Gender, Conflict and Identity in Women's Accounts of the Crimean War, c. 1854–56
Many women travelled to Turkey and the Crimea during the Crimean War, in spite of repeated assertions by multiple parties that the conflict zone was “no place for ladies.” The irony of this phenomenon has been brought to attention in Helen Rappaport’s No Place for Ladies: The Untold Story of Women in the Crimean War (2013), but women’s engagement with the war and their experiences of the war zone have rarely been interrogated in light of the ways they intersect with contemporary social ideologies.
My research examines women’s involvement in the Crimean War to interrogate the relationships between identity, gender roles, and military spaces for women. I examine these relationships from multiple perspectives. Officers’ and soldiers’ wives travelled with the army, living and working among the military camps throughout the campaign. Their accounts of these experiences highlight the ways in which women of different social classes identified strongly with military life, adopting distinct “military femininities” that challenged ideas about women’s duties, communities, and “feminine” behaviour. Crimean War nurses’ and, in particular, nursing applicants’ constructions of gender, class, and labour in their applications, reports, and memoirs show the multiple ways that military nursing reflected its social context. However, they also highlight individual narratives that pose important correctives to assumptions about nineteenth-century ideals, and which show how gendered expectations, class, different views of women’s labour, and race shaped military nursing efforts from both within and without. Women’s participation in tourism across military battle grounds and familiar “oriental” sites foregrounded competing contemporary constructs of “respectable femininity”. Narration and souvenir collection reflected an emergent tourism culture, but these were at times indiscernable from more emotionally and politically loaded practices such as habitually re-visiting scenes of battle for leisure, and trophy collecting. This locates women at a problematic junction between military violence and consumption. The documentation of these experiences during and after the war in private letters, published accounts, and the popular press helps to locate women’s wartime participation within popular social ideologies, and highlights changing views of women’s wartime roles over time.
Crimean War army camps, military hospitals, battlefields, and the press—both during and after the conflict—were all traditionally masculine spaces where women from varied social backgrounds were nevertheless able to negotiate roles that were both meaningful and controversial.
- "Crimean War Nursing in Social Context: Age, Bodies, and Families". 27th January, History Postgraduate Work in Progress Seminar presentation, University of Nottingham.
- Panel chair: "Homes and Materiality". 27th January, The Home in Modern History and Culture Workshop, University of Nottingham.
- "Gender, identity and conflict in the Crimean War, c. 1854–56". 11th December, History Postgraduate Work in Progress Seminar presentation, University of Nottingham.
- "Female Identity in Military Contents". 21st May, Midlands3Cities Research Festival poster presentation, Birmingham.
Public Engagement & Impact
- Lead Editor for Research Artcies, Midlands Historical Review (2018–Present). The Midlands Historical Review is an online, student-run journal aiming to promote and connect the voices of students and early career researchers in academia. As a section editor, I help to develop the Midlands Historical Review's content, expand and manage its team, streamline its review processes and raise its public profile.
- Postgraduate Learning Leaders volunteer programme (April–July 2020). This programme was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was selected to develop and deliver a short series of history lessons, loosely based upon my thesis research topic, for children at a local primary school.
- British Association for Victorian Studies (January 2021–Present)
- Institute of Historical Research History Lab (September 2020–Present)
- Crimean War Research Society (February 2020–Present)
- Society of Young Publishers (December 2018–Present)
Training and Professional Development
- Editoral Assistant, Journal of British Studies – Book Reviews (2019–Present)
- Lead Editor for Research Articles, Midlands Historical Review (2018–Present)
- Editing Academic Writing, December 2019, University of Nottingham.
- Adobe InDesign Poster Workshop, May 2019, Midlands4Cities.
- First Year Writing Workshop, February 2019, Royal Literary Fund.
- Starting Out as a Researcher, November 2018, Graduate School, University of Nottingham.
- Introduction to Data Research Management, November 2018, Graduate School, University of Nottingham.