International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women and challenging stereotypes, has been observed on 8 March every year since its inception in 1911. The organisers of International Women’s Day describe it as “a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.” The fight for women’s equality continues in the UK and around the world, and events like International Women’s Day show how important it is that women and girls are able to reach their full potential and contribute to all areas of our society. Each year, the organisers of International Women’s Day choose a theme as a banner under which everyone’s efforts can be channelled and unified. This year, the theme is I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights. This theme aligns with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.
International Women’s Day 2020 also marks the start of the social media campaign #EachforEqual:
“An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world. Let’s all be #EachforEqual.”
2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of a historic victory for women at the University of Oxford: in 1920 Mary-Anne Henley was the first to collect her degree in the Sheldonian Theatre. To mark this centenary and celebrate the contribution of women to Oxford, the University is launching Women Making History: 100 Years of Oxford degrees for women:
“The centenary provides an opportunity to take stock of our progress in promoting women’s education and advancing gender equality and diversity.”
As the website also notes:
“Women Making History will shine a spotlight on the diverse women who have contributed to the University of Oxford, as well as the women who are shaping its future today. In the coming months, we will explore stories of Oxford women as scholars, students, researchers, academics, clinicians, technicians, librarians, archivists, activists, artists and much more. If you have a story about an Oxford woman that you think should be told, please join the conversation by using the hashtag #womenatoxford.”
To celebrate International Women’s Day — and to mark the 100th anniversary of Oxford degrees for Women — members of the Sackler Reader Services team compiled a Virtual Book Display. (Sadly, visibility of the physical book display was curtailed by the Covid-19 lockdown.) At the end of this blog post, you will find a list of links to various e-publications, available via SOLO, which focus on women’s accomplishments as they relate to Archaeology, Art, Architecture, Classics and Egyptology – some of the areas of collecting focus at the Sackler Library.
It is wrong to assume that amongst the most celebrated figures in Classics, hardly any women feature. Of course, there is the Greek poet Sappho. We have chosen to display Nancy Rabinowitz and Lisa Auanger’s Among Women, which focuses on Sappho’s poetic creativity and erotic themes. We can never discuss key female figures in Classics without mentioning Hypatia of Alexandria, as discussed by Dora Russell. The poems of Sulpicia are a rarity. In comparison with works by other Roman women, Sulpicia’s work has survived intact, rather than existing in fragments. Her six poems appear in the Augustan poet Tibullus’ corpus of poetry, a translation of which appears in our display. For those interested in reception theory, James Donaldson’s Woman considers the position of women in Classical and Early Christian societies through the lens of a male academic in Edwardian Britain.
“We can also see the contributions of women in Ancient Egypt where, as many may be aware, it was not unknown for women to hold positions of power. Mary Hamer’s Signs of Cleopatra and Dorothea Arnold’s Royal Women of Amarna discuss two of perhaps the most well-known female figureheads of Egypt: Cleopatra and Nefertiti. However, another noteworthy addition is the fifth Pharaoh to rule Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty, as discussed in Catherine Roehrig et al.’s Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharoah. Hatshepsut brought about religious infrastructure and trade reform during her 21-year reign, but all records relating to her activities were systematically destroyed by her successor, Thutmose III.
It is a pleasure when the female story is celebrated and represented well, as many in the art world have been striving for since gender inequality became part of their consciousness, and since feminist art historians such as Linda Nochlin (“Why there have been no great women artists”, 1971) and Griselda Pollock drew attention to the issue. Art movements and artists have put visions into visuals, alongside providing the artwork to promote diversity and alternate views to the much discussed male gaze. Fortunately, for art, there have been many female artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi (as discussed in Keith Christiansen’s Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi or at the now-postponed National Gallery exhibition, Artemisia, in London), who were as successful as their male counterparts during their lifetimes. This allows us to witness alternative art histories and celebrate historical women artists who worked side-by-side with male artists. We can also fight for them to be recognised in the archives and great libraries, worldwide, so that we are aware of women who came before us as well as those who are alive today, contributing to the modern art world as we know it — for example, Jenny Saville, whose first solo show in a UK public institution was held at Modern Art Oxford. For those interested in further exploring the work of women artists during lockdown, Modern Art Oxford’s online exhibition archive is showcasing exhibitions by three artists: Invisible Strategies by Lubaina Himid, Wanderer by Kiki Smith, and Tools For Life by Johanna Unzueta.
The discussion of women’s contribution to the field of architecture is a more is a more complicated one. Compared with the strides taken in the art world, architecture is much further behind in its recognition of its female figures. There are few female architects within the pages of the architectural history books that are celebrated in the same way as their male counterparts, which begs the question: what historical examples do we have, if any, of women in the architectural world? Women’s presence in architecture was often suppressed, as was the case with Annie Albers, who was unable to study architecture at the Bauhaus (whose proponents considered that architecture was a men-only professions) and so turned to weaving instead. Her work is noted for its architectural qualities and the innovation she brought to weaving techniques, showing how her interest in architecture and space could not be erased. (See, for example, her 2018-2019 exhibition at Tate Modern.)
Due to the past elusiveness of female figures in architecture, it is therefore difficult to celebrate qualities of architectural practice which are acknowledged as “feminine”. Even though a variety of books have been written on the intersection between feminism and architecture, including key works which form much of the basis of gendered architectural theory such as Beatriz Colomina’s Sexuality and Space, women still struggle to identify feminist architecture, what it is, and how it should be practised. Women have often struggled to gain recognition in architecture, leading to the controversial problem of their preferring not to identify as “female architects” or “women architects”. This is particularly true of high achieving female architects: they do not want their title of architect to be gendered. This is discussed in Francesca Hughes’ The Architect: Reconstructing Her Practice, one of the few monographs which celebrates the work of women architects. It is to be understood that women architects believed that if they left out any reference to their gender, then they would be seen and treated as equals. However, as well meaning as this appears, this provides leverage for the erasure of the narrative of women and the dismissal of the problems and experiences women may have experienced due to gender discrimination within the profession.
This can also lead to questions of privilege held by the contributors for them to not have experienced any discrimination; and to the belief that other narratives do not exist or that gender is not a problem. The publication The Architect: Women in Contemporary Architecture, edited by Maggie Toy, is a key source on women in architecture, but the women in question objected to such potential titles for the book as “The Female Architect”. The best they could do to give a nod towards the representation of women was the subtle adaptation of the Venus sign in the title on the book’s cover.
Despite the issues raised, it is important to recognise the accomplishments of the feminist movement in the fields collected by the Sackler Library. We hope that the reading list at the end of this post will provide a small insight into what has already been achieved.
If you would like to learn more about women’s history and gender studies in February and March 2020 the Bodleian Libraries provided trial access to a wide range of related informational databases, arranged as part of Changing the Narrative: Championing Inclusive Collection Development, a project led by Helen Worrell, Bodleian Libraries’ Anthropology & Archaeology Subject Librarian. The following databases were available during the trials and, for one of them, we have temporary extended access. A decision on whether to purchase any of these databases (based on reader feedback) is in the works.
We hope you will enjoy browsing this small selection of our collections, and we hope you will spend some time remembering Women at Oxford 1920-2020.
Chloe Bolsover, Graduate Library Trainee
Katherine Day, Library Assistant
Erin McNulty, Graduate Library Trainee
Caroline Walsh, Library Assistant
Women and Social Movements, International
Through the writings of women activists, their personal letters and diaries, and the proceedings of conferences at which pivotal decisions were made, this collection lets you see how women’s social movements shaped much of the events and attitudes that have defined modern life. This digital archive includes 150,000 pages of conference proceedings, reports of international women’s organizations, publications and web pages of women’s non-governmental organizations, and letters, diaries, and memoirs of women active internationally since the mid-nineteenth century. It also includes photographs and videos of major events and activists in the history of women’s international social movements.
Women’s Magazine Archive 1 & 2 TEMPORARY ACCESS EXTENDED
Women’s Magazine Archive 1 provides access to the complete archives of the foremost titles of this type, including Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal, which serve as canonical records of evolving assumptions about gender roles and cultural mores. Other titles here focus on narrower topics but deliver valuable source content for specific research areas. Parents, for example, is of particular relevance for research in the fields of children’s education, psychology, and health, as well as reflecting broader social historical trends. Women’s Magazine Archive 2 features several of the most prominent, high-circulating, and long-running publications in this area, such as Woman’s Day and Town & Country. Collection 2 also, however, complements the first collection by including some titles focusing on more specific audiences and themes. Cosmopolitan and Seventeen, for example, are oriented towards a younger readership, while black women’s interests are represented by Essence. Women’s International Network News differs in being a more political, activist title, with an international dimension. Topics covered these collections include family life, home economics, health, careers, fashion, culture, and many more; this material serves multiple research areas, from gender studies, social history, and the arts, through to education, politics, and marketing/media history.
Women’s Studies Archive
The Women’s Studies Archive: Issues and Identities will focus on the social, political, and professional achievements of women throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century. Along with providing a closer look at some of the pioneers of women’s movements, this collection offers scholars a deep dive into the issues that have affected women and the many contributions they have made to society.
International Women’s Day – Virtual Book Display: a selection of e-books at Oxford
Aceves Sepúlveda, G., 2019. Women made visible: feminist art and media in post-1968 Mexico City.
Anderson, J. & Huneault, K., 2012. Rethinking professionalism: women and art in Canada, 1850-1970.
Arnold, D., Allen, J.P. & Green, L., 1996. The royal women of Amarna: images of beauty from ancient Egypt.
Ashton, S.-A., 2008. Cleopatra and Egypt.
Battista, K., 2019. New York new wave: the legacy of feminist art in emerging practice.
Battista, K., 2019. Renegotiating the body: feminist art in 1970s London.
Betterton, R., 2019. Unframed: practices and politics of women’s contemporary painting.
Broude, N. & Garrard, M.D., 2018. The expanding discourse: feminism and art history.
Butler, J. 1999. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.
Christiansen, K. et al., 2001. Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi.
Dabakis, M., 2014. A sisterhood of sculptors: American artists in nineteenth-century Rome.
Deffebach, N., 2015. María Izquierdo and Frida Kahlo: challenging visions in modern Mexican art.
Dekel, T. 2013. Gendered: Art and Feminist Theory.
Dirgantoro, W., 2017. Feminisms and contemporary art in Indonesia: defining experiences.
Dodson, A., 2009. Amarna sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian counter-reformation.
Donaldson, J., 1907. Woman; her position and influence in ancient Greece and Rome and among the early Christians.
Fanghanel, A., 2019. Disrupting rape culture: public space, sexuality and revolt.
Grainger, J. Sulpicia & Tibullus, 1992. A poetical translation of the elegies of Tibullus; and of the poems of Sulpicia.
Greene, E., 1996. Reading Sappho: contemporary approaches.
Hamer, M., 2014. Signs of Cleopatra: reading an icon historically.
Heynen, H. & Baydar, G., 2005. Negotiating domesticity: spatial productions of gender in modern architecture.
Horne, V. & Perry, L., 2019. Feminism and art history now: radical critiques of theory and practice.
Iōannou, Kyriakidou & Christiansen, 2014. Female beauty in art: history, feminism, women artists.
Isaak, J.A., 1996. Feminism and contemporary art: the revolutionary power of women’s laughter.
Kelley, L., 2019. Bioart kitchen: art, feminism and technoscience.
Kleiner, D.E.E., 2005. Cleopatra and Rome.
Kokoli, A.M., 2016. The feminist uncanny in theory and art practice.
Liss, A., 2009. Feminist art and the maternal.
Martin, B. & Sparke, P., 2003. Women’s places: architecture and design 1860-1960.
Meskimmon, M., 2003. Women making art: history, subjectivity, aesthetics.
Miles, M.M., 2011. Cleopatra: a sphinx revisited.
Murray, E. & Varnedoe, K., 1995. Elizabeth Murray, modern women: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, June 20-August 22, 1995.
Nochlin, L., 2018. Women, art, and power: and other essays.
Pollock, G., 1999. Differencing the canon: feminist desire and the writing of art’s histories.
Pollock, G., 2003. Vision and difference: feminism, femininity and the histories of art.
Rabinowitz, N.S. & Auanger, L., 2002. Among women: from the homosocial to the homoerotic in the ancient world.
Rendell, J., Penner, B. & Borden, I., 2000. Gender space architecture: an interdisciplinary introduction.
Reynolds, L., 2019. Women artists, feminism and the moving image: contexts and practices.
Richlin, A. 2014. Arguments with Silence: Writing the History of Roman Women.
Robinson, H. & Buszek, M.E., 2019. A companion to feminist art.
Roehrig, C. H., Dreyfus, R., and Keller, C. A. 2006. Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh.
Roller, D.W., 2010. Cleopatra: a biography.
Russell, D., 1976. Hypatia: or, Woman and knowledge.
Sappho, Rayor, Diane J. & Lardinois, A. P. M. H., 2014. Sappho: a new translation of the complete works.
Shonfield, K., 2000. Walls have feelings: architecture, film, and the city.
Skelly, J., 2020. Radical decadence: excess in contemporary feminist textiles and craft.
Solomon-Godeau, A. & Parsons, S., 2017. Photography after photography: gender, genre, and history.
Souter, G., 2015. Frida Kahlo: beneath the mirror.
Walsh, M. & Throp, M., 2019. Twenty years of MAKE magazine: back to the future of women’s art.
Wark, J., 2006. Radical gestures: feminism and performance art in North America.