The Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders and Sexualities, 2017

I wrote this upon my return from Long Island, a few days ago. I have been prompted to post it, having read Dr. Ciara Meehan’s recent excellent post, and I’m minded to reflect on the intense, inspring, brilliant experiences I had at the Big Berks this year. I’ve come away inspired and challenged, with my academic aspirations reinvigorated, feeling excited about a variety of future work, and I am very grateful in particular to Prof. Alison Fell for inviting me to take part in her panel, and for her enthusiasm and her leadership. I also owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Jessica Meyer for her wise counsel and thoughtful encouragement.

So, the sessions I went to over the course of the Big Berks were as follows.

Sessions & Particulars

[3 DH] We launched History Podcasts – and you can too!

[13 P] Army Wives, Regimental Domesticity and Garrison Culture: Difficult Conversations across the British Empire c. 1820-1920

[63 RT] Gendering the FWW Centenary: searching the archives

[87 P] Empowering/Disempowering Women in WWI

[137 P] Women making scientific knowledge[154 P] Motherhood & Mourning: gendering grief in wartime Japan, Germany & Britain

[191 P/192 RT] Suffrage in the USA & UK/Teaching women’s suffrage” US, global, intersectional, interdisciplinary[216 P] Public Health, Private Bodies: medicine, gender and power in post colonial contexts

[236 LT] No documents, no history: women, archives and history making

[263 PS] Poster Sessions

[273 P] Class, family and capitalism in the early twentieth century USA

[301 RT] Sex/War: Gender on the Front Lines

There was also the dancing. I am still smiling about this. My goodness, the Berks know how to put on a party!

You may notice a recurring theme amongst these topics, and I am happy to share notes on any of the sessions I went to. Many of these subjects have either come up already in the work I am doing, or are likely to come up over the next few years and it was interesting to learn a little as to how the research land lies in these areas. I’ve had discussing about everything from babies named Jutland to whether the notion of a child bride is a post-colonial construct, and it’s been both fascinating and enlightening, as well as occasionally, infuriating. Such is life.

What I had not appreciated about the Berks was quite how special it is. I’ve been to a good number of academic conferences – I’ve run a couple! And I’ve never before come across quite the same atmosphere. I had some truly inspiring, challenging conversations, some with people I know very well, and others with whom I’ve had no previous contact. The atmosphere of support for one another’s work and interests and prospects was quite astonishing, and I’ve come away with at least three journal article ideas which I now need to do something about! I should also say that this is the first conference where I’ve felt that I’ve had a legitimate voice. As an archivist first and foremost, I’ve often felt, and occasionally been told, that I’m not a proper historian and that my research is somehow less valid. I didn’t get this at all at the Berks and this was both reassuring and refreshing. It’s contributed to a internal review, of sorts, as to how I think about my work and a reassessment of what I plan to do in the coming months and years.

So, watch this space, and amongst other things, I will endeavour to update this more frequently.

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