Judith R. Walkowitz Article Prize
The Judith R. Walkowitz Article Prize is awarded annually for the best published article on issues relating to gender and sexuality in British culture. It honors Professor Walkowitz’s outstanding work in the history of gender, sexuality and culture and her influence in the field of British Studies and on the community of scholars who participate in it. The prize is open to scholars resident in North America working in any time period and in any discipline in British Studies, and carries a cash award of $150.
All scholars who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or Canada and living in either country at the time of the award are eligible to compete.
Olivia Weisser (University of Massachusetts, Boston), “Poxed and Ravished: Venereal Disease in Early Modern Rape Trials”, History Workshop Journal 91, Spring 2021.
Olivia Weisser’s “Poxed and Ravished: Venereal Disease in Early Modern Rape Trials”, History Workshop 91 (2021) is a richly researched and persuasively argued study of how evidence of venereal disease offered a way to navigate early modern legal dilemmas about rape. Her argument is based on impressive archival research spanning fifty-nine court cases of rape between 1604 and 1754, mostly from the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court. She examines how rape victims, their families, and medical experts reframed bodily evidence of rape as evidence of venereal disease that would be visible and tangible and did not rely on women’s words. She argues that venereal disease provided “a rich repertoire for talking about illicit sex that entailed visually vivid expression, colourful language and a surprising means of navigating the limits of a patriarchal legal system.”By demonstrating how and why the “poxed body” rather than the “ravished body” was repeatedly presented during courtroom discussions on rape, Weisser’s article makes innovative and significant contributions to the history of gender, the body, medicine, and the law.
Averill Earls (Mercyhurst University), “Solicitor Brown and his boy: Love, Sex and Scandal in 20th century Ireland” Historical Reflections 46:1 (2020) (doi: 10.3167/hrrh.2020.460106)
In this engaging and stimulating essay, Averill Earls examines how same sex desire and an indecency case brought against two men in1941 determined their lives. On the one hand, Solicitor Brown had a position of respect in the Irish state; his lover Leslie Price was a 17-year-old deserter from the English army. The extensive records of the case allow Earls to track the contours of their relationship in the context of the social history of 1940s Ireland. Her impressive attention to detail and the depth of her archival work creates a compelling narrative. Earls shows how anxieties about sexuality intersected with Irish nationalism to shape the culture of policing and law. She deftly balances a detailed, single case history with a sophisticated cultural and political history to ask how one distinctive case enriches questions central to the histories of gender, sexuality, age, class and nation.
Satyasikha Chakraborty (The College of New Jersey), “’Nurses of Our Ocean Highways’: The Precarious Metropolitan Lives of Colonial South Asian Ayahs,” Journal of Women’s History 32:2 (2020).
This essay offers important insight into the actual lives of Ayahs who came to England, challenging the literary trope of the “family”.
Emily L. Loney (University of Madison-Wisconsin), “Redressing the Past: New Clothes, Old Estates, and Anne Clifford’s Fashioning of Community,” Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal 15:1 (2020).
Loney provides a fascinating new perspective on the life of Lady Anne Clifford by linking her fashion choices to women’s networks.
Julia Rudolph (North Carolina State University), “Crediting Women,” Droit & Philosophie 11 (November 2019).
This sophisticated and meticulous article addresses what seems a simple question: how was women’s testimony credited in the 18th and 19th centuries? It does so by weaving together multiple historical registers, from women’s engagement in the credit economy, to concerns about fraud, ideas of natural law and contract, and the spread of adversarial practice in the courtroom. Changes in both the cultural and legal landscape, as well as the economic changes resultant from the so-called ‘rise of commercial society’, are mapped onto each other in order to account for ways in which women’s testimonial credibility was understood and diminished. Rudolph moves fluently between the worlds of legal philosophy, economic change, religious practice, as well as eighteenth-century print culture. The changes Rudolph charts helped shape the modern laws of evidence: the past lives in current practice. This is a virtuoso article, which demonstrates how careful attention to multiple forces illuminates the complex process of cultural and legal change.
Amanda Herbert, “Queer Intimacy: Speaking with the Dead in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Gender & History 31 (November 2018).
In her moving and elegantly written story of love, loss, and deep religiosity, Herbert meticulously charts the importance of friendship and spiritual comradeship between two women in early eighteenth-century England, Sarah Savage and Jane Ward Hunt. Through a close reading of the letters and diary entries that recorded their friendship, as well as the letters that Savage continued to write to Hunt long after her friend’s early death, Herbert deftly explores the logic of epistolary intimacy. In an article that is as methodologically generative as it is rigorous, Herbert uses the story of this friendship to shed broader light on early Georgian practices of bereavement and mourning, the affective friendships that often sustained Nonconformist convictions, and the logic of same-sex female intimacy.
Elizabeth Prevost (Grinnell College), “On Feminists, Functionalists, and Friends: Lobola and the Gender Politics of Imperial Trusteeship in Interwar Britain,” The Journal of Modern History 89 (September 2017), 562-600.
On a simple level this is a tale of the conflict between two opposing views of the customary African practice of lobola, or bridewealth—the presentation of cattle or other goods, services, and/or currency by a husband’s family to his wife’s family around the time of marriage to seal the legal and social bond between them. On one side of the conflict was a coalition of women’s advocates, reformers, and missionaries, all pursuing a new abolitionist campaign—a new strain of“imperial feminism”—that called for the emancipation of African sisters in their domestic sphere. On the other side of the divide was a new generation of structural-functionalist anthropologists and their various supporters—especially in the ranks of colonial government officials—who defended lobola as necessary for maintaining the cohesion and the essential integrity of traditional African societies. Prevost dissects these competing positions with superb skill, leaving no stone unturned and no archive unvisited in reconstructing the complexities of this tale of imperial trusteeship and the politics of gender. It is a breathtaking tour-de-force of historical reconstruction with far-reaching implications for how we think about imperial governance at the moment when imperial rule was slowly giving way to a new international order.
Sasha Turner (Quinnipiac University), “The Nameless and the Forgotten: Maternal Grief, Sacred Protection, and the Archive of Slavery,” Slavery and Abolition 38 (April 2017), 232-250.
In this highly suggestive and imaginative article, Turner explores grief and grieving patterns and links them to practices of female resistance and resilience in slave society, especially in nineteenth-century Jamaica. Too often narratives of motherhood amongst enslaved women are frozen in a heroic pose, she argues, and we need to challenge this by examining how being enslaved shaped the experience, expression, and suppression of emotions. We need to focus on those remaining fragments of enslaved women’s lives that can tell a story of maternal fear, apprehension, and grief, and the ways in which mothers experienced the tensions between individual anguish and those cultural conventions that celebrated the liberating power of death of the slave mother’s child. But, more than this, the article is also an affirmation of loss—maternal loss, archival loss, and historical loss—dissecting the reasons why the story she wants to tell cannot be told at all. Turner cleverly explores the limits imposed by archival invisibility and the polarizing historical frame that has established enslaved women as either resistant heroes or dedicated mothers. As such this is an insightful contribution to methodological and epistemological debate on what can and can’t be known and, indeed, about the politics of knowability more generally.