International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Today marks the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Globally, women are still underrepresented in scientific roles, so this is a day to break down barriers and to celebrate science’s heroines, past and present.

SC&A is positively brimming with such heroines across various fields of study and practice, so we’ve picked out a few to shout about.

BOTANY

Dr Margery Knight, a lecturer in botany at the university from 1912 until her retirement in 1954, was a seaweed specialist. She and her students could often be seen scrambling over rocks at the Port Erin marine research station, even after Knight lost her leg in a car accident in 1936.

Dr Knight and her students in August 1942 (A301/2/120)

As well as her scientific contributions, she was known for her generosity and support of students. Dr Burges (Professor of Botany, 1952-1966) wrote her obituary for the University of Liverpool Recorder and noted that:

‘It was I believe completely unappreciated that the “small fund to which she had access,” and from which she helped so many, was in fact her own pocket.’

The high esteem in which she was held is evident from this gift: an album containing messages from staff, former students and members of the scientific community, presented to Knight on her 80th birthday (alongside pressed seaweed).

A page from Knight’s 80th birthday present (D964)

May Rathbone, part of the Liverpool family of politicians, philanthropists and social reformers, initially trained as a doctor at the turn of the 20th century. She went on to become a botanist, an amateur artist and a keen mountaineer. She spent many holidays in Norway and even worked on a glossary of Norwegian botanical terms.  

One of May Rathbone’s botanical drawings (RP XVIII.3.38)

MEDICINE

Knotty Ash-born Phoebe Powell was the first female medical graduate at the University of Liverpool, gaining her MD in 1912. She later married fellow doctor Douglas Bigland.

Over her short life (she died in 1930), she held a variety of medical posts and published widely on venereal disease. She lectured in pathology at the university, was house physician at the Liverpool Stanley Hospital and, on the establishment of the Crofton Recovery Hospital for Women in 1922, became Consulting Physician. In 1926 she set up a Mothers’ Welfare Clinic, dispensing contraceptive advice to women.

Patients enjoying some fresh air convalescence at Crofton Recovery Hospital for Women, where Phoebe Bigland (née Powell) served as physician (RP XVA.3.37)

She was also committed to supporting women in the field of medicine, serving as president of the Liverpool Association of the Federation of Medical Women. In an obituary of Bigland, pioneering surgeon and gynaecologist Frances Ivens-Knowles celebrated her as: ‘a real “live wire” when there was any work for medical women to be done.’  

VETERINARY SCIENCE

Annie Littlejohn graduated as a vet from the University of Liverpool in 1949, and stayed here to lecture on veterinary medicine. After leaving Liverpool, she worked at the Animal Diseases Research Association in Edinburgh and the government’s Central Veterinary Laboratory. 

She mostly focused on farm animals, though clearly she had time for important doggy medicine too.

Annie Littlejohn (right) examines a patient (A31/42)

SCIENCE FICTION

Ahem… not technically a branch of science, we know. But we couldn’t miss this opportunity to shout about some of the fantastic female authors represented in our science fiction collections.

Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006) was a US writer and one of the first Black women to achieve mainstream recognition in the SF genre. Her works include the neo-slave narrative Kindred, the Lilith’s Brood and Patternist series of novels, and Fledgling. (PS3552.U827.K51 1988)
Ursula Le Guin (1929-2018) was a prolific, multiple award-winning US writer whose works bring a feminist, anthropological sensibility to the genre. She is perhaps best-known as the creator of the Earthsea fantasy quartet. Rocannon’s World, first published in 1966, was her debut novel. (PS3562.E42.R66 1972)
Joanna Russ (1937-2011) was a US writer and academic, whose landmark 1975 novel The Female Man also brought a fierce, feminist political sensibility to the genre. (PS3568.U763.F32 1975)

James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Bradley Sheldon, 1915-1987) was a US writer who wrote under a masculine pseudonym until her identity was revealed in 1977. A prolific and complex author, she is notable for her dazzling short stories, the most famous of which is ‘The Women Men Don’t See’ (1973), contained within this volume. (PS3570.I66.A6WA 1979)

Event: Afrofuturism at the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

How do you imagine yourself, and your community, 10 years in the future? Conversely, looking to the past, how has society changed in ten, twenty, thirty years?

To inspire engagement with these questions, and to commemorate the last day of Black History Month, SCA’s Science Fiction Collections Librarian, Phoenix Alexander, installed a pop-up Afrofuturism library in the International Slavery Museum on October 31st 2019. Collaborating with Adam Duckworth and Mitty Ramachandran, Alexander curated the library to feature Black-authored texts from the SF collections: texts ranging from the Caribbean folklore-based speculative fiction of Nalo Hopkinson to the neo-slave narratives and far-future worlds of Octavia E. Butler. Alongside the books, specially-printed postcards were designed and printed to feature two striking Afrofuturist artworks from items in the SF collections. During the course of the afternoon visitors could write their hopes and aspirations for the future on the back of the postcards, which were displayed on a wall of the museum to create a community archive of sorts.

Display of Afrofuturism books

The term ‘Afrofuturism’ was coined in 1993 by cultural critic Mark Dery and fleshed out in a now-famous 2003 issue of the academic journal, Social Text. In the introduction to this issue, Afrofuturism was defined as any “text and images… [that] reflect African diasporic experience and at the same time attend to the transformations that are the by-product of new media and information technology.” In the preceding decade the term has become short-hand for any speculative ‘text’ – music video, film, novel, or comic – that foregrounds Black characters and communities, from Black Panther to the ‘ArchAndroid’ stylings of musician Janelle Monáe.

The small selection of texts on display at the International Slavery Museum showcased not only the literary works of Black authors but the often-striking artwork that helped to visualize worlds in which historically excluded communities could be seen and considered in narratives of futurity. The library proved particularly popular with younger visitors, who were inspired by the objects to produce their own artwork on an adjacent activity table. On display, too, was an interactive timeline detailing the history of Afrofuturism and Black speculative writing more broadly.

The library was a successful first step in bringing these inspiring texts to a community wider than the University’s walls – but also energized a commitment to giving voice to those communities who have not historically been afforded the kinds of institutional recognition that an academic library provides. Looking ahead, Dr. Alexander hopes to facilitate more events like this in the future and to build on the amazing SF Collections by collecting works by BAME, queer, and disabled authors.

Science Fiction is perhaps the most nakedly political of all fictional genres in that it explicitly renders who has a place in societies in the future – and who is excluded. Afrofuturist texts help make a space both physical – in institutions, in homes, in public spaces – and in the cultural imagination. By reading and enjoying these works, by encountering the physical objects that serve as interventions in new and exciting forms, we shape our own imaginations and, little by little, help to build a better world.

2018 retrospect

As the first month of 2019 draws to a close, we look back on the previous year and all of the events, accessions, and projects that took place here in Special Collections and Archives.

January

We welcomed in the New Year in with a new exhibition, which was titled The University of Liverpool: A History through Archives. This exhibition celebrated 50 years since  establishment in 1968 of the official repository for the University Archives. The repository’s holdings currently comprise over 2000 linear meters of material and continue to grow.

The University of Liverpool: A History through Archives.

February

The Gypsy Lore Society collections were enhanced with the accession of a collection of papers formerly belonging to Helen Murray, secretary to philologist and GLS member Bernard Gilliat-Smith (1883-1974).The collection largely comprises correspondence and photographs, including letters from notable GLS members such as Dora YatesR. A. Scott Macfie and Henry James Francis.

Macfie (left) is pictured alongside a fellow employee from Messrs Macfie & Sons, the sugar refinery business which had been run by his family in Liverpool since 1838.

March

March was a busy month! Katy Hooper, Special Collections Librarian, attended the opening of the exhibition Mondes Tsiganes (Gypsy Worlds) at the Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration, Paris, in order to see material from the Scott Macfie collections displayed; we celebrated World Poetry Day with two posts, the first also celebrating women poets in connection to International Women’s Day, and the second celebrating Small Press Poetry and the 20th C Liverpool poetry scene. We also celebrated World Book Day on the University of Liverpool Instagram. 

Photographs and a digital version of R. A. Scott Macfie’s photo album on display in Paris.

April

We began a new series of events displaying Special Collections and Archives ‘Treasures’. The series started with a display of medieval books, including the beautiful Nuremberg Chronicle (1493). To find out more, see our new blog post! Another first in April was the launch of the LivUniSCA twitter account, which has grown to have 299 followers to date.

May

The new SC&A exhibition Puzzles, Poetry and Playground Games debuted, which displayed games and pastimes, for children and adults, from the 18th-20th centuries. The exhibition “…don’t forget the photos, it’s very important…” The National Socialist Persecution of Central German Sinti and Roma featuring material from the Gypsy Lore Society Collections made its well received return to Liverpool in the Central Library.

D958: Queen Mary jigsaw puzzle, featured in the Puzzles, Poetry and Playground Games exhibition
…don’t forget the photos, it’s very important…” The National Socialist Persecution of Central German Sinti and Roma at Liverpool Central Library

June

The Harold Cohen Library holds the Mathematics texts for the University, so it was fitting that the ‘Seeing Euclid’ exhibition was on display there during June and July. We also welcomed many prospective students and their family and friends for the first Undergraduate open day of the year.

July

SC&A was awarded Archives Accreditation, the UK quality standard which recognises good performance in all areas of archive service delivery, and is awarded by a Committee representing the entire archive sector. We also welcomed the Society for the Social History of Medicine 2018 Conference delegates to view some of the medical texts held here in the collections.

August

We celebrated World Photo Day by picking our favourites from the collections, including the fantastic below photograph from the Cunard Archive. Niamh Delaney, Assistant Special Collections Librarian, was awarded a bursary to attend the Montefiascone Conservation Project in Italy, where she spent a week cataloguing books held in the collections there.

Dance aboard the RMS Queen Mary, from the Cunard Archive.
D42/PR2/1/97/F67.

The 31st of July also marks the end of the academic year, so in August we are busy totting up the total number of visitors, retrievals, and enquiries we answered throughout the previous year. Between 1st August 2017 and 31st July 2018, we retrieved 5332 items from the stores, welcomed 1107 visitors and readers, and received 1558 email and 210 phone call enquiries!

September

While the hustle and bustle of the first 2018-19 academic teaching semester began, staff changes were happening in SC&A. We said goodbye to Graduate Library Assistant Michaela Garland, who was heading for the Master of Archives and Records Management course, and we welcomed Caitlin Fleming into the same post; Cunard Archivist Sian Wilks gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Dylan Derek Matthews, and Beth Williams began her Maternity cover of the Cunard Archivist post; and finally we said goodbye to the amazing Andy Sawyer, who retired from the post of Science Fiction Librarian which he held for 25 years.

Author Neil Gaiman and Andy Sawyer

Third year English student Sophie Craven began her SOTA300 work experience placement cataloguing the Literary Annuals. The annuals are currently featuring in our new Special Collections and Archives exhibition, Behind the Scenes: Student encounters with Special Collections and Archives. We also began the A-Z of books blog series with Almost an Alphabet; we post each teaching week during semester to demystify some of the specialist words we use in cataloguing our printed books.

October

October was all about the Rathbone Papers and Library; firstly, the Special Collections and Archives Exhibition titled A gift from Greenbank’: reconstructing the Rathbone library was launched, whilst some of the Eleanor Rathbone papers travelled to the other side of campus at the Victoria Gallery for the exhibition Eleanor Rathbone – An Independant Woman. We also hosted a free Science Fiction books event to pass on duplicates from the collections to loving homes, and the next ‘Treasures’ event, ‘Tales from the University Archives’, took place.

A panel from the Eleanor Rathbone: An Independant Woman Exhibition at the VG&M

November

November was events month! Special Collections and Archives hosted a celebration event for the award of Archives Accreditation, at which President of the Archives and Records Association (ARA) Dr Alex Buchanan presented Vice Chancellor of the University of Liverpool Dame Professor Janet Beer with the official certificate (and, there was cake!). Sticking with the theme of archives, University Archivist Jo Klett and Archives Cataloguer Josette Reeve’s hard work on EMu (Collection Management System) became accessible to users via the new and updated archives catalogue.

Head of Special Collections and Archives Jenny Higham introduced Dame Professor Janet Beer to the collections at the Archives Accreditation event.

Other events included: Jenny Higham was welcomed by the Liverpool Nautical Research Society at the Athenaeum for a talk on the Cunard Archive; the ‘Treasures’ series continued with a fascinating display of medical texts, and Niamh Delaney (Special Collections Assistant Librarian) and Robyn Orr (Library Assistant) hosted a KnowHow session on using Special Collections and Archives material in research. Lastly, to mark the centenary of Armistice Day, the ‘This Week’s War’ blog posts were completed with a final overview post  by Caitlin Fleming.

December

We received a new accession to be added to the Science Fiction collections in the form of the library of Brian Aldiss. We wrapped up the year by getting festive in collaboration with the Sydney Jones Library team: images provided by SCA were displayed alongside the Christmas themed books, including this idyllic snow scene.

A268/19 Abercromby Square in the snow (image by
University’s Central Photographic Service)

World Poetry Day (1): International Women’s Day

This month we are celebrating both International Women’s Day (8th March) and World Poetry Day (21st March). Therefore, we are showcasing material held in the Special Collections and Science Fiction Foundation collections which contains poetry written by women who personally or professionally impacted greatly on their respective field of literature.

Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773)

Poems on Various Subjects was authored by Phillis Wheatley. Phillis was purchased as a slave by John Wheatley, a Boston Merchant and Tailor, in 1761. She was tutored by John’s children in reading and writing, and wrote her first poem ‘To The University of Cambridge, New England’ at the age of 12. She was relieved of her domestic duties by the Wheatley family, and encouraged  to continue working on her literature. An illustration of Wheatley by Scipio Moorhead, another Boston slave, is provided in the frontispiece; the below extract is taken from a poem within the volume written by Wheatley in return. Our copy belonged to one of the William’s of the Rathbone family (by date most likely IV or V), as signed on the title page. 

SPEC Y77.3.255

To S.M. a young African Painter, on seeing his Works (p. 114).
When first thy pencil did those beauties give,
And breathing figures learnt from thee to live, 
How did those prospects give my soul delight,
A new creation rushing on my sight?

Radclyffe Hall, Rhymes and Rhythms (1948)

Rhymes and Rhythms was published posthumously in an edition of only 500 numbered copies in Milan. Our copy from the Zania collection is numbered as “5”. The text is provided in both the original language of English as well as Italian. Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943) is best known for her work The Well of Lonliness, which when published in 1928 was subject to a trial for obscenity and banned in Great Britain. A self-described “invert”, she lived with two long-term female partners during her lifetime, hence the dedication page inscription “Dedicated to Our Three Selves”.

SPEC ZANIA E68

Those Who Have Eyes… (p.61)
As I took my way down a certain street,
I saw a shop with a corpse of meat,
And a horse that hadn’t enough to eat,
And a cur that limped on neglected feet,
And a cat that rubbed its sores on a wall,
And a lobster that crawled about a stall,
And an organ monkey coughing and small.
But the sight that filled me with deepest rage, 
Was a nightingale in a six inch cage.

Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay (and various others), Five Finger Piglets: Poems (1999)

Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay contributed to this anthology for children, Five Finger Piglets: Poems. Duffy was appointed poet laureate in 2009, and she is the first woman, first Scot, and first openly LGBT person to hold the position; Kay is the third Scottish Poet Laureate, appointed in 2016, and also identifies as LGBT. Our copy of the anthology is held in the SPEC Patten series, as Brian Patten also contributed to this volume. The poetry is understandably centered upon many themes that would be familiar to children (such as friendship disputes at school and losing a ball in the neighbours garden), but, nonetheless, the volume is a excellently fun read for adults, too.

SPEC Patten 108 © 1999 Macmillan Children’s Books, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay

Excerpt from Dracula (p. 36-7), by and © Jackie Kay
I crawled along the pine floor to my father’s bed.
It was empty. Just a white pillow and a headrest.
My dad gave a large guffaw from the balcony. 

Took off his black cape; threw back his head, 
said, ‘Got you there didn’t I?
Okay. The Joke’s over. Back to your bed.’

Can you believe that? All I am asking is:
who needs imagination, a fear or a dread, 
when what we’ve got is parent’s instead?

Charlotte Brooke, Reliques of Irish Poetry (1816)

Reliques of Irish Poetry was first published in the late eighteenth century. Brooke (c. 1740–1793) was passionate in the preservation of Irish culture and heritage through translating traditional poetry. Our beautiful gilt-tooled calf-bound copy of the 1816 reissue includes an extensive biography of Brooke’s life, as well as poetry and prose in both English and Irish. The text contains poetry of varied types, including quasi-epic style heroics, elegies to loves lost, and odes to wars.

SPEC Y81.3.426

Elergy III, exerpt (p. 260, attributed by Brooke to Edmond Ryan)
For thee all dangers would I brave,
Life with joy, with pride exposing, 
Breast for thee the stormy wave,
Winds and tides in vain opposing.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004)

As one of the most influential female Science Fiction authors of all time, Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) is best known for her fiction, including The Left Hand of Darkness (1969; which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970). However, in her 2004 collection of non-fiction essays The Wave in the Mind, she explores themes including the family, on being a woman, Tolkein, and writing. One particular interesting essay is her thoughts on stress rhythms in poetry and prose; she demonstrates, using various texts, the technique and necessity of reading with stress and rhythm in mind.

PX320.L34.W38 2004 © Ursula K. Le Guin

The observation of a pattern, even a arbitrary pattern, can give strength to words that otherwise would be bleating like lost lambs. (p. 78)

All the above can be consulted in the reading room. As usual, please do contact scastaff@liverpool.ac.uk for more information.

International Cat Day

Today we are feline very good in Special Collections and Archives – August 8th 2017 is International Cat Day. As we are cat-loving librarians and archivists, we have selected a taster of our best cat themed items from the Children’s books, Science Fiction Foundation Collections, Cunard Archive, and University Archive fur you to enjoy.

Children’s Literature

SC&A houses more than 7000 pre-First World War children’s books, of which the tale of mischievous cats throughout is a common feature. In The Tale of Tom Kitten, Tom and his siblings Mittens and Moppet play outside in their best clothes, only for them to be stolen by ducks (Oldham 173). Tit, Tiny, and Tittens: The Three White Kittens are a handful, too – they get themselves in all sorts of predicaments (JUV 308:60).

Oldham 173

JUV.308:60

The History of Whittington and His Cat is the feline rags to riches story we are all familiar with. The copy held here in Special Collections is in the form of a chapbook, a small paperback for children which would sell for a cheap price and provide a story with a moral message. This copy also includes the alphabet, allowing children to practice their reading skills from the most basic stage (Oldham 43).

Oldham 43

Science Fiction Foundation Collections

Continuing the theme of children’s literature, the below novel from the Science Fiction collections is written for the young adults audience in the Bantam Action series. In this short novel, robot cats are created to clean-up the city, but are hijacked and used for evil deeds (PR6061.I39.C99 1996). Cats also crop-up regularly in Science Fiction as representation of earth-like normality and domesticity on space ships (for presumably a similar purpose as a ships cat; see below). A personal favorite is Jonesy, Ripley’s ginger tom, from the Alien franchise.

PR6061.I39.C99 1996

Cunard

Cats were commonplace aboard ships for many reasons – they caught vermin, provided comfort to crew, and even predicted storms through their enhanced sensitivity to low pressure environments. Some ships cats have become famous; ‘Unsinkable Sam’, a German cat, survived the sinking of three ships during World War II! From the Cunard archive here, we see below Captain Rostron’s cat and her adorable kittens aboard the Mauretania, from the Cunard Magazine during the mid 1920s (D42/PR5/12).

D42/PR5/12. Cunard Magazine, Vol. 16.

University Archive 

A prominent deposit within the staff papers of the University Archive are the papers of Professor (and Sir) Charles Reilly. One of the most important figures in the history of twentieth-century architecture in Britain, Sir Reilly dominated architectural education and had a profound influence on architectural practice. The below photograph shows Sir Charles Reilly holding a rather uninterested Timoshenko the cat, in the garden of his home in Twickenham during the the World War II era (D938/2/15).

D938/2/15. Photograph by Louise Sedgwick ©

The Special Collections and Archives Cats

From the top left to the bottom right: Audrey and Lilly (Jo Klett, University Archivist), Clara (Katy Hooper, Special Collections Librarian), Chester (Robyn Orr, Library Assistant), Yan, Barry, and Hamilton (Jenny Higham, Special Collections and Archives Manager), and Reginald Ecclefechan (Lucy Evans, Assistant Librarian – Special Collections).

All of these items are available to view right meow in the Special Collections and Archives reading room (except our pet cats – we wish, though…). Please do see our website for more information on visiting us.