Wiles Lectures 2019
Professor Amanda Vickery
22-25 May 2019
Amanda Vickery is Professor of Early-Modern History at Queen Mary University of London. She is a social and economic historian with research interests in the history of men and women; love and power; consumerism and fashion; material culture, art and architecture; Georgian lives and Post-War British society and culture. Her publications include The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England (Yale University Press, 1998), Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (Yale University Press, 2009), and the edited books Women, Privilege and Power: British Politics, 1750 to the Present (Stanford University Press, 2001) and Gender, Taste and Material Culture in Britain and North America, 1700-1830(Yale University Press, 2006). She has extensive broadcast experience in radio (A History of Private Life and Voices from the Old Bailey for BBC Radio 4) and television (including At Home with the Georgians, The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen, The Story of Women and Art, and Suffragettes Forever! The Story of Women and Power, for BBC 2.
'What did Women Want? Female Hopes from the New Look to the Three Day Week'.
Abstract: If girls' names are an index of their mothers' desires, then the textile towns of the 1930s crackled with a thirst for glamour. Between the mill and the Methodist chapel, a generation of Mays, Elsies and Marthas imagined a life of silk pyjamas and cocktails for their progeny. Clarice, Sylvia, Linda, and Valerie -- the little girls of the 1930s were named for the heroines of streamlined romance. But these girls grew up to be women in industrial towns, not some cosmopolitan cruise. These lectures aim to recreate their romantic careers and imaginative universe. Their objective is to map the contours of working-class and lower middle-class women's lives and longings between the 1940s and the early 1970s. They are anchored in the Northwest of England, but range further afield to every corner of Great Britain.
A surprising set of sources lie at the heart of my new research project. By serendipity, I discovered the massive archive of the Miss Great Britain contest, 1945-1982, in the papers of the Publicity Department of Morecambe County Council in the Lancashire Record Office in Preston. Tens of thousands of photographs and application forms document the bodies, occupations, ambitions, heights, hobbies and ‘vital statistics’ of every single entrant for forty years. The details of tens of thousands of young women, along with a vast organizational correspondence were filed away by the council with bureaucratic enthusiasm. Using them, I can map the changing female labour market, the post-war economy of leisure, the shifting boundaries of decency, the fluctuations of heterosexual fantasy, shifts in fashion, and the investment of the state in female exhibitionism, male looking and ‘a harmless bit of fun’.
2019 Wiles Guests:
This year's Wiles Lectures group; (l-r) Prof Lynda Nead (Birkbeck), Dr Stella Moss (RHUL), Prof Amanda Vickery (QMUL), Prof Peter Gray (QUB), Prof Jessica Weiss (Cal State East Bay), Prof Alison Light, Prof Claire Langhamer (Sussex). Not in photo: Prof Carol Dyhouse (Sussex).