International Women’s Day!

The Beyond Notability project is taking over the Society of Antiquaries Twitter feed for this year’s International Women’s Day!

As part of this event, we are featuring two audio recordings from the correspondence of two women who are now featured on our database: Eliza Jeffries Davis, a historian, and Margerie Venables Taylor, an archaeologist.

These recordings of letters in the Victoria County History (VCH) archive have been created by Professor Catherine Clarke (Davis) and Claire-Louise Lucas (Taylor). The project is particularly grateful to Victoria County History for permission to record the extracts and make transcriptions of them available here. We’re also very grateful to Professor Catherine Clarke and Claire-Louise Lucas for agreeing to record them.

Eliza Jeffries Davis worked for the Victoria County History as a researcher and writer in the first decade of the 20th century. She became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1929.

Margerie Venables Taylor worked for the Victoria County History at the same time as Eliza Jeffries Davis. She became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1925.

These two recordings feature letters sent to William Page, the general editor of the VCH, by Davis and Taylor respectively. They illuminate the working lives of these two women. Davis’s letter is celebratory, sent on the publication of the VCH volume on which she had worked. In it, she makes suggestions for publicity and in so doing highlights her non-VCH working life, as a London County Council teacher. Taylor’s letter, sent after she had been working for some years at VCH, reflects her continuing concerns about the rate of pay for VCH researchers. She also reveals the expansion of her research work beyond VCH, enabling her to push more effectively for a salary increase.

Eliza Jeffries Davis

VCH Archvie EJ Davis read by Catherine Clarke March 2022

Eliza Jeffries Davis letter to William Page, dated 5 Oct 1909, on London County Council Moorfields Training College, White Street, Moorfields E. C. letterhead (VCH 2/22/3)

Transcript:

Dear Mr Page,

Thank you for your note. I am glad the London volume is really coming out at last – though I shudder to think of the negligences + ignorances in my part!

I am writing to suggest that you tell the publishers to send a prospectus of it to the heads of various London schools and colleges. I think we discussed this once, + you asked me to remind you again. It would be so very useful in teaching, + luckily the board of Education is awake to the importance of local history just now, so the heads of schools might think it worth while to spend so much money on a book!

In the case of institutions under the LCC it would be well if the notices were sent as soon as possible, as the “Requisition” for new books (only allowed once a term) are made up about the beginning of November. I enclose lists which may be useful.

Yours sincerely,

EJ Davis

Margerie Venables Taylor

Extract from MV Taylor letter to William Page dated 24.IV.1910 from 48 Watton Crescent, Oxford (VCH 1/3/210)

Transcript

Dear Mr Page, 

I have been considering the question we discussed since I last saw you. I should very much like to work for the History again, but I think I ought to have more than 1/6d an hour. If you work out £2.10 a week, working 5-6 hours a day, inclusive of all holidays etc, it comes to more than that. At the present moment for Research work at the Bodley I am paid 2/- an hour + other workers-transcribers are paid 2/6 an hour, while the ordinary, not very skilled, catalogue assistant receives 1/6 an hour. So that I think I ought to have 2/- an hour, especially when it is not certain that the work will continue for more than two years. I put the facts before you so that you will understand my position. I really feel it is not fair to take research work at 1/6 an hour, after some years’ experiences. I am sorry to trouble you in this way, but I think you will understand + tell me exactly what you think.  […]

**If you would like to explore the lives of Eliza Jeffries Davis and Margerie Venables further, you will find them on our database at: https://beyond-notability.wiki.opencura.com/wiki/Item:Q153 (Davis); https://beyond-notability.wiki.opencura.com/wiki/Item:Q133 (Taylor).

Introducing Our Database

We are now three months into Beyond Notability. We gave our first overview presentation of the project at the Society of Antiquaries Christmas Miscellany last month, for which we pulled together some initial findings. It’s the start of a new year, and so it seems an opportune moment to introduce the first iteration of one of the main project outputs: our research database. 

The research database was set up by Co-Investigator James Baker, and currently operates on WbStack, a shared hosting platform for Wikibase sites. You can find it at the web address https://beyond-notability.wiki.opencura.com (though note the address will change in Spring 2022 when we migrate to Wikibase.Cloud, a new service that will be managed and maintained by Wikimedia Deutschland). You can also find a link to it on our website, by clicking on “Database” in the menu. This post will take you through a few key parts of the database at this early stage of its development. Please note:  if you are using Chrome as your browser, you may need to make sure your language settings are set to British English in order to see all the data.  

And so, to begin. At the top of the main page of the database site you will find a short description of the aims of the project. This section also links to our statement of project values, which has a related bibliography. 

Screenshot of the main page of the Beyond Notability project database, Jan 2022.

Below the first section you will find a section called “Where to start”. The links under this section will take you to a list of all the items (currently) in the database, each of which has an individual Q number, the unique identification number for each item. The list includes people, organisations, events, titles, publications and sources, all linked in some way to individual women’s records. You will also find a list of properties in this section. These are words or phrases that allow us to link items together, or qualify information in a given item (with, for example, an approximate date for the information given, or a reference to source material).  

We have begun creating records for women who were proposed as Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries.  For these entries we began by using the information available in one key source for our project, the Certificates of Candidates for Election (also known as “blue papers”). The “blue papers” have been bound into volumes, each volume representing papers from roughly a 10-year period. The volumes are held in the Society of Antiquaries’ archive. Eventually, we intend to add to these entries with information from other sources. 

Scrolling down the page, under the Additional Resources section of the website you will find a link called “Meta“. This will take you to a page where we will be documenting our decision making and our source material. Under the “Item Templates” section is a list of information we will be prioritising in our dataset, and also information we intend not to prioritise. The following section “Key Sources” will link to pages with descriptions of some of the most important sources for our dataset, such as the “blue papers”, with details on why they are useful for our project.  

Let’s look at an individual entry. 

In 1924, the archaeologist Marjerie Venables Taylor became the first woman proposed and elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries through the same route as a man – that is to say, she was proposed by another Fellow and not by the Society’s Council.  We have extracted data from the  “blue paper” for M. V. Taylor (as she was more commonly known) to begin representing Taylor’s life; our current efforts are on our website at this url: https://beyond-notability.wiki.opencura.com/wiki/Item:Q133. This url will be the main ‘address’ for Taylor on our database for the present, and in due course more information from other sources will be added to supplement the information given on Taylor’s “blue paper”.  

Screenshot of the Beyond Notability database entry for Margerie Venables Taylor, Jan 2022.

The box at the top indicates Taylor’s name as it was given on the blue paper. Alternative names are also listed under “also known as”.  The alternative names are important as women frequently appear in different sources with different names (this is particularly true if they were married).  

Below the top box, is the “event” of the proposal, given as a single statement. This includes the propertyelection to SAL proposed by“, with the name of the person who initially proposed Taylor (who we have assumed is the first signatory on the list) following. The property “evidence (free-text)” is next, enabling us to transcribe of the information on the blue paper. Another property “point in time” is used to indicate the date that the blue paper was submitted. All the people who signed her blue paper are listed with the property “proposed election to SAL signed by“. Each person has been given their own Q number, and are included in the list of “items”. The property “is elected” allows us to indicate whether or not the person was admitted as a Fellow.  The property “evidence (item)” is used where we have created individual items for individual pieces of evidence, such as a job, or a publication, that were used as supporting details for admission to the Fellowship.    

Below this are separate statements with properties to indicate an individual’s sex/gender, whether or not they are already included in Wikidata, whether they have been given a person ID by the Archaeology Data Service (which links to a list of their publications), their residence including locality (given in the blue paper), employment or degree information.  

The information given in the blue papers can sometimes be difficult to isolate as an item. In Taylor’s case, while there was specific information about the positions she held at the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, there was also an explicit statement about her “distinguished service to the study of Roman Britain”. To capture this more ambiguously framed but important information, we have created a free-text property called “area of expertise“.  Each of the statements described above has been given a reference, using the property “stated in“, which links to the item “Society of Antiquaries Certificates of Candidates for Election“. 

There are currently three statements on Taylor’s page that do not come from her blue paper, and they show the potential for adding information from other sources to enrich the data given in the blue papers. Two of these – “described at URL” and “Archaeology Data Service person ID” – link outward to other websites that describe Taylor’s life and work in the form of statements, connecting our data to those sites, and enabling cross-referencing and querying. The third uses the property “member of” to indicated that Taylor sat on the (item) “Society of Antiquaries Research Committee“. This information has come from another recently added item, the publication “Camulodonum: The First Report of the Excavations at Colchester“. This excavation was conducted in the 1930s as a collaboration between the Society of Antiquaries (through the Research Committee) and the (item) “Colchester Excavation Committee“. Creating the publication as an item enables us to use it as a reference for the work of other women mentioned in the report. From the “Camulodonum” item, you can use “what links here” on the left-hand menu to see the other women included in the report. Some of these women were proposed and elected as Fellows in the years that followed. We will be adding their blue papers in the months to come. 

Detail from Margerie Venables Taylor’s page showing the what links here link (see bottom left hand corner), Jan 2022.

We hope that this post will help you navigate our database site, which grows larger every day. This site is a work in progress, and the ways in which we are cataloguing the data will change as we continue discussing, thinking about and analysing the records. We encourage all of you to take a look at the women we’ve already been able to represent with the data available to us to date. And we hope that you enjoy engaging with the data as much as we do. 

Gertrude Rachel Levy in the Archives

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator, Beyond Notability)

My first guest post for the project is on Gertrude Rachel Levy (1883-1966) who was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1947, while she was working as Librarian of the Hellenic & Roman Societies in London. I focus on her work in the 1920s and 30s in Mandate Palestine and Iraq, and spent a morning in the archive of the Palestine Exploration Fund to track her down, coming across many other women in archaeology, history and heritage along the way! “Gertrude Rachel Levy in Mandate Palestine” is published on the Institute of Classical Studies blog.

The Congress of Archaeological Societies

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator, Beyond Notability)

We are continuing to explore the various archives held in the Society of Antiquaries that may be relevant to understanding the range of women’s activities in archaeology, history and heritage. Recently, we examined the papers of the Congress of Archaeological Societies (CAS), which are part of this group. This historic organisation was before a few weeks ago unknown to me, but it has already proven to be significant.

Image of the front cover of the Minute Book of the Congress of Archaeological Societies, 1894-1918. Copyright of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
Congress of Archaeological Societies Minute Book 1894-1918 (CAS/001). Reproduced with permission of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Established in 1888, the Congress of Archaeological Societies brought local archaeology and history societies throughout the UK “in union” with the Society of Antiquaries. As the Report of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society put it in 1892, following the Congress’s Third Annual Meeting: “Members will be glad to know that this Congress seems to supply a long-felt want in bringing the various county societies into closer communication one with another, and in promoting systematic research.” 

The Congress issued summary pamphlets on the work of its various Sub-Committees who spearheaded the “systematic research” being supported or undertaken by the Congress. This included, between 1891 and 1914, annual Indexes of Archaeological Papers published in a significant number of local antiquarian, archaeological and historical societies and field clubs across the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, and all of Ireland). These yearly Indexes were complemented in 1907 by Laurence Gomme and Alice (Merck) Gomme‘s Index of Archaeological Papers 1665-1890.  Looking at these Indexes more closely gives us an important overview of the names and numbers of women publishing papers in local, regional and national journals relating to archaeology, history, ethnology, anthropology and folklore. 

Many FSAs were deeply involved in the Congress as members of the Standing Committee, cementing the close relationship between the two.  Among the early schemes that the Society either supported or organised were a Photographic Survey of EnglandTranscription and Publication of Parish Registers, and a framework for recording Church Inscriptions. In 1901 the CAS formally established its Earthworks Committee, which also issued annual reports giving an overview of sites discovered, at risk, and under active exploration, as well as an earthwork-specific bibliography of papers published that year. Women’s names can be found there too.

One or more representatives of the Societies subscribing to the Congress sent delegates to its Annual Meetings. These events were held at the rooms of the Society of Antiquaries at Burlington House, and comprised of verbal reports on the work of the Congress Sub-Committees and the progress of the various schemes the Congress was engaged in, as well as discussions among the delegates. Events after the meetings occasionally included visits to archaeological exhibitions held in the Society.

The Society of Antiquaries library has bound copies of the printed Congress reports as well as the Congress’s archive; these sources are complementary and should be read together.  The printed meeting reports include lists of the Congress’s affiliated Societies, with the name and address of an individual to contact. By 1908, the first women’s names appear. Amy (Leslie) Johnston, the Viking Club (later Society)‘s Honorary Secretary and co-editor with her architect husband Alfred Wintle Johnton of Old-Lore Miscellany, and Agnes Sophia Griffith (later Johns) for the Oxford Architectural and Historical Society (Griffith’s brother was Egyptologist Francis Llewellyn Griffith).  Amy Johnston was a delegate for the Viking Club at the Congress of Archaeological Society’s Annual Meeting in July 1911, where she spoke on the issue of restoration of churches.

In 1917, another milestone was gained for women at the Congress of Archaeological Societies: the election of Nina Layard to the Congress’s Council. Layard’s publications had been included in the Congress’s Indexes of Archaeological Papers since 1899, and as the First World War drew to a close, at the meeting of the Congress in November 1917 she was proposed by William Dale and Dr David Cranage, both of whom were Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries, for election to the Council. Just a few years later, in 1921, she was proposed by the Council of the Society of Antiquaries for election to the Fellowship.

At the Congress’s meeting in November 1919, Layard discussed her ongoing work at Mundford, Norfolk, where flint tools had been uncovered in the course of ploughing in 1918. Layard’s subsequent excavation of the site intended to discover the original position of the tools. The Congress’s report highlighted that Layard had already presented a paper on her findings at the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia.

There are many facets of the Congress’s work where women might be found. At present, we are going through the Congress’s Indexes of Archaeological Papers in order to gather data on the women included in these Indexes and the local archaeological and historical societies with which they were associated. Nina Layard is an important example of where the Society of Antiquaries and the Congress of Archaeological Societies intersect in terms of women’s participation. But she will not be the only one. 

References/Further Reading

CAS Committee and Council Minute Books, Society of Antiquaries archive CAS/001.

CAS Annual & Special Reports 1888-1920, Society of Antiquaries Library.

Congress of Archaeological Societies in Union with the Society of Antiquaries, 1903. Scheme for Recording Ancient Defensive Earthworks and Fortified Enclosures. London: Harrison & Sons.

O’Neil, B. H. St J. 1946. The Congress of Archaeological Societies. Antiquaries Journal 26 (1-2): 61-66.

Saga-Book Archive, Viking Society for Northern Research.

Townsend, J A B, 1986-9. A Memoir of Alfred Johnson by his Nephew. Saga-Book 22, 457-62.

Our First Trip

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator, Beyond Notability)

On 6 October, the Beyond Notability team took its first steps into the Society of Antiquaries archive. This will be a key research area for us, as the Society’s archive is one of our main record sets in starting to map women’s work in archaeology, history and heritage between the late 19th and the mid-twentieth centuries.  

The Society has been in existence since 1707 (more on its history here).  Its recently appointed archivist, Kat Petersen, was our guide to getting to know the SAL’s archive a bit better. She is currently going through the entire archive herself, to ensure that ultimately the Society’s rich institutional history will be discoverable through the Collections website

Our goal with this initial visit was to look at a cross section of the Society’s archive to get a better sense of the kinds of ways in which women’s work was recorded.  The Society’s Blue papers (records generated when a person is proposed as a Fellow of the Society) are an obvious starting point. However, women were not admitted as Fellows until 1920, so references to their work before that point can only be found by looking beyond that particular set of records.  

The Society’s various Minute Books are another key resource.  There are series of Minute Books for various groups within the Society, including the Executive Committee, the Council and the Finance and Library Committee. Women can be found in the Executive Committee and Council minutes before 1920 if they are sending artefacts for exhibition at the Society, reporting on discoveries made, or offering books or artefacts to the Society (Fig. 1). Another activity we’ll be tracking and highlighting is instances of women seeking to use the resources of the Society for their own purposes (Fig. 2). 

Fig. 1. Detail from the Society’s Executive Committee Minutes from 3 July 1913, showing that a “Miss Cobbe” offered the Society a group of manuscripts relating to Bedfordshire. © The Society of Antiquaries of London. 
Fig. 2. Detail from the Society’s Executive Committee Minutes from 18 June 1914, showing that a “Miss Portal” applied to copy extracts from a manuscript held by the Society. © The Society of Antiquaries of London. 

A further valuable record set is the Special Committee Minute Books. We looked through one volume of these, dating from the years immediately after the Second World War. We found the names of FSAs Marjerie Venables Taylor and Kathleen Kenyon among the members of some of the Committees. On the Society’s Apulia Committee, gathered to organise excavations in this region of southern Italy, we spotted the name of another woman, “Mrs J. S. P. Bradford”. “Mrs Bradford” accompanied her husband John Spencer Purvis Bradford, FSA, on a scoping mission to Italy prior to a formal application being made to excavate.  

Thanks to Francesca Radcliffe’s biography of John Bradford, a bit more information about Patience (Andrewes) Bradford is available. Prior to her marriage, she attended the Courtauld Institute, and was part of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) during the Second World War. Radcliffe’s research reveals that during her lifetime Patience Andrewes Bradford was considered to be an expert in medieval archaeology and art – and that in the 1960s, she took over the management of the Apulia Committee.   

Through our project, we will be bringing together archival records at the Society of Antiquaries with information from other associated archives and sources, ensuring that we can view each of these women as individuals within the context of their time, and as a network linked across time. The first step in our programme is to understand how the Society’s institutional archive is constructed and what parts of the Society’s activities over time it represents, all the while taking note of the ways in which women appear in the records. 

We can’t wait for our next trip!