A Few Forgotten Women
The following is a press release from our tutor, Janet Few, one of the members of the A Few Forgotten Women project, several of whom met through Janet’s Pharos Are You Sitting Comfortably? Writing and Telling Your Family History course.
A Few Forgotten Women is a project devised by a group of friends, known collectively as A Few Good Women. The group first got together during lockdown to provide mutual encouragement for family history projects. Even without meaning to, family historians often focus on the men on their family tree. It is usually the men who carry on the surname, the men who join the armed forces and who are more likely to leave wills, to vote or to rent property, thereby leaving a trail in the documentary record. Merely by virtue of her gender, a female can become overlooked. We realised that, unless we took on the responsibility of preserving them, the stories of many of the women we encountered during our research would be lost.
The aim of the project is to preserve the memory of some women who have, until now, been hiding in the shadows, forgotten by history. The women that you will meet on our website are those that we have discovered as part of our investigations into our own ancestry, as part of a one-name study, a one-place study, or when undertaking a wider project. Then there are the women that had no link to our own work but who cried out to us as we researched in the documents of the past. We hope that meeting our forgotten women will encourage others to tell the stories of their own.
Some woman are further on the margins than others and this project focusses on those whose lives were touched by issues such as poverty, illegitimacy, criminality, disability, alcoholism, prostitution, abandonment or mental ill-health. Often, several of these conditions go hand in hand, impacting on the lives of the women whose stories we seek to tell. Other women were less marginalised but lack descendants who can preserve their memory; they too find a place amongst our biographies. The nature of our site means that many of the stories we tell do not make easy reading. Please be aware that some of the biographies will contain material that some readers might find distressing.
We are sensitive to the ethical issues surrounding telling the stories of people of the past. There is a balance to be maintained between commemorating their lives and respecting personal privacy. Many of our women faced trauma and adversity; on balance, we believe they deserve their place in history. We aim to provide rounded portraits of real people in an empathetic and non-judgmental way. Where the women have descendants, we have tried to contact them to get permission to tell their ancestor’s stories.
Our website is in its infancy, new stories will be added regularly. Take a look at the website here: A Few Forgotten Women
You can also follow the project on:
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In my Ulster-Scots family history since <1642, I've sensed that behind every tough guy there's a strong gal. The womenfolk had to be, in order to sustain their menfolk (psychologically and physically) and children in times of peril and peace; to create, survive childbirth and nuture the descendant brood; to pass on the memories and mysteries of inter-relationships orally and in church and civil records. My ancestors were steeped in the Bible and applied that in the faith culture and ethics they lived and passed down the generations – often challenging the crude power-politics of warlords. For example, the Kirk in Markethill, Co Armagh, was founded in 1604, a few years before the Authorised (King James) Version was published and James' extensive Plantation got underway to secure Ireland against continental threats. The Bible has many strong women who would surely have been inspirational role models for my female ancestors and their friends in family and community – witness Mary, Anne and other wise, steadfast women in the genealogies in Matthew and Luke. So Hurrah to your project, and deep gratitude for ancestral women's contributions to all the good things we've inherited.