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Helen Waddell and Maude Clarke

Irishwomen, Friends and Scholars

Jennifer FitzGerald

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).


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Acknowledgements ix


Acknowledgements This biography evolved unexpectedly from other projects connected with Helen Waddell on which I have been working for some time. During pro- longed research, begun while I taught in the School of English, Queen’s University, Belfast, and continued while I have been Adjunct Faculty at the Department of Women’s Studies, San Diego State University, California, I have incurred boundless debts of gratitude. The book would not exist but for the generosity and assistance of Louise Anson, Richard Clarke, the late Mollie Martin, Queen’s University, Belfast, Somerville College, University of Oxford and Stanbrook Abbey (formerly at Callow End, Worcester). Each has given me free access to the papers of Helen Waddell and Maude Clarke; each has graciously responded to requests to copy one more document or to answer one more question; each has supported and encouraged me every step of the way. By granting me far-reaching permission to quote, Helen Waddell’s copyright holder, her great-great-niece, Louise Anson, has allowed Helen’s voice to come alive in the following pages; Maude Clarke’s nephew, Richard Clarke, and her copyright holder, Somerville College, University of Oxford, have performed the same service for Maude. Their friendship, assistance and hospitality have transformed work into joy. Anne Manuel, Somerville’s Librarian and Archivist, has promptly, generously and with great patience provided me with endless documents and information; her predecessor, Pauline Adams, set the initial ball rolling by permitting me to delve among the Clarke papers. I acknowledge the further kindness of Somerville College, University of Oxford, in allowing...

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