Working-class Women Write! A One-Day Conference at the University of Northampton

deadline for submissions: 
December 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
University of Northampton

While women have contributed a huge amount to literary history, most of those women came from the middle classes; working-class women rarely had either the leisure time or the educational opportunities to produce their own writing. While Aphra Behn and Jane Austen were writing in the late 17th and early 19th centuries respectively, the first British novel by a working-class woman, Miss Nobody by Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, was not published until 1913. 100 years later, despite progress in some areas, working-class women are still very much a minority in today's vast publishing industry.  To reflect on that fact and consider the ongoing obstacles as well as new opportunities, the conference scope is writing in English by working-class women in the last century 1920-2020, in any form and medium including short fiction, poetry, novels, autobiography, journalism, essays, screen writing, blogging and other digital platforms. The aim is to examine and celebrate the range of women writers from working-class backgrounds writing in the period and investigate the variety and character of their works in their social and political contexts. 

To foreground and promote contemporary working-class women’s writing, we also welcome contributions in the form of readings, screenings and talks from working-class women currently writing creatively today. We will have a book stall of critical and creative writing on sale throughout the day. Our conference title serves as a reminder that despite appearances to the contrary working-class women do indeed write. It also expresses our hope that more working-class women take up the pen or the keyboard and write themselves into history.

Plenary speaker: Professor Selina Todd, author of Tastes of Honey: The Making of Shelagh Delaney, and a Cultural Revolution tbc

We particularly invite papers and contributions which cover any of the following topics although would welcome any contribution relevant to the conference topic:

Working-class women writers and the creative industries 

Genres - life writing, romance, science fiction, crime writing etc

Material obstacles facing working-class women writers

Working-class women writers and political affiliation - socialism, communism, anti-fascism, nationalism, fascism 

Writing beyond the metropole/ in the post-colony

Biographical approaches to working-class women writers 

Marxist criticism and the place of the working-class woman writer 

Examining representations of class in individual texts

Writers' Networks/groups, collaborative writing and publishing 

Writing about work, leisure, the city, the natural world, war and peace

Methodological issues in the study of working-class women's writing 

The working-class woman writer/critic in academe


Please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to Dr Claire Allen ( and Dr Sonya Andermahr ( by 30 December 2020.