I recently came across a recording of Christabel Pankhurst speaking, thanks to the researchers' blog, published by Manchester Metropolitan University's Library . The curator of the researchers' blog had found the recording as it was posted on the sound and vision blog at the British Library. This chain of connections got me thinking about the importance of blogging within research in general, and within feminist work, in particular.
It seems to me that blogs are becoming a more and more useful tool, allowing researchers to follow topics that interest us, with great ease. At a time when mainstream news media is increasingly dominated by a few "top stories", this is truly valuable. On the other hand, of course, there is a risk that all that happens is that in subscribing I move down an ever-narrower corridor of interests and so miss out on important new ideas in related fields. Having acknowledged this risk I do want to return to the joy of blogging.
We set up a new research centre at Manchester Metropolitan this year, on International Women's Day, and we have a successful blog for our Sylvia Pankhurst Gender Research Centre, which helps us to shine a light on feminist work around Greater Manchester. The centre itself boasts a number of strategic themes, with researchers interested in: gender and criminal justice; sexuality and the law; gender and leadership in workplaces and gender and enterprise.
Looking around, I can see that our new venture fits into a world of blogs that cater to a wide range of interests. There are some high-profile feminist blogs which don't necessarily focus on research, the F-Word Blog is perhaps a leading example. Very clearly, it would be rude of me to fail to discuss the importance of the highest profile general blog, The Huffington Post itself , which is giving me the chance to blog about blogging. Some feminist blogs continue longstanding feminist strands of thought, such as Our Bodies Our Blog which draws on the tradition of the wonderful publications entitled Our Bodies Ourselves. This group of women came together 45 years ago and anyone interested in women's reproductive rights, or other issues related to women's health would be well-advised to have a look at their blog. A well-established British blog is the one belonging to the Feminist Review, which has been running since March 2013 and which posts longer, journal-style pieces.
I subscribe to a small number of research blogs, which I personally find useful, including the one which alerted me to the recording of Christabel. Listening to the file, I heard her talking about women's right to vote and making logical arguments for women to be allowed to vote, in a clear somewhat posh voice, though there is some background noise on the recording. I found it a real thrill to hear the voice of one of my heroines, although I was disappointed that the British Library blog did not tell me anything about when or where she was recorded. However the notes on the British Library blog suggested that in this recording: "Christabel Pankhurst, is unpolished stuttering and stammering through the speech", so I was expecting to find the content quite disappointing and was pleasantly surprised. I suppose that my response, as a feminist who rarely listens to old recordings might well be different to that of an archivist who might be less interested in the content? In any event I found the differing responses interesting. Perhaps you will listen and let me know what you think.
I have done some research on the suffragettes, in an ad hoc manner, over the past 20 years or so, in support of my teaching, and so I was also very happy to have the opportunity to name the new research centre for Christabel's younger sister, Sylvia Pankhurst. Sylvia studied art at the Manchester School of Art, which is now a part of our university, as well as being a suffragette, an author and a campaigner for social justice. She seemed a natural choice to us, when we were thinking about a name for the new centre. Although Sylvia died in 1960, when I was just a few months old, her ideas often have a fresh modern feel and her heartfelt work for Ethiopia, where she spent the end of her life, should earn anyone's respect.
I hope that our new centre will be able to grow and earn respect locally, nationally and internationally and that we too will continue to do important work. I know that our Sylvia Pankhurst Gender Research Centre Blog has helped us to make some good progress, even within these first few months.