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Thursday, 13 February 2014


Its been a funny old week. 
Flashback to last Friday and another wet and windy evening.
And then, a text from my supervisor telling me that my application to register (the second hurdle of PhD life) had not been approved...
I was torn between tears, anger, bitterness and dejection, so after trying out all four emotions for size, I slept on it.
The next few days left a residue of those initial feelings, but gradually I've been able to look at the situation sensibly, and take the opportunity to evaluate where I am with all this at the moment.
Recently, whenever I've talked to people about my research, the emphasis shifts with each conversation. Far from convincing me that I simply had so much to talk about, (maybe those 80,000 words will come easily, I kidded myself...) I realised my ideas were still confused, unfocussed and needing a big kick up the bum, to be honest.
So having the application to register pushed back for amendments has been a blessing. Not only has it reminded me to be as stringent as I can at every stage, its also allowed me to shift my emphasis. A lightbulb has flashed on and I can see a way forwards. A few weeks ago I found a speech written by Mary Dawson in the 1950s, which puts into 5 pages of heartfelt prose, her whole ethos for what she set out to achieve at Newton Park College. It is the document I hoped to find, but didn't think I ever would. I now feel confident that there is a strong thread to follow, and that I can describe the postwar generation of women as one which, far from being hurled 'back' into domesticity, actually trained, worked, raised children and worked again successfully. In the terms of the society around them, they had knowledge that some of the battles of the previous generation of women had been 'won', and that progress would continue.
In all the research papers I've read so far, and in all the oral history interviews, there is little evidence of a feminist narrative. Reading around this, and also thinking about the women I grew up amongst, I can see this absence as a positive area to explore.
 So - I now have these as my research headings, and I think they make more sense and give more direction. 
1. Origins of Newton Park College & educational requirements of the postwar era
2. Mary Dawson’s role
3. Community, Place and Memory
4. Feminist tropes of the 1950s and 1960s – ‘agents for change and a battle fought?’ 
So, just a hiccup. And one that was well worth having!

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