Peter Kruschwitz on Edith Morley autobiography and Sex, Gender Roles, and Hatred

Before_And_After_Cover_13_11Reading University Professor Peter Kruschwitz writes:

In 1908, Edith Morley was appointed Professor of English Language at University College Reading – the institution that eventually became the University of Reading. Professor Morley’s autobiographical sketch, ‘Looking Before and After’ was recently published as ‘Before and After: Reminiscences of a Working Life‘  ….

This is, without a doubt, one of the finest books that I have read all year (so far), telling the story of a remarkable person and a remarkable life, giving a highly personal insight in the history of my own employer as well as the struggles it took a female academic at the time to establish herself in an overwhelmingly male-dominated environment (and many a time, while reading this fine piece, I wondered what progress had been made in some areas).

Professor Kruschwitz goes on to posit that Professor Morley was  “someone who developed a feminei sexus odium, a hatred for (her) female sex, due to her society’s overall gender expectations”? The evidence, he says,  is there in the very first couple of pages of the actual memoirs (p. 11-2):

‘But I did hate being a girl and can still remember my indignation at hearing my brother told that only girls cheated at games and the like, or cried when they were hurt. And how I hated and resented wearing gloves. When quite small I suffered from a thick woollen veil, which was supposed to safeguard the complexion, but my very noisy and voluble protests soon relieved me of that infliction – old-fashioned and unusual in those days. I also resented and constantly disobeyed the rule that I must not slide down the banisters or turn head over heels! I had gymnastic lessons, however, and learned how to swim, but I yearned for more of the team games which girls did not yet play and suffered a good deal from insufficient outlets for my physical exuberance.’

Read Professor Kruschwitz’s review and analysis on his blog, The Petrified Muse.

Buy a copy of Edith Morley ‘Before and After: Reminiscences of a Working Life‘