Dangerous Women

By Jo Shaw, Ben Fletcher-Watson and Abrisham Ahmadzadeh

Fifty reflections on women, power and identity

Friday, 11 October 2019

Author Spotlight: Glynis Ridley

Today in our author spotlights, we hear from Glynis Ridley, an academic who focusses on the 18th century. Glynis is Professor and Chair of the Department of English at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. Her current book project stems from a flea-market purchase of a notebook kept from 1824-27 by Thomasina Gleadowe-Newcomen of Dublin, Ireland, and will become a biography of Thomasina, her family, their lost Dublin estate, and a deep dive into the literature and culture of the years Thomasina recorded!

If you enjoy what Glynis has to say, or want to hear more, check out our Dangerous Women pledge level, for an exclusive talk with Glynis herself on the adventures of Jeanne Baret.

- What is your writing process/routine?

I admire people who can write anywhere but I’m not one of them. I write exclusively in my study at home, where I’m fortunate to have everything set up to my liking. My desk overlooks the back garden, so I can watch the birds and squirrels when I’m not staring at the page waiting to be filled on screen. Because my current project is a biography and concerns a large family, I have an impromptu – and growing – family tree built out of post-its stuck to a large corkboard on my right. (I know genealogical software exists, but I like the visual immediacy of my system and it’s right there.) Research notes – both handwritten and print offs - get spread around on any available surface. I work from an outline of what I need to include in any given chapter, and I typically start writing as soon as I’ve given the dogs their morning walk and made a cup of tea. My books have both been written to meet contract deadlines and a signed contract with a cast-iron delivery date is a great incentive to push on – even if you feel your writing isn’t where you want it to be on a given day, having a draft you can rework is better than no draft at all. Quirky detail: I share my study with a house rabbit. Between the rabbit and the dogs and the need to make more tea, I take plenty of breaks from typing, though I always insist they let me finish the sentence I’m writing.

- What did the Dangerous Women Project mean to you?

I’m old enough to remember when there were only a handful of women authors on the syllabi I followed in my undergraduate career, and anthologies designed for use in university and college classrooms used to be dominated by male writers. Now, literature students expect that they will read more or less an equal number of male and female writers, from the famous to the less well-known. The ability to access copies of original material online has helped enormously. But I think that there are many fields where the historical contribution of women remains under-researched, not to mention professions and areas today where women are still in the minority. For me, the Project is a virtual diorama – anywhere its readers and viewers look across the course of an entire year, there is information about the life and achievements of a different woman. It shows that there is no shortage of women to celebrate, and I think that it begs the question of why we do not know more about so many of them.

- Who is your favourite woman from history?

Given that I contributed to the Dangerous Women Project by writing about Jeanne Baret, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe (1766-75), and the subject of my 2010 book, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret, you might expect me to pick her. Obviously, I have an immense fondness for Baret and huge admiration for her, but in answer to the question, I’m going to pick “anonymous” i.e. that huge class of women who have been lost to conventional histories and whose stories are still waiting to be (re)discovered. Baret used to be in that class but, even though more people are now aware of her story, there are still many stories about previously overlooked women to be told. Many of those stories, once they are known, are going to popularize women we know little or nothing about right now, so new “favourite women” are out there, waiting to be found.

Who is your dangerous woman from history? Let us know at @DangerousWomen_

For now, keep talking! Keep sharing! We can't thank you enough for all the support so far. Let's keep giving time to deserving women from all around the world.

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