Women's Writing Before Woolf: A Social Reference/Women’s Early Modern Letters Online

Women’s Early Modern Letters Online, also known by its acronym WEMLO, is a project created to provide a meeting place for researchers of early modern women letter writers. It was launched on the 6th of July 2016 within Oxford’s Early Modern Letters Online union catalogue.[1] It is known as a "resource and discussion forum for all the early modern women’s correspondence held within the EMLO catalogue."[2] The project was initially created with British Academy/Leverhulme funding and is supported by the Cultures of Knowledge project.[2]

After a series of WEMLO workshops held in 2013 and 2014, they created two principal aims for the project. Firstly, they needed to create a scholarly meeting space that would cater specifically to the needs of researchers of early modern women.[2] Secondly, while researchers wanted the letter written by women to be more discoverable amongst historical records, they did not want them to be confined to a female-only digital space. Scholars instead wanted to be able to search for letters alongside their male counterparts.[2]

PeopleEdit

The current co-directors for the project are Kim McLean-Fiander, a professor at the University of Victoria in Canada and James Daybell, a professor, and Associate Dean at the University of Plymouth in England. The idea behind the project was inspired by a collaboration between both co-directors, however, the majority of the metadata on woman's correspondence was collated independently by James Daybell, from the research he conducted on early modern women’s writing all around the world, which was then curated to create WEMLO catalogue and archives. [2] WEMLO continues to collaborate with experts in particular correspondences to enhance and expand the project's archive.

The launch of the project was also accredited to Professor Howard Hotson (Project Director at Cultures of Knowledge), Miranda Lewis (Digital Editor of EMLO), Arno Bosse (Digital Project Manager at Cultures of Knowledge), Mat Milcoxson (EMLO Developer) and Dobrochna Futro (Projects Administrator at Cultures of Knowledge).[1]

James DaybellEdit

James Daybell is an Oxford-educated and award winning historian. His career as a leading historian of early modern British history was established after the publication of his book Women Letter-Writers in Tudor England. [3] He currently has fourteen published books with two more currently in the works, and over 50 essays and written aritcles focused on his area of study in early modern British history, women and gender, and renaissance literature.[4] Daybell worked to create WEMLO in order to not simply just create an online replacement for a printing finding aid or to create an archive of correspondence, but "rather it aims to build and improve upon older archival infrastuctures in order to provide greater access to primary source materials and to offer analytical tools that will allow its community of users to identify patterns in." [5]

He is also co-writes and co-presents the Histories of the Unexpected weekly podcast alongside the television historian and writter Dr Sam Willis.[6]

 
Portrait of a woman reading a letter in the 17th Century.

WorksEdit

The project is held within the EMLO catalogue, but the Women’s Early Modern Letters Online sections of the website contain women’s correspondences from the 1400-1700s. Each author has their own individual page containing details on the author's name, along with any titles or roles they may have held, their date of birth, and date of death (if known). It also contains catalogue statistics including how many letters were written by this author, letters received and any letters they may be mentioned in. Each statistic category contains links to individual pages for each letter.[7] Each individual page for the letters contains information on the dates, the author of the letter and its recipient. It also contains its place of origin, the language the content is in and where the original copies (or digital versions) of the letter are held.

The metadata consists of approximately 2,300 early modern women’s letters and is sorted into two collection types within EMLO. The first type is a general women’s correspondence collection, which includes an array of female letter writers from whom less than twenty letters are known to currently exist. The second type is a rapidly growing collection of individual women’s correspondences from figures for whom more than twenty letters are known to currently exist.[2]

Reputation/LegacyEdit

WELMO was well received amongst scholars and researchers, and they continue to improve upon the resources provided with new material from collaborators. However, some criticized that the “Themes” category could be improved as it categorised the letters under titles of things that were not so easily accessible by early modern women. It was suggested they should instead broaden some of these “Themes” to allow users to easily find the letters and emphasise the interests of the writers.[7]

WEMLO has a Facebook group where they advertise upcoming lectures and workshops held by their collaborators. They also showcase works and related content such as books and essays related to the topic of women’s early modern writing.

ReferencesEdit

  1. a b “Launch of Women’s Early Modern Letters Online (WEMLO).” Faculty of History Oxford, c2016, https://www.history.ox.ac.uk/article/launch-womens-early-modern-letters-online-wemlo
  2. a b c d e f “Women’s Early Modern Letters Online [WEMLO].” Early Modern Letters Online, http://emlo-portal.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/collections/?page_id=2595.
  3. “James Daybell.” University of Plymouth, c2021, https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/staff/james-daybell
  4. “Professor James Daybell.” University of Plymouth, c2021, https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/plymouth-pioneers/professor-james-daybell  
  5. Daybell, James., and Gordon, Andrew. Women and Epistolary Agency in Early Modern Culture, 1450–1690. 1st ed., Routledge, 2016.
  6. “James Daybell.” Curtis Brown, c2021, https://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/client/james-daybell
  7. a b Bowles, Amy. “Daybell, James, and Kim McLean-Fiander, co-directors. Women’s Early Modern Letters Online [WEMLO].” Renaissance and Reformation, vol. 43, no. 1, Jan. 2020, pp. 181-183. EBSCOhost, doi:10.33137/rr.v43i1.34090.

Further ReadingEdit

Uchacz, Tianna. “Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO).” Isis, vol. 110, no. 3, Sep. 2019, pp. 567-569. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1086/704722.