New Website and Survey

The first version of the new History to Herstory website is now in place. The History to Herstory Project team would appreciate your help in evaluating the new website, its learning resources and image catalogue. 

Please take a look at the new version of the website here:

We would really appreciate your feedback on the new and improved website. There are 10 very quick questions, the majority are multiple choice where you simply need to tick a box, and not all of the questions may be relevant to you. The survey should take no more than 3 minutes of your time — but would be enormously helpful for us to evaluate the website and to continue to improve it.
To access the questionnaire, please click on the below link:

Thank you

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H2H update!

With the project already racing past the halfway point, I thought it might be about time to take another breather and again cast a wide eye over the scope of the History to Herstory collections.

 Over the last few months, the work of the project has really started to come together. As many of the technical issues that plagued the original site (and prevented access to its records) have now hopefully been resolved, my attention has since turned towards a large-scale program of linking the thousands of H2H images to their corresponding descriptions – a formidable, but essential part of the project. And admittedly, while at times this has been a fairly protracted process, it has given me another great opportunity to get back to working with the individual items that comprise From History to Herstory, and so here again are a couple of my favourite collections to look out for when the site relaunches…

 – The Diaries of Lady Amabel Yorke.  

Lady Amabel Yorke (1761-1833) was the daughter of Philip Yorke, 2nd Earl of Hardwicke, and Lady Jemima Campbell, the 2nd Marchioness Grey, and she lived at Fountains Hall on the Studley Royal Estate, near Ripon. As an aristocrat, Lady Amabel had a privileged position and was able to listen and take part in conversations relating to the political and historical events of that time. Comprising over 8,700 pages, her diaries span the years 1769-1827 and record in detail such events as the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars, as well as reporting on the day-to-day political and social developments of the country during the notoriously turbulent years of the late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries.

Consequently, Lady Amabel’s writings give an amazing insight not only into the environment and lifestyle of the British aristocracy at the turn of the nineteenth century, but furthermore the diaries offer us the rarer opportunity to study a detailed account of the important historical and political events of the period from a woman’s point of view. With nearly 60 years of personal, political and social commentary, and tons of high society gossip, these diaries comprise both fascinating historical research material and an honest personal account of life c1800. Definitely a H2H gem!

Lady Amabel Yorke records the Fall of Bastille on 14 July 1789

As for my second choice, I have chosen a collection that I feel holds an interesting relationship to my first in that it simultaneously exhibits both similar and contrasting themes to the Yorke diaries.

– The Personal Papers of Mrs Mary Ann Crisp of Dewsbury (1885-1971)

On the one hand this collection of records follow the similarly personal theme of the Yorke diaries as they both give us an insight into the personal lives of these two women throughout their life-times. However, while Lady Amabel’s diaries provide us with a literary narrative of historical events and the privileged life of an aristocratic lady of leisure, the Crisp personal papers (comprising birth, marriage and death certificates, food ration books, rent books and funeral expenses) tell far more of the every-woman experience. These documents not only allow us to sketch Mrs Crisp’s life throughout the 20th century; beginning with her birth certificate in 1885, through the war and post-war years with rationing, the death of her husband and the award of the widow’s pension, and finally her death certificate and funeral expenses in 1970/1971. But these records also demonstrate something of the bureaucratisation of society and the documentary traces that we all leave throughout our lives. And while the near 9,000 pages recording the daily activities, news, gossip and opinions of Lady Amabel Yorke gives us an amazingly deep insight into her life, the lack of this for Mary Ann Crisp, and the unintentional nature of her collection, still provides us with a deceptively telling amount of evidence.

Another intriguing collection – and I hope an example of some of the many issues/questions/debates that History to Herstory inspires in a few months time.

Marriage certificate, Tom Senior Crisp to Mary Ann Stabler, 3 Aug 1908

Well I hope that this post has again helped to demonstrate something of the scope and intentions of the From History to Herstory project. The clock is ticking and we’re now counting down the weeks till the relaunch – an exciting, but slightly alarming fact as I look over my ‘to do’ list…?!

But again, we’ll keep you posted and look forward to being able to confirm the Autumn launch date when we get it all finalised.


Robert Clegg- Archivist (Data Quality) History to Herstory

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From Rags to Riches: Aspirations of Social Advancement or Delusions of Grandeur?

I’ve reached the end of my third week in post now. The first two weeks I spent my time getting to grips with what areas the project covers, the massive amount of work that Claire had already done, and learning to use Xerte (a fantastic resource which enables me to make interactive learning material, such as activities and quizzes very swiftly). I created non-HE learning resources for the History to Her Story website, where I did quite a lot of work on the correspondence of Charlotte Bronte upon the publication of Jane Eyre (1847), because this ties in nicely to the ‘English Literary Heritage’ section of the GCSE English syllabus with Charlotte Bronte being listed as one of the pre-Twentieth Century writers to be studied, so hopefully this will be useful for School and College students.

This week, using the Stanley Royd data I have looked at over 2,000 pages of entries about patients. I found records that will be extremely useful and interesting for students to analyse and discuss at University level, to give them a greater understanding of mental illness. I’ve managed to find cases within Stanley Royd, which can be related to mental illness in popular culture, for example a case of mental illness caused by ‘confinement’ (C85/3/6/41/p369-371) links very well to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (1892). A case where a patient is described as suffering from “nymphomania” (C85/3/6/41/p265-267) links nicely to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (1963). I’ve worked methodically through records from 1880 – 1883 so far (which is admittedly a small dent in the vast data available, but I wanted to get a better sense of this time period).

A key area of interest to me has been looking at delusions experienced by the patients. The delusions are many and varied, and include those of persecution, believing that someone is going to poison, injure or kill them; others are religious delusions with visions of devils and angels. But I’ve been especially focussing upon Delusions of Grandeur, there are numerous instances where women who worked as domestic servants had delusions that they were Queens, extremely wealthy, and in communication with the government (see C85/3/6/42/p593-596 for an example; another is that of Sarah Jane Swift pictured below C85/3/6/27/p121-123/4). Men too who had previously been in Wakefield prison for crimes such as that of “rogue and vagabond” believed they were “the son of the Duke of Wellington…entitled to large estates” (C85/3/6/157/p213-215). I think this is extremely telling about class divisions in society at this time and the relationship between mental illness and society. Other areas of interest include the link between the artistic/creative personality and episodes of mental illness – I’ve been particularly interested to find records of artists, musicians and travelling-show folk. Finally I’m very interested in the link between race and mental illness, often non-English patients have comments such as “seldom speaks” (C85/3/6/157/p161-163) on their case notes, it raises the question as to whether this was due to mental illness or simply because English was not their first language?

Sarah Jane Swift (Housewife) admitted 22/02/1883 - "the delusion of being a person of property and wealth". C85/3/6/27/p121-123/4

I’ll end for now, but suffice to say, there’s a real wealth of resources available through the History to Her Story website which are truly fascinating, and I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to explore them further over the next two months.

Emma Kilkelly – Research Assistant

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Looking at female patient case notes from the Wakefield Asylum

As research assistant on the project, I share Rob’s feeling of being swamped! The sheer number of female patient case notes from the Wakefield Asylum dating from between 1818 to 1900 is staggering enough!

Deciding on which particular case notes to focus on has been difficult; each set tells an interesting story about an individual’s life before and after admission, and, in some cases, after their discharge. An individual patient’s case notes ranges from any where between one and 20 pages, depending on the patient’s length of stay. Attempts at finding patterns among the data have also been hampered by the fact that the case note format changes over the period, sometimes in line with the priorities of new medical staff and superintendents. Certainly, an increasing amount of information about each patient was recorded as the period progressed. Such a finding may serve to confirm the popular thesis that Victorian asylums increasingly functioned as a means of social control under a medical gaze, but for our current purposes, it makes our job of sifting through such information more challenging but, ultimately, endlessly interesting.

However, I’ve familiarised myself enough with these case notes during the eight weeks I’ve been working on the project  to be able to highlight a few interesting themes and examples. I’ve also cross-matched the case notes with the asylum’s annual reports to compare individual patient stories with a ‘bigger picture.’ We are currently developing new undergraduate learning resources based on this research:

1. Age, sex, marital status, and occupation – These basic facts about patients were recorded from the very first asylum admissions. A preliminary survey of patient ages demonstrates that females as young as 12 and as old as 80 were admitted. Perhaps surprisingly, approximately half of the female patients were recorded as single. This finding perhaps challenges an assumption common among some historians that nineteenth century asylums primarily functioned as an institution for men to dispose of their troublesome and hysterical wives (Showalter, 1987). We hope to explore this possibility further.

The most common occupation among married females was ‘housewife’ and the majority of the unmarried females appear to have been employed in domestic service. This highlights an interesting class perspective: the asylum directors always claimed that Wakefield was one of the only true pauper asylums in Britain, but does the large number of housewives indicate that this wasn’t the case? Of course, medical staff only recorded information provided by the patient, friends or relatives and thus ‘housewife’ may have been used as an all encompassing term. It is also apparent that a number of both female and male patients had no occupation and were transferred from a number of workhouses in the surrounding area, such as Sheffield, Leeds and Halifax. Weaving was the most common occupation among the male patients in the early nineteenth century. This is unsurprising given the West Riding’s dominance in the British textile industry. Interestingly, ‘labourer’ replaces ‘weaver’ as the most common occupation for male asylum patients by the late nineteenth century, possibly indicating the industry’s regional decline and the urban growth of the surrounding area.

2. Supposed cause of insanity and length of time insane – Asylum staff recorded a variety of causes of insanity among their patients. Among some patients, insanity was said to be triggered by specific circumstances, such as the death of a loved one, some form of domestic abuse or anxiety caused by poverty. For example, Mary Ariery aged 42 was admitted to the asylum in September 1819 and diagnosed with grief caused by the death of her two sons. One of Mary’s sons, a soldier, died in battle six years earlier and the other died from unknown causes in 1818. Other causes of insanity included some form of physical trauma. Phoebe Sharp, a 33 year old housekeeper admitted to the asylum in August 1891, suffered from acute mania following “a blow to the head with a hatchet” during a series of family arguments over furniture. Heredity is also frequently cited as a cause of insanity and lengthy details of a patient’s family history are almost always recorded. For example, the case notes for Susannah Brown, a 38 year old worsted weaver admitted in January 1891, detailed that her “father is said to have been insane; died from phthisis 30 years ago. Patient’s uncle died insane at another asylum. Grandmother was insane when she died.” (image 1.). Intemperance and possessing “unclean habits” were other commonly cited causes.

Image 1. Susannah Brown described in her case notes as “excited, deluded and prone to being violent,” January 1891, C85/3/6/54/p61-64/1.

  The estimated duration of an ‘attack’ or episode of mental illness was almost always recorded because those studying mental illness generally believed that the disease could be more successfully treated the earlier it was diagnosed. Medical staff frequently complained that the overseers of the Poor Law were particularly tardy about sending patients to asylums from workhouses for treatment. They also made pleas to family members and friends to send their loved ones to the asylum for treatment as soon as signs of mental illness began to appear. It was also common to record whether this was the patient’s first attack and the case notes reveal that a number of patients were readmitted after suffering from a recurring attack, sometimes several years after their first.

3. Moral and Medical Treatment – Asylum staff clearly spent a great deal effort monitoring and treating patients’ bodily state of health. From the earliest nineteenth century patient records, it is clear that asylum staff were obsessed with monitoring patients’ bowel movements, urine samples and the condition of their tongues. By the late nineteenth century, recordings of patients’ pulse and temperature, as well as reports on their circulatory, pulmonary and genito-urinary systems, were incorporated into this system of medical monitoring. Pulse and temperature readings became plotted on a chart, enabling asylum medical staff to quickly visualise variations (image 2.).

Image 2. Temperature and Pulse chart for Mary Jones, December 1889, C85/3/6/47/p1-4/6.

Added to this system of monitoring from the 1860s were photographs of patients taken under the supervision of medical superintendent and director James Crichton-Browne. Crichton-Browne established a photography studio and believed, along with many of his contemporaries, that studying the facial characteristics and expressions of patients could uncover the nature of mental illness. Indeed, he sent a number of patient photographs to Charles Darwin at a time when Darwin began to study the significance of facial expressions (University of Leeds PhD student Mike Finn is currently researching Crichton-Browne’s work at the Wakefield Asylum. For more details, visit

Treating a patient’s body was often more straightforward than attempting to assess and treat their state of mind. Patients were well-fed and well-clothed but few effective treatments for the mind were available, certainly in terms of drugs. In fact, the case notes reveal that drugs were typically administered as a response to particular circumstances. For example, opiates and other sedatives were often only given to a patient following an aggressive outburst and laxatives were given following bouts of constipation. Susannah Brown was given Blaud’s pills twice daily for her anaemia but little medication for her recurrent melancholia. Harriet Marsden, a 25 year old domestic servant, was given milk and egg yolks as a treatment for acute mania.

Yet, the case notes give a clear indication that the medical staff thought good bodily health and a relaxed state of mind were co-dependent. Although there were exceptions, many patients seemed to have displayed poor bodily health when their mental anxieties were most severe. It is also clear that the ‘moral management’ of the patients – that is their employment in making their own clothes and on the farm land, their participation in recreational activities and attending chapel – aimed to heal both body and mind. As a part of the moral regime, the medical staff continually emphasised that they only used the mechanical restraints common a century earlier in very rare and extreme cases.

4. Patient behaviour – Asylum staff also recorded changes in patient mood, temperament and behaviour in the case notes. Terms such as ‘unruly’ and ‘violent’ were commonly used to describe patients’ behaviour. For example, one report about Susannah Brown stated that she:recently became excited and insolent so that it was necessary to seclude her and leave her in a simple room at night. She is idle, unsociable, sullen and disinclined to speak.” She was later described as “excitable, moody, ready to burst into violence.” Interestingly, a number of patients seem to have complained about the violent behaviour of the nursing staff. In these instances, doctors checked the body of patient for evidence of bruising or scarring and in some cases, nurses admitted using unreasonable force. This perhaps suggests that not all staff members adhered to the principles of moral treatment. Patients’ delusions and visual and aural hallucinations were also recorded and obtained through lengthy discussions between doctor and patient. For example, the 1890 case notes of Ann Plant, a 54 year old housewife, explained that the patient began to think she was possessed by a dog, continually barking instead of speaking, following a bite she had received from a dog some months earlier. Phoebe Sharp frequently reported her fears that Jack the Ripper “was after her.” A number of patients were also recorded as being suicidal or a danger to others.

There is much more I could tell you here but I think I’ll leave it there for today. However, the blog will be continually updated as the project develops. Emma will shortly be telling you more about learning resources. Watch this space!


Claire Jones, Research Assistant, History to Herstory Project


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Project underway!

As the Data Quality Archivist responsible for reviewing and developing the quality of the History to Herstory material, I have had a very busy first few weeks.

My initial task has been to get to grips with the sheer size and scale of the H2H project and the varied collections that comprise this valuable resource. With c90,000 archival images and catalogue records to review, my desk (and head) is currently swamped with all kinds of statistics and breakdowns as I’ve been busily planning and prioritising the workload of the project over the next few months.

But in and around these more logistical considerations, I’ve also been taking full advantage of this uniquely privileged position and have spent (probably a few too many) hours browsing through the treasure trove of History to Herstory images. Over the course of the project, I’ll make a concerted effort to highlight something of the range and depth of this exciting resource and plug some of my favourite collections to look out for when History to Herstory is relaunched. With such a unique and diverse collection of women’s history primary sources, it is tough to pick out just one or two collections from abundance that have particularly caught my interest over the last few weeks. However, my initial choice collections from the past few weeks would have to be:

Firstly, the UNESCO award-winning Diaries and Travel Notes of Anne Lister (1791-1840); a remarkable nineteenth century landowner, business woman, intrepid traveller, mountaineer and lesbian. Indeed the unique value and interest of this collection would truly seem difficult to understate; not only do the diaries illustrate Anne Lister’s defiance of the conventions of her times by chronicling her living with and marrying her female lover, but the collection also serves as a fascinating contemporary account of key historical events and early nineteenth century society. And if that wasn’t enough to peak your interest, about one sixth of the diaries were written in a idiosyncratic code of Anne Lister’s own devising.

Anne Lister, opening page of 1817-1818 diary

My second choice would have to be The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Huddersfield Group Records. Browsing through this collection of 1980s records proves an absorbing experience, depicting a distinctive mood and tension of contemporary feeling. Leaflets such as ‘Nuclear War and You’, ‘H-Bomb on Huddersfield’ and ‘Kirklees and Nuclear Weapons’ are a sobering but deeply interesting read, while the CND street ballots and rally posters highlight the leading role that women played in the movement throughout these years. A very interesting record of a fascinating and historical political movement.

CND Huddersfield Branch, Greenham Common poster

And yet these collections barely scratch the surface of the range and depth of the full History to Herstory collection, (a lot) more to follow…

So the project is up and running! And we’re very excited about the prospects for this fantastic resource charting Yorkshire women’s lives 1100 to the present day. I hope this post helps to add to the anticipation for the relaunch of History to Herstory in a few months time. Still a long way to go, but we’ll keep you posted!


Robert Clegg

Archivist (Data Quality) History to Herstory

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Job advertisement: Research Assistant

University of Huddersfield – School of Music, Humanities & Media

£24,597 – £30,251


Fixed-term appointment for 4 months

Ref: 5688

The University of Huddersfield in partnership with West Yorkshire Archive Service has received funding from JISC to repair, rehome, repurpose and relaunch the resource from history to herstory – 90,000 images of primary sources for Yorkshire Women’s lives 1100 to the present day. A wide range of resources has been made available by archives across the region and the funding from JISC will bring previously digitised materials to new audiences.

As part of the project, The University requires a Research Assistant to develop teaching and learning resources for use in undergraduate study. You will be based with the History team and will work closely with academic staff and partners at the West Yorkshire Archive Service. The intention is to develop innovative teaching resources for use across three years of study but also to make them accessible to visitors to the web site. This element of the project will focus on the records of the Stanley Royd Mental Hospital. An interest in the history of mental health care would be useful but not essential. However, you will be expected to conduct research in this area.

The post will be based at the University of Huddersfield but may include some travel to Morley, for which reasonable expenses will be paid.

For further details and an application form visit

Alternatively contact the Personnel Office on 01484 472845.

Closing date: 18 April 2011

Interview date: 17 May 2011

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Job advertisement: Data Quality Archivist

Based in Morley with travel to Huddersfield.

Salary £22,221 – £23,708 Fixed Term 5 months.

An archivist is required to review, edit & improve all metadata & images related to from History to Herstory.

To download an application form or for further information visit or contact 0113 253 0241.

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