Ewch i’r prif gynnwys

Listening to voices from the past

4 March 2014

Lucinda Hawksley

As cinema-goers across Britain watch a big screen account of Charles Dickens' mistreatment of the women in his life, his great, great, great grand-daughter will be in Cardiff calling for women to take more control of their lives.

Acclaimed author, Lucinda Hawksley, will be making her first public appearance in Wales on 12th March to deliver the inaugural Chwarae Teg lecture. The lecture is being held jointly with the University's Gendered Research Opportunities Unit, based in the Department of Politics and International Relations.

Her recent book; March, Women, March: Listening to Voices from the Past, looks at 150 years of the womens' movement and the lecture will examine the relevance of those 'voices' today.

The event co-incides with the showing in British cinemas of The Invisible Woman starring Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones; the story of Charles' Dickens' long-time secret affair with actress Nelly Ternan.

Despite his mistreatment of his wife Catherine, whom he rejected and divorced after she had borne him 10 children, Ms Hawksley is convinced her famous ancestor was, at heart, a believer in the advancement of women.

"He had many strong female friends and he promoted the cause of women writers by inviting them to write for his publications when many other Victorian editors were refusing to do this. He would not have described himself as a feminist, but lots of his writings highlighted how unjustly women were treated by men," she said.

Speaking in advance of the lecture, she said she is constantly disappointed by many young women's reluctance today to describe themselves as feminists and promote gender equality.

"In some respects I think things are going backwards and that's really sad. It seems many young women regard feminism as a dirty word. I went into a school recently and asked a class of girls how many of them were feminists. Only one put up her hand. The word seems to have acquired such negative connotations when really it is just about being equal," she added.

She applauded Chwarae Teg's current campaign to highlight the active and positive role of men in pressing for full gender equality; adding that many prominent men during the 19th century made invaluable contributions to the movement for women's rights.

Joy Kent, Chief Executive of Chwarae Teg, commented: "We are very pleased to have secured someone of Lucinda's calibre to deliver our first annual lecture and we're looking forward to having a full house to hear her thoughts on how people worked for equality in the past and how their experiences can help us today.

"It's perplexing and frustrating that the word feminism doesn't seem to resonate with so many women - and particularly young women today. However, as Bevan said, verbs are more important than nouns and I take heart in that many of the women who don't identify with the word are still strong and decent women who expect to be treated equally and fairly."