It’s always a bit cringey to be advertising one’s own wares but let’s not be silly… deep breath… here goes.
I have compiled some of my research and longer website articles into a slim volume titled Out of the Shadows: Essays on 18th and 19th Century Women, published by Caret Press. (Note: Caret Press is my own creation. There will be more news about this imprint later in the year.)
Anyway, back to Out of the Shadows, or OOTS as it came to be known in my house.
The Introduction explains why I put it together:
I have titled this slender volume of essays Out of the Shadows because it features women whose stories, in one way or another, have either not had the exposure they deserve or have had none at all. Women’s history and women’s histories are often, even now, consigned to the sidelines, ghettoised in bookshops and libraries as a ‘special interest’, as if the protagonists were spectators in the arena of history rather than actors. Perhaps my efforts can be seen as a small contribution to the wider aim of bringing women’s lives centre stage.As individuals, some of the women in these pages will be well known to you. I have tried to explore new dimensions of their lives. The socialist and anarchist Louise Michel is certainly famous enough, especially in Europe, but perhaps her fact-finding visit to Lambeth in south London in 1883 is not. Mary Ashford’s murder in 1817 is remembered in Birmingham more than two hundred years after her death – indeed, I wrote a book about it – but the allied events on the stage of the Royal Coburg theatre on its opening night are less so.
Many of the more obscure women in the essays would have remained in perpetual shadow but for some catastrophic circumstance that brought them to the attention of the public. Eliza Fenning, who in all likelihood went to her death innocent of the heinous crime of which she was accused, would not have become a cause célèbre had not the ruling classes been particularly jittery over social unrest and specifically the discontent among their servants. The abducted women in ‘Love & lies’, who came to my attention when I researched the case of Maria Glenn, a teenager targeted for her reputed fortune, also would not have found infamy but for the crimes committed against them. These individuals were once the talk of households across the country but they were swiftly forgotten – misogyny, and indeed bride abduction, have not disappeared and it felt right to bring them back into our collective memory. The piece on the jury of matrons explores the rules around the sentencing of pregnant women to death and their astonishingly tardy amendment, a subject made painfully pertinent by recent changes in reproductive rights, particularly in the US.
Most of the essays have emerged from my research for books I have written or am currently writing. Some are the products of my falling into ‘rabbit holes’ in pursuit of those subjects. They may not have made the final cut but I could not let them go to waste. I have a strong desire to share the treasures I have unearthed.
Nearly all the essays have a darkness of tone, for which I do not apologise. My interest is for the most part in the lower end of the social hierarchy and that often leads to women who were trapped in moral cul-de-sacs. When people are faced with stark choices the consequences often include transgression of some kind. Ultimately, however, the essays address subjects that I simply found interesting. The hope is that you will too.
Note: Kindle and ebook versions are in production.