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Women’s Studies Group reunited

Bristol Women’s Studies’ Group

Bristol Women’s Studies’ Group

3 November 2010

The ten members of the Bristol Women’s Studies’ Group, including six former Bristol academics, were reunited last week, 31 years after producing the first British women’s studies reader.

Half the Sky: An Introduction to Women’s Studies, which was published by Virago in 1979, pioneered women’s studies in Britain, providing feminist materials and questions for adult education classes, informal groups and individuals, much of this undertaken through the then Extra Mural department at Bristol. It was widely acclaimed at the time, and is a remarkable example of the kind of collaboration in which feminists engaged in order to establish women’s studies in the curriculum.

The Bristol Women’s Studies Group includes four colleagues recently retired from the University: Elizabeth Bird, previously Dean of Arts, now Emeritus Dean; Ellen Malos, Senior Research Fellow in Policy Studies; Linda Ward, Emeritus Professor, Norah Fry Research Centre; and Jackie West, previously Graduate Dean of Social Sciences and Law, who continues to teach in Sociology. At the time of the book’s production, Miriam David (now Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Education, London) was Lecturer in Social Administration at Bristol, and Marilyn Porter (now Emeritus Professor at Memorial University, Newfoundland) had completed her PhD in Sociology here. Suzanne Skevington and Helen Haste, Professors of Psychology, were lecturers at the University of Bath. Helen Taylor, now Emeritus Professor of English and University Arts & Culture Development Fellow at Exeter, was at the University of the West of England.

The academics and the book’s illustrator, Bristol artist Sarah Braun, have met every decade since publication. They have authored numerous books and articles in feminist and other fields and played pivotal roles in the development of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research on gender, at Bristol and elsewhere. All have remained actively involved in the women’s movement, and have incorporated feminist practice into their academic and other work.

Liz Bird, now a printmaker who has exhibited at the RWA in Bristol and in London, said: ‘The reunions are a wonderful opportunity to share memories of putting a book together, and to discuss how our personal and public lives have developed since then. It’s interesting to see the ways in which women’s experiences have been transformed in higher education over the three decades since the book came out, and the role of the women’s movement in those changes.’

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