I am back in the Shetland Archive for the last month of my SGSAH Artist’s Residency, cataloguing the Jenny Gilbertson Collection. While I await delivery of the new box of papers which came from Marion Grierson’s daughter (Marion, a pioneer filmmaker in her own right, was writing a biography of Jenny when she died in 1998), I had taken to reading some of the theses in the archive in the vain hope that some thesis-writing ability jumps from the pages, into me.
And to celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, Mark Smith, one of the archive assistants, and myself thought, wouldn’t it be good to amass all the copies of women’s scholarship on Shetland we could find and document the size and scale of it. This is what we found. Forty two in total* which seems to be more than the amount of men’s theses…
It is mostly PhDs but there is one undergraduate dissertation, two Masters dissertations and a working report. Not every woman has the chance to do a PhD and some don’t want to but all of what you see are contributions of new knowledge about Shetland created by women. We didn’t include all the books that had been written by women as we’d have emptied the archive’s shelves. That’s for another day. However, we did slip in Professor Lynne Abrams book* Myth and materiality in a women’s world: Shetland women 1800-2000 because it is such an astounding piece of work and she has been such an inspiration to me. (If you are wondering just how inspiring she is, you can watch her inaugural lecture in 2014, Speaking the Self: Women Narrating Liberation in Post-war Britain.)
And in amongst the theses it was a joy to see some of my friends’ work included in this monument to women’s scholarship on Shetland: Dr Sarah Browne, whose thesis his currently being bound by the archive so it is represented by the book version The women’s liberation movement in Scotland; Dr Lindsay Macgregor’s thesis The Norse settlement of Shetland and Faroe, c800-c1500: a comparative study; and Dr Ann Black’s The impact of external shocks upon a peripheral economy: war and oil in Twentieth Century Shetland. To all of the women behind these black bound books (and the green one and the red one), thank you for inspiration and motivation.
And thank you, Mark, for a worthwhile and interesting diversion from cataloguing; thank you, Vivica for being a woman of scholarship in the photo; and thank you, Brian, for putting them back on the shelves.
Update: since writing someone on twitter has helped the archive identify a thesis which isn’t in the collection but hopefully soon will be.