[Bell Historians] Re: Where are the women?

La Greenall laalaagrr@googlemail.com [bellhistorians] bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com
Sat Oct 10 23:02:45 BST 2015

On 10/10/2015 10:02, 'David Bryant' davidbryant at hotmail.co.uk 
[bellhistorians] wrote:
> It's the same in many branches of industrial history - e.g. look at a 
> shelf
> full of books on railways and you will find very few female authors. 
> These
> sort of subjects seem to be of interest mostly to men.
> David 
I agree with the classification of bell history as industrial history, 
but what to my mind stands out as unusual in this regard is the high 
proportion of female ringers, or practitioners of the art. You don't get 
many female steam train drivers, antique clock buffs, and so on. 
Thinking a bit more, other fields which might be called industrial where 
women do seem to be found might include ceramics, canal boats...

Firstly, it seems that men are more attracted to the industrial aspect, 
i.e. manufacturing processes, maintenance and so on, whilst women 
concentrate more on the creative usage of the products of these fields. 
Regarding bells, ringing them can be seen as belonging to both camps - 
as a technical, even a mathematical pursuit, and also as a creative, 
even musical activity - and it certainly has a social presence, the 
bells being heard far and wide (in theory at least). But the historical 
study of bells seems to be more concerned with their casting and the 
founders who cast them than with ringing methods or ringing societies, 
so by its nature is more of interest to male historians, if we can 

As well as this, across all fields of study and interest, fewer and 
fewer people still have free time in the evenings to pursue amateur 
activities, which I put down not leastly to more and more commuters 
taking longer and longer to commute to homes further and further away 
from their place of work. That leaves such fields as the historical 
study of these interests more and more as the preserve of professional 
academics, and their male/female ratio would have very different 
influencing factors to those of amateurs using up a couple of hours of 
an evening, perhaps after they've got home and been fed dinner by their 
wives. Conversely, these days of course, more women than before have 
free time to pursue interests such as ringing thanks to the 
technological revolution in kitchen gadgets and microwave meals over the 
last few decades, and in getting more of their hubbies to 'slave over 
the stove' for them for a change.

In other words, I actually think that though the ratio of female 
historians (of bell founding or of anything else) to male is still low, 
and also that of practitioners/users of the various arts (such as 
ringers), but both are on the rise, and that can only be a very good thing.

My first ever post to this board. Hi all!

I researched the history of the bells in my local parish church, and in 
2009 wrote a very modest 8-page pamphlet on the subject which they now 
sell for a few beans - though I should add that I am no campanologist. I 
was back up the tower this afternoon with a friend, a fellow amateur 
historian, but we were trying to measure the thickness of the party wall 
between it and the nave at the height of the ringing chamber, to test a 
theory that it was once thick enough to have enclosed a small lady 
chapel at that height until the Dissolution (the tower itself is 
post-Diss, plonked in front of a 14th century west fa├žade). Needless to 
say, things were much more complex than they promised to be and we have 
to go back sometime with better torches and tape measures!

Lawrence Greenall
Waltham Abbey Historical Society

Posted by: La Greenall <laalaagrr at googlemail.com>


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