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Diary

Carolyn Steedman: Tory Ladies , 4 June 1987

... It would be disingenuous of me to pretend that my Conservative-voting mother ever caused me real embarrassment. She came from a line of Lancashire weavers, Liberal, then strong Labour voters. There are not many roles offered by the Labour movement to women, but the grittily romantic weaver-heroine is one of the few: dawn-rising, clogs on the cobbles, six looms managed, babies fed at the side door of the mill, money brought home, food to the table, doorsteps worn down by scrubbing: women worked to the bone ...

Horsemen

Carolyn Steedman, 4 February 1988

Spoken History 
by George Ewart Evans.
Faber, 255 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 571 14982 0
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... There is the idea of the story-taker, the necessary collaborator in the act of telling, the one who listens, shapes the narrative by assuming that there is something there to be told, who takes the story, not as appropriation, but as part of a deal, so that the outcome – an entity, a story – might be placed there, in the space between the listener and the teller ...

Wonderwoman

Carolyn Steedman, 4 December 1986

The Madwoman’s Underclothes: Essays and Occasional Writings 1968-1985 
by Germaine Greer.
Picador, 305 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 330 29407 5
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... This is the year of the collected essays of many women. Six years of Ann Oakley’s lectures and occasional writings on medical sociology have recently been published, together with some of her poems, in Telling the Truth about Jerusalem, Elizabeth Wilson has recently produced Hidden Agendas, and Cora Kaplan’s collection from a ten-year period has just appeared in Sea Changes ...

Oral History

Carolyn Steedman, 19 June 1986

The Hungry Self: Women, Eating and Identity 
by Kim Chernin.
Virago, 213 pp., £3.95, May 1986, 0 86068 746 5
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Hunger Strike 
by Susie Orbach.
Faber, 201 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13682 6
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Holy Anorexia 
by Rudolph Bell.
Chicago, 248 pp., £18.95, January 1986, 0 226 04204 9
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... Myths can be seen as particular kinds of symbolic story designed to explain all the other stories that people tell about themselves. In this case, then, we should expect their periodic recasting, as the day-to-day narratives shift and change. We are in the middle now of some quite explicit recasting, conscious attempts to reverse accounts, particularly psychoanalytic accounts, which place masculinity at the centre of the picture, and which have in the past defined femininity in relation to it ...

Vomiting in the marital bed

Carolyn Steedman, 8 November 1990

Road to Divorce, England 1530-1987 
by Lawrence Stone.
Oxford, 460 pp., £19.99, October 1990, 0 19 822651 9
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Late Victorian Britain, 1875-1901 
by J.F.C. Harrison.
Fontana, 265 pp., £5.99, September 1990, 9780006861300
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... During the protracted legal upheaval of the Reformation in England, the law of marriage remained as it was before. For Roman Catholic Europe, the Council of Trent in 1563 ushered in a new strictness, and control of wedlock by the Church, but on this side of the Channel pre-Tridentine canon law remained the law of the land until the Marriage Act of 1753 ...

Wall in the Head

Carolyn Steedman: On Respectability, 27 July 2016

Respectable: The Experience of Class 
by Lynsey Hanley.
Allen Lane, 240 pp., £16.99, April 2016, 978 1 84614 206 2
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... All I can offer​ is my years of lived experience,’ Lynsey Hanley wrote at the end of Estates: An Intimate History (2007). Her account of growing up on the vast Chelmsley Wood housing estate south-east of Birmingham in the 1980s (she was born in 1976) was an offering to policymakers, architects, planners and politicians: if they knew what it was like they might consider ways and means of making social housing a less miserable setting for so many people’s lives ...

Middle-Class Hair

Carolyn Steedman: A New World for Women, 18 October 2017

... Two summers ago​ , 2015, it rained a lot in the West Midlands. A bit glum at first, I lay in the garden when I could, with my pile of madeleines – paper lieux de mémoire, novels. Like many of the old new universities, Warwick was revving up for its 50th-anniversary celebrations. The contribution of my former department to the general gaiety was to be a talk by Margaret Drabble, on the topic of young women at university in the 1960s and 1970s ...

Desire

Raymond Williams, 17 April 1986

Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives 
by Carolyn Steedman.
Virago, 164 pp., £3.95, April 1986, 0 86068 559 4
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... ghost. These points are one way of introducing the questions and uncertainties which both provoked Carolyn Steedman’s book and in some important ways survive it. At an intellectual level, but one supported from her own experience, she wants to challenge the accounts of working-class childhood which have been written by men, within a particular mode. She ...

Ode on a Dishclout

Joanna Innes: Domestic Servants, 14 April 2011

Labours Lost: Domestic Service and the Making of Modern England 
by Carolyn Steedman.
Cambridge, 410 pp., £21.99, November 2009, 978 0 521 73623 7
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... Carolyn Steedman’s is a distinctive, probing, inquiring voice. Personal, but not solipsistic. We never forget, reading her books, that there’s a mind in charge, but not one that’s preoccupied with itself: it is always grappling with some other experience, some other way of seeing, which can’t be re-experienced, but can be hunted, glimpsed, located in its habitat, experimentally ventriloquised, considered from different points of view (some critical), or approached indirectly through its impact on others, or through its refracted representations ...

Watercress

Patrick Parrinder, 20 August 1992

Past Tenses: Essays on Writing, Autobiography and History 
by Carolyn Steedman.
Rivers Oram, 224 pp., £22, June 1992, 1 85489 021 2
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... in the Fifties have in common? They give some idea of the range of Past Tenses, a selection from Carolyn Steedman’s prolific output of books and articles during the last ten years. Steedman is an academic – she remarks wryly on the Universities Funding Council as a source of the pressure she feels to write and ...

Light and Air

Ken Jones, 5 April 1990

Childhood, Culture and Class in Britain: Margaret McMillan 1860-1931 
by Carolyn Steedman.
Virago, 343 pp., £16.99, February 1990, 1 85381 123 8
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... some unvisited pantheon of educational reform. The order of precedence set out in the title of Carolyn Steedman’s book is sign enough that she has no intention of re-establishing the McMillan cult. She has produced instead something much more awkward and interesting. Childhood, Culture and Class is less a life than a set of interconnected ...

Good Girl, Bad Girl

Elaine Showalter, 5 June 1997

Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment 
by Jane Gallop.
Duke, 104 pp., £28.50, June 1997, 0 8223 1918 7
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A Life in School: What the Teacher Learned 
by Jane Tompkins.
Addison-Wesley, 256 pp., $22, January 1997, 0 201 91212 0
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Bequest and Betrayal: Memoirs of a Parent’s Death 
by Nancy Miller.
Oxford, 208 pp., £19.50, February 1997, 0 19 509130 2
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... reminiscence and literary analysis of memoirists – among them, Beauvoir, Barthes, Philip Roth, Carolyn Steedman, Susan Cheever, Art Spiegelman and Blake Morrison. But she is primarily concerned with the childless child. ‘What happens to our idea of self,’ Miller asks in her prologue, ‘when there is no generation to follow, when we are ...

Whose Candyfloss?

Christopher Hilliard: Richard Hoggart, 16 April 2014

Richard Hoggart: Virtue and Reward 
by Fred Inglis.
Polity, 259 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 7456 5171 2
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... of a ‘women-centred’ world of working-class nurture became an object of feminist critique. Carolyn Steedman turned Hoggart’s genre-of-one against itself in Landscape for a Good Woman (1986), which works outwards from a scholarship girl’s memoir of a single mother who was ambivalent about her children and longed for ‘fine ...

I Wish I’d Never Had You

Jenny Turner: Janice Galloway, 9 October 2008

This Is Not about Me 
by Janice Galloway.
Granta, 341 pp., £16.99, September 2008, 978 1 84708 061 5
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... with proud big sisters and brothers the size of men.’ And yet, the book also vibrates with what Carolyn Steedman calls, in her meta-autobiographical Landscape for a Good Woman (1986), ‘a form of political analysis’, ‘a resolutely social story’ about the desire for ‘fine clothes, glamour, money’; in other words, this being a story about ...

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