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Reflections on the challenges of writing women’s lives, 25 June 2022

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On 25 June 2022, the West of England and South Wales Women's History Network held a study morning on the theme of writing women's lives.  Karen Hunt, Julia Neville and Lucienne Boyce gave short presentations, followed by discussion. Jane Howells describes the event and some of the questions raised... Karen Hunt: Dora Montefiore, socialist, suffragist, writer and poet Karen Hunt introduced us to Dora Montefiore (1851-1933), about whom she has been researching and writing for many years, without producing a ‘book’. Much of the work has been responding to conference themes which direct, distort and distract; this inevitably results in a partial view of a life. Striking a balance between narrative and analysis is always a challenge.    Dora Montefiore Dora Montefiore was a socialist, then communist, and active suffrage campaigner, writer and poet. She lived at times in Australia and South Africa, where there are sources for her life, and she travelled widely. There is no survivin

The Story of Bet Carter, A Convict to New South Wales

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A paragraph in Scottish radical T F Palmer's account of his voyage to New South Wales on board a convict ship in 1794 prompted Lucienne Boyce to look for the story of Bet Carter, who was transported on the same ship. At the end of April 1794 the Surprize convict ship set sail from Portsmouth bound for Botany Bay. Her master was Patrick Campbell and the first mate was Mr McPherson. On board were twenty-three soldiers of the New South Wales Corp, the regiment established in 1789 to serve in Australia. Amongst the ninety-four convicts were four men known as the Scottish Martyrs: radicals Thomas Muir, Thomas Palmer, William Skirving and Maurice Margarot, who had all been sentenced to transportation for campaigning for parliamentary reform. During the voyage the four men fell out and, in an atmosphere of spying and treachery, Thomas Muir and William Skirving ended up on charges of plotting to incite a mutiny. Several people were drawn into the affair, during which suspects were conf

Dolly Pentreath: a "very singular female"

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Kensa Broadhurst presented a paper ‘ Dolly Pentreath: a “very singular female’ at the WESWWHN Annual Conference on Gender and Commemoration in October 2021. In this blog she tells Dolly’s story and explores how she is remembered. Dolly Pentreath’s place in history is as the so-called last speaker of the Cornish language. As such she has a certain notoriety in both historical and linguistic circles and is frequently mentioned in studies on language extinction in general and the Cornish language in particular. Both her contemporaries and nineteenth century antiquarians interested in the Cornish language dismissed Pentreath’s claims to be a fluent speaker of the language, and after her death she was portrayed as a figure of fun. Was this because those commenting on her legacy were educated men who felt an uneducated woman could have nothing of worth to contribute? Pentreath came to public attention after Daines Barrington visited Cornwall in 1768 to search for Cornish speakers. A guide