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The Lucy Baldwin Apparatus for Analgesia: ‘This machine, in use from 1955-80, provides a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide through a facemask and was used in midwifery. The apparatus is on wheels in order to make it portable. The kit was made by the British Oxygen Company Limited, London, and was developed in the late 1950s. It was named after Lady Baldwin (1859-1945), wife of the British Prime Minister, who set up an anaesthetics fund to supply nitrous oxide and air machines for labour wards in 1930′ (Science Museum). Some readers of the Post will view the ‘Lucy Baldwin’ with slightly horrified recognition…

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In the History of Women in 100 Objects this poster accompanies a picture of a very complicated-looking canning machine. But of course in times of war or hardship preserving fruit and vegetables is vital and used to be a huge part of everyday life in August and September. In Eastern Europe nowadays people still can/preserve tomatoes and plums, as well as peppers etc, in the late summer. In the UK we have somehow given it up, apart from chutney and jam and marmalade. They Can’t Ration These is the cookery book for preserving.

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Rosa Parks 1 December 1955 Montgomery, Alabama. ‘She was returning from work, the bus was crowded and as usual the first half of the bus was reserved for white people, while black people like Rosa were only allowed to sit at the back; this was in accordance with the strict racial segregation laws that operated in the American South at the time…The bravery of Rosa Parks and her refusal to be brought low by injustice and fear has proved to be a symbol of the strength of passive resistance.’ (Do join us at the shop this Sunday for coffee before we set out to join the Procession to celebrate our ancestors, the suffragettes. And please march with us – carrying the ‘Women Writers for Europe’ poster – on the People’s Vote March on June 23rd.)

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‘Ownership of a sewing machine has often been the key to making a little go a long way… A simple dress which had allegedly taken ten hours to make could now be produced in only an hour, and the time to make a man’s shirt was reduced from fourteen hours to an hour and fifteen minutes…Sewing machines have also provided opportunities for women to work outside the home.’ The sewing machine was first invented in 1790; machines for the home were introduced in the 1850s. (The three Persephone novels most relevant to sewing machines are The Homemaker, High Wages and Emmeline.)

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As readers of the Persephone Post know, we sell ‘the fifty books we wish we had published’ in the shop (the selection changes, though of course there are some staples like One Fine Day and The Tortoise and the Hare and Reunion). Recently we have had copies of A History of Women in 100 Objects by Maggie Andrews & Janis Lomas, this is fun book that would make a good present eg. for a teenage girl. Here are five of the objects, first of all Mrs Beeton: ‘It was more than a cookery book, transforming ideas about domestic life in a way few books have before or since, by laying down rules for the way things should be done in polite society.’ Mrs Beeton was followed by Fanny Cradock, Julia Child, Delia Smith, Nigella Lawson. Martha Stewart etc, all of whom ‘promoted idealised images of domesticity, unattainable versions of women as perfect homemakers.’ One might say that Persephone novels  are the realistic view of this idealised version of domesticity.

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‘The exhibition recognises Virginia Woolf’s achievements whilst acknowledging the historic and ever-growing community of female creators and thinkers whose art resonates with her call to correct the “lopsided-ness”of history. It is a celebration of this wider creative community and – in an era of increasing interrogation of gender inequality – acts as a rallying cry for women not only to reclaim territory, but to define a new realm for themselves. As part of this it positions the creative life as one of value for women.’ Frances Hodgkins Wings over Water was painted in 1930. It is on the Persephone Books Robin Hyde page here: there is so much synergy between Woolf, Hodgkins and Hyde.

2018_21_alison_jacquesThe subconscious is what this show is all about and obviously it is hard to curate. Yet as Ali Smith writes in the New Statesman: ‘It’s when the exhibition lets Woolf go, doesn’t fuss with quotes or inferences, that Woolf most appears in it and the curation comes together, especially via one or two brilliant choices… there’s the witty liberation in Birgit Jurgenssen’s spelling-out with her body and her spirit what a woman is and isn’t in Housewives’ Kitchen Apron (1975).’

04Representing the domestic space: Vanessa Bell Interior with a Table, oil paint on canvas © Tate was painted at St Tropez in 1921.

05A new show at the Pallant in Chichester – Virginia Woolf An Exhibition Inspired By Her Writings – must have been a challenge for the curator since so many of the paintings have become deeply familiar over the last couple of decades. But in fact there is a lot to surprise us and even more to inform us. The exhibition, which was at Tate St Ives and moves on to the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge, is at the Pallant until mid September. ‘There are four sections – broadly on landscape, domestic spaces, the subconscious and the public display of gender and identity’ (Joe Lloyd, here).For the first section: this is Dora Carrington’s Spanish Landscape with Mountains c. 1924. Oil paint on canvas, Tate.

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Mollie Panter-Downes wrote in May 1944: ‘Londoners were last week introduced to an architectural blueprint of what large areas of Britain are going to look like after the war. The first of Mr Churchill’s promised prefabricated steel houses for newlyweds has, like a squat mushroom, suddenly sprung up in the shadow of the Tate Gallery…It is being emphasized that such houses represent only a temporary solution of the postwar housing problem which, on this bombed island, will certainly be acute.’ The author of London at War, Alan Jeffreys, writes: ‘Many people would go on to live happily in prefabs for decades afterwards, as the structures long outlived their “temporary” purpose.’ (And many people would love to be living in them still.)

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