On the first Monday of every month, a group of people – academics, students, and the interested public — meet at Senate House near Russell Square in London to discuss a wide variety of issues related to gender in the history of the Americas. Each session is driven by an invited speaker, who usually speaks about her or his research for about 50 minutes. The question and answer session afterwards is lively, searching, encouraging, and thought-provoking. For those who can’t make the trip to central London, the Institute of Historical Research posts the podcasts a few weeks later. In recent months, we’ve had papers examining the phenomenon of friendship between women in the nineteenth century, Gender, subversion and architecture in Cold War literature and next month’s seminar will consider gender and writing in the Caribbean.
This seminar series is the monthly touchstone for members of the Society for the History of Women in the Americas (SHAW), a small but thriving academic association which was established to bring together a growing number of scholars in Britain (and elsewhere) who are interested in women’s and gender history in North America, South America and the Caribbean. The association also aims to encourage interdisciplinary and transnational approaches in research on women and gender, either within or between nation states and/or the northern or southern hemispheres. Although primarily historical in focus, the Society is made up of scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds. And while the majority of the members are based in the UK, others come from further afield, across Europe and the Americas. In fact, when Professor Jay Kleinberg founded the organisation in 2008, it was originally called British Historians of Women in the Americas (BHWAs) but was renamed in 2011 to reflect the growing level of international interest and involvement.
Much has happened to expand the reach of the Society in 2013. In spring 2013, SHAW launched a new Open Access journal, History of Women in the Americas. This peer-reviewed publication is freely available and can be accessed at http://journals.sas.ac.uk/hwa, where you will also find guidelines of submission of articles and book reviews. We also launched several workshop initiatives to support the research practice of research students, and this is an important part of our strategy to nurture the next generation of scholars. More broadly, we aim to create an environment that enables scholars to come together and create both personal networks and professional collaborations. Central to this is the annual conference, now in its sixth year. Hosted in November by Royal Holloway’s Bedford Centre for the History of Women, around forty delegates attended our conference, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. The next issue of the journal will feature some of the papers delivered at that conference.
The SHAW Steering Group is keen to create partnerships with other scholarly organisations and research groups. In June 2012, we worked with the Centre for the Historical Record (Kingston University), the Women’s History Network and The Women’s Library to hold ‘Women in Magazines: Research, Representation, Production and Consumption’, a major international conference (an edited collection based on papers at this conference, published by Routledge, is forthcoming). New members are always welcome. You can get in touch via e-mail, twitter or facebook, or you could come to one of the seminars. The next seminar is on 7th April in Stewart House, when Dr Stephen Robinson will talk to us about the Citizen Soldier in the Spanish-American war of 1898.
Dr. Sinead McEneaney, Membership Secretary
School of Arts and Humanities
St. Mary’s University
Twickenham, TW1 4SX.