By Renate Haas
By December, Lesley A. Hall’s web pages will have been on line for two whole decades and will have served several generations of researchers in the fields of women’s and gender studies as a very useful information resource. Hall was archivist at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, later Wellcome Library, from 1979 to 2015 – an ideal position for such an enterprise. Meanwhile retired, she continues her work as a Wellcome Library Research Fellow and Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Department of Science and Technology at University College London. She is also a historian and has published books and numerous articles on issues to do with sexuality and gender in the UK in the 19th and 20th centuries. Subsidiary interests concern the history of women in science and medicine, interwar middlebrow women novelists, and science fiction and fantasy – all reflected by the various web pages and their subdivisions. https://www.lesleyahall.net/
At first sight, the pages are not particularly attractive, the site design showing its age, as Hall herself is aware. Tongue in cheek, she declares it “practically a historic artefact in its own right”, which she might perhaps get listed as a heritage item. In earnest, the content of the pages may be said to mirror the developments of the past few decades to a considerable degree. This applies not least to the certain amount of defunct links. Users may find them frustrating (especially if there is no warning). But they document earlier initiatives and the names allow search for information about them, which is important, as so many projects of the second women’s movement were discontinued and have already fallen into oblivion, even on the part of the contemporaries.
For the Anglicist user, the following three general pages may prove particularly illuminating:
a/ Some Favourite Archives and Resources https://www.lesleyahall.net/favarchs.htm
b/ Women’s History: Useful Links https://www.lesleyahall.net/womlinks.htm
c/ History of Sexuality: Useful Links https://www.lesleyahall.net/sexlinks.htm
a/ is the shortest of the three. Not only UK archives are given, but also a good number in Canada and the USA as well as two from the Continent. Since various sectors of English Studies have only loose connections to archives, I’ll pick out three examples. The Wellcome Library has sources guides for Food and Mental Health, Mental Health and Psychiatry, Sex and Sexual Health, War and Medicine, Refugee Scientists and Medical Practitioners, among others. “Suffrage 100” of the National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office) includes a specific online research guide: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/womens-suffrage/. Hall’s latest additions here are the Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria.
b/ and c/ have parallel subsections, whose entries overlap only to some degree:
Organisations and Institutions
Conferences, Seminars, etc.
In addition, they have rubrics of their own. For c/, these are:
Demography/Reproduction/Birth Control and Eugenics
Family and Childhood
It is impossible to do justice to the wealth of information of these pages. Two random examples must suffice. In b/, the first link under “Journals”, Spare Rib, gives access to the complete run, 1972-1993, of the now iconic magazine in the Journals Archive of the British Library. Joan Korenman’s “Women-Related Email Lists in the Arts and Humanities” (last updated November 22, 2016) have over eighty entries, including various fora focussing on specific writers. https://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/f_arts.html
Hall’s further pages and her own publications are a goldmine as well, for instance those closest to English Studies like “Science Fiction and Fantasy”, “Victoriana”, “Interwar Progressives” or “Literary Abortion”. Navigating Hall’s pages can also be highly amusing, not only in rubrics like “Quirky Stuff”. Give it a try.