Sunday, 29 September 2013

Modern Women on Trial

I'm very pleased to draw your attention to the release of Lucy Bland's new book, Modern Women on Trial: Sexual Transgression in the Age of the Flapper.

I hope to get a chance to read it soon and post some comments here; however, having spoken to the author several times about the book during its later stages, I'm eagerly looking forward to it.

From the Manchester University Press description: 

Modern women on trial looks at several sensational trials involving drugs, murder, adultery, miscegenation and sexual perversion in the period 1918–24. The trials, all with young female defendants, were presented in the media as morality tales, warning of the dangers of sensation-seeking and sexual transgression. The book scrutinises the trials and their coverage in the press to identify concerns about modern femininity. The flapper later became closely associated with the 'roaring' 1920s, but in the period immediately after the Great War she represented not only newness and hedonism, but also a frightening, uncertain future. This figure of the modern woman was a personification of the upheavals of the time, representing anxieties about modernity, and instabilities of gender, class, race and national identity. This accessible, extensively researched book will be of interest to all those interested in social, cultural or gender history.
As I discuss in The Most Remarkable Woman in England, when Beatrice Pace first came to the attention of the press in January 1928, was in many ways not the image of the 'modern woman' that proved such a magnet for comment and controversy in the 1920s. Indeed, her image as a 'traditional' woman -- a faithful, caring wife and a doting mother -- positively inflected her treatment in the press accounts surrounding the 'Fetter Hill Mystery'.

However, after her acquittal, Beatrice underwent a 'makeover' of sorts, in a sense 'becoming modern' while building her 'new life' away from the shadow of the gallows.

In her new book, Bland provides a broad contextual analysis of the narratives of 'modernity' that surrounded women on trial in the early 1920s. 

Careful readers of The Most Remarkable Woman in England will note the many citations of Lucy Bland's previous important research on images of women on trial in inter-war Britain (especially Edith Thompson and Marguerite Fahmy). This was work that I found very helpful while constructing my own analysis of the 'tragic widow of Coleford'.

Not least for that reason, I'm very pleased to see the book's release, and it certainly deserves a wide readership.

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