Screwing around with census data
In the spirit of the season, our final post of 2015 included a festive fashion plate from the Young Ladies’ Journal. Now that the celebrations are over, it’s time to get back to business and talk women editors. Let’s stick with the Young Ladies’ Journal for a moment, though, for there is more to it than its visual splendour.
The Young Ladies’ Journal (1864-1920) is one of those Victorian periodicals routinely referred to in connection with its publisher and founder rather than its editor. It’s “Edward Harrison’s Young Ladies’ Journal.” Its main competitor, Samuel Beeton’s Young Englishwoman (1864-1894) is another example. The Ladies’ Treasury, by contrast, is almost inextricably linked to its editor, Eliza Warren, whose name features prominently on the cover. This raises interesting questions about actual vs. intellectual and symbolic ownership of periodicals that I won’t go into now. What I’d like to focus on instead is on one particular way in which we can go beyond the name of the publisher in the case of anonymous editorship.
Thanks to wonderful collaborative effort that is the Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism, it takes less than a minute to find out that most of the editorial work for the Young Englishwoman was done by a succession of female editors: Isabella Beeton, Matilda Browne, a Miss Graham, Graham R. Tomson (Rosamund Marriott Watson). There is no such information on the Young Ladies’ Journal readily available yet in any of the reference works that we are using to populate our database of European women editors. This is where the serendipity of census research comes into play.
In a previous post on the elusive Madame Bayard of Weldon’s Ladies’ Journal, I described how census data sometimes enable us to identify named editors and find out more about their lives. In other words: census research can help us to connect a journal and an editorial name to an actual person. But census data can also be used to “reverse search” a person listed as magazine editor in the censuses. This sounds nice and purposeful, but it’s not. It’s basically “screwing around” with digitized census data, to borrow a term from Stephen Ramsay.
So this is how I screwed around with the censuses: I bought a subscription to TheGenealogist, which offers transcriptions of all publicly available British censuses (1841-1911). Unlike Ancestry (which I use a lot too), it also includes people’s occupations, which are searchable via the keyword search box (but only if you also select a particular census – for some reason you can’t search them all at once). I tried all the relevant keywords that I could think of, such as editor, editress, magazine, periodical, journal, and went through all search results for each individual keyword. It’s a time-consuming process, but also quite addictive and great fun when it leads to names you’ve never come across before which (if you’re lucky) in turn connect to periodicals you hadn’t previously considered working on.
One such name is that of Catherine H. Burroughs, who gave her occupation in three consecutive censuses as “Editoress Young Ladies Journal” (1871), “Editress Ladies Journal” (1881) and “Editress Young Ladies Journal” (1891). Edward Harrison’s Young Ladies’ Journal, it seems, was as much Catherine Burroughs’s, at least at editorial level…
Fascinatingly, screwing around with census data also brings up new names of women who are listed as editors but don’t mention of what periodical. Here’s a list of some of our British “orphan” editors we’re hoping to find out more about. Please tell us if you know anything about them. The game is afoot!
- Mary Besley, Newspaper Editor (1841)
- Rosa Crandon Gill, Newspaper Editress (1871)
- Sarah Harvey Manners, Sub Editress of Ladies Paper (1881) and Editress (1891)
- Harriet Louisa Hamilton, Editor Weekly Paper (1891)
- Charlotte Ann Haskell, Authoress & Editor of Magazine (1891)
- Lisbeth H. L. Webster, Lady Editor Daily Paper (1901)
- Katharine M. Bennett, Editor (1901)
- Annie Amelia Miller, Editor (1901)
- Edith Mary Sperling, Authoress & Editor (1901)
- Helen Taylor, Editress of Ladys Magazine (1901)
- Ethel Mary Goodman, Editor Monthly Review (1911)
- Maria May Fox (daughter of Christopher Weldon!), Editor (1911)
- Kathleen Marion Barrow, Journalist Lady Editor (1911)
- Grace Emily Jones, Editress (1911)
- Florence E. Reading, Literary & Editor of Ladies Paper (1911)
- Jane Preston Taylor, Editress of Ladies’ Fashion Journal (1911)
- Eleanor Wren, Newspaper Editor (1911)
- Annie Elizabeth Tomlinson, Editor Women’s Page & Children’s Monthly (1911)
Marianne Van Remoortel