. His machine fell in No Mans Land, and
some brave souls of the infantry ran out and carried him to the
trench: he was breathing but soon died. When I read this in the
letter from the major commanding No. 6 Squadron, I felt a dreadful
sickness in the centre of my body, an uprush of deathly fear it was
what he had felt in the first moment of falling. The moment he
knew he had lost.
The 1933 telling is brief and bare. She draws upon a factual tone, offi-
cial discourse and newspapers and military documents as a means of
holding her emotions in check. The narration has an anonymous qual-
ity which gives the reader the bare historical facts: They leave out the
person to whom things happened.
In 1969 Jameson uses newspapers
and military sources to give the facts but there is no bifurcation between
historical fact and emotional memory. In this retelling, Jameson went
back to what the experience felt like. Moreover the reader begins to
understand more fully the devastating effects of the First World War.
The juxtapositioning of news articles and military discourse with stir-
ring prose makes plain the nightmarish episodes of the era. The reader
is confronted with his youthfulness, untainted by experience: gawky
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Memory and Accuracy 195
boy ... no lines ... slow shame-faced smile. We also learn that between
the ages of 17 and 19 he earns the D.C.M. and Military Cross. Set against
the formulated and sterile telegram, her mothers reaction to his death
is all the more heart-rending.
It appears that in her earlier remembering she found it necessary to
separate official details from emotional feelings. These are then released
in a fervent outburst, but also as a separate and distinct occurrence. The
vehemence of her emotions cannot be repressed. It is as if the concise
biography of her brothers foreshortened life was to be untouched by
her embittered emotions:
In 1932, what lying, gaping mouth will say that it was worth while to
kill my brother in his nineteenth year? You may say that the worlds
account is balanced by the item that we have with us still a number
of elderly patriots, politicians, army contractors, women who
obscenely presented white feathers. You will forgive me if, as courte-
ously as is possible in the circumstances, I say that a field latrine is
more use to humanity than these leavings.
Here her pain is directed out towards the world. By 1969, the rancour
has subsided and she recalls her inner pain: I felt a dreadful sickness ...
which emphasised with how she imagined her brother had felt. In these
two accounts the reader is not faced so much by the problems of retrieval
or reconstruction, though there is evidence of this. What these two
extracts address thoroughly, I believe, is the place that emotion (struc-
tures of feeling), has in the history of a period. The storifying of events
in the memory and the retelling, by a competent writer, does not and
should not detract from their credibility. Lawrence Langer, a Professor
of English, suggests in his work on holocaust survivors writings that
great writers with more imagination and artistry present the greater
possibility of speaking the truth in nonfiction.
The concerns of veridicality are addressed if we acknowledge that
autobiographical episodes take place within a time frame. This has a
temporal and spatial structure, and is linked by a causal arrangement
which has an explanatory or evaluative order. Barclay affirms that:
Without each of these aspects, narratives would be meaningless and
Therefore events are shaped for narrative purposes with a
view towards meaning and signification, not towards the end of some-
how preserving the facts themselves. Furthermore, the narrative organ-
isation within autobiographical narratives should not be taken as
detrimental to its veracity because memory work by psychologists
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196 Gender, Professions and Discourse
suggests otherwise. It is this work on memory that must be taken into
account before rejecting autobiographical writing as an invalid tool for
The analysis of double autobiographies, such as those of Thurstan
and Jameson confirms my earlier research and forms evidence of the
accurate durability of memory. It also corroborates my notion that
autobiographies are useful in informing us about the identity and
mentality of an era. They give us access to the intimate landscape of
specific social groups. A history of emotions is differently structured
from social history, but is intimately connected with it: as I hope I
have shown. Brewers experiments in 1988 revealed: Personal memo-
ries are, in fact, reasonably accurate copies of the individuals original
phenomenal experience.
My understanding of his data is that in his
experiments he used everyday, mundane experiences as examples. If
these insignificant memories can accurately be reconstructed, then
the content of autobiographies which usually concentrates on height-
ened occurrences of PEMs must have equal if not an improved aspect
of veridical elements. As Schacter notes: On balance, however, our
memory systems do a remarkably good job of preserving the general
contours of our pasts and of recording correctly many of the impor-
tant things that have happened to us. We could not have evolved as a
species otherwise.
In an earlier research study, Who Remembers What? Gender
Differences in Memory,
the results showed that women were believed
to and did have better memories for conversations, (59 per cent favoured
women, 6 per cent favoured men). Further, women were promoted as
having and did have a better recall of exact details, (87 per cent for
women, 2 per cent for men). In other aspects of memory recall such as
accidents, injuries, romantic episodes and so on there was little gender
difference. In other words, the above study proposes that autobiograph-
ical remembering is embedded in affective, interpersonal, social,
cultural, and historical contexts.
Finally I would suggest that these autobiographies are not from what
Schacter calls free recall, that is, without any hints or clues.
autobiographies are written using memory aides: diaries, letters, photo-
graphs and so forth. All these provide scaffolding from which the
intricate life sequences are reconstructed. Research carried out by psy-
chologists indicates that when hints or clues are available, recall is sig-
nificantly improved. Moreover, should the respondent be an older adult,
the recall, in terms of accuracy, is in line with that of college students.
This is another aspect which attests to the accuracy of autobiographical
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Memory and Accuracy 197
memory. Schacter, among others, notes that modern practices of elec-
tronic recording of personal recollections will preserve testimonies of
thousands of rememberers. In our earlier histories we need to rely on
the written word. But in like manner, forgetting and distortion which
can infiltrate individual remembrances can be counteracted by the
overwhelming truths that emerge from core elements that are shared
by numerous rememberers.
9780230_219922_12_cha11.indd 197 8/20/2008 7:21:41 PM
Conventionally, a conclusion should sum up what has gone before, pull
all the strands together and present a neat and strong rsum. But what
a conclusion should also do is to suggest the wider implications of the
project and to think about its continued development. During the
incubation of this conclusion, Derridas words came to my mind: ones
discourse leads to the conclusion that all conclusions are genuinely
provisional and therefore inconclusive.
Undeniably we can draw some
conclusions but like all good designs these observations generate
possibilities for future research.
This book attempted a comprehensive analytical survey of profes-
sional womens autobiography in the period 19001920. It used four
separate but linked areas of close textual analysis, visual methodology,
silence as a medium of expression, and validation of memory. By iden-
tifying a sufficiently large survey of texts, the individual consciousness
of professional women could give insight into the mentality of a spe-
cific group in a specific period. The first part of the book, divided by
profession, focused on how women who occupied the centre of social,
middle-class arenas understood their lives, their roles, and their history.
To complement this, the second part of this book was organised by
theme, in order to broaden the approach across the professional groups.
My motivation has been to argue for autobiography to be recognised as
useful to the study of the histoire de mentalits and to help to recoup a
missing part of history. It appears that the concerted effort to enter the
public sphere, gain a profession and income, played a significant role in
these Edwardian womens writing. The social and professional freedoms
they had gained allowed them to write in a more unfettered way. This
enabled these powerful women to break dominant male linguistic
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Conclusion 199
From the outset the most striking feature uncovered was the conso-
nance within each profession, of the topic, structure, tone and style of
writing. Each profession focused on common ground which domi-
nated their writing. Headmistresses and women doctors provided
insights that in many ways were not dissimilar. Headmistresses centred
on their experiences within the confines of their institutions. Whilst
women doctors were less physically bound by institutions, they
endured far more psychological resistance from the patriarchal con-
trol within medicine. Both showed concern for their feminine image,
and the importance of feminine virtues engendered specific stylistic
The headmistresses deployed metaphors of divine providence,
Christian calling and the belief in fate to construct notions of a voca-
tional impetus. The doctors made striking use of fairytale metaphors
and metaphors from girls and boys own stories, and these helped
them to present their career choice as a vocation. But unlike headmis-
tresses, these doctors presented themselves as heroines. Their meta-
phors undercut their adopted tone of a controlled passive voice which
was imitated from male writing. The fairytale and religious meta-
phors provided a protective shield. It deflected attention away from
what could be seen as unfeminine attributes. For example, women
doctors had a highly scientific intellect and the desire to work with
the body. Throughout their autobiographies, headmistresses and doc-
tors were at pains to silence unfeminine aspects and to promote
their femininity in their visual characteristics. Their silence was a
coping mechanism. For women doctors it was a way of standing
against male hostility within the medical profession; for headmis-
tresses it evolved from the controlling power nexus of men, and from
their understanding that it was inappropriate for women to voice
opinions on religion or politics.
If we now turn to the autobiographies of nurses and Voluntary Aid
Detachments (VADs) who struggled to record horror, disorder and
confusion in estranged conditions, we experience greater stylistic
contrasts and more extreme topics. Role reversal forged another
boundary. Women in hospitals were active, and the injured were male
and supine. Had there not been a war, I would conjecture that these
women would have been the least likely of all the professions to record
their lives. In their autobiographies, language boundaries were
breached by a contrast of styles that veered from pragmatic scientific
delivery to a hiatus of immense emotion described with pace,
repetition, ellipses and free form.
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200 Gender, Professions and Discourse
However, artists and practitioners worked in accepted arenas for
women. The most outstanding characteristics I noted of the writing of
these artistic women was the discovery of the strong divide in writing
styles between those artists who performed in public, and those artists
whose work was in the public domain. In their private world the writ-
ing flowed. They were confident and effusive. In the public world, a
forbidden and dangerous arena, their language became dry, and
important themes were curtailed. However, women painters and
sculptors did not exhibit this structure or show such problems in
The final summary for this section turns to the work of professional
writers. Given that these women were wordsmiths, and given the dis-
parity of their writing genres and ability, there was some consonance.
One of three reasons for writing was given; to earn a living, gain inde-
pendence, or to alleviate family financial distress. The most striking
disclosure in this cohort of autobiographers was their recognition of
the affect which emotional upheaval and physical disability had on
their creativity. Analogous to artists and practitioners, these writers fall
into two divisions: those who wrote low-brow novels and those who
wrote high-brow novels. Low-brow writers, by the insertion of a
lengthy, authoritative statement or series of essays that expounded on
various public issues, disrupted the structure and flow of their autobi-
ographies. This marked shift in style was an attempt to assert objective
observation and to increase their stature as writers. This compartmen-
talisation produced a change of style and syntax and exhibits struggle
and limitations. For writers of high-brow literature and serious, articles
there was no need for this, and their autobiographies have a cohesive
Before giving attention to the second and thematic part of this
book it is worth our time to briefly consider the stylistic eruptions of
one form or another that occur in all of these autobiographies.
Metaphors disrupt the works of headmistresses and women doctors.
Public performance artists had sections of dryness sandwiched
between sections of fluidity. Artists in the private workplace pre-
sented no such problems. Nurses and VADs were stimulated into sty-
listic form/content contradictions, whilst wordsmiths often found
that their creativity levels were governed by physical and emotional
states. Their different styles are all set in motion when traditional
boundaries are breeched.
The second part of the book focused on thematic issues that were
common across the professions. Prefatory chapters and frontispiece
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Conclusion 201
images addressed the way that these two aspects of the marginalia
added to the whole experience of autobiography. This investigation
challenged normative claims about the transparency of these arte-
facts, and thus raised the possibility that they operate against the
grain. In so doing, do they still reveal and develop a more extensive
This consonance by profession, which was deployed in the structure,
tone and style of the autobiographers, also obtains in the marginalia.
The prefatory chapters appear to function against the grain, in that
they do not prepare the reader for what is to follow. The devices in the
prefatory chapters are intended to control the way in which the reader
receives and interprets the information in the main body of the text.
Headmistresses and women doctors often chose to follow templates
provided by male autobiographers in similar professions. Artists often
preferred the modesty formula, and writers concerned themselves
with questions of veracity. Nurses and VADs who took up professional
posts after the war, (Commander-in-Chief of VADs, matrons) showed
preference for the use of metaphors, and nurses and VADs who became
professional writers after the war wrote of their concerns of veracity.
All professional writers used both metaphors and raised questions
about truthfulness. A similar control is evinced in the frontispiece
The images have a powerful input. Selected by the autobiographer
and carried as a representative image by the reader throughout the
book, both prefatory chapters and the frontispiece image exhibit forms
of authorial control and agency. Both operate less as an expository
exercise and more as a means to deflect attention and obscure expres-
sion. The coupling of the image and prefatory chapter, in their place of
prominence, sets up certain unrealised expectations. My research indi-
cated that they are a flawed attempt at control. They are flawed because
when close textual reading and visual methodologies are used, unex-
pected signifiers can be identified. These, combined with the main
textual analysis, can provide insights into the autobiographer and the
period. Instead of closing down speculation, the cloaking mechanism
invites new areas of study and opens up fresh areas of understanding
and exposition.
Why did the majority of autobiographers do this? From the evi-
dence this far, I would conjecture that they wrote the main text, read
their text and then, in some cases, felt the need to exert control or
ameliorate the impact. In Derridian terms it [marginalia/supplement]
adds only to replace.
It is possible that these autobiographers believed
9780230_219922_13_cha12.indd 201 8/20/2008 7:22:33 PM
202 Gender, Professions and Discourse
that the visual image and first statements had power to direct the
reader and affect the way that they would receive the autobiographical
information. There could be reasons of insecurity about the frank-
ness of their disclosures or a sense of propriety or concerns about
being seen in a good light. Feminine inhibitions and insecurities
may have been more prominent here. It is then necessary to recon-
sider how silences in autobiography intervene and amplify the under-
standing of the text.
The complexity of reading silences in autobiography makes a gener-
alised summary difficult. It is sufficient to reiterate that there is no such
thing as silence. My research showed that it has an identity and can be
measured. If we turn to Foucaults work in The History of Sexuality we
can see that he proposed:
There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of
the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses [ ... ] Silence
itself the things one declines to say, or is forbidden to name, the
discretion that is required between different speakers is less the
absolute limit of discourse, the other side from which it is separated
by a strict boundary, than an element that functions alongside the
things said, with them and in relation to them within overall
strategies. [ ... ] We must try to determine the different ways of not
saying such things, how those who can and those who cannot speak
of them are distributed.
If we give recognition to the prowess of memory, closely read the text,
and if we recognise the cloaking mechanisms in the marginalia,
acknowledge the silences, and probe the reasons for each, we will be
able to raise debates to a higher level. Each of these entities combines to
provide an insight into the mentality of the writer and by extension to
discuss the period itself. These autobiographers have made public their
senses of their personal experiences, but we must also recognise that
ultimately some things are beyond expression.
The Identity and Memory chapters are equally difficult to sum-
marise. They are distinct in that the work undertaken in them provides
the foundation to support the claim for autobiography as important to
the histoire de mentalits. These autobiographers provided a redress
against commonly held views in the public domain. They expressed
feminine identity on the cusp of change, and they recognised that they
needed to establish new traditions. As a suitable vehicle for historical
research, the accuracy of memory is the most controversial aspect of
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Conclusion 203
autobiography. These autobiographers were keen to record their own
truth not facts. But subjectivity is often considered to detract from
the probity of autobiography. Yet it is invalid to deny these texts
academic usefulness on the grounds of their subjectivity. All writing is
partial at some level.
This is where sharp divisions appear to exist. Both personal histories
and public histories are constructed upon fragments of information.
Public histories are written and based largely on documents created by
individuals and groups with certain motives in mind, and are assumed
to be objective. These fragments require the reader to work in order to
fill in the gaps until there is a narrative fit.
I suggested that psychol-
ogists who have studied autobiographical memory have been useful
in the validation of the accuracy of recall, as Personal Event Memories
(PEM) have high veridical attributes. These one-moment-in-time
events focus the rememberers personal circumstances and retain a
vivid quality through the years.
Bearing the above in mind, the discussion naturally moves to a
further level about the autobiographys borderline position on the fact/
fiction continuum. What it is necessary to say is that, in the period
19001920 such concerns are to a greater degree spurious. The writers
of autobiographies in this survey were written in a less self-conscious
time than those autobiographies of the later twentieth century and
those of contemporary autobiographers available in the twenty-first
century. By this I mean that these women were often reticent about
recording their experiences, and their struggles to produce a narrative
were hampered more by a sense of propriety, and less by the considera-
tions of image, which are so evident in more modern autobiographies.
My autobiographers worked with the concept of the authentic self,
whereas modern writers tend to view subjectivity as an assemblage or
Having summed up all the important developments and now, rather
than close down, it would be beneficial to consider ways of advancing
this work. I take it as axiomatic that context is of prime importance in
an analysis of this kind. I say this in response to the terminology and
methodology that is currently being applied to some historical and
some contemporary life writing. This modern usage of referring to
autobiographies as witness, testimony and evidence accounts could
be applied to these texts. But these nomenclatures are usually linked
with trauma narratives and connote a different set of agendas.
Witness, testimony and evidence have legal connotations and suggest
a testifying of facts to be proved or disproved. These remembrances
9780230_219922_13_cha12.indd 203 8/20/2008 7:22:33 PM
204 Gender, Professions and Discourse
of 19001920 are meditations on a life that had aspirations, triumphs,
difficulties and sadness, set in a specific context. They were, almost in
their entirety, a-political, so we have to be careful to avoid any method
which suggests that writers were traumatised victims.
I remarked that one of the most startling outcomes from this analy-
sis is the consonance within and between the professions concerning
style, tone and content. However, much fruitful research could be
undertaken if the cake was cut in horizontal rather than vertical
slices. Additional themes could then be examined, both by profession
and then across the professions. Further areas of consonance have
been touched on but need advancement. For example, the intricate
area of stylistics is worthy of development here. Due to the pressures
of space, I have not been able to deal with these instances where met-
aphorical usage and content coalesced in different professions. Had I
been able to do so, I could have asked: why did it occur in some and
not in others?
Earlier I raised the issue of boundaries. These women had removed
themselves from an earlier gendered construction of class and economy,
with a swerve away from patriarchal and family values. The concept of
boundaries as advanced by the anthropologist Mary Douglas are useful
here, and may introduce new categories of similarities for the profes-
sions entered into by these women, as they have more mobile identities.
Their identities were transformed by radical experiences. Mary Douglas
has argued in Purity and Danger that every great revolution of thought
touches on the nature of boundaries.
This concept could be applied to language boundaries and knowl-
edge boundaries. These women here, via education, have been pro-
vided with the opportunity of challenging the old boundaries between
the sacred and the profane. This in turn calls into question male and
female power roles, as these powerful women can traverse linguistic
barriers and class barriers. Clearly, in an analysis of this sort, the ideas
of Foucault and Basil Bernstein would be useful. The work of Bernstein
in Class, Codes and Control: Volume 1, Theoretical Studies towards a
Sociology of Language would be interesting because it helps us to explore
structures of society.
There is clearly more research to be undertaken in a broader project
about the marginalia of autobiographical volumes. I examined prefa-
tory chapters and frontispiece images. But there is also a need to work
on the titles, dedicatory additions and the authors manner of nomen-
clature in these works. Gerard Genettes work on paratext would be
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Conclusion 205
useful here. We could examine the way in which texts are framed to
see how they may enhance, define, contrast or distance the reader. We
would then examine what relationship these artefacts create between
the text and the reader and enquire how the author/text/reader
continuum is affected. They are precise authorial undertakings and
therefore are part of the overall message. Genette himself asked in
Introduction to the Paratext: How would you read Joyces Ulysses if it
were not called Ulysses?
All titles, however innocent, influence the
reader, and this could be a useful means of furthering the debates I
Equally we need to focus attention on dedicatory passages and
nomenclature to ask how much interpretative influence they exert.
The point is how these all combine? Do they create limitations or do
they widen the prospects of comprehension? Frontispiece photo-
graphs were examined as part of the marginalia, but there is much
work that could be undertaken on the use of images throughout auto-
biographies, not just as a frontispiece. Does this change across the
Finally, during my research I unexpectedly uncovered a small number
of autobiographers who wrote more than one autobiography, several
decades apart, which covered a similar period in their lives. If one had
more space, this could be a whole research topic in its own right. The
contrast between the works of Wordsworth such as his 1805 Prelude
and his 1850 version could be an interesting point of departure. This
would be of especial interest for research into structures of meaning
and histoire de mentalits. The prospect of examining core memories
across the decades could provide valuable insights into cultural/social
change. Questions arise of subjectivity, perspective, legislation, cultural
influences and will also provide insights into memory. The use of scien-
tific psychological findings on the structure of recall could also be
invaluable in assessing veridical accuracy, and useful in the history of
autobiographical writing.
Let us put it another way. Historians, journalists and lawyers recog-
nise that witnesses are often unreliable. They forget, lie, exaggerate,
and become confused. Why should these autobiographers be any dif-
ferent? True, the borderline between fact and fiction is fluid, but the
evidential basis on which much history is written is thin. Simon
Schama began his book, Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations,
with an eye-witness scene.
At the end of the book he reveals that the
narration was a fiction, formed from a number of contemporary
9780230_219922_13_cha12.indd 205 8/20/2008 7:22:33 PM
206 Gender, Professions and Discourse
documents. His reason for this deception was to illustrate history as
story telling. But in his use of this literary device, he is not far from the
postmodernist conclusion that any historians story is as good as any
other. I am certainly not advocating this. I mention it in order that a
perspective of balance and impartiality can prevail in our analyses of
these voices from the past.
9780230_219922_13_cha12.indd 206 8/20/2008 7:22:33 PM
All books published in London unless otherwise stated
1 Introduction
1. For example, C.F.G. Mastermann, The Condition of England (Methuen 1960,
1st pub. [1909]); Arnold Bennett, Our Women, Chapters on the Sex Discord
(Cassell 1920); Sir Almroth Wright, Letter to the Editor of The Times on
Militant Suffragettes in Dale Spender, ed. The Education Papers, Womens Quest
for Equality in Britain: 18501912 (New York & London: Routledge & Kegan
Paul, 1987).
2. Trev Broughton, Auto/biography and the Actual Course of Things, in Tess
Cosslett, Celia Lury and Penny Summerfield, eds., Feminism and Autobiography:
Texts, Theories, Methods (Routledge, 2000), p. 242.
3. Maroula Joannou, Ladies Please Dont Smash These Windows (Oxford: Berg
Publishers, 1995); Nicola Beauman, A Very Great Profession (Virago, 1983); Alison
Light, Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism Between the Wars
(Routledge, 1991); Claire Tylee, Images of Militarism and Womanhood in Womens
Writing 19141962 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1990); Valentine Cunningham,
British Writers of the Thirties (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).
4. Roy Pascal, Design and Truth in Autobiography (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1960); James Olney, Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and
Critical (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980); Mary Evans, Missing
Persons: The Impossibility of Auto/biography (Routledge, 1999); Gail Braybon,
Evidence, History & the Great War: Historians & the Impact of 191418 (New
York & Oxford: Berghann Books, 2005).
5. Regenia Gagnier, Subjectivities: A History of Self-Representation in Britain:
18321920 (New York: OUP, 1991); Claire M. Tylee, The Great War and Womens
Consciousness (MacMillan Press, 1990).
6. Suzanne Raitt and Trudi Tate, eds., Womens Fiction and the Great War (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1997); Joannou, op. cit.; Julia Bush, Ladylike Lives? Upper
Class Womens Autobiographies and the Politics of Late Victorian and
Edwardian Britain, Literature & History, vol. 10, no. 2, 2001, pp. 4261.
7. William Lamont ed. Historical Controversies and Historians (University College
London Press, 1998).
8. The first use of autography is given in the OED as 1644, as the action of
writing with ones own hand; the authors own hand-writing. In 1796 in a
review of DIsraelis Miscellanies, in an essay entitled: Some Observations
on Diaries, Self-Biography, and Self-Characters autobiography is used.
According to the OED the prefix auto becomes prevalent in the nineteenth
century, but is most usually attached to scientific terms. This could account
for some of the problems that arise about the term autobiography and the
expectations from a text thus named.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 207 8/20/2008 9:04:38 PM
208 Notes
9. Estelle C. Jelinek, Introduction in Autobiography: Essays in Criticism (Indiana:
Indiana University Press, 1980).
10. Ibid., pp. 120.
11. Selected Writings of Wilhelm Dilthey ed. and translated by H.P. Rickman
(Cambridge University Press, 1976). Also see Laura Marcus, Auto/biographical
Discourses: Theory, Criticism, Practice (Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 1994), pp. 135178.
12. Geist = expressions of the spirit; Erlebnis = concepts of life the lived
13. Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford: Oxford University
Press), 1975.
14. For example, Virginia Woolf, whose concerns were with the individual
15. Jan Montefiore, Men and Women Writers of the 1930s (Routledge, 1986).
16. Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory (Verso, 1994).
17. Jane Marcus, The Private Selves of Public Women in Shari Benstock, ed.
The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Womens Autobiographical Writings
(Routledge, 1988), p. 120.
18. Samuel op. cit., p. 20.
19. Wayne Shumaker, English Autobiography, 1954, in Jelinek, op. cit., p. 2.
20. Olney, op. cit.; Pascal, op. cit.
21. A.O.J. Cockshut, The Art of Autobiography (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1984); J. Goodwin, Autobiography: The Self Made Text (New York: Twayne
Publishers, 1993); Clinton Machann, The Genre of Autobiography in
Victorian Literature, Victorian Studies, vol. 39, no. 3, 1996.
22. Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (Great Britain:
The Womans Press Ltd., 1979), p. 469.
23. Ellen Moers, Literary Women (The Womens Press, 1978); Elaine Showalter,
Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Sicle (Bloomsbury, 1991);
Patricia Meyer Spacks, The Female Imagination: A Literary and Psychological
Investigation of Womens Writing (MacMillan, 1976).
24. Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Womens Writing (The Womens Press, 1984);
Dale Spender, Man-Made Language (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980); Toril
Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics (Routledge, 1985).
25. Jelinek, op. cit., p. xii, found that there was a: tendency of women to
write in discontinuous forms and to emphasis the personal over the
professional. She also found that women wrote obliquely, elliptically or
humorously in order to camouflage their feelings or play down profes-
sional lives. p. 15.
26. Benstock, op. cit., p. 2.
27. Liz Stanley, The Auto/biographical I (Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 1992), p. 3.
28. Gagnier, op. cit.; Carolyn Steedman, Difficult Stories: Female Auto/
biographies, Gender and History Journal, vol. 7, no. 2, 1995, pp. 321326.
29. Valerie Sanders, The Private Lives of Victorian Women (Hemel Hempstead:
Harvester Whatsheaf, 1989); Sara Mills, Discourses of Difference (Routledge,
1991); Mary Jane Corbett, Representing Femininty (New York: Oxford
University Press), 1992.
30. Gagnier, op. cit.; Stanley, op. cit.; Joannou, op. cit.; Broughton, op. cit.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 208 8/20/2008 9:04:38 PM
Notes 209
31. Paul John Eakin, Fictions in Autobiography: Studies in the Art of Self-Invention
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), 1985, p. 3.
32. Ibid., p. 3.
33. L. Anderson, T. Broughton, eds., Womens Lives/Womens Times: New
Essays on Auto/biography (New York: State University of New York Press),
34. Cosslett, op. cit., p. 5.
35. Jo Spence, Putting Myself in the Picture: A Political, Personal, and Photographical
Autobiography (Camden Press, 1986); Jo. Spence and Patricia Holland, Family
Snaps (Virago, 1991), pp. 226237; Stanley, op. cit., pp. 4554; Annette
Kuhn, Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination (London & New York:
Verso, 1995); J. Stacey, Teratologies: A Cultural Study of Cancer (Routledge,
36. Kuhn, ibid. This is on the dust jacket.
37. Evans, op. cit., p. 2.
38. Ibid. p. 2.
39. Ibid. p. 143.
40. Benstock, op. cit., p. 2.
41. Susan Stanford Friedman, Womens Autobiographical Selves: Theory and
Practice, in Benstock, op. cit., pp. 3462.
42. Patricia Waugh, Feminine Fictions: Revisiting the Post-Modern (Routledge,
43. Benstock, op. cit., p. 2.
44. Julia Bush, op. cit., pp. 5859.
45. Cosslett, op. cit., p. 1.
46. Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1977), pp. 134135.
47. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida (New York: Vintage, 2000, 1st pub. In Britain
in 1982 by Jonathan Cape).
48. Campbell in Lamont, op. cit., p. 194.
49. Sally Ledger, The New Woman: Fiction and Feminism at the Fin de Sicle
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997).
50. David Powell, The Edwardian Crisis: Britain, 19011914 (Basingstoke:
MacMillan, 1996), p. 95.
51. For example: 1902 the training of Midwives was introduced; 1903, the
Society for Promoting Reforms in the Marriage and Divorce Laws of England
was formed; 1906 Education Act provided food for schoolchildren, and
medical inspections followed in 1907; 1911 National Insurance Act included
maternity benefits; Old Age Pensions Act, 1908; 1918 Education Act, and a
Maternity and Child Welfare Act; in 1919 a major Housing Act, and an act
establishing a Ministry of Health, Arthur Marwick, The Deluge (New York:
Palgrave Macmillan, 1991).
52. Elaine Showalter, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Sicle
(Bloomsbury, 1991).
53. Anne Wiltshire, Most Dangerous Women (Pandora, 1985).
54. Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire: 18751914 (Abacus, 1999), p. 202.
55. Ibid., p. 202.
56. Sheila Jeffreys, The Spinster and Her Enemies: Feminism & Sexuality, 18801930
(Pandora, 1985), p. 86.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 209 8/20/2008 9:04:38 PM
210 Notes
57. Hobsbawm, op. cit., p. 210.
58. W.R. Greggs notion of emigration in Jeffrey, op. cit., p. 86.
59. Hobsbawm, op. cit., p. 203.
60. Ibid., p. 203.
61. Ibid., p. 204.
62. Susan R. Grayzel, Women and the 1st World War (Pearson Education, 2002),
ch. 5.
63. Samuel Hynes, The Edwardian Turn of Mind (Pimlico, 1991), p. 197.
64. Susan R. Grayzel, The Outward and Visible Sign of Her Patriotism,
20th Century British History Journal, vol. 8, no. 2, 1997, pp. 145164 (p. 65).
65. Paul Ferris, Sex and The British (Michael Joseph, 1993).
66. Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vols 16 (Philadelphia:
F.A. Davis, 19001910), in Ferris, ibid., p. 4.
67. Knowltons Fruits of Philosophy, 1834 had sold a mere 1,000 copies a year
until the court case when 50,000 copies were sold; Dr A.H. Allbutt, The Wifes
Handbook, 1887, had 41 editions by the mid-Edwardian period in Hynes,
op. cit., p. 199.
68. Marie Stopes, Married Love (A.C. Fifield, 1918); Margaret Sanger, Family
Limitation (1914) quoted in Stopes.
69. Geoffrey Partington, Women Teachers in the 20th Century in England and
Wales (Slough: NFER Pub. Co. Ltd., 1976).
70. The Tory Primrose League had over 500,000 members; the Mothers Union,
400,000 members and the Girls Friendly Society 240,000. See Sheila
Rowbotham, A Century of Women: The History of Women in Britain and the
United States (Viking, 1997).
2 Headmistresses
1. Sara Delamont, Knowledgeable Women: Structuralism and the Reproduction of
Elites (Routledge, 1989); Carol Dyhouse, Girls Growing Up in Late Victorian
and Edwardian England (Routledge, 1981); June Purvis, A History of Womens
Education in England (Milton Keynes & Philadelphia: Open University Press,
1991); G. Partington, Women Teachers in the Twentieth Century (Slough:
NFER, 1976).
2. Camilla Stivers, Reflections of the Role of Personal Narrative in Social
Science, Signs, vol. 18, 1993, pp. 408425 (pp. 411412).
3. Meagan Morris and Paul Patton, Foucault, Power, Truth and Strategy (Sydney:
Feral Publishers, 1978) p. 8.
4. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences
(New York: Vintage Random, 1973), p. ix.
5. Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York:
Vintage Books, 1995), p. 171.
6. Stivers, op. cit., pp. 408425.
7. James Bryce, Assistant Commissioner to the Schools Inquiry Commission
in the 1860s, noted that this appears to have remained within these social
groups until the First World War. Purvis, op. cit., p. 68.
8. Lower, middle-classes were clerks, warehousemen, shopkeepers with the
highest grade of artisans. Dyhouse, op. cit., p. 41. These had a family
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 210 8/20/2008 9:04:38 PM
Notes 211
atmosphere which promoted the development of feminine skills. Purvis,
op. cit., p. 70.
9. This educational reform started suddenly in the late 1840s gaining
momentum in the 1850s and 1860s. Purvis, op. cit., p. 73.
10. Martha Vicinus, Independent Women: Work and Community for Single Women
18501920 (Virago, 1994), p. 24.
11. Molly Casey, Hemden House School Cavesham, 1984, in Gillian Avery, ed.
The Best Type of Girl: A History of Girls Independent Schools (Andr Deutsch,
1991), p. 225.
12. Vicinus, op. cit., p. 23.
13. For example, London University admitted women from 1878. Purvis, op.
cit., p. 85.
14. Prior to 1870 England lacked primary education. Compulsory school attend-
ance after 1890 caused primary education to treble by1914 and the demand
for primary teachers increased between seven to thirteen times the 1875
figure. In 1861 nearly 80,000 were employed as teachers in England and
Wales; by 1911 there were 183,000. See Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire
18751914 (Abacus, 1999), pp. 150178, 263.
15. Lilian M. Faithfull, The House of My Pilgrimage (Chatto & Windus, 1925),
p. 93.
16. Jeanne M. Peterson, The Victorian Governess, in Martha Vicinus, ed. Suffer
and Be Still (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1972), pp. 319.
17. Avery, op. cit., p. 230.
18. Amy Barlow, Seventh Child: the Autobiography of a Schoolmistress (Gerald
Duckworth, 1969), pp. 13, 55.
19. Elizabeth E. Lawrence, You Will Remember (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1933), p. 21.
20. Pre-Burnham rates of pay were varied. For example, for certificated head-
masters it averaged 176 and for certificated headmistresses 126. See
Dyhouse, op. cit., p. 9.
21. Sara Burstall, Retrospect & Prospect: Sixty Years of Womens Education
(Longmans, Green, 1933), p. 55.
22. Vicinus, op. cit., p. 25.
23. Rates were approved in 1919 but were recommendations only. Due to post-
war difficulties they were not implemented until 1925, and then at a
reduced level, and still not on a par with men. See Partington, op. cit.,
pp. 1524.
24. Hobsbawm, op. cit., pp. 198202.
25. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 268.
26. Burstall, op. cit., p. 216, 1933.
27. Partington, op. cit., p. 74.
28. Purvis, op. cit., p. 7.
29. Ibid., p. 82.
30. Delamont, op. cit., pp. 72, 102.
31. For a detailed exposition of the high school model see Purvis, op. cit.,
pp. 7681.
32. Purvis, op. cit., p. 80.
33. Partington, op. cit., pp. 5560.
34. Ibid., p. 85.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 211 8/20/2008 9:04:38 PM
212 Notes
35. Hobsbawm, op. cit., p. 203.
36. B.L. Hutchins, Higher Education and Marriage, in Dale Spender, ed. The
Education Papers: Womens Quest for Equality in Britain 18501912 (New York &
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987) p. 328.
37. Ibid., p. 333.
38. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 63.
39. Burstall, op. cit., p. 200.
40. Arnold Bennett, Our Women and the Sex Discord (Cassell 1920), p. 29.
41. Ibid., p. 145.
42. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 68.
43. Burstall, op. cit., p. 112.
44. Ibid., p. 141.
45. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 92.
46. Partington, op. cit., p. 75.
47. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 101.
48. Burstall, op. cit., p. 140.
49. Ibid., p. 139.
50. Frances R. Gray, Gladly, Gladly: A Book about Learning and Teaching (Sampson
Low, Marston, n.d.), p. 48.
51. Foucault (1995), op. cit., pp. 170194. According to Foucault, disciplinary
power achieves its hold through, Hierarchical Observation (HO), Normalizing
Judgement (NJ), and the examination. HO concept signifies the connection
between visibility and power; NJ; addresses non-conformity is punished
and rewards good conduct as a means of discipline; examination combines
the above which is classified and judged.
52. Ibid., p. 183.
53. Gray, op. cit., p. 267.
54. Ibid., p. 267.
55. Ibid., p. 268.
56. Barlow, op. cit., p. 50.
57. Ibid., p. 56.
58. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 64.
59. Avery, op. cit., p. 223.
60. Marion Cleeve, Fire Kindleth Fire (Glasgow: Blackie & Son, 1930), p. 40.
61. Foucault (1995), op. cit., p. 85.
62. E.M. Butler, Paper Boat (Collins, 1959) p. 33.
63. Ibid., p. 33.
64. Foucault (1995), op. cit., p. 178.
65. Ibid., p. 183.
66. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 127.
67. Ibid., p. 127.
68. Foucault (1995), op. cit., pp. 171, 172.
69. Ibid., p. 171.
70. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 127.
71. Ibid., p. 255.
72. Dame Katherine Furze, G.B.E., R. R. C., Hearts and Pomegranates (Peter
Davies, 1940), p. 267.
73. Cleeve, op. cit., p. 60.
74. Ibid., p. 60.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 212 8/20/2008 9:04:38 PM
Notes 213
75. Octavia Wilberforce, The Autobiography of a Pioneer Woman Doctor, ed. Pat
Jalland (Cassell Publishers, 1989), p. 124.
76. Foucault (1995), op. cit., p. 172.
77. Anthony Elliot, Concepts of Self (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003), p. 84.
78. Gray, op. cit., p. 239.
79. Ibid., p. 69.
80. Chris Shilling, The Body and Social Theory (Sage Publications, 1993), p. 90.
81. Martha Vicinus, op. cit., p. 38.
82. Delamont, op. cit., p. 149.
83. Burstall, op. cit., p. 26.
84. Burstall, op. cit., p. 71.
85. Delamont, op. cit., p. 147.
86. Bertha Ruck, A Story-Teller Tells the Truth (Hutchinson, 1935), p. 115.
87. Vicinus, op. cit., p. 291.
88. Ibid., p. 65.
89. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 6.
90. Ibid., p. 66.
91. Ibid., p. 67.
92. Ibid., p. 67.
93. Vicinus, op. cit., p. 158.
94. Sheila Jeffreys, Spinsterhood and Celibacy, in The Spinster and Her Enemies:
Feminism and Sexuality 18801930 (Pandora, 1985), pp. 8697.
95. Barlow, op. cit., p. 27.
96. Ibid., p. 28.
97. Ibid., p. 85.
98. Ibid., p. 31.
99. Ibid., p. 84.
100. Ibid., pp. 84, 85.
101. Ibid., p. 85.
102. Ibid. p. 85.
103. Partington, op. cit., p. 60; Dyhouse, op. cit., pp. 5966.
104. Cleeve, op. cit., p. 39.
105. Ibid., p. 202.
106. Ibid., p. 207.
107. Ibid. p. 207.
108. Ibid., p. 198.
109. Ibid., pp. 233, 234.
110. Ibid., p. 233.
111. Ibid., p. 212.
112. Foucault (1995), op. cit., p. 194.
113. Sara Burstall, English High Schools for Girls, Their Aims, Organisation, and
Management (Longmans, Green), 1907, p. 58.
114. Gray, op. cit., p. 250.
115. W.B. Yeats, The Lake of Innsfree, in Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter,
Jon Stallworthy, eds., The Norton Anthology of Poetry (W. W. Norton, 1996),
p. 1084, in Cleeve, op. cit., p. 212.
116. Burstall, op. cit., p. 257.
117. Ibid., p. 257.
118. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 280.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 213 8/20/2008 9:04:40 PM
214 Notes
119. Ibid., p. 280.
120. Ibid., p. 284.
121. Ibid., p. 284.
122. Ibid., p. 160.
3 Women Doctors
1. Elizabeth Blackwell (18211910) Her family immigrated to the United
States, where in 1844 she decided to become a doctor. Medical school
refused to enrol her, so she studied privately until 1847 when she gained
entrance to the Geneva Medical School in New York State. Awarded MD in
1849 and studied in London at St Bartholomews. In 1875 helped to found
the London School of Medicine for Women. Biographical Dictionary of
Women (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1998, p. 71).
2. Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire 18751914 (Britain: Abacus, 1999),
p. 212.
3. Ibid., p. 212.
4. Carol Dyhouse, Driving Ambitions: Women in Pursuit of a Medical
Education, 18901939, Womens History Review, vol. 7, no. 3, 1998.
5. Carol Dyhouse, Women Students and the London Medical Schools,
191439: The Anatomy of Masculine Culture, Gender History vol. 10, no. 1,
April 1998, pp. 110132.
6. Thomas Neville Bonner, To the Ends of the Earth: Womens Search for
Education in Medicine (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
1992), p. 10.
7. Salmon, E.J., What Girls Read, The Nineteenth Century, October 1886,
pp. 515529, quoted in Kimberley Reynolds, Girls Only? Gender and
Popular Childrens Fiction in Briton, 18801910 (Harvester, 1990), p. 93.
8. Elizabeth Bryson, Look Back in Wonder (Dundee: David Winter & Son Ltd,
1967), p. 161.
9. Ibid., p. 194.
10. Bonner, op. cit., p. 128.
11. Ibid., p. 127.
12. Isabel Hutton, CBE, MD, Memories of a Doctor in War and Peace (Heinemann,
1960), p. 39.
13. Ibid., p. 136.
14. Dr. Caroline Matthews, Experiences of a Woman Doctor in Serbia (Mills &
Boon, 1916); Dr. Flora Murray, Women as Army Surgeons (Hodder and
Stoughton, 1920); Dr. Mary Scharlieb, Reminiscences (William and Norgate,
1924); Dr Ida Mann, The Chase (Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press,
1986); Dr. Octavia Wilberforce, The Autobiography of a Pioneer Woman
Doctor ed. Pat Jalland (Cassell Publishers, 1989). In the larger sample of my
research the bulk of the doctors use fairytale and childhood fiction. I have
just focused on three doctors for clarity.
15. Dyhouse, Driving Ambitions, op. cit., p. 321.
16. Ibid., p. 327.
17. Ibid., pp. 322324.
18. David Luke, ed. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: Selected Tales (Penguin,
1982), p. 12.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 214 8/20/2008 9:04:40 PM
Notes 215
19. Jack Zipes, Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion (New York: Routledge, 1983),
p. 18.
20. Ibid., p. 24.
21. Ibid., p. 24.
22. A.S. Byatt, Introduction in Maria Tatar, The Annotated Brothers Grimm
(W. W. Norton, 2004).
23. Zipes, op. cit., p. 33.
24. Murray Knowles and Kirsten Malmkjaer, Language and Control in Childrens
Literature (London & New York: Routledge, 1996), p. 53.
25. Sally Mitchell, The New Girl: Girls Culture in England, 18801915 (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 14, 43.
26. Reynolds, op. cit., p. 103.
27. Ibid., p. 103.
28. Mitchell, op. cit., p. 15.
29. Knowles and Malmkjaer, op. cit., p. 83.
30. Ibid., pp. 88, 111.
31. Ibid., pp. 89, 93.
32. Mitchell, op. cit., pp. 112, 119.
33. Ibid., pp. 103138.
34. Ibid., p. 15.
35. Ibid., p. 22.
36. Bryson, op. cit., p. 162; Hutton, op. cit., p. 39; Mann, op. cit., p. 16;
Wilberforce, op. cit., p. 3.
37. Bryson, op. cit., pp. 79.
38. Ibid., p. 5.
39. Ibid., p. 5.
40. Ibid., p. 5.
41. Ibid., p. 5.
42. Ibid., p. 44.
43. Bonner, op. cit., p. 10.
44. Bryson, op. cit., p. 54.
45. Ibid., p. 54.
46. Ibid., p. 7.
47. Ibid., p. 19.
48. Ibid., p. 20.
49. Ibid., p. 17.
50. Ibid., p. 15.
51. Ibid., p. 15.
52. Ibid., p. 57.
53. Ibid., p. 26.
54. Ibid., p. 28.
55. Ibid., p. 28.
56. Warner, Marina, From The Beast to the Blonde: on Fairy Tales and Their Tellers
(Vintage, 1995), p. xvi.
57. Dr. Gladys Wauchope, The Story of a Woman Physician (Bristol: John
Wright & Sons, 1963) p. 16.
58. Ibid., p. 16.
59. Ibid., p. 15.
60. Ibid., p. 13.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 215 8/20/2008 9:04:40 PM
216 Notes
61. Ibid., p. 26.
62. Ibid., p. 28.
63. Ibid., p. 28.
64. Ibid., p. 28.
65. Ibid., p. 40.
66. Ibid., p. 40.
67. Ibid., p. 41.
68. Ibid., p. 47.
69. Ibid., p. 48.
70. Ibid., p. 48.
71. Ibid., p. 49.
72. Mitchell, op. cit., p. 112.
73. Wilberforce, op. cit., p. 10.
74. Ibid., p. 10.
75. Ibid., p. 10.
76. Ibid., p. 15.
77. Ibid., p. 20.
78. Harriet Martineau, The Young Lady in Town and Country: Her Health,
Once a Week, 25 February1860, pp. 191192; in Mitchell, op. cit., p. 58.
79. Wilberforce, op. cit., p. 18.
80. Ibid., p. 18.
81. Ibid., p. 31.
82. Ibid. p. 35.
83. Ibid., p. 32.
84. Ibid., p. 33.
85. Ibid., pp. 28, 29, 36.
86. Ibid., p. 24.
87. Ibid., p. 26.
88. Ibid., p. 26.
89. Ibid., p. 26.
90. Ibid., p. 29.
91. Bryson, op. cit., p. 222.
92. Ibid., p. 190; Wauchope, op. cit., p. 45.
93. Hutton, op. cit., pp. 39, 40.
94. Ibid., p. 71.
95. Dyhouse, Driving Ambitions, op. cit., pp. 329, 330.
96. Warner, op. cit., p. xvi.
97. Zipes, op. cit., pp. 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 33.
98. M. Halliday, Language as Social Semiotic: The Social Interpretation of Language
and Meaning (Edward Arnold 1978), p. 44.
99. Andrea Dworkin, Woman Hating, in Zipes, op. cit., p. 170.
100. Mitchell, op. cit., pp. 103138; Reynolds, op. cit., pp. 92110; Knowles and
Malmkjaer, pp. 4180.
4 Nurses and VADs
1. Biographical Dictionary of Women (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1998),
p. 476.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 216 8/20/2008 9:04:40 PM
Notes 217
2. Anne Summers, Angels and Citizens: British Women as Military Nurses
18541914 (Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1988), pp. 237270.
3. Ibid., p. 170.
4. Ibid., p. 194.
5. C.S. Peel, How We Lived Then (John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1929), p. 127.
6. Summers, op. cit., p. 223.
7. Ibid., p. 189.
8. Ibid., p .206.
9. By the end of 1910, 8,000 women, 26,000 by early 1912 and 50,000 on the
eve of war. Ibid., p. 253.
10. Ibid., pp. 254258.
11. Ibid., p. 250.
12. Ibid., p. 250.
13. M.A. St Clair Stobart, Miracles and Adventures: An Autobiography (Rider & Co.,
1935), p. 84.
14. See Hugh Popham, F.A.N.Y. The Story of the Womens Transport Service 190784
(Leo Cooper in assoc. with Seder & Warburg, 1984).
15. Summers, op. cit., p. 270.
16. Ibid., p. 269.
17. Ibid., p. 267.
18. Diana Cooper, The Rainbow Comes and Goes (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1958),
pp. 117129.
19. Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady (Virago, 1987), p. 171.
20. May Wedderburn Cannan, Grey Ghosts and Voices (Kineton: The Roundwood
Press, 1976), p. 75.
21. J. Steveson, British Society 19141945 (Penguin Books, 1990), p. 84.
22. Susan R. Grayzel, The Outward and Visible Sign of Her Patriotism: Women,
Uniforms and National Service During the First World War, British History,
vol. 8, no. 2, 1997, pp. 145164.
23. See Cooper, op. cit., p. 120; Cannan, op. cit., p. 95; May Sinclair, A Journal of
Impressions in Belgium (Hutchinson, 1915), p. 20.
24. Dame Katharine Furze, G.B.E., R. R. C., Hearts and Pomegranates (Peter
Davies, 1940), p. 332. Commandant in Chief of the VADs and subsequently
Director in the Navy (equivalent to Rear-Admiral) and directly involved in
the setting-up of the WAAF.
25. Stobart, op. cit., p. 96; Furze, op. cit., p. 291, pp. 364467.
26. Peel, op. cit., p. 28; Furze, op. cit., p. 291; Sinclair, op. cit., p. 19.
27. Joanna Russ, The Female Male (The Womens Press, 1985), p. 92.
28. Chris Shilling, The Body and Social Theory (Sage Publications, 1993), p. 191.
29. Michael Wheeler, Heaven, Hell, & the Victorians (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1994), p. 31.
30. Wheeler, op. cit., p. 30.
31. Florence Farmborough, Nurse at the Russian Front: A Diary 19141918
(Constable, 1974), pp. 2224.
32. Shilling, op. cit., p. 190.
33. Mabel Lethbridge, Fortune Grass (Geoffrey Bles, 1934), pp. 31, 32.
34. Ibid., p. 35.
35. Stobart, op. cit., p. 79.
36. Ibid., p. 362.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 217 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
218 Notes
37. Ibid., p. 202.
38. Ibid., p. 167.
39. Violetta Thurstan, Field Hospital and Flying Column (G.P. Putmans Sons,
1915), p. 178.
40. Ibid., p. 24.
41. Mary Borden, The Forbidden Zone (William Heinemann Ltd., 1929),
pp. 51, 52.
42. Ibid., p. 52.
43. Ibid., p. 55.
44. Ibid., p. 60.
45. Ibid., p. 60
46. Thurstan, op. cit., p. 24.
47. Ibid., p. 178.
48. Farmborough, op. cit., p. 22.
49. Ibid., p. 42.
50. Stobart, op. cit., p. 320.
51. Farmborough, op. cit., p. 42.
52. Borden, op. cit., p. 55.
53. Bagnold, Edith, Diary with No Dates (Virago in assoc. Heinemann Ltd., 1978;
1st pub. 1918), p. 8.
54. Ibid., p. 59.
55. Ibid., p. 20.
56. Lethbridge, op. cit., p. 35.
57. Baroness, TSerclaes, Flanders and Other Fields (George G. Harrap & Co.,
58. Furze, op. cit., p. 175.
59. Cooper, op. cit., pp. 149, 150.
60. Farmborough, op. cit., p. 316.
61. Cannan, op. cit., p. 150.
62. Farmborough, op. cit., p. 390.
63. Stobart, op. cit., p. 354.
64. Farmborough, op. cit., p. 360.
65. Ibid., p. 390.
66. Cannan, op. cit., p. 94.
67. Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1975), p. 182.
68. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: Volume 1 an Introduction (Penguin
Books, 1976), p. 27.
69. Stobart, op. cit., p. 340.
70. Not So Quiet in No Womans Land, in Miriam Cooke & Angela
Woollacotts eds., Gendering War Talk (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton
Iniversity Press, 1993) pp. 205226.
71. Tate, Trudi, Modernism, History and the First World War (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1998), p. 83; Tylee, Claire M., The Great War
and Womens Consciousness (London: Macmillan, 1990), pp. 190202;
Higonnet, op. cit., pp. 215216.
72. Higonnet, op. cit., p. 206.
73. Foucault, op. cit., p. 63.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 218 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
Notes 219
74. Higonnet, op. cit., p. 206.
75. Foucault, op. cit., p. 64.
5 Artists and Practitioners
1. Sophie Fuller, Unearthing a World of Music: Victorian and Edwardian Women
Composers, Women: A Cultural Review, vol. 3, no. 1, 1992, pp. 1622.
2. Suzanne Raitt, The Singers of Sargent: Mabel Batten, Elsie Swinton, Ethel
Smyth, in Ibid., pp. 2329.
3. Deborah Cherry, Painting Women: Victorian Women Artists (Routledge, 1993);
Germain Greer, The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and their
Work (Book Club Associates,1980); Caroline Fox, Dame Laura Knigt (Oxford:
Phaidon, 1988); Sara Maitland, Vesta Tilley (Virago, 1986).
4. Roger Manvell, Ellen Terry: A Biography (Heinemann, 1968); Maitland, ibid.
5. Lena Ashwell, Myself a Player (Michael Joseph, 1936), p. 44; Isadora Duncan,
All Sorts of People (Methuen, 1929), p. 27.
6. Julie Holledge, Innocent Flowers, Women in the Edwardian Theatre (Virago,
7. Ibid., p. 10.
8. Ibid., p. 11.
9. Ellen Terry, Sybil Thorndyke for example, Ibid., p. 18.
10. Cherry, op. cit., p. 1.
11. Ibid., Greer, op. cit.
12. R. Parker and G. Pollock, Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology (Routledge,
13. Cherry, op. cit., p. 7.
14. Lillah McCarthy, Myself and My Friends (Thornton Butterworth, 1933),
pp. 15, 16.
15. Ibid., pp. 1421.
16. Ibid., p. 14.
17. Ibid., p. 17.
18. Ibid., p. 20.
19. Ibid., p. 20.
20. Ibid., p. 21.
21. Lady de Frece, [Vesta Tilley], Recollections of Vesta Tilley (Hutchinson & Co.,
1934), p. 22.
22. Ibid., p. 25.
23. Ibid. p. 25.
24. Ibid., p. 23.
25. Marina Warner, Joan of Arc (Weidenfeld &Nicolson, 1981), p. 156; Maitland,
op. cit., p. 55.
26. Mathilde Verne, Vesta Tilley (Virago, 1986).
27. Gladys Storey, All Sorts of People (Methuen, 1929).
28. McCarthy, op. cit., p. 134.
29. Ibid., p. 208.
30. Ibid., p. 44.
31. Laura Knight, Oil Paint and Grease Paint (Ivor Nicholson & Watson Ltd.,
1936, p. 40.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 219 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
220 Notes
32. Duncan, op. cit., p. 30.
33. McCarthy, op. cit., p. 15.
34. Ibid., p. 15.
35. Ibid., p. 16.
36. Verne, op. cit., p. 20.
37. Irene Vanbrugh, To Tell My Story (Hutchinson & Co., 1948), p. 52.
38. Ibid., p. 52.
39. Ibid., p. 50.
40. Ibid., p. 49, 50.
41. Ibid., p. 58.
42. McCarthy, op. cit., p. 66.
43. Ibid., p. 89, 90.
44. Ibid., p. 124.
45. Maude V. White, Friends and Memories (Edward Arnold, 1914), p. 310.
46. McCarthy, op. cit., p. 221.
47. Vanbrugh, op. cit., p. 58.
48. McCarthy, op. cit., p. 232.
49. Ibid., p. 233.
50. Ibid., p. 242.
51. Ibid., p. 240.
52. Ibid., p. 259.
53. Ibid., p. 267.
54. Ibid., p. 15.
55. Liza Lehmann, The Life of Liza Lehmann (T. Fisher Unwin, 1919), p. 41.
56. Ibid., p. 63.
57. Ibid., p. 65.
58. Ibid., p. 70.
59. Ibid., p. 95.
60. Ibid., p. 41.
61. Knight, op. cit., p. 122.
62. Ibid., pp. 1, 2, 48, 103, 129.
63. Ibid., p. 49.
64. Ibid., p. 40.
65. Ibid., p. 41.
66. Canziani, op. cit., p. 167.
67. Ibid., p.167.
68. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison (Vintage
Books, 1995, 1st pub. 1977), p. 171.
69. Ibid., p. 176.
70. Ibid., p. 187.
71. Ibid., p. 170.
6 Women Writers
1. Claire M. Tylees bibliography provides an excellent listing year by year, of
primary sources, and is helpful starting-point for locating forgotten works
by women. The Great War and Womens Consciousness: Images of Militarism
and Womanhood in Womens Writings, 191464 (Oxford University Press,
1997). For further detail, Sandra Kemp, Charlotte Mitchell and David
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 220 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
Notes 221
Trotters The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1997), provides short biographical information, lists of
works and synopsis of their most famous books.
2. 6s. for a single volume as opposed to a first edition in three volumes at 31s.
6d, Edwardian Fiction p. xv.
3. Kemp, Mitchell and Trotter, op. cit., p. xv.
4. Elinor Glyn, Three Weeks (Virago, 1996, 1st pub. 1908).
5. For more examples see Kemp, Mitchell and Trotter, op. cit., p. 267.
6. Ibid., p. 127.
7. Paul John, Fictions in Autobigraphy: Studies in the Art of Self-Invention
(Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1985), p. 10.
8. Storm Jameson, Journey from the North, vol. 1 (Collins & Harvill Press, 1969),
Recorded on the dust jacket.
9. Rosamond Lehmann, The Swan in the Evening (Virago, 1982, 1st pub. 1967),
p. 65.
10. Biographical Dictionary of Women (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1998); Kemp,
Mitchell and Trotter op. cit.
11. I have placed, romance, sensation, sexual, childrens books crime within
the low-brow category and historical romance as middle-brow. Social and
political novels and feminist fiction can be either mid or high-brow.
12. Bertha Ruck, A Story-Teller Tells the Truth (Hutchinson, 1935), p. 64.
13. H.M. Swanwick, I Have Been Young (Victor Gollancz, 1935), p. 149.
14. Ibid., p. 162.
15. Ruck, op. cit., p. 65.
16. Baroness Orczy, Links in the Chain of Life (Hutchinson, 1947), p. 91.
17. Jameson, op. cit., 1969, p. 77.
18. Ibid., p. 79.
19. Rita Mrs Desmond Humphreys, Recollections of a Literary Life (Andrew
Melrose, 1936), pp. 36, 37.
20. Ibid., p. 103.
21. Netta Syrett, The Sheltering Tree (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1939), p. 5.
22. Rosanne (1902) is one such. Syrett published over fifty volumes of fiction in
23. Kemp, Mitchell and Trotter, op. cit., p. xiv.
24. Orczy, op. cit., p. 8.
25. Ibid., p. 84.
26. Glyn, op. cit., p. 131.
27. Ibid., p. 86.
28. Ibid., p. 91.
29. Ibid., p. 171.
30. Ibid., p. 172.
31. Ibid., p. 173.
32. Ibid., p. 175
33. Ibid., p. 100.
34. Ibid., p. 88.
35. In Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Herndl, Feminisms: An Anthology of
Literary Theory and Criticism (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997), pp. 347362.
36. Ibid., p. 92.
37. Ibid., p. 93.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 221 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
222 Notes
38. Ibid., p. 105.
39. Humphreys, op. cit., p. 37.
40. Ibid., p. 58.
41. Naomi Mitchison, Small Talk (London: Bodley Head, 1973. Uncorrected
proof copy), p. 100.
42. Ibid., p. 70.
43. Jameson, op. cit., 1969, p. 91.
44. Ibid., p. 315.
45. Syrett, op. cit., p. 10.
46. Ibid., Preface, no pagination.
47. Orczy, op. cit., p. 111.
48. Ibid., p. 58.
49. Ibid., p. 146.
50. Humphreys, op. cit., p. 38.
51. Glyn, op. cit., p. 88.
52. Ibid., p. 127.
53. Would you like to Sin/with Eleanor Glyn/On a Tiger skin?/ Or would you
prefer/To err with her/On some other fur. Recorded in, Glyn, ibid.,
54. Glyn, Elinor, Romantic Adventure (Ivor Nicholson and Watson, 1936) p.128.
55. Ibid., p. 89.
56. Ibid., p. 89.
57. Ibid., p. 134.
58. Jameson, op. cit., 1969, p. 282.
59. Ibid., p. 283.
60. Ibid., p. 240. Thrawn, northern word meaning: Perverse or ill-tempered, or
twisted, crooked, bent from the straight.
61. Storm Jameson, None Turn Back (Virago Books, 1984, 1st pub. 1936), p. 249.
62. Jameson (1969), op. cit., p. 240.
63. Jameson (1936), op. cit., p. 250.
64. Jameson (1969), op. cit., p. 291.
65. Eakin, op. cit., p. 10.
66. Kemp, Mitchell & Trotter, op. cit., introduction pp. ix xix.
67. Malcolm Bradbury, Modernism 18901930 (Penguin Books, 1976), p. 70.
68. Humphreys, op. cit., p. 44.
69. Ibid., p. 258.
70. Ibid., p. 218.
71. Ibid., p. 193.
72. Ibid., p. 194.
73. Ibid., p. 194.
74. Ibid., p. 194.
75. Glyn (1908), op. cit., p. 2.
76. Glyn (1936), op. cit., p. 234.
77. Glyn (1908), op. cit., p. 142.
78. Glyn (1936) op. cit., p. 233.
79. Nietzsche made use of the French word ressentiment for his notion on
rancour as there is no equivalent word in the German language.
80. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, trans. W. Kaufmann and
R.J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage, 1968).
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 222 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
Notes 223
81. Glyn (1936) op. cit., pp. 131, 132.
82. Ibid., p. 131.
83. Ibid., p. 130.
84. Jameson (1969) op. cit., p. 79.
85. Ibid., dust jacket.
86. Ibid., p. 117.
87. Ibid., p. 118.
88. Ibid., p. 143.
89. Ibid., p. 91.
90. Ibid., p. 95.
7 The Frontispiece Image
in Autobiography
1. Linda Haverty Rugg, Picturing Ourselves (Chicago & London: University of
Chicago Press, 1997), p. 2.
2. B. Kress and G. Hodge, Social Semiotics (Penguin Books, 1988), p. 44.
3. Susan Sontag, A Susan Sontag Reader (Penguin Books, 1982), p. 358.
4. According to Barthes, the anchorage directs the reader to a meaning chosen
in advance. It directs not to the totality of the iconic message but only to
certain of its signs. Anchorage is a control. Roland Barthes, Image Music Text
(Fontana, 1977), pp. 3840.
5. Sontag (1982), op. cit., p. 357.
6. Alan Thomas, The Expanding Eye (Croom Helm, 1978), pp. 722.
7. Richard Brilliant, Portraiture (Reaktion Books, 1991), p. 112.
8. Jo Spence and Patricia Holland, Family Snaps: The Meaning of Domestic
Photography (Virago, 1991), p. 4.
9. John Tagg, The Burden of Representation (Basingstoke: MacMillan, 1988), p. 8.
10. Ibid., p. 64.
11. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida (Vintage, 2000).
12. F. Jack Hurley, Portrait of a Decade: Roy Stryker and the Development of
Documentary Photography in the Thirties (Louisiana: Louisiana State Press,
1977), p. vii.
13. Ibid., p. vii.
14. Barthes (2000) op. cit., p. 26.
15. Ibid., p. 27. Of course Barthes abandoned the distinction between the two
definitions in Part Two, p. 60 onwards.
16. Ibid., p. 27.
17. Ibid., p. 51.
18. Ibid., p. 26.
19. Diana Cooper, The Rainbow Comes and Goes (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1958);
Katharine West, Inner and Outer Circles (Cohen & West, 1958).
20. West, op. cit., p. 1.
21. Ibid., p. 70.
22. Ibid., p. 170.
23. Susan Sontag, On Photography (Penguin Books, 1977), p. 16.
24. Nancy Price, Into the Hour Glass (Museum Press, 1954).
25. Ibid., p. 134.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 223 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
224 Notes
26. Ibid., p. 164.
27. Roland Barthes (1977) op. cit., p. 28.
28. Lilian M. Faithfull, You and I (Chatto & Windus, 1928); Francis R. Gray,
Gladly, Gladly A Book about Learning and Teaching (Sampson Low, Marston,
no date).
29. Barthes (2000), op. cit., p. 26.
30. Wendy Cooper, Hair, Sex, Society, Symbolism (Aldus Books, 1971), p. 65.
31. T.J. Clark, Preliminaries to a possible treatment of Olympia in 1865, Screen,
1980, 20 (1) 36.
32. Wendy Cooper, Hair and Female Sexuality, ibid., pp. 6589.
33. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 283.
34. Ibid., p. 282.
35. Ibid., p. 284.
36. Brilliant, op. cit., p. 112.
37. Spence and Holland, op. cit., p. 4.
38. Barthes (2000), op. cit., p. 13.
39. Gillian Rose, Visual Methodologies (Sage Publications, 2001), p. 24.
40. Sontag (1977), op. cit., p. 38.
41. Ibid., p. 37.
42. Stella Bruzzi, Undressing Cinema: Clothing and Identity in the Movies (Routledge,
1997); Sue Harper, Women in British Cinema: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know
(Continuum, 2000); Sara Street, British National Cinema (Routledge, 1997).
43. Tagg, op. cit., p. 21.
44. Joan Riviere, Womanliness as Masquerade in Victor Burgin, James Donald
and Cora Kaplan eds. Formations of Fantasy (London & New York: Methuen),
pp. 3561; Ren Konig, The Restless Image: A Sociology of Fashion (George
Allen & Unwin, 1973), p. 19.
45. Tagg, op. cit., p. 37.
46. Barthes (2000), op. cit., p. 28.
47. Rugg, op. cit., p. 9.
48. Barthes (2000), op. cit., p. 32.
49. Ibid., p. 32.
8 Prefaces, Prologues, Forewords
and Introductions
1. From the New Oxford English Dictionary, 19841989 (Clarendon Press, 1989),
2nd edition: Preface, to make introductory or prefatory remarks, 1619; an
introduction to a book stating its subject, scope, etc, 1989. Prologue, pre-
liminary speech, esp. introducing a play, 1989. Foreword, introductory
remarks at the beginning of a book, often by a person other than the author;
Introduction, an explanatory section at the beginning of a book etc. 1989.
2. John Lavey, The Life of a Painter (Cassell & Co., 1940), p. 9.
3. Guy Kendall, A Headmaster Reflects (William Hodge, 1937), p. xiii.
4. Adrian Brunel, Nice Work: The Story of Thirty Years in British Film Production
(Forbes Robertson, 1949), p. none.
5. Frank Fletcher, After Many Days: A Schoolmasters Memories (Robert Hale,
1937 ), p. vii.
6. Lord Riddell, More Pages from My Diary (Country Life, 1934), p. none.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 224 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
Notes 225
7. Lilian M. Faithfull, In the House of My Pilgrimage (Chatto & Windus,
1925), p. 11.
8. Dr Mary Scharlieb, Reminiscences Williams and Norgate, 1924), pp. viiviii.
9. Carol Dyhouse, Feminism and the Family in England 18801939 (Oxford: Basil
Blackwell, 1989); Eric Hobsbawm, The New Woman in The Age of Empire
18751914 (Britain: Abacus, 1994), pp. 192218.
10. Violetta Thurstan, The Hounds of War Unleashed (St. Ives: United Writers
Publications Cornwall, 1978), p. 8.
11. Dr Isabel Hutton, Memories of a Doctor in War & Peace (Heinemann, 1960);
Margot Asquith, The Autobiography of Margot Asquith (Thornton Butterworth,
1935), p. none.
12. Estella Canziani, Round About Three Palace Green (Meuthuen, 1939), p.vii.
13. May Wedderburn Cannan, Grey Ghosts and Voices (Kineton: The Roundwood
Press, 1976), p. 3.
14. Rita, Mrs Desmond Humphreys, Recollections of a Literary Life (Andrew
Melrose, 1936), p. 3.
15. Lillah McCarthy, Myself and My Friend (Thornton Butterworth, 1933), p. 9.
16. Gladys White, Friends and Memories (Edward Arnold, 1914), p. vii.
17. Canziani, op. cit., p. vii.
18. Nancy Price, Into the Hour Glass (Museum Press, 1954), p. 5.
19. Netta Syrett, The Sheltering Tree (Geoffrey Bles, 1939), p. 5.
20. May Sinclair, A Journal of Impressions in Belgium (Hutchinson, 1915), p. ix.
21. M.A. St Clair Stobart, Miracles and Adventures (Rider, 1935), p. 10.
22. Baroness de TSerclaes, Flanders and Other Fields (George G. Harrap,
1964), p. 17.
23. Marion Cleeve, Fire Kindleth Fire: The Professional Autobiography of Marion
Cleeve (Blackie & Son, 1930), p. v.
24. Dr Elizabeth Bryson, Look Back in Wonder (Dundee: David Winter & Son,
1966), p. iii.
25. Ibid., p. iii.
26. Dame Katherine Furze, Hearts and Pomegranate (Peter Davies,1940), p. vi.
27. Ibid., p. v.
28. Sara Burstall, Retrospect & Prospect: Sixty Years of Womens Education
(Longmans, Green, 1933).
29. Ibid., p. xiii.
30. Sir John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
31. Storm Jameson, Journey from the North, vol. 1 (Collins & Harvill
1969), p. 16.
32. H.M. Swanwick, I Have Been Young (Victor Gollancz, 1935), p. 15.
33. Syrett, op. cit., p. 6.
34. Burstall, op. cit., p. xiv.
35. Swanwick, op. cit., p. 15.
36. Elinor Glyn, Romantic Adventure (Ivor Nicholson and Watson, 1936),
pp. 13.
37. Jameson, op. cit., p. 16.
38. Price, op. cit., p. 6.
39. Mary Borden, The Forbidden Zone (William Heinemann, 1929), p. none.
40. Furze, op. cit., p. vi.
41. Jameson, op. cit., p. 16.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 225 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
226 Notes
42. Ibid., p. 16.
43. Isadora Duncan, My Life (Victor Gollancz, 1928), p. 9.
44. Roland Barthes, A Loves Discourse: Fragments (Jonathan Cape, 1979); and
Camera Lucida (Vintage Books, 2000, 1st pub., 1980).
45. Jacques Derrida, That Dangerous supplement pp. 141164, in Of
Grammatology (The John Hopkins University Press, 1976), p. 145.
46. Oxford English Dictionary, 1996.
47. Derrida, op. cit., p. x.
48. Ibid., p. xiii.
49. Hegel, The Structure of Philosophic Language According to the Preface to
Hegels Phenomenology of the Mind, trans. by Richard Macksey and Eugenio
Donato, eds. In The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man: the
Structuralist Controversy (Baltimore, 1970), cited in Derrida, op. cit., p. x.
50. Roy Porter, Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present
(Routledge, 1997), p. 23.
9 Silences
1. Susan Sontag, A Susan Sontag Reader (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983), p. 187.
2. Wilhelm Dilthey in H. P. Rickman, ed. Pattern and Meaning in History
(Harper & Row, 1961); James Olney, Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and
Critical (Princeton: Princeston University Press, 1980); Mary Jean Corbett,
Representing Femininity, Middle Class Subjectivity in Victorian and Edwardian
Womens Autobiographies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Simon
Denlith, The Uses of Autobiography, Literature and History Journal, vol. 14,
no. 1, 1988; Regenia Gagnier, Subjectivities: A History of Self-Representation
in Britain, 18321920 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); Mary
Evans, Missing Persons: The Impossibility of Auto/biography (Routledge, 1999);
Laura Marcus, Autobiographical Discourses (Manchester: Manchester
University Press, 1994); Julia Swindells, The Uses of Autobiography (Taylor &
Francis 1995).
3. Dale Spender, Man Made Language (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987).
4. Tillie Olsen, Silences (New York: Delacorte Press, 1978), p. 6.
5. Roland Barthes, Image Music Text (Fontana Press, 1977); Patricia Ondek
Laurence, The Reading of Silence: Virginia Woolf in the English Tradition
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993); Pierr Macherey, A Theory of
Literary Production (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978); Budick & Iser, Languages
of the Unsayable (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989).
6. Laurence, op. cit., p. 57.
7. Macherey, op. cit., pp. 8289.
8. John Cage, Silences (Middleton: Wesleyan University Press, 1968), p. 7.
9. Sontag, op. cit., pp. 181204.
10. Ibid., p. 187.
11. Dame Laura Knight, Oil Paint and Grease Paint (Ivor Nicholson & Watson),
p. 122.
12. Marion Cleeve, Fire Kindleth Fire: The Professional Autobiography of Marion
Cleeve (London & Glasgow: Blackie & Son, 1930); Frances R. Gray, Gladly,
Gladly a Book about Learning and Teaching (Sampson Low, Marston, no date).
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 226 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
Notes 227
13. Lilian M. Faithfull, In the House of My Pilgrimage (Chatto & Windus, 1925),
p. 265.
14. Amy Barlow, Seventh Child the Autobiography of a Schoolmistress (Gerald
Duckworth, 1969), p. 90.
15. Barlow, op. cit., p. 95.
16. Ibid., pp. 83, 84, 85.
17. Dr Gladys Wauchope, The Story of a Woman Physician (Bristol: John
Wright & Sons, 1963), p. 46.
18. Octavia Wilberforce, The Autobiography of a Pioneer Woman Doctor (Cassell
Publishers, 1989), p. 64.
19. Mathilde Verne, Chords of Remembrance (Hutchinson, 1936), p. 32.
20. Sigmund Freud, An Autobiographical Study (Hogarth Press, 1936).
21. Chris Shilling, The Body and Social Theory (Sage Publications, 1993), p. 188.
22. Ibid., p. 192.
23. Ibid., p. 179.
24. Vieda Skultan, Silence and the Shortcomings of Narrative, Auto/Biography,
IX (1 and 2) 2001, pp. 310, p. 5.
25. Macherey, op. cit., p. 87.
26. Ibid., p. 85.
27. Ibid., p. 87.
28. Bertha Ruck, A Story-Teller Tells the Truth (Hutchinson, 1935), p. 93.
29. Lillah McCarthy, Myself and My Friends (Thornton Butterworth,
1933), p. 66.
30. Ibid., p. 89.
31. Ibid., p. 233.
32. Ibid., p. 124.
33. Ibid., p. 151.
34. May Wedderburn-Cannan, Grey Ghosts and Voice (Kineton: The Roundwood
Press, 1976), p. 28.
35. Iser, Wolfgang, Prospecting from Reader Response to Literary Anthropology
(Baltimore & London: John Hopkins University Press, 1989), in Skultan,
op. cit., p. 5.
36. Liza Lehmann, The Life of Liza Lehmann (T. Fisher Unwin, Ltd. 1919),
pp. 110, 161.
37. McCarthy, op. cit., p. 130.
38. Ibid., p. 130.
39. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: Volume 1 An Introduction (Penguin
Books, 1976), p. 27.
40. M.A. St. Clair Stobart, Miracles and Adventures (Rider, 1935), p. 86.
41. Ibid., p. 82.
42. Ibid., p. 88.
43. Cannan, op. cit., pp. 48, 55, 65.
44. Ibid., p. 120.
45. Ibid., p. 82.
46. Ibid., p. 86.
47. Ibid., p. 140.
48. Ibid., p. 140.
49. Ibid., p. 144.
50. Lehmann, op. cit., p. 94.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 227 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
228 Notes
51. Ibid., p. 207.
52. Ibid., p. 211.
53. Ibid., p. 211.
54. Ibid., p. 212.
55. Ibid., p. 211.
56. Ibid., pp. 213, 224.
57. Sontag, op. cit., p. 189.
58. Humphreys, Mrs. Desmond Rita, Recollections of a Literary Life (London:
Andrew Melroe, 1936) p. 58.
59. Ibid., p. 37.
60. Sontag, op. cit., p. 193, 194.
61. Lehmann, op. cit., p. 213.
62. Ibid., p. 212.
63. Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (J.M. Dent & Sons, 1991, 1st pub. 1760),
p. 347.
64. Macherey, op. cit., p. 87.
65. Roland Barthes, Mythologies (Vintage, 1993), pp. 109159.
66. Macherey , op. cit., p. 82.
67. Ibid., p. 85.
68. Robert E Lougy, Insupportable Absence and the Writing Desire (2004). On line
Internet Retrieved 25 October 2005, p. 18.
69. Macherey, op. cit., p. 87.
10 Self and Identity
1. Shari Benstock, ed. The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Womens
Autobiographical Writings (Routledge, 1988); Sara Delmont Knowledgeable
Women (Routledge, 1989); Laura Marcus, Autobiographical Discourses
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994); Liz Stanley, The Auto/
biographical I (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992).
2. Regenia Gagnier, Subjectivities: A History of Self-Representation in Britain,
18321920 (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).
3. Mary Jane Corbett, Representing Femininity, Middle Class Subjectivity in
Victorian and Edwardian Womens Autobiographies (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1992).
4. William Lamont, Historical Controversies and Historians (University College
London Press, 1998).
5. Malcolm Chase, Autobiography and the Understanding of Self: the Case of
Allen Davenport, in Martin Hewitt ed., Representing Victorian Lives (Leeds
centre for Victorian Studies 1999), p. 19.
6. Sara Burstall, Retrospect & Prospect: Sixty Years of Womens Education
(Longmans, Green, 1933), p. 50.
7. Patricia W. Romero, Sylvia Pankhurst: Portrait of a Radical (Yale University
Press, 1987).
8. Corbett, op. cit., p. 178.
9. Wilhelm Dilthey, Pattern and Meaning in History (Harper & Row, 1961),
p. 214.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 228 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
Notes 229
10. John Tosh, The Pursuit of History (3rd edition) (Harlow: Pearson Education,
2000), p. 190.
11. Ibid., p. 213.
12. Lamont, op. cit., p. 190.
13. Ibid., p. 194.
14. Lucien Febvre: A New Kind of History from the Writings of Febvre, Peter Burke
ed. (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973).
15. The vividness of the memory suggests the photographic flashbulb meta-
phor. See following chapter for full analysis.
16. Theodore Adorno, Subject and Object, in Lamont, op. cit., p. 402.
17. Jerome Bruner, Life as Narrative, Social Research, vol. 54, p. 31.
18. David Rubin, Remembering Our Past: Studies in Autobiographical Memory
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 1.
19. Netta Syrett, The Sheltering Tree (Geoffrey Bles, 1939), Preface.
20. Ren Konig, The Restless Image: A Sociology of Fashion (George Allen & Unwin,
21. Ledger, Sally, The New Woman, Fiction and Feminism at the fin de sicle
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997) p. 1.
22. Ibid., p. 1.
23. Anthony Cascardi, The Subject of Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1992); Roy Porter, Rewriting the Self: Histories from the
Renaissance to the Present (Routledge, 1997).
24. Roger Smith in Porter, op. cit., p. 56.
25. Carolyn D. Williams, Another Self in the Case: Gender, Marriage and the
Individual in Augustan Literature, in Porter, op. cit., pp. 97118 (p. 98).
26. Enlightenment thinkers such as Addison, Mandeville and Fielding, see
E.J. Hundert, The European Enlightenment and the History of the Self
pp. 7283, in Porter, op. cit.
27. Ibid., p. 80.
28. Wordsworth believed that communing with nature was the way to get back
in touch with the self.
29. Anthony Elliot, Concepts of the Self (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003), p. 9.
30. Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press,
1990), p. 34.
31. Elliot, op. cit., p. 6.
32. Taylor, op. cit., p. 34.
33. A random selection of dates shows the following coverage, under various
titles, that women received: 20 Feb. 1906, Womens Suffrage; 3 March
1906, Womens Suffrage Movement; 10 and 12 March 1906, Womens
Demonstrations; 19, 23, 25, 26, 29 31 October 1906, Suffrage; 5 November
1906, Suffrage Demonstration in Trafalgar Square; 1 November1906,
Deputation to Mr J. Morley; 7 November 1906, Suffragettes Imprisoned;
10 March 1908, Womens Suffrage: Economic Aspect; 18 January 1908,
Suffrage and the Cabinet; January March 1910, contained suffrage arti-
cles on each day. Once war was declared and suffrage demands suspended,
a more inclusive journalism takes over. January to March 1915, for example,
Women Doctors, Women for Farm Work, Women Gardeners, Women
and the Law, Women and Medicine, Women Musicians, New Professions
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 229 8/20/2008 9:04:41 PM
230 Notes
for Women, Women Tram Conductors, Women and War Work, Women,
Dress and War, etc.
34. A Woman Who Writes For Her Bread, The Times, 16 July 1907.
35. Ethel Raglan, Memories of Three Reigns (Eveleigh Nash & Grayson, 1928),
p. 233.
36. Ibid., p. 21.
37. The Guardian, From the Archives 3 July 2004.
38. Raglan, op. cit., p. 232.
39. This replicates Coopers idiosyncratic spacing. Diana Cooper, The Rainbow
Comes and Goes (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1958), p. 82.
40. Raglan, op. cit., p. 238.
41. Lilian M. Faithfull, In the House of My Pilgrimage (Chatto & Windus, 1925), p. 9.
42. Bertha Ruck, A Story-Teller Tells the Truth (Hutchinson, 1935), p. 80.
43. Ibid., p. 80.
44. Baroness de TSerclaes, Flanders and Other Fields (George G. Harrap,
1964), p. 34.
45. Sara Burstall, English High School for Girls: Their Aims, Organisation, and
Management (Longmans, Green, 1907), p. 15.
46. Dr Gladys Wauchope, The Story of a Woman Physician (Bristol: John
Wright & Sons, 1963), p. 15.
47. Dr Mary Scharlieb, Reminiscences (Williams and Norgate, 1924), p. 77.
48. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 11.
49. Ibid., p. 59.
50. Ibid., p. 8.
51. Marion Cleeve, Fire Kindleth Fire: The Professional Autobiography of Marion
Cleeve (London& Glasgow: Blackie & Son, 1930), p. 83.
52. Rita Humphreys, Recollections of a Literary Life (Andrew Melrose, 1936),
p. 100.
53. Ibid., p. 218.
54. Ibid., p. 258.
55. Frances Gray, Gladly, Gladly: a Book about Learning and Teaching (Sampson
Low, Marston, no date), p. 226.
56. Dr Elizabeth Bryson, Look Back in Wonder (Dundee: David Winter & Son,
1966), p. 126.
57. Ibid., p. 189.
58. Lillah McCarthy, Myself and My Friends (Thornton Butterworth, 1933), p. 190.
59. Ibid., p. 174.
60. Ibid., p. 174.
61. Ibid., p. 174.
62. Arabella, Kenealy, How Women Doctors are Made, in The Ludgate, 1897,
IV May, pp. 2935. Also, Scharlieb, op. cit., p. 51, Wauchope, op. cit.,
p.45, headmistresses, Faithfull, op. cit., p. 178, Burstall, op. cit., p. 250,
Cleeve, op. cit., p. 178
63. Dr Isabel Hutton, Memories of a Doctor in War & Peace (Heinemann,
1960), p. 18.
64. Ibid., p. 18.
65. Ibid., pp. 100101.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 230 8/20/2008 9:04:42 PM
Notes 231
66. Sir Almroth Wright, Letter to the Editor of the Times on Militant Suffragettes,
(1912), in Dale Spender, ed., The Education Papers: Womens Quest for Equality
in Britain, 18501912 (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987).
67. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 101.
68. Ibid., p. 102.
69. Ibid., p. 148.
70. Peter Corrigan, Dressing in Imaginary Communities: Clothing, Gender
and the Body in Utopian Texts from Thomas Moore to Feminist Scifi in
Body and Society, vol. 2, no. 3 September 1996, pp. 89106.
71. Cleeve, op. cit., p. 82.
72. Ibid., p. 82.
73. Ibid., p. 15.
74. Ibid., p. 17.
75. Roland Barthes, The Fashion System (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983),
1st pub., 1967, p. 38.
76. Ibid., p. 126.
77. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison (Vintage
Books, 1995), 1st pub. 1977.
78. Camilla Stivers, Reflections of the Role of Personal Narrative in Social
Science, Signs, 18, 1993, pp. 408425.
79. Philippe Lejeune, On Autobiography (Minnesota: University of Minnesota
Press, 1989), p. 171.
11 Memory and Accuracy
1. David C. Rubin, Remembering Our Past (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press,1995); William F. Brewer, What is Recollective Memory? in Rubin op.
cit.; Daniel L. Schacter, Searching for Memory: the Brain, the Mind, and the Past
(New York: Basic Books,1996); David B. Pillemer, Momentous Events, Vivid
Memories (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000).
2. Rubin, op. cit., p. 2.
3. Ibid., p. 2.
4. Ibid., p. 3.
5. Ibid., p. 5.
6. Veridical = truthful; See Pillemer, op. cit., p. 52 and Rubin, op. cit., p. 26.
7. Virginia Woolf, Reminiscences, 1907; Virginia Woolf, A Sketch of the Past 1939
1940, in Moments of Being (St. Albans: Triad/Panther Books, 1978); Storm
Jameson, No Time Like the Present (Virago, 1984), 1st pub. 1936; Storm Jameson,
Journey from the North vol. 1 (Virago, 1984), 1st. pub. 1969; Violetta Thurstan,
Field Flying Hospital (G. P. Putnams Sons, 1915); Violetta Thurstan, The Hound
of War Unleashed (St. Ives: United Writers Publications Cornwall, 1978).
8. M. Freeman, Rethinking the Fictive, Reclaiming the Real: Autobiography,
Narrative Time, and the Burden of Truth, in Gary D. Fireman, Ted E.
McVay Jr, Owen J. Flanagan, eds., Narrative and Consciousness: Literature,
Psychology, and the Brain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001),
pp. 115128, p. 116.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 231 8/20/2008 9:04:42 PM
232 Notes
9. Rubin, Memory in Oral Traditions (New York: Oxford University Press Inc
1998) in Schacter, op. cit., p. 15.
10. Malcolm Chase, Autobiography and the Understanding of the Self: the Case
of Allen Davenport. In Martin Hewitt, Ed. Representing Victorian Lives: Leeds
Working Papers in Victorian Studies Volume 2 (University of Leeds, 1999),
pp. 1426, p. 19.
11. Jerome Bruner, Carol Feldman, Group Narrative as a Cultural Context of
Autobiography, in Rubin, op. cit., pp. 291317.
12. Rubin, op. cit., p. 2.
13. Estelle C. Jelinek, Womens Autobiography: Essays in Criticism (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1980), p. 17.
14. Virginia Woolf, The Collected Essays Vol. IV (The Hogarth Press, 1967),
p. 208.
15. Woolf, A Sketch, 1907 (1978 ed.) op. cit., p. 75.
16. Lilian M. Faithfull, You and I (Chatto & Windus, 1928), p. 147.
17. Naomi Mitchison, Small Talk (Bodley Head. Uncorrected proof copy.
1973), p. 26.
18. Faithfull, op. cit., p. 147.
19. Sven-Ake Christianson and Martin A. Safer, Emotional events and
Emotions in Autobiographical Memories, in Rubin, op. cit., pp. 218243,
p. 222.
20. Mitchison, op. cit., p. 25.
21. Craig R. Barclay, Autobiographical Remembering: Narrative Constraints on
Objectified Selves, in Rubin, op. cit., pp. 94128, p. 100.
22. Diana Cooper, The Rainbow Comes and Goes (Rupert Hart-Davis,1958);
Florence Farmborough, Nurse at the Russian Front (Constable, 1974); Dame
Katharine Furze, Hearts and Pomegranate (Peter Davies,1940); Freya Stark,
Travellers Prelude (John Murray, 1950); Octavia Wilberforce, The Autobiography
of a Pioneer Woman Doctor (Cassell, 1989).
23. Mrs. Desmond Rita Humphreys, Recollections of a Literary Life (Andrew
Melrose, 1936) p. 181.
24. Isadora Duncan, My Life (Gollancz, 1928). P. 339.
25. Steen F. Larsen, Charles P. Thompson, and Tia Hansen. Time in
Autobiographical Memory, in Rubin op. cit., p. 130.
26. Ibid., p. 130.
27. Rubin, op. cit., p. 3.
28. Ibid., p. 3.
29. Pillemer, op. cit., p. 53.
30. Dr. Caroline Matthews, Experiences of a Woman Doctor in Serbia (Mills &
Boon, 1916), p. 31.
31. Pillemer, op. cit., p. 53.
32. Ibid., p. 54.
33. Ibid., p. 53
34. William F. Brewer, What is Recollective Memory? in Rubin, op. cit., p. 39.
35. Elizabeth Bryson, Look Back in Wonder (Dundee: David Winter & Son,
1939), p. 27.
36. Pillemer, op. cit., p. 273.
37. Brewer, op. cit., p. 39.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 232 8/20/2008 9:04:42 PM
Notes 233
38. Pillemer, op. cit., p. 35.
39. Ibid., pp. 58, 61.
40. Weaver, in Rubin, op. cit., p. 40.
41. Wilhelm Rontgen, a German physicist, 1st Noble Prize for Physics 1901.
42. Louise Jermy, The Memoirs of a Working Woman (Norwich: Goose & Son,
1934), p. 83.
43. Brewer, op. cit., p. 42. Neisser & Harschs 1992 study of Challenger explo-
sion, they collected data within 24 hours of the flashbulb event.
44. Larsen, Thompson and Hansen, op. cit., p. 131.
45. Thurstan (1915), op. cit., p. 177.
46. Thurstan (1978) p. 8.
47. Pillemer, op. cit., p. 59.
48. Veronica Hudd, in a telephone conversation with me, called her a heller
and described her as a small person big ideas. At the age of ninety
Thurstan took a group of 40 Catholic friends to Hungary. She found them
disappointing. They were no fun. They only wanted to visit and do
conventional things.
49. Thurstan (1915), op. cit., pp. 8486, 110.
50. Thurstan (1978), op. cit., pp. 25, 26, 41.
51. Thurstan (1915), op. cit., p. 178.
52. Ibid., p. 178.
53. Ibid., p. 11.
54. Muriel Somerfield, Ann Bellingham, Violetta Thurstan: A Celebration
(Penzance: Jamieson Library, 1993), p. 17.
55. Freeman, op. cit., p. 123.
56. Thurstan (1915), op. cit., p. 24.
57. Thurstan (1978), op. cit., p. 14.
58. Storm Jameson, No Time Like the Present (Cassell, 1933), p. 39.
59. London Gazette 30 June 1915.
60. Storm Jameson, Journey From the North, Vol.1 (Collins & Harvill Press,
1978), pp. 99103.
61. Woolf (1978), p. 75.
62. Jameson (1933), p. 40.
63. Lawrence Langer in Fireman, op. cit., The Pursuit of Death in Holocaust
Narrative pp. 149166.
64. Barclay, in Rubin, op. cit., p. 102.
65. Weaver, in Rubin, op. cit., p. 41.
66. Schacter, op. cit., p. 308.
67. Elizabeth Loftus, et al. Who Remembers What?: Gender Differences in
Memory, Michigan Quarterly Review, pp. 6477, Winter 1987.
68. Schacter, op. cit., p. 283.
12 Conclusion
1. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore: John Hopkins University
Press, 1976), p. xiii.
2. Ibid., p. 145.
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 233 8/20/2008 9:04:42 PM
234 Notes
3. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction (Penguin,
1990), 1st pub. 1976.
4. Craig Barclay, Autobiographical Remembering: Narrative Constraints on
Objectified Selves. In David Rubin ed., Remembering Our Pasts: Studies in
Autobiographical Memory (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1995),
pp. 94123.
5. Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: an analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo
(Routledge, 2000), 1st pub. 1966, pp. 115129.
6. Basil Bernstein, Class, Codes and Control: Volume 1, Theoretical Studies towards
a Sociology of Language (Routledge & Keagan Paul, 1971).
7. Gerard Genette, Introduction to the Paratext, New Literary History, vol. 22,
no. 2, Spring, 1991, p. 262.
8. Simon Schama, Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations (Penguin, 1998).
9780230_219922_14_not.indd 234 8/20/2008 9:04:42 PM
actors, see artists and practitioners
Aesthetic Movement, 13
ambition, 22, 43, 445, 47, 49, 52, 74,
75, 778
Annales School, 5, 12, 1635, see also
Wilhelm Dithey
artists and practitioners, 12, 7085,
career acceptability, 71, 72
childhood, 43, 44, 71, 726, 84
children, 80
critical acclaim, 72
death, 78, 823
family, influence; relationships, 727
femininity, 75
marriage, 71, 77, 7980, 82
narrative style, 75, 78, 79, 81, 823, 84
prefaces, 133
private life/public careers, 70, 71,
72, 789, 801, 83, 845
see also boundaries; private/public
spheres; individual names
Ashwell, Lena (actress), 71, 75, 76
Association of Headmistresses, 19
autobiographical canon, 5, 7
accuracy, 101, 186; scientific
research, 181, 186
censure of, 100
consonance in, 199, 201, 204
critical acclaim, 1023
critical approaches 310
critical reactions, 98100
criticism in 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s,
67, 8
etymology, 4
as fiction or history debate, 2, 89,
12, 129, 1823
historical usefulness, 12, 162, 181,
history of, 410
image, 8, 126, 129
male, 8
polemic style, 98100
social commentary, 97100
see also frontispiece images;
memory; methodology;
theoretical approaches
Bagnold, Enid (VAD), narrative style,
65, 68
Barclay, Craig, R. (psychologist),
1856, 195
Barthes, Roland, 12, 108, 11011, 116,
117, 121, 122, 126, 140, 144, 160,
Barton, Amy (headmistress), 19, 25,
312, 1467
Benthamite Panopticon, 27
birth control, 1415, 21
Borden, Mary (Nurse), 603
boundaries, 70, 789, 801, 83, 845,
Brewer, William, F. (psychologist),
187, 188, 196
Brown, R. (psychologist), flashbulb
memory, 1879
Bruner, Jerome (psychology
practitioner), 183
Bryson, Elizabeth (Dr), 38, 416, 51,
135, 1734, 187
bullying, 47, 199, see also
bursaries, 456
Burstall, Sara (headmistress), 20,
223, 30, 345, 1356, 163,
Cage, John (writer), on silences, 144,
161, 226
Notes: Entries in this index are arranged letter-by-letter order. Image references
are shown in bold print.
9780230_219922_15_ind.indd 235 8/20/2008 7:32:43 PM
236 Index
Cannan-Wedderburn, May (VAD), 56,
66, 133, 1546
Canziani, Estella (painter), 823
prefaces, 133, 134
careers, 14, 19, 20, 212223, 2930,
31, 37, 48, 50, 712, 8890, see
also individual professions
celibacy, 17, 22, 29, 30
childhood, 39, 71, 726, 84
children, 80
Christianson, Sven-Ake
(psychologist), 185
Cixous, Hlne (philosopher), 88, 90,
91, 103, 143
Cleeve, Marion,(headmistress), 26,
28, 335, 134, 1778
close friendships, see special
composers, see artists and
consciousness, 1667, 180, see also
contraception, see birth control
Cooper, Diana (VAD), 56, 656, 170
critical themes, 1011, see also
individual professions
cultural context, 1213
curriculum, see Headmistresses
dancers, see artists and practitioners
death, 35, 57, 589, 67, 69, 78, 823,
91, 925, 103, 1479, 150, 1568,
167, 1935
Derrida, Jacques
prefaces, 140
self, 167, 198, 2012
Descartes, Ren, 166
destiny, 22, 23, 25, 45
diaries, use of, 4, 139, 1856, 196
Dilthey, Wilhelm, 5, see also Annales
discipline, see Foucault
discourse, 11, see also narrative; style
discrimination, 378, 45, 47, 171, see
also bullying
doctors, 11, 14, 3753, 199
bullying, 47
childhood memories, 39
close friendships, 51
death, 149
discrimination, 45
education, 39
fashion, hair, dress, 512
feminine/unfeminine, 37, 38, 42,
genre-specific conventions and
influences, 3942
history of, 378, 415
male doctors fear, 378
marriage, 501
medical training 378, 457, 50
mythical heroines, 39
prefaces, 132, 135, 136, 1378
style, 389, 45, 135, 136
see also narrative; style; under
individual names
documents, 194, see also letters;
newspapers; reviews
Douglas, Mary (anthropologist),
dress, see fashion, hair and dress
Duncan, Isadora (dancer), 71, 75, 76,
140, 186
education, 13, 18, 39
as harmful, 176
need for, 20
see also schools; universities
Edwardian novelists, 867
Ellis, Havelock (sexologist), 15, see
also birth control; Marie Stopes
emancipation, see suffrage
fairytale/folktale, see style
Faithfull, Lilian (Headmistress), 19,
20, 223, 25, 27, 31, 345, 120,
1202, 1234, 127, 132, 1467,
170, 1712, 1778, 1835
family, 727
Farmborough, Florence (Nurse), style,
58, 634, 667
fashion, hair, dress, 14, 512, 567,
98, 111, 113, 117, 1212, 123, 165,
fathers influence and relationships,
757, see also patriarchy
Feldman, Carol (psychologist),
9780230_219922_15_ind.indd 236 8/20/2008 7:32:43 PM
Index 237
feminine, 45, 512, 98, 1278
boundaries of, 75
definition of, 37, 38, 678
myths of, 45
unfeminine, 38, 42, 48, 199
virtues, 22
fiction, 86, see also Edwardian
fin de sicle, 13, 165, see also
Edwardian novelists
First World War, 3, 4, 5, 14, 37, 38, 94,
see also nurses; chpts. on memory
forewards, see prefaces
form and content disunity, 603
Foucault, Michel, 17, 167
disciplinary power, 18, 26, 334
hierarchical observation, 26, 27,
289, 32, 35, 834
institutionalisation, 17, 26, 27, 83
normalising judgement, 267, 356
power of dress, 189
silences, 67, 69, 144, 202
see also headmistresses; silences
Freeman, Mark (historian),
autobiography as fiction, 1823,
Freud, Sigmund (psychiatrist), 15
sexology, 31
silence, 1489, 167
frontispiece images, 12, 10729, 201
amateur/family album, 11, 1167,
1245, 126, 128
as child, 1114
making, 114, 116, 1224, 126,
128, 129
control, 201
portrait, 125
portrait conventions, 1113, 26
revealing, 126;
selection of images, 25
signification, 11113
studio portraits, 11113, 114, 116,
117, 121, 1224, 1267, 128
truth 117, 126, 129
unreliability of, 3, 89, 11124,
see also images; photographs; Roland
Barthes; visual codes
Furze, Dame Katharine (VAD), 57, 135
Fussell, Paul (historian), 5
General Practitioners (GPs) see
Genette, Gerard (theorist), 2045
Girls Public Day School Trust, 21, 26
Glyn, Elinor (low-brow novelist) 88,
8990, 91, 945, 96, 97, 99100,
1245, 125, 127, 139
governesses, 18
Governesses Benevolent Institution,
18, 33
Gray, Francis (Headmistress), 24, 25,
30, 43, 117, 119, 11921, 127,
1723, see also narrative
hair see fashion, hair and dress
headmistresses, 14, 2252, 23
ambition, 30
celibacy, 22, 30
curriculum, 21
destiny, divine calling, fate, service,
223, 199
illness, 289
institutionalisation, 259
marriage, 212, 29, 30, 313
maternal instincts, 2930
narrative style, 1467
pay and conditions, 19
prefaces, 132, 1356, 1378
religion, 17
restrictions, 18
retirement, 17, 20, 346
spinsterhood, 17, 29, 31, 79
teaching, 17, 267
unfeminine, 223, 29
vocation/service, 25, 199
see also careers; marriage; individual
Hegel, on prefaces, 140
histoire de mentalits, 12, 163, 165, 189,
191, 196, 198, 2023, 205, see also
Annales School
cultural, 13, 181
social, 13
history of consciousness see histoire de
9780230_219922_15_ind.indd 237 8/20/2008 7:32:43 PM
238 Index
Hobsbawm, Eric, on
emancipation, 1314, see also
opposition to women doctors, 37
homosexuality, see special friendships
Hume, David (philosopher), 167
Humphreys, Rita (low-brow
novelist), 889, 912, 94, 978,
99, 133, 1578, 172, 186
Hutton, Isabel (Dr), 38, 41, 133, 175,
identity, 12, 168, 169, 171, 173, see
also self and identity; subjectivity
illegitimacy, 14
illness, 28, 48, 49, 656
imagery, 23, 39, 46, 48, 49, 603,
823, see also metaphors;
narrative; style
images, see also frontispiece images
institutionalisation, see Foucault
introductions, see prefaces
Irigaray, Luce, 88, 90, 91, 103
Jameson, Storm (high-brow novelist),
87, 88, 90, 923, 94, 957, 1002,
139, 182, 1936
Jelinek, Estelle C. (writer), 5, 6, 7, 184
Jermy, Louise (VAD), 188
journalism, 169, see also documents;
letters; newspapers
journalists, 173
Knight, Dame Laura (painter), 75, 76,
823, 145, 148
lcriture fminine, 4, 312, 434, 45,
49, 50, 51, 88, 903, 103, 143,
see also Cixous
Lehmann, Liza (composer), 76, 80,
148, 151, 1567, 1589
Lehmann, Rosamond (middle-brow
novelist), 878
lesbianism, see special friendships
Lethbridge, Mabel (Nurse), style, 58, 59
letters, 151, 152, see also documents;
newspapers; reviews
life-writing, see autobiography
Locke, John, 166
Macaulay, Rose (writer & lecturer),
Macherey, Pierre (Marxist)
on textual silences, 144
the unspoken, 14950, 153, 1601
male, gaze, 53
autobiobraphers, 1312
journalism, 1689
margins and marginalia, 12, see
marriage, 212, 29, 30, 313, 49, 501,
71, 77, 7980, 82, 150
masculinity, crisis in, 56
masking, concealment, 140, 1412
in dress, 179, see also fashion;
frontispiece images
Mass Observation archive, 6
Matthews, Caroline (Dr), 187
McCarthy, Lillah (actress), 72, 74, 75,
778, 7980, 133, 150, 1512, 174
medical training, see doctors
memory, study of 14
memory and accuracy, 13, 18197, 205
affect of age, 1967
distance from event, 18596
emotions, 182
gender differences, 196
imagery in recall, 182; 187
personal event memory and
flashbulb, 182, 18892, 196, 203
retrieval errors, 18992
see also truth
memory work, 11, 182
mental landscapes, see subjective;
metaphors, 23, 39, 434, 46, 4950,
135, 1378, 1412
as disruptive, 200
see also imagery; narrative; style
methodology, 4, 1011
military hospitals, 11, see also nurses;
VADs; war zones
mise en scne, 117
misogyny, 169
Mitchison, Naomi (novelist and
VAD), 92, 185
Modern Girl, 5, 86, see also New
Woman modernism
mothers, 72, 74, 75
9780230_219922_15_ind.indd 238 8/20/2008 7:32:43 PM
Index 239
musicians, see artists and
myths and myth-making, 117, 160,
see also fashion; frontispiece
images; masking; prefaces
coherence, 1834, 185, 186
consonance, 199, 201, 204
literary style, 90, 100, 137
style, 434, 606, 75, 79, 801,
823, 84, 1023, 181, 183, 1912
see also silence
newspapers, 194, see also documents;
letters; reviews
New Woman, the, 13, 98, 1656,
16970, 1723, 176
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 99100,
167, 222
non-verbal expression, 1739, see also
fashion, hair, dress
novels and novelists, 12
prefaces by, 134
see also writers
death, 5860; 149
death, survival, 58, 656, 67
First World War, 546
history of, 545
language employed, 58, 606
nursing wounded, coping
mechanisms, 634, 66
silences, 68, 69, 199
stylistic features, 58, 607, 199
themes and stylistics, 57, 603
see also narrative; silences; style
nurses and Voluntary Aid
Detachments (VAD), 5469
objections to, 56
organisations, 545
prefaces, 134, 135
qualifications, 55
recruitment, 55, 56
training, 55, 56
uniforms, 567
omissions, see silences
Orczy, Baroness (middle-brow), 88,
89, 934, 101
painters, see artists and practitioners
patriarchy, 334, 36, 56
control, 48
opposition, 39, 48, 53
repression, 48, 49
see also fathers; misogyny
patriotism, 556, 67
pensions, see retirement
photographs, 8, 12, see also
frontispiece images; truth
photography, history of, 10810
Pillemer, David B. (psychologist,
theorist), 181, 1867, 189
personal event memory and
flashbulb memory, 182
point of view, see subjectivity
portraits, see frontispiece images
prefaces, prologues, forewards,
introductions, 12, 13042, 201,
confidence in, 132, 138, 1401
contrasts to main text, 137
definition of, 130
Derrida, 140
endorsement and testimonies in,
Hegel, 140
male autobiographers, 1312
masking/concealment 140,
metaphors in, 135, 1378, 1412
novelistic traits, 1356
self-apologetic style, 1345
summarising device, 132
truth questioned, 13840
prejudice, see discrimination
Price, Nancy, 11417, 115, 118, 127,
134, 139
private/public spheres, 56, 12,
18, 70, 71, 72, 789, 801, 83,
professions, see careers; and individual
psychoanalysis, see Sigmund Freud
psychologists, 14, see also Barclay;
Brewer; Brown; Feldman;
memory; Pillemer; Rubin;
public sphere, see private/public
9780230_219922_15_ind.indd 239 8/20/2008 7:32:43 PM
240 Index
Raglan, Ethel (social commentator),
rancour, 99, 100, 195
recall, see memory
reliability, 181, see memory
religion, 17, 20
retirement, 17, 346, 1234
reviews, 151
Rubin, David C. (psychologist,
theorist), 181, 182
personal event memory and
flashbulb memory, 182, 184
Ruck, Bertha (low-brow novelist), 88,
150, 1701
Schacter, Daniel L. (psychologist and
theorist), 181, 196, 197
Schama, Simon (historian), 2056
Scharlieb, Dr Mary, preface, 132, 171
boarding, 18
Church endowed, 21
finishing, 46, 171
girls, 14, 18
grammar, 21
high, 21
private day, 1819, 21
public day, 26
Schopenhauer, Arthur (philosopher),
self and identity, 12, 1078, 16280,
see also identity
self-censorship, 12, see also silence
self-consciousness, 1667, 203
self/self-hood, definition and history,
self-promotion, 1912
sexuality, schoolgirl friendships,
2931, see birth control;
illegitimacy; special
signifiers, visual codes, 110, 122, 127,
silences, 12, 678, 87, 14361
authorial capital, 1456
censorship, 144, 147
communication, 145
concealment or revelatory, 52, 145
conjecture, 145, 158, 15960
context, 145
coping mechanism, 199
emotion, 1546
fear, 145
Freud, 1489
letters and reviews 1512, 153
on marriage, 1501
methodology, 143, 145
myth-making, 160
omissions, 145
protection in, 145, 146, 152
stylistics, elliptical marks, page
layout, 151, 153, 1548, 159,
textual gaps, 144, 1456, 150,
1545, 158
in tragedy, 145, 1478, 1548
rhetorical device, 143, 156, 157
unspeakable, 58, 59, 69
Victorian novelists device, 1467
see also Macherey; narrative; Sontag
Smyth, Ethel (pianist), 72
social context, 11213
Sontag, Susan, 114, 127, 143, 144
on silence, 158, 161
special friendships, 31, 51
spinsterhood, 17, 2930, 31, 79, see
also celibacy
stereotyping, 13, 42, 77, 165, 16871,
1723, 176, 17980
Stobart, Mrs St Clair (nurse), 55, 57,
66, 134, 153
Stopes, Marie (feminist), 15, see also
birth control; Havelock Ellis
Storey, Gladys (painter), 75
style, boys adventure stories, use of,
39, 40, 41, 52
cloaking mechanism, 52
consonance, 199, 201, 204
emotional, 199
equinine metaphors, 467, 8
fairytale, folktale, 39, 416
fonts, 45, 135
girls adventure stories, use of, 39,
40, 41, 52
institutionalisation, effect of, 234,
256, 27, 289
masculine metaphors, 172
melodrama as style, 489
9780230_219922_15_ind.indd 240 8/20/2008 7:32:43 PM
Index 241
style, boys adventure stories,
use of continued
mythical heroines, 234, 39
novelistic (storyfying), 4, 49, 589,
135, 136, 137, 181, 184, 186,
192, 206
pragmatism, 5960, 199
scholarly objective, 169
story-telling, 186, 206
see also discourse; Foucault;
imagery; metaphors;
narrative; and individual
subjective, 162, 163, 185
subjectivity, 109, 163, 166, 173
definition, 1678, see also
frontispiece images;
photographs; truth
suffrage, suffragettes, 3, 13, 15, 49, 56,
87, 98, 166, 168, 170, see also
surplus women, 14
Swanwick, H. M. (high-brow
novelist), 89
Syrett, Netta (high-brow novelist), 89,
93, 94, 101, 134, 165
teachers, professional 18, 19
training, 19, 30
see also headmistresses
textual gaps see silences
theoretical approaches, 4, 9, 1011 15,
67, 88, 162, see also memory
work; visual methodology
Thurstan, Violetta (Nurse), 60, 133,
182, 18992
Tilley, Vesta (actress), 734
The Times newspaper,
1689, 170
TSerclaes (nurse), 65, 86, 878, 97,
108, 10910, 114, 134, 171, 182,
183, 186, 195
unfeminine, see feminine
uniforms, see fashion, hair and dress;
universities, women in, 14, see also
education; schools
Vanburgh, Irene (actress), 767, 79
Verne, Mathilde (painter), 74, 76
visual methodology, codes, 1089,
113, see frontispiece images;
vocation, 25, see also destiny
Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), 46,
see nurses
wartime experiences, war zones, see
military hospitals; nurses and
Wauchop, Gladys (Dr), 39, 467, 48,
148, 171, see also narrative
West, Katharine, 11114, 112
White, Maude (composer), 78, 133,
Wilberforce, Octavia (doctor), 289,
48, 49, 501, 148, 152
women, middle-class, 1314, see also
New Woman
women doctors, see doctors
women writers, 86103
autobiography used as polemic,
candour, 1012
creativity and emotions, 903
critical acclaim, 98, 100, 102
high-brow novels, 88, 90, 100, 101,
1023, 200, 221
low-brow novels 88, 90, 93, 97,
99100, 1023
motivation 8890
novels 18901920, 867
novels as semi-autobiographical,
novels avoidance of personal, 934
self-conscious writing, 101, 166,
truth, 86, 101, 195
see also lcriture fminine; narrative;
Woolf, Virginia, on silences, 143, 184
wordsmiths, see women writers
World War One, see First World War
Zipes, Jack (critical theorist), see
fairytale; narrative
9780230_219922_15_ind.indd 241 8/20/2008 7:32:44 PM