Browse Exhibits (13 total)


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While the Hypatia collection has a wide range of material related to health, it also includes many sources which specifically deal with the issue of abortion and reproductive rights, mostly from the ‘second-wave’ of feminism.

Many of these sources can be found in the ‘health’ section of the collection. The nature of this material includes pamphlets produced by the National Abortion Campaign in the UK and the Birth Control Trust, as well as information booklets about the National Health Service’s policies on abortion, and transcripts of different women talking about their personal experiences of pregnancy and abortion. Some are based more on facts and statistical analysis of the demographic of women that were seeking and getting abortions, while others focus more on the opinions and experiences of women who had chosen to have an abortion. The majority of these sources were produced during the 1970s and 1980s, at the time of many feminist campaigns not only for access to abortions, but also for wider reproductive rights such as free and safe contraception, and an end to forced sterilisation.

Given that abortion and reproductive rights were central to ‘second-wave’ feminism, the Hypatia collection also includes a breadth of contemporary literature in the ‘politics’ section that provide an overview of the movement, and as a result contain chapters dealing with the topic specifically. Some talk mainly about the mainstream white-middle class feminist activism at the time, however the collection also includes studies which directly address how campaigns for issues such as abortion and reproductive rights affected black and working-class women.

These different types of sources that the Hypatia collection offers allow us to get an insight into how abortion and reproductive rights were approached by women, mostly in the 1970s and 1980s.


Kezia Pugh

Advice Literature

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The collection holds a number of advice texts across various areas of female life.

The potential of the household and family as targets for advice authors is evident in both the marriage and health sections. The marriage section includes a number of texts relating to parenting such as Sheila Kitzinger’s The year after childbirth: surviving the first year of motherhood (1994). Similarly the Health section contains some earlier advice for mothers including Mabel Liddiard’s The mothercraft manual (1940) and Leslie Housden’s Mothercraft: a simple guide for mothers in bringing up their babies (1929) at a time when more scientifically-informed approaches to childcare were prevalent.

Some of this health advice interacts with self-care and personal appearance, such as the Every woman's book of health and beauty (1935) and Jean Cleland’s Be beautiful: a complete guide to beauty for women of all ages (1946).

The ‘domesticity’ section contains manuals focusing on the maintenance of home life, such as Shirely Conran’s Superwoman: everywoman's book of household management (1975) and Rose Buckner's book of homemaking (1950) which includes cookery as part of a wider insight on ‘How to keep the family happy’. Indeed, this section holds a vast array of recipe books, mainly from the later twentieth century as advice works became more specialized. Some of these claim to provide financial or health benefits, or simply enrich its readers’ skillset as a housewife. Hospitality was another avenue for advice, exemplified in Geneviève Antoine Dariaux’s Entertaining with elegance (1966), reflecting the interests of contemporary middle-class audiences.


Holly Jennings

Comedy and Humour

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The Hypatia collection features a significant number of sources related to women’s humour.

Since the beginning of the feminist movement, which developed momentum throughout the twentieth century, humour has become an outlet through which women could challenge cultural norms and express their dissatisfaction with persisting patriarchal societies. This humour is often satirical in nature, poking fun at expectations of what a woman should be and how she should act.

The collection holds many sources from the 1990s; the rise in popularity of satirical humour coincided with the third wave of feminism, which emphasised individualism. Furthermore, there are a wide range of authors from different ethnic and social backgrounds in the collection, which enables an extensive perspective on all women’s humour.

In the collection there are examples of feminist works which mock the style and format of works that represent patriarchal views. This includes instruction books such as A Woman's Little Instruction Book 200 secrets to help you sort out the men in your life - and the life in your men which mimics and satirises instruction books from the earlier 20th century detailing how women should act.  There is also a book called Untamed tongues full of quotes from over a hundred women on their views on life, this book offers a unique insight into the uncensored opinions of those who are often silenced. Moreover, The Naked Ape provides an interesting collection of overtly sexist newspaper headlines and articles that were produced in Britain throughout the twentieth century. The response to such articles demonstrates that male assumptions of women were often laughable.


Clare Southworth

Isaac Avery

Sophie Hammond




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The Hypatia collection contains a broad range of materials relating to crime and its relationship with gender and sexuality.

In the section regarding prison life, studies on the society of women within this institution come in the forms of pamphlets, reviews and novels. All of the sources, except Female Life in Prison, are from the 20th century, but the breadth across the period is sufficient to allow for observation of change and consistency. Significantly, the collection includes many personal accounts which describe female experience from a more authentic, first-hand perspective, including stories of rape and abuse. Aside from studies of female inmates, these prison autobiographies are the most prevalent within the collection and, as within ‘So I Went to Prison’ by Edna O’Brien from 1938, tend to portray the imprisonment of women as the result of exploitation by the patriarchal system.

There are also sources that cover particular court cases, for example the ‘Moors murder trial’, which centres around the murders of five children by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between 1963-65. It is the representation of Hindley as ‘the evillest woman in Britain’ that makes this case interesting when considering attitudes to female criminals specifically. Individuals such as Elvira Barney, Haigh and Christie (post-war serial killers) and Ethel Rosenberg are mentioned within the collection; the latter being executed, following conviction of espionage for the Soviet Union. The links between crime and politics are fascinating, making these sources invaluable when investigating a woman’s relationship to the State. Striking titles like ‘The Giant Book of Dangerous Women’ offer angles of the criminal sphere that have been much less common within historical research, as gender stereotypes are shattered. Such accounts require exploration if the complexities of how women operated within the criminal system, and their relationship to society, culture and politics are going to be unravelled further. 

Susanna Tufnell

Feminism and Magazines

One of the richest source materials within Exeter’s Hypatia Special Collection is its collection of feminist magazines. Magazines are a rich text of academic study, that are invaluable to the historian’s pursuit of the past. This is not only due to their commentary on contemporary social and cultural events, but their variable presentations, layered meanings and dynamic dialogue between author and audience. Magazines aimed at a female audience are interesting historical arenas in which women can find advice, information, companionship and inspiration. Women’s magazines have the potential to be political, however, they took on new meaning in the late twentieth-century as a new genre of feminist periodicals began to hit the stands.

 During the 1960s the counter-revolution movements began to utilise the presses in order to reinforce their agenda, and put forward their ideas. One such cultural movement, Second-Wave feminism, utilised the underground presses to articulate their grievances and allow women across the UK to debate and discuss their patriarchal experiences. A range of periodicals from local group circulation to mass market publications discussed hot topics of the movement such as masturbation, working rights, equal pay, abortion, orgasms, sexual objectification and harassment. These feminist magazines are then helpful to the academic in discovering the popular discourse that helped circulate the feminist agenda in Britain at this time.

 Some of the magazines this collection has include Spare Rib, On The Issues: The Progressive Women’s Quarterly, M/F: A Feminist Journal, The Female State: A Journal of Female Liberation, Enough: The Journal of the British Women’s Liberation Group, Trouble & Strife. By looking through these feminist magazines, the academic can find what kinds of articles feminists were wanting to promote and even what kinds of adverts they thought their readers would be interested in. Each magazine was spearheaded by their own unique group of women, who approached the feminist movement in their own way. The conversations both between these magazines and within their own pages is indicative of the arguments and challenges that confronted women between the 1960-80s. From the mass produced Spare Rib to the regional Enough magazine in Bristol, they aimed to open up questions and articulate the theoretical, political and practical issues that contemporary women faced in a deeply patriarchal society.

 The Hypatia Collection is rich with these feminist magazines, and offers a valuable insight to those seeking to explore the internal conversations of one of the most significant social movements in recent history - Second-wave feminism.

Sarah Hough

Laura Davidson

Anna Hartley 



The Hypatia Archive contains a variety of sources relating to folklore beliefs.

Most of these sources can be found in the ‘folklore’ section, which contains twentieth-century material recounting fairy tales, myths, legends, and customs from across the globe. These texts were designed with a variety of purposes; some were likely produced for children, such as Christine Chaundler’s Year Book of Legends, and Alan Garner’s Book of British Fairy Tales, which contains illustrations.

The collection contains a wealth of information on British folklore such as Brigg’s Dictionary of British Folk Tales and Hole’s English Custom and Usage. While items within this section are largely Anglo centric, the collection contains texts based around Irish folklore, traditional Indian stories, and global legends. Similarly, Beer’s Medieval Fables is translated from a French account.

More specific accounts of customs and beliefs are given by Baker’s text on Christmas traditions and their related folkloric beliefs.

Sources within the collection taking a more feminist view are Walker’s Woman’s Encyclopaedia and Zipes’ collection of contemporary feminist fairy tales.

Further folkloric material can be located in the ‘archaeology’ section, which also includes material on legend. The ‘health’ section also contains some material surrounding folklore, such as Forbes’ The Midwife and the Witch and a study of ‘child-lore’.


Imogen Knox

Gender and Education

The Hypatia collection has a wide range of sources regarding the position and role of women in education. Education is the process of formal learning, often within institutions, involving the acquisition of various forms of knowledge and skill. While access, standards and structures of education have increased throughout history, the global gender gap between recipients of formalised education has remained. Many barriers prevent women from participating, fulfilling and benefitting from education, with women today accounting for two thirds of the 750 million adults without basic literacy skills.[1] A multitude of global governmental and Non-governmental organisations exist to work towards gender equality in education, including UNESCO, GEA, InterAction and the NOW Foundation.

Gender inequality is an issue that every female has consciously and/or unconsciously faced in her life, with education being inherently instrumental in the encounters and prolongation of the prejudices and confines of women. Education is instrumental in not only enforcing ideals and expectations of women within educational systems but this is subsequently projected into the wider world and shapes the experiences and behaviours of women for the rest of their lives.

Areas of research that the Hypatia collection maintains include gender inequality and gender bias within different levels of formal education systems across the globe. These also include different types of study, such as geographical and thematic studies, explored in a range of different historical time periods. These studies encompass edited collections, primary accounts and biographical experiences in addition to the host of books analytically addressing various areas of research centred around women and education.

[1] UNESCO, ‘Education and gender equality’ (Last accessed 11 December 2017).

Hannah Muskett

Medicine and Health

Hypatia includes a range of materials relating broadly to issues around health.  

Some of these can be found in the ‘domesticity’ section, and, such as works by famous Victorian advice writer Mrs Beeton, were designed to be used by wives and mothers to provide practical healthcare at home. There are also a large amount of texts dedicated to making home remedies in this section, that were designed for or written by women.

There are also more recent practical health guides, dedicated to general health tips for women, as well more specific issues such as fertility, maternal health and midwifery, gynaecology  and abortion. There is also material related to specific diseases and conditions, such as Anorexia, HIV/AIDS, and Cancer. There is also material related to specific sexual diseases and conditions, such as HIV/AIDS. More general advice surrounding how women could maintain a healthy marital sex life can also be found, including personal information about experiencing the menopause, frigidity and premature ejaculation.

The collection also includes material that deals with women working in the medical profession, particularly in the ‘Health’ section. In addition to general texts charting women's work in healthcare and medicine, there are biographies of key figures such as Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman to qualify as a doctor and surgeon in Britain, and Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Furthermore, there are diaries and memoirs that chronicle the real life of experiences of British female medics, including those working abroad in such places as Russia and China. The material on nursing (to which we have provided links to only a very small sample) is a particular strength of the collection as a whole.

There’s also some interesting fiction related very generally to medicine and healthcare; in addition to texts like the Victorian sensation novel The Doctor's Wife by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, there’s also some romance novels from the 1950s about a lonely doctor!

There is also material related to specific sexual diseases and conditions, such as HIV/AIDS. More general advice surrounding how women could maintain a healthy marital sex life can also be found, including personal information about experiencing the menopause, frigidity and premature ejaculation.

Kim Tolkien

Dr Kay Nias

Mental Health

The Hypatia Collection exhibits a variety of materials related to the topic of Mental Health, ranging from sources discussing specific mental health issues to published works aimed at health professionals.

The 'Health' section of the collection contains a number of texts written for the medical profession in dealing with mental health. For example, there are many guides written for nurses providing information to aid them in passing examinations but also offering methods of dealing with mental health and creating a relationship with their patients.

The collection also holds a plethora of sources related to specific mental health conditions, written by both sufferers and medical professionals, including pieces on post-natal depression, children with mental health conditions and multiple works on anorexia, such as Marilyn Lawrence's The Anorexic Experience.

In addition to more in-depth accounts of mental health conditions, you can find broader discussions of mental health in the collection. These include mental health discourse examined within multiple frameworks such as the state of mental health, the family, alternative treatments and the female body. Alongside these exist in-depth psychological studies of women, including The Feminine Mind and Body, The Psychology of Women and In a different voice: psychological theory and women's development.


 Angharad Burden

Sex and Power

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Hypatia has a varied collection in regards to women’s power and sexuality. Some of the items concerning power in sex are found in the politics section of the collection. In particular, this theme includes items published throughout the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s-1980s.

Topics include pornography, such as Take Back the Night: Women on Pornography (1980), a collection of essays by different authors - including radical feminist Andrea Dworkin – who argue pornography is dangerous for women, as it is often used as a form of domination; a key argument is that, in a sexist society, what sells is lies about women and sex. Diana E. H. Russell, and Laura Lederer (ed.), make clear that they do not want to ban pornography all together, but want to eradicate all violent forms of it.

More general writings from the Women’s Liberation Movement in Britain are also available.  The collection includes work by the feminist Sheila Rowbotham (1971) on the oppression of women. Violence against women is further explored in Sexual Violence: The Reality for Women (1984), which highlights the ramifications of sexual violence, and provides information on legislation. The topic of sexual discrimination is explored in two pamphlets, by Socialist Woman (1976) and by the Home Office (1975), on the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. 

Connie Adams