What Counts as an Archive? Women & Gender & Archivology

Center for Renaissance and Baroque Studies Conference, "Attending to Early Modern Women: Gender, Culture, and Change," University of Maryland, College Park, 10 November 2000

Workshop on Archivology

I'm Katie King and
I'm here to introduce this workshop:
What counts as an archive?
Women & Gender & Archivology

what we are going to do today:
1. my opening remarks
2. each person will speak to a few issues they raised in materials in the order named on your handouts
3. this will take 20ish mins. then we open for discussion in two parts, about 30ish mins a piece
4. first Sherman and Norbrook will facilitate discussion with an emphasis on archives. They are also collaborating on a course and projecting a possible research web site.
5. then Long and King will facilitate discussion with an emphasis on technologies. Long's material raised issues about what an archival web site on technology might look like, and King has begun a research web site on writing technology ecologies.
6. we have many agendas as you can tell from the materials we sent out. but this workshop time is really your time, and our job is actually to facilitate your exploration of the rich sets of issues that draw us together here. Feel free to intervene in lines of discussion, bring up your own issues and concerns, describe your own projects and classes, and synthesize what various speakers have addressed.

I was drafted to open our remarks because I was the one who persuaded these folks to come together for this workshop. Bill and I have long fantasized holding a conference on What Counts as an Archive since we both of us are fascinated by the practical and theoretical questions raised by a re-emphasis on archival work in particular areas of literary studies. I persuaded Bill and Bill and I persuaded David and Pam that this conference would be a great place to begin to discuss this question, between us, and especially with you. Changes in contemporary technologies may be altering What Counts as an Archive. Pam's work is on the history of technologies, and she has recently been working on a series of teaching pamphlets, one of which focuses on women's roles in technological histories. I do work in a field I call feminism and writing technologies and I'm concerned about how contemporary technologies alter our access to and constructions of various pasts. David and Bill are both early modern literary historical scholars who have long engaged in archival work, David now addressing the work of Lucy Hutchinson, a republican woman whose person and work raise issues about women and publication. Bill's work has long examined early modern archives, and he raises questions about both how early modern women and men structure their archives and tools, and how our archives and tools shape our understandings of them and theirs.

Bill has named some of our largest questions as:
Again and fundamentally, What counts as an Archive?
What is included within it, or visible in it?
And particularly Who has access to it? These questions will reverberate through all the points we raise individually.


As part of a short book, An Introduction to Feminism and Writing Technologies, I've begun to create a web site to display and analyze what I call "writing technology ecologies." Such ecologies are intended to show how various forms of communication interconnect and interact within fields of power in particular times and places. This first site I've begun focuses on the idea of the 17th c. printshop, but I have in mind the very specific printshop where some of the Quaker women's pamphlets I study were printed. Some of the work done by women in the past is rendered invisible by our contemporary assumptions about the meanings of male domination of craft production. Indeed, such work by women was probably visible and invisible at the time too, according to assumptions and institutionalizations of guild governance and social order locally. Nonetheless, as Londa Schiebinger (a feminist historian of women and science and technology) states, general patterns of women's participation in craft production were as: "[1] daughters and apprentices;  [2] wives who assisted their husbands as paid or unpaid artisans; [3] independent artisans; or [4] widows who inherited the family business." (Schiebinger 1989/ 67; my numbers) Thus, both women and children were part of invisible work in 17th c. print shops, their invisibility complexly mediated by our own assumptions and institutionalizations and by their local assumptions and institutionalizations. This 17th c. London print shop that is one site for explorations into 17th c. Quaker women's writing and feminism and writing technologies is that of the Sowle family "near the meeting House in White-Hart-Court in Grace-Church-Street." [imprint Folger] Women figure in this family print shop in all the ways Schiebinger names for women's participation in craft production: Tace Sowle is her father's apprentice when he is master printer (indeed he had been apprenticed himself to a woman printer), and she becomes the master printer of the shop after his death, as an independent artisan, until her marriage. After her marriage the shop operates under her mother's name, J. Sowle, as widow owner of the family business, while her daughter Tace continued to head the shop, her husband assisting her. Tace's sister Elizabeth married a printer and together she and her husband became the first Quaker printers in the American colonies. (Skidmore 1998; McDowell 1996, 1998)

One name Quakers were known by was "Publishers of Truth," and as Paula McDowell, a feminist literary historian, points out, "Quaker commitment to the use of the press may be inferred from the fact that in 1659 and 1660 this illegal Nonconformist sect, despite comprising less than 1 percent of the population, published about 10 percent of all the titles printed in England." Women prophets "published truth"--speaking, performing religious enactments, writing out and circulating in manuscript and also in print their prophesy within a complex writing technological ecology. This 17th c. Quaker women's writing technological ecology is the first one I want to investigate and model on the web.