A Wander round Eighteenth-Century Rome with a Georgian Lady

Ever wondered what Rome was like in the eighteenth century, in the age of Grand Tourists, endless art shopping and constant archaeological excavation? Well here are the adventures of Henrietta Femor, the Countess of Pomfret, who took to the continent with her husband and two eldest daughters from 1738 to 1741. Henrietta detailed all of…

Eighteenth-Century Men mansplain Women’s History: William Alexander’s “The History of Women, from the Earliest Antiquity, to the Present Time”, 1796

A Man and a Woman seated by a Virginal, Gabriel Metsu, c.1665, oil on oak (National Gallery, London, NG839) My recent research has had me reading lots of histories of women written in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which has been a lot more amusing than it might sound. Of course, this is a really…

What women really thought about “Grand Tourists” in the eighteenth century…

A Caprice Landscape with Ruins, in the style of Bernardo Bellotto, 1740-1800, oil on canvas (National Gallery, London, NG 135) When reading about the eighteenth century and the treasures that came into the country house, it might seem a little bit like only young men were travelling to the continent to undertake the rite of…

Laura Bassi (1711-1778): First Female Professor

Portrait of Laura Bassi: Carlo Vandi, eighteenth century. Wikimedia Commons: find the original here. The last couple of weeks I’ve been doing some reading about women travelling in Europe during the eighteenth century, and I came across a reference in letters sent between the Countesses of Pomfret and Hertford detailing the Countess of Pomfret, Henrietta…

Elena Cornaro Piscopia (1646 – 1684): First woman to gain a PhD

Portrait of Elena Cornaro Piscopia: unknown artist, possibly 18th century. Wikimedia Commons: find the original here.  Today marks 340 years since the first woman gained her PhD. In wake of the wonderful #ImmodestWomen explosion on Twitter, which has encouraged women to own their achievements and celebrate their PhDs and research following a stand made by…

Dynastic Strategist, Architectural Patroness and Businesswoman: Bess of Hardwick

Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury by Unknown Artist, probably 17th century based on a work c.1590, oil on canvas (on display Montacute House, NPG 203) Elizabeth Talbot, or, as she is more commonly known, Bess of Hardwick, was born into a Derbyshire gentry family that became increasingly impoverished and subjected her childhood to hardships, but…

“C’est mon plaisir” – Isabella Stewart Gardner and her collection

Isabella Stewart Gardner by John Singer Sargent, 1888, oil on canvas (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum P30WI) Above the central portal to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum is her motto: “C’est mon plaisir” (“it is my pleasure”) This sums up perfectly the collection housed at Fenway Court: a unique and beautiful museum created by a unique…

Collector, Traveller and the Life and Soul of the Party: Elizabeth Percy, 1st Duchess of Northumberland

Happy International Women’s Day! Seeing all the amazing articles and tweets flying around today about pioneering women the whole world over has really inspired me to think about the women in history who I really admire. I research women’s history, so today is really important in terms of reflecting on how far we’ve come as…

Girls in the Lead! The Girlguiding Movement

Today is International Women’s Day and I thought this was a perfect chance to talk about one of the biggest women’s movements across the world – Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Present in 146 countries worldwide, reaching ten million girls and young women, it is an incredibly dynamic movement and one which is close to…