Tag Archives: International Women’s Day

Gender in a Global/Local World

Posted by Michael Drapper, Marketing Executive

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s, a turbulent period marked by rapid industrialization, huge population growth, and the rise of new radical political ideologies. At its inception International Women’s Day and its activists campaigned for women’s right to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and to end discrimination. Over time these inequalities, to a great or lesser extent, have lessened with women’s rights improving almost universally.

But as the world gets smaller, new challenges to gender equality have come to the fore. The Gender in a Global/Local World series critically explores the uneven and often contradictory ways in which global processes and local identities come together. Much has been and is being written about globalization and responses to it but rarely from a critical, historical, gendered perspective. Yet, these processes are profoundly gendered albeit in different ways in particular contexts. The changes in social, cultural, economic and political institutions and practices alter the conditions under which women and men make and remake their lives. New spaces have been created – economic, political, social – and previously silent voices are being heard.  North-South dichotomies are being undermined as increasing numbers of people and communities are exposed to international processes through migration, travel, and communication, even as marginalization and poverty intensify for many in all parts of the world.  The series features monographs and collections which explore the tensions in a ‘global/local world’, and includes contributions from all disciplines in recognition of the fact that no single approach can capture these complex processes.

Gender and ConflictRecent volumes in this series include Gender and Conflict, which examines how cognition and behaviour, agency and victimization, are gendered beyond the popular stereotypes. Conducting in-depth case studies into such topics as women’s violence and gender relations in the Israeli Defence Forces and the role of female combatants in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, the book offers insight into worlds that are new and often surprising and unconventional.

When care work goes globalWhen Care Work Goes Global provides an innovative view on the new international division of reproductive labour, demonstrating how and why domestic and care work has developed into the largest occupation sector for female migrants worldwide, encompassing not only migration movements from the global South to the global North but also those from rural to urban areas.

Gender integration in nato military forcesLana Obradovic’s Gender Integration in NATO Military Forces examines twenty-four NATO member states, asking why states abandon their policies of exclusion and promote gender integration, admitting women into their military forces, in such a way that women’s military participation becomes an integral part of military force.

As the world continues to change the Gender in a Global/Local World series highlights the need for academic research to keep up, exploring the new and continued gendered tensions and conflicts between global and local cultures.

To read more about this series please visit www.ashgate.com/GGLW, where you can also read reviews and excerpts of the books, or visit our Gender and Politics page to see more Ashgate titles on the subject.

In Praise of a Virtuous Woman – Louise Talma

This is a guest post from Kendra Leonard, author of Louise Talma: A Life in Composition

Louise TalmaAmerican composer Louise Talma (c.1906–1996), herself a strong-willed and independent woman, often celebrated those qualities in others, dedicating many of her pieces to the women who had made a difference in her life and in the lives of other artists. Recipients of such dedications included music pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, MacDowell Colony co-founder Marian MacDowell, and singer Geraldine Marwick. One of Talma’s last works was a setting for female voices and piano of Proverbs 31:10–30, “In Praise of a Virtuous Woman,” which was composed in the autumn of 1990 at the MacDowell Colony. While the piece is dedicated to Virginia Davidson and  the Treble Singers, it celebrates all women.

“Who can find a virtuous woman?” asks the text. “Her price is above rubies.” Beginning with simple melodic lines  in the two vocal parts—a soprano and alto—and a spare and elegant counterpoint in the piano, Talma’s music becomes increasingly more complex and densely textured as the four-minute piece progresses. The two voices sometimes declaim together, in unison, and sometimes engage in dialogue, mirroring one another’s lines, or offering supporting harmonies to each other. As the soprano sings of the word women do—“She layeth her hands to the spindle…she layeth her hands to the needy…she worketh willingly with her hands,”—the alto recites the names of hard-working and strong women from the Bible: Martha, Ann, Mary, and Elizabeth.

At the end of the piece, Talma sets the text “she shall rejoice in time to come” at the very top of the soprano’s singing range, an exultation bolstered by the altos, who for the first time split from singing together as a single voice as if to show that two melodic lines aren’t enough for all of the praise a virtuous woman is due, and sing in parallel fourths, creating the sound of an organ. As the singers call for the praise of the virtuous woman, Talma gives the piano a fast and chromatic passage that suggests that while women should and will be praised, their work and lives are more difficult and complicated than the words would have the listener believe. Talma’s setting of “In Praise of a Virtuous Woman” is itself a challenging work, apt praise for the women of Talma’s life who met and exceeded the boundaries and roadblocks presented to them because of their sex.

Kendra Preston LeonardAbout the Author: Kendra Preston Leonard is a musicologist whose work focuses on women and music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; music and screen history; and music and disability. She is the author of The Conservatoire Américain: a History and received the inaugural Judith Tick Fellowship from the Society for American Music for her work on Louise Talma

Pioneering women in Post-War Architecture and Planning

Posted by Fiona Dunford, Marketing Executive

In marking the celebration of International Working Women’s Day on March 8th this year, it is good to look back and recognise the achievements of pioneering women who made their mark in society and broke new ground in their chosen professions, during the critical post-war years. Two such women are Mary Beaumont Medd, a public-sector school buildings architect, and Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, architect, landscape designer/city planner, journalist and educator.

A life in education and architectureMary Beamont Medd (Née Crowley) began architectural practice at the height of the depression. It was Elizabeth Denby, who introduced her to a user-centred approach to design and this concept of planning around the occupants’ needs would become the hallmark of her school buildings programme.

Hired by Hertfordshire’s education department in 1941 and the first architect to be employed by the county, she initially supervised huts erected for the wartime school meals service, but soon moved on to plan for post-war school building within the education department.

When Hertfordshire acquired an architect’s department in 1946 and a schools team was created, Mary joined them. She designed the first school, Burleigh infants, at Cheshunt – it was just three square prefabricated classrooms, separated by intimate courts for play, but the whole of Hertfordshire’s school-building programme developed from that modest prototype.

She made contacts with the best teachers, learned what they were trying to do and watched children in and out of classes. By bringing this direct and – far rarer among architects – systematic observation of habits and needs to bear on designing schools, she acquired unique authority in primary school planning. It was enhanced when she teamed up with David Medd, the ablest practical designer among the Hertfordshire architects.

In 1949, David and Mary married. The Medds were revered for superlatively tailoring their schools to child-centred education. Beyond what they designed themselves, their advice and thoughtfulness saturated Britain’s post-war schools and helped win them an international reputation.

Mary died in 2005 leaving an architectural legacy which displayed her exhaustive attention to children’s and teachers’ needs and their human expression in subtle, modulated spaces, neither completely open nor closed. Working with invariable anonymity, she was contemptuous of fame.

A Life in Education and Architecture: Mary Beaumont Medd, by Catherine Burke, University of Cambridge, UK provides more than a biography of Mary Medd (née Crowley), one of the foremost Modernist architects in the UK. This book critically examines her innovative designs for school buildings in post-war Britain. In doing so, it provides a detailed exploration of the relationships between architects, educators, artists and designers in shaping a new approach to designing for education.

Jaqueline TyrwhittMary Jaqueline Tyrwhitt (Jacky) attended St Paul’s Girls School in Hammersmith and hoped to work for a history scholarship to Oxford, but her father did not allow her to pursue that course. Instead she studied at the Royal Horticultural School obtaining a General Horticultural Diploma, followed by a course at the Architectural Association School in London where she was greatly influenced by Patrick Geddes’ view of town planning, as organic growth responding to the needs of society rather than as a pattern to be imposed on society.

After various jobs and study periods in gardening, agriculture, architecture, town planning and industry, she was, during the war, made Director of Research at the School of Planning and Regional Reconstruction as well as Director of Studies at the School of Planning and Research for Regional Development, positions that she held for seven years, during which time she was much involved in the reconstruction of a devastated post-war Britain.

It was in 1947 that she met the Swiss art historian Siegfried Giedion and subsequently became one of his fervent admirers, translating and editing all his major works. Subsequently her links with thinkers in the international architectural world became stronger and in 1951 she left England for Canada.

The next fourteen years were spent mainly in North America, working for the School of Graduate Studies in Toronto, for the United Nations, and then at Harvard University, all in the field of town and regional planning. While she was working for the UN in India in 1953 she met the Greek architect and visionary, Constantine Doxiades, who became the third major influence on her thinking.

In 1969 she retired from her professorship at Harvard and came to live permanently in Greece. In addition to creating her garden there and giving hospitality to a constant stream of family, friends, students and colleagues from all over the world, she continued to work as an editor, teacher and consultant. The night that she died, 21 February 1983, she was working on the final details of her gardening book.

Jaqueline Tyrwhitt: A Transnational Life in Urban Planning and Design, by Ellen Shoshkes, Portland State University, USA, is an intellectual biography which, not only details the landmark contributions of Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, working alongside Geddes, Sert, Giedion and Doxiadis, but also indicates their relevance for contemporary scholars and practitioners, particularly those concerned with ‘healthy’ community design and sustainability.

Bluestockings and the emergence of organized feminism – a guest post by Deborah Heller

This is a guest post from Deborah Heller, editor of Bluestockings Now!, and Professor of English at Western New Mexico University

International Women’s Day—celebrated annually on March 8—has as its slogan “paint it purple,” harkening back to purple as the official color adopted by the IWD founders more than a century ago. They adopted that color from the British suffragettes, who had used purple to symbolize justice and dignity for women.  Bluestockings Now! The Evolution of a Social Role, helps to propose another color as symbolic for women-powered advancement of women, and women’s advancement of society in general—the color blue.

The name “Bluestocking” was invented in the eighteenth century to signify the intellectually and culturally energized women who frequented the London salons of Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Vesey, and others. When Elizabeth Vesey urged one salon guest to attend in casual “blue stockings” instead of the white silk stockings of formal attire, the name stuck. Thus “blue stocking,” often clipped to “blue,” came to stand for the informal apparel and egalitarian manners of the Bluestockings. But it signified much more.

Bluestockings Now! is not the first book on the subject of the Bluestockings, but it is a book that sets out to redefine the Bluestockings as a movement rather than a fixed group, describing what that movement was, how it operated as a networked phenomenon, and how it lead, in the middle of the nineteenth century, to the emergence of organized feminism.

This collection of nine essays, newly written by top scholars in the field, accomplishes a number of significant things. It follows the Bluestockings—and what I call “Bluestockingism”—from the eighteenth century into the nineteenth and, indeed, into the twenty-first century. As an illustration of the staying power and versatility of the Bluestocking movement, I introduce a hitherto unknown eighteenth-century Bluestocking, Margaret Middleton, and show how Middleton steered the Bluestocking impulse into the movement for the emancipation of slaves and, eventually, the emancipation of women.

Contributors to the volume agree that Bluestockingism—an emerging new form of women’s social and cultural activism—was born out of a macro-phenomenon commonly called “modernization.” Modernization entailed new forms of social networking that allowed women to transcend the primary groups into which they were born (family, neighborhood, religion) and to form feminocentric groups that eventuated in the feminist concept of “women” as a solidaristic group sharing legal, political, economic, and personal interests in common. Modernization also provided the material basis of improved communication technologies and the social foundation of “cultural production” as viable means of making social change happen. “Make it happen”, by the way, is another official slogan of International Women’s Day 2015. The Bluestockings were the primary impetus behind the evolution of women’s self-consciousness that has resulted in such activities as IWD in our present moment.

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Bluestockings now‘This excellent volume of new research on the Bluestocking phenomenon makes an exciting intervention in the field of eighteenth-century literary studies. The editor has gathered together an impressive range of original essays. The use of contemporary network theory and visual mapping is particularly innovative and thought-provoking.’   Elizabeth Eger, King’s College London, UK