Review of Helen Waddell and Maude Clarke: Irishwomen, Friends and Scholars

fitzgerald_coverHelen Waddell and Maude Clarke: Irishwomen, Friends and Scholars, by Jennifer FitzGerald, is reviewed in Óenach: Journal of the Forum for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Ireland. Click here for the review.

As women’s university participation expanded rapidly in the first decade of the twentieth century, two close friends at Queen’s University Belfast nursed scholarly ambitions. Helen Waddell, budding feminist literary critic, and Maude Clarke, future Irish historian, were to become famous medievalists. Waddell’s progress was stymied by her stepmother’s insistence on family duty and by academic misogyny; Clarke’s father, in contrast, helped to clear her way. This joint biography intertwines the story of their friendship with their modern education, their shifting research interests and the obstacles and opportunities that faced them as women seeking academic careers. It traces Waddell’s evolution into an independent scholar, creative writer and translator of medieval Latin, and Clarke’s career as an influential Oxford don, training a generation of high-achieving women academics. The book also reproduces the surviving chapters of Helen Waddell’s Woman in the Drama before Shakespeare (1912-1919), an example of early feminist literary criticism, and Maude Clarke’s searching, self-reflective ‘Historiographical Notes’ (c.1930).

Jennifer FitzGerald was educated at University College Dublin and received her PhD in English from the University of Cambridge. She taught at the School of English, Queen’s University Belfast from 1975 to 1999. She has been Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Women’s Studies, San Diego State University, California since 2002.


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