Collecting the dots
In the proposal I submitted to the ERC in March of last year, I wrote that I had already compiled a “preliminary list of ca. 150 editors and their periodicals in nine European countries”. That list was, in fact, a messy 33-page Word document crammed with names, dates, titles, notes and copy/pasted Google Books snippets. With less than 2,5 months to go before the start of the project, I am now transferring these data to a more convenient Excel file — another working document on the way to the xml database for which the postdoc on the project will be responsible.
Since I am originally a scholar of the Victorian periodical press, I started with Britain. The messy Word document contained some thirty names of women editors of early-eighteenth- to early-twentieth-century British periodicals, but I knew there were more. I just did not know there would be so many. Less than a week into the life of the new Excel file, the list of British women editors has expanded considerably to 137. It now stretches from Delarivier Manley (c.1670-1724), who succeeded Jonathan Swift as editor of the Examiner in 1711, to Helen Alexander Archdale (1876-1949), editor of the feminist Time and Tide in 1920, the (inevitably somewhat arbitrary) cut-off point of the project.
Some of these women are old friends. Now that I come to think of it, I probably know a lot more about the lives of Eliza Warren Francis (1810-1900) of the long-running Ladies’ Treasury (1857-95) and Matilda Marian Pullan (1819-62), who edited the London and Paris Ladies’ Magazine of Fashion for some time in the 1850s, than I know about the lives of my great-grandmothers. Others are new acquaintances: Madame (or rather Mrs Ann) Lanchester of Le Miroir de la Mode (1803-04), Mary Anne Thomson of the Rose, Shamrock and Thistle (1862-5), printed by the women-run Edinburgh-based Caledonian Press, Louisa Twining, member of the legendary Twinings tea family and editor of the Journal of the Workhouse Visiting Society (1859-65), Gertrude Mary Tuckwell of the Women’s Trades Union Review (1891-1919).
I am now halfway through the relevant bibliographies and have not resorted to more advanced sleuthing methods yet (to try and find out who edited the World of Fashion [1824-51], for instance — textual evidence suggests at least two consecutive female editors).
Once I have covered the rest of Europe, my preliminary list will almost certainly prove to be very preliminary indeed. And that is just the groundwork for the most important part of the project: connecting the dots, mapping the networks in which these women and their periodicals participated and exploring their impact on society and culture across languages and periods.
Marianne Van Remoortel