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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).

«[T]his volume is a marvellous tribute to [Helen Waddell] and to her lifelong companion, two of the most influential Irishwomen of their time. Author and publisher are to be congratulated on a job well done.»»
(Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, Óenach: Journal of the Forum for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Ireland 5, 2013/1)

«[T]his is a rich and fascinating book (...).»
(David Burleigh, Journal of Irish Studies 27, 2012)

«This is a book which is interesting on a number of levels.»
(John Scattergood, Peritia: the Journal of the Medieval Academy of Ireland, 24-25/2014)