The Invisible Woman: How Henrietta Schwann helped shape the history of female working class education

The Invisible Woman: How Henrietta Schwann helped shape the history of female working class education

The old saying, ‘women should be seen, not heard’, seems archaic in today’s society. And yet the silencing of women’s voices and opinions is something we see in today’s world on a regular basis. Decisions made by politicians about women’s rights over their own bodies, and the escalating levels of abuse prominent female figures face online, are both proof that there are still those who work to silence women’s voices. It is important that we learn from the powerful actions of female figures in history, and continue to strive for the rights and recognition of all members of society.

uniA significant figure in the history of women’s rights in Huddersfield was Henrietta Schwann.

Henrietta and her husband, Friederich, eventually became the founders of the educational organisation that now resides as the University of Huddersfield. The Female Educational Institute and The Young Men’s Mental Improvement Society, founded by Friederich, merged in 1841 to form the Huddersfield Technical School and Mechanics Institute.


Henrietta Schwann is credited as being a vital figurehead in the founding of the school for female education, which provided evening classes to women and girls in the Huddersfield area for over thirty years before the union, and continued to do so under its new name.

Henrietta, her husband and her brother, Samuel recognised the need for affordable female education. For women who grew up in working class areas, such as the industrial heart of 19th-century Huddersfield, these few hours of tutelage per week made the difference between finding employment or staying at home, therefore enabling women take control of their own lives and finances.

schwannHowever, this woman, a figurehead of the promotion of female education into mainstream schooling, remains faceless; with no images of her remaining in existence today. Sadly, we can’t even know if any pictures were taken of her when she was alive, though we know what her husband looks like – his face welcomes you through the doors of the Schwann Building on the University campus. Although the building itself is named after both the Schwanns, it is unfortunate that her husband is all we have to remember Henrietta’s legacy by.

The lack of her portrait serves as a reminder of the tendency to exclude and silence female voices, something which we all have a duty to recognise and fight against.


You can check out our book The Making of a University by John O’Connell if you want to learn more about the fascinating foundations of the university.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date with the latest news and releases!

What role does ambient music have in society and in musical culture? A new book explores how the genre has developed over the last 40 years

What role does ambient music have in society and in musical culture? A new book explores how the genre has developed over the last 40 years

Today sees the release of a brand new book looking at how the genre of ambient music has developed over the last 40 years.

Music Beyond Airports: Appraising Ambient Music

Contributions by: Monty Adkins, Axel Berndt, Lisa Colton, Simon Cummings, Ambrose Field, Ulf Holbrook, Justin Morey, Richard Talbot, David Toop

ISBN10-13 eBook: 1862181616 Print: 9781862181618

Buy a print copy  Download the open access version

This collection of essays has been assembled and developed from papers given at the Ambient@40 International Conference held in February 2018 at the University of Huddersfield. The original premise of the conference was not merely to celebrate Eno’s work and the landmark release of Music for Airports in 1978, but to consider the development of the genre, how it has permeated our wider musical culture, and what the role of such music is today given the societal changes that have occurred since the release of that album.

In the context of the conference, ambient was considered from the perspectives of aesthetic, influence, appropriation, process, strategy and activity. A detailed consideration of each of these topics could fill many volumes. With that in mind, this book does not seek to provide an in-depth analysis of each of these topics or a comprehensive history of the last 40 years of ambient music. Rather it provides a series of provocations, observations and reflections that each open up seams for further discussion. As such, this book should be read as a starting point for future research, one that seeks to critically interrogate the very meaning of ‘ambient’, how it creates its effect, and how the genre can remain vital and relevant in twenty-first century music-making.

Chapter list


CHAPTER 1 – David Toop

How Much World Do You Want? Ambient Listening And Its Questions

CHAPTER 2 – Ambrose Field

Space In The Ambience: Is Ambient Music Socially Relevant?

CHAPTER 3 – Ulf Holbrook

A Question Of Background: Sites Of Listening

CHAPTER 4 – Richard Talbot

Three Manifestations Of Spatiality In Ambient Music

CHAPTER 5 – Simon Cummings

The Steady State Theory: Recalibrating The Quiddity Of Ambient Music

CHAPTER 6 – Monty Adkins

Fragility, Noise, And Atmosphere In Ambient Music

CHAPTER 7 – Lisa Colton

Channelling The Ecstasy Of Hildegard Von Bingen: “O Euchari” Remixed

CHAPTER 8 – Justin Morey

Ambient House: “Little Fluffy Clouds” And The Sampler As Time Machine

CHAPTER 9 – Axel Berndt

Adaptive Game Scoring With Ambient Music

Buy a print copy  Download the open access version

Twenty-First Century ‘Top Girls’ – re-reading a 1982 feminist play in the wake of current affairs

Twenty-First Century ‘Top Girls’ – re-reading a 1982 feminist play in the wake of current affairs

“Women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems.”

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929)


Carly Churchill’s Top Girls was first performed in 1982 at the Royal Court theatre in London, directed by Max Stafford Clark. When re-reading Top Girls, now a glowing example of how Churchill’s work remains and continues to epitomise fragments of our own modern society, it would only be fitting that I look back on the first television adaptation of the piece. The one-off special, brings with it today a second-wind of second-wave feminism, which continues to fan the flames of a more contemporary form of female resistance.  If you haven’t seen the play, I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of feminism and female history.

The 1991 adaptation was aired on BBC Two and sees seven actresses perform sixteen different roles. The decision to intertwine each actress with more than one character is a choice that must be praised on both an artistic and practical level as, in doing so, each character brings a glimmer of the past, rather drags it kicking and screaming, into the present. For example, the ladies around Marlene’s symbolic dinner table (whom she dreams she invites to congratulate herself on her promotion); Isabella Bird, Dull Gret, Lady Nijo and others, outwardly vocalise their upsetting struggles over a white-china dinner and bottles of red wine. table.jpgWhere the chime of polite, ladylike conversation should be, there echoes almost-rhythmic rounds of overlapping dialogue, buried in which are the gruesome tales of the women’s oppression and individual sadness’s. The cacophony of female voices crumples and folds itself into one mass. It is here that Churchill successfully illustrates the mess that is all the instances of past, present and future female oppression merging into one, so jumbled it cannot, nor is it likely that it will be ever, be understood. Therefore, it is ignored, and initiates women into a cycle where they will forever be talked over, and forever only exist as being ‘next in line’, always behind one another, competing to keep their own voice. lady nijo.jpg

At the table, Lady Nijo, the Patient Griselda and Pope Joan all deliver gruelling stories of how they gave up their children in order to adhere to the wishes and standards of other men. It is here we find painful relevance in Churchill’s play, and question the right for women to control their own bodies and how the past now exceedingly echoes into the future.

At the core of this play is the carefully woven theme of subtle sacrifice, and the reason for that sacrifice being the need to belong in order to survive as a woman. As many feminists would when griseldawatching Top Girls, this need to belong to ‘something’, whether that be belonging in society, to a job or even a child, they would recognise that this is not a selfish ‘need’, but more a practicality required of women in order for them to survive within the patriarchy. Pope Joan sacrificed her femininity (and inevitably her life) for her place within the Vatican, Isabella Bird sacrificed children for her adventures and Marlene sacrificed her daughter, Angie, in order to ‘belong’ to a career. She holds and celebrates her superficial and materialistic title close to her chest, out of pure fear that she will lose her importance, and her voice.pope joan.jpg

Although I am re-reading Churchill’s play and reviewing its relevance through my twenty-first century fingertips, it is hard to talk of ‘contemporary feminism’ without acknowledging Simone De Beauvoir who says, ‘it would never occur to a man to write a book on the singular situation of males in humanity’ (De Beauvoir, 1949) – it is laughable to even think that the play Top Men exists in some alternate matriarchal universe. But no, it doesn’t, and I doubt it ever could nor will, as it is the female condition that inspires this drama, these harrowing stories, plays and literature.

Isabella_Bird_Bishop_Manchurian.jpgChurchill devised her play from her own experience as a woman, but mostly through her own shared experience of this ancient struggle of simply being a woman – a struggle that men have never had to endure. It is why we still praise Caryl Churchill for her creative mind, and then quickly and solemnly remind ourselves that the majority of her play isn’t creative fiction at all. The woman whose lives we watch unfurl in front of us, as they pour out their hearts and stomachs onto an imaginary dinner table, or drop their guts onto a very real office floor, are real.

De Beauvoir (1949) writes that people believe ‘woman is losing herself, woman is lost’, dull gret.jpgand Caryl Churchill sees it. She sees it, holds it in her hand and smears the fact across the page. She sees it in Marlene’s desperation, Angie’s impatience and Joyce’s resignation. And real women who belong in history books and religious texts and paintings; because Churchill’s women are your mother, your sister, your teacher, your best friend and yourself. You may not know a Patient Griselda, a Dull Gret or a Lady Nijo, but you will know a Joyce and a Marlene; you’ve read about them, talked to them, known them. You see their hardships bleed through the gaps into our time, you see the remnants of their oppression in your own and the oppression of others around you. In this way, Churchill makes you see, even if you are not a feminist, even if you are not a woman, and don’t profess to understand them, you know and understand these women, and you see their struggle and understand that it never ended.

800px-Top_Girls_(44140682920)Today, feminism seems a very accessible idea, and one that we quite often take for granted. Top Girls reminds us that once, even to attempt to have any agency as a woman was either a very rare luxury or a very dangerous gamble. Caryl Churchill excellently brings this shadowed past to a head within her own present, and ours, as the play effortlessly flows through the years without hesitancy. The play’s ending imitates this, as we cannot even know if the ending indeed classifies as such. There is no resolution, no moral, no outcome, much like life, after the curtains draw and the actors bow, it will go on. Within you, within your head or within our world itself – for, as I said before, Angie, Marlene and Joyce may as well be real people, living real lives. Churchill takes the idea that art imitates life and brings the two within a hair’s breadth from one another, they lay so closely, that not even the stroke of a pen could fit between the fine line she has paved between them.

It is our decision whether art should be created as such, or whether art should be received, not as a social commentary, but as a break from society. Should art be a breath of fresh air or a slap in the face? Should it be neither? For some, Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls has the answer.

 – Rebecca Screeton, Press Assistant

Below, read some of the fascinating articles we’ve published across a range of our journals on feminism and women throughout history:

 The Virgin and the Basilisk: A Study of Medieval Women and their Social Roles

Belief, Influence and Action: Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Yorkshire

The Influences of Family, Peers and Media on Young Women’s Romantic Relationship Expectations

Vanishing in Plain Sight

The Rhetorical Goddess: A Feminist Perspective on Women in Magic  

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date with the latest news and releases!



Churchill, Caryl. (1982). Top Girls.

De Beauvoir, Simone. (2010). The Second Sex. New York, Vintage Books.

Woolf, Virginia. (1929). A Room of One’s Own.

Citations (in order)


Top Girls dinner table:

Lady Nijo:

The Patient Griselda:

Isabella Bird:

Call for Papers – Crime, Security and Society – July 2019

Call for Papers – Crime, Security and Society – July 2019

Crime, Security and Society is a peer-reviewed online publication from the University of Huddersfield Press. (ISSN 2398-130X)

Crime, Security and Society is an open access publication founded in 2018, with a primary focus on crime and security issues across the globe. The papers within the publication are written, co-authored and edited by academics and practitioners across multiple disciplines that would not ordinarily collaborate with one another. Consequently, the material the journal publishes is particularly sought after, as it is of wide interest across policy, practical and academic fields.

The journal is, therefore, interdisciplinary in its nature and preferred approaches to research and writing. Crime, Security and Society seeks to provide those with an interest in the varied subject matters, articles and texts that are both of interest and of utility to its readers. Previous topics have included, but are not limited to; studies on mental health, rehabilitation and forensic science.

The new issue will seek to expand the journal’s already broad academic and practical scope, as well as aiming to provide fresh multidisciplinary perspectives on the many aspects of crime and security in our society.

All contributions will be peer-reviewed subject to their acceptance, to find out more about Crime, Security and Society, and how to submit your work, visit the website.


New journal, ‘Play in Adulthood’ launches today!

New journal, ‘Play in Adulthood’ launches today!

lidya-nada-_0akqa9gr4s-unsplashThe first issue for the brand new journal, ‘Play in Adulthood’ launched for free via open access on our website today. Below, read what the journal’s editor, Andrew Walsh has to say about the exciting launch of the new publication, and the continuing release of further articles that are to be added to the issue in the future.

The very first articles are starting to appear for the Journal of Play in Adulthood! The journal aims to provide a multidisciplinary open access forum dedicated to the discussion of play and playfulness in adults. It seeks to explore the barriers to the use of play with adults, and potential solutions to increasing the role of play in lifelong education, the workplace, and wider society.

The first research article, covering how we can help give adults ‘Permission to Play’, is a fascinating write-up from the wonderfully playful Counterplay conference, and also includes book reviews for the ‘The Librarians’ Book on Teaching through Games and Play’ and ‘Playful Learning, Events and Activities to Engage Adults’.

We’re publishing articles on a rolling basis, rather than holding on until the issue is complete – but the first few articles are now live! We’ve also got an open call for papers, as well as some special issues in the pipeline. I hope people enjoy the first issue as it emerges over the coming months.



7 Yorkshiremen and women who changed British history

7 Yorkshiremen and women who changed British history

Yorkshire has contributed to the history of Great Britain, and the creation of the country we live in today, in more ways than you might recognise. In celebration of our amazing county, here’s seven remarkable Yorkshiremen and women you may not know changed the world we live in. In no particular order, of course.

hepworthBarbara Hepworth

Born in Wakefield, Hepworth was a Modernist sculptor, with her work acting as a turning point in British art culture in the 20s and 30s at the height of the Modernist movement. The movement itself acted as a post-war artistic rebellion against classical and traditional art and literature, changing the way people understood perceived culture. Hepworth not only introduced the country to her own work but also highlighted foreign artists and influences, merging their characteristics with British culture. More recently, the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield was opened in May 2011, acting as a powerful monument to the great Northern artist.

Tony HarrisonTony-Harrison-V-ALDEN.jpg

Tony Harrsion, born in Leeds in 1937 is a British verse-writer and one of the most outstanding working-class voices heard in English poetry today. Despite his background, Harrison earned his place at both Leeds Grammar School and university studying Classics. His most notable poem, ‘V’ was broadcast on Channel 4, in full, in 1987 – much to the surprise of, well, everyone. Written on skinhead and working class culture and decorated with profanities, the network received hundreds of complaints, most notably from disgruntled MPs, and was banned from the BBC. Harrison’s attitude towards the poetic voice undoubtedly shifted not only how we read poetry, but how we use it in today’s austerity-stricken society.

220px-PriestleyPealeJoseph Priestley

Joseph Priestly is a name that perhaps everyone in and around Kirklees knows but might not necessarily understand what the man himself accomplished. Born in Birstall on 24th March 1733, Priestley was a renowned scientist, who spent most of his life studying the air and the gasses that constitute it. As a result, he is credited with discovering a further ten gasses in our atmosphere including; nitrogen, carbon monoxide and even oxygen. He also invented soda water, so we have Joseph Priestley to thank for the (average of) 332 cans of fizzy drinks us Brits each consume every year.

Amy Johnson54824af77dc0e_amy_johnson

This Hull-born aviator was the first female pilot to fly solo from England to Australia, with the journey beginning on 5th May 1930, and ending on the 24th. She received her pilot’s licence in 1929, after she trained for and gained her engineer’s licence – most female pilots at that time were Lady’s or Duchesses who simply owned an aircraft without any need for technical qualifications. She would often fly for eight hours straight through monsoons and inhospitable terrain until she could land and would shock most people when she stepped out of the cockpit in some of the most remote places on the planet. She sadly died on a mission serving in the Royal Air Force in the Second World war, in a suspected accident from which her body was never recovered. Though, Amy Johnson remains one of the most inspiring female figures in British (and world) history.

Sharman_Helen_8.jpgHelen Sharman

Speaking of British female firsts, Helen Sharman was the first British astronaut, let alone first woman, to visit the Mir Space Station in 1991. The chemist was born in Sheffield in 1963 and won her place on the space shuttle by responding to a radio advertisement for Project Juno. Sharman was twenty-seven when she made the flight into outer-space, making her one of the youngest people to have ever completed the journey to this day. Since then, she has become an author, taught at universities and resides as a modern-day heroin to children all over the country.

William Wilberforce220px-William_wilberforce

William Wilberforce was a Hull-born politician and a significant leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade in the United Kingdom. The 18th century philanthropist is credited as being one of the first politicians to introduce the first Parliamentary bill to abolish the slave trade, after a reported four-hour speech in 1791. Though the bill was defeated, by 183 votes to 88, Wilberforce and his peers persevered and the Slave Trade Act was passed on 25th March 1807, which passed by a large majority of 283 votes to 16.

Richard_Oastler,_by_James_Posselwhite_after_Benjamin_Garside-cropRichard Oastler

Born in Leeds in 1789, Richard Oastler, much like Wilberforce, was a politician and abolitionist in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1830, Oastler wrote a ‘tell-all’ letter to the Leeds Mercury, exposing the harrowing working conditions of children in textile factories, which the newspaper eventually published almost a month later. The letter sparked uproar in the local communities, and over the next seven years Oastler continued to pursue justice for child factory workers. The outcry continued, now within the factories themselves, with reports of children damaging factory machinery. The Factory Act was passed in 1833 (some say by no coincidence – the same year slavery was abolished in the United Kingdom) which raised the legal age of working children to 9 and introduced the role of the Factory Inspector. Though child labour itself wasn’t abolished until the 20th century, Oastler undoubtedly inspired a positive domino effect, with institutions such as the NSPCC being founded towards the end of the 19th century.

Want to learn more about Richard Oastler and William Wilberforce? John Hargreaves and Hilary Haigh’s collection of essays, Slavery in Yorkshire: Richard Oastler and the campaign against child labour in the Industrial Revolution is available for purchase here.


You can also check out our collection of other books on local history on our website.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date with the latest news and releases!

100 years since Versailles

100 years since Versailles

Tomorrow, 28th June 2019, marks 100 years since the Treaty of Versailles was signed, nine months after the fronts fell silent with the eleventh strike of the clock, on 11th November 1918. The treaty, drafted by the ‘Big Four’ – George, Clemenceau, Wilson and Orlando during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, marked the official end of the First World War.

220px-Treaty_of_Versailles,_English_versionThe 100 years that have passed between then and now seem like a fictional gap in time for those of us who have never seen war on our doorstep. Even more so when that fissure has been filled with further wars that seem like bad dreams or cruel stories that fill children’s history books and classrooms. It is easy to forget the reality when the faces of soldiers are seen in speckled sepia and footage of bombs and bodies crackle and burn silently in black and white. Apparently, it is easy to forget the reality when we see the warning signs on the news today; the same pointing fingers and podiums and poisoned verses. Apparently it is still easy to forget, even though the wars are now in glorious technicolour and the evacuees don’t have gas masks in cardboard boxes strung around their necks.

That is why we are taught about war, so the students don’t grow up to make the same mistakes as the people who wrote the peace accords, on both sides, who didn’t keep papers promises. That is why we read the accords and books about the accords, and watch television shows about the wars, the soldiers who fought in the wars, the bombs that killed the soldiers, and the planes that dropped the bombs – because we cannot forget. We are starting to.rollofhonour

The late Margaret Stanfield’s life’s work, Huddersfield’s Roll of Honour, documents the 3,439 service personnel who lost their lives during the First World War. The book allows you to peer into a distant reality; with moving letters and accounts from the soldiers’ families, integrated within the extensive and poignant collection of names and identities.

The names of the soldiers who fought to preserve us, to prolong the futures of children who would be born into a country very different to what they knew, into a very disheartening future, must be remembered and read and repeated.

You can download the book for free HERE, or you can buy a beautiful hardback copy HERE.

You can also browse our collection of other books on local history on our website.

Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date with the latest news and releases.

%d bloggers like this: