Women art workers and the Arts and Crafts movement

By Zoë Thomas

Women art workers and the Arts and Crafts movement
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  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9781526140432
  • Publish Date: May 2020
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9781526160270
  • Publish Date: Feb 2022
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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  • ISBN: 9781526140456
  • Publish Date: May 2020
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: Hardcover
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4043-2
    • Pages: 272
    • Price: £85.00
    • Published Date: May 2020
    • Series: Gender in History


    This book constitutes the first comprehensive history of the network of women who worked at the heart of the English Arts and Crafts movement from the 1870s to the 1930s. Challenging the long-standing assumption that the Arts and Crafts simply revolved around celebrated male designers like William Morris, it instead offers a new social and cultural account of the movement, which simultaneously reveals the breadth of the imprint of women art workers upon the making of modern society. Thomas provides unprecedented insight into how women navigated authoritative roles as 'art workers' by asserting expertise across a range of interconnected cultures: from the artistic to the professional, intellectual, entrepreneurial and domestic. Through examination of newly discovered institutional archives and private papers, Thomas elucidates the critical importance of the spaces around which women conceptualised alternative creative and professional lifestyles.


    'This absorbing study skilfully illuminates the rich cultures of the women of the arts and crafts movement, authoritatively excavating their significance. It is a major contribution to British feminist and cultural history.'
    Kathryn Gleadle, Mansfield College, University of Oxford

    'Zoë Thomas provides a thoughtful new take on the role and place of women within the English Arts and Crafts movement, offering an alternative narrative encompassing consumer pleasures and feminist concerns that leads to refreshingly unique perspectives.'
    Juliette MacDonald, Edinburgh College of Art

    'Thomas's important book offers a revisionist, politicised, and staunchly female-centred history of the Arts & Crafts movement, firmly re-establishing women's aesthetic, professional and intellectual contributions through suffrage and the political economies of Victorian England.'
    Jenni Sorkin, University of California, Santa Barbara

    'As art history increasingly finds a place for methods that account for embodiment and duration, social histories like Thomas's Women Art Workers are invaluable. Beyond histories of the Arts and Crafts, Thomas's book is also a model text for other researchers trying to understand ideologies of identity through printed texts and public
    Woman's Art Journal

    'This is a wonderful contribution to women's studies generally as well as to scholarship about the Arts and Crafts movement.'
    The Victorian Web

    Meticulously researched and referenced, it draws upon a previously unknown archive related to the WGA, and Thomas also factors in members of London's Lyceum Club, founded in 1903 for professional women by Constance Smedley, artist, writer, suffragist, and stage designer. [...] This thought-provoking woman-centred study has wider implications for how we think about these cultural producers'.
    DAS Newsletter

    'This important book offers the first detailed study of the women who worked in the English Arts and Crafts movement from the 1870s to the 1930s. [...] We find in this fascinating account the names of long-forgotten painters, book-binders, sculptors and jewellery makers'.
    Times Higher Education

    ' [...] will be a vital addition to the literature for anyone teaching modern history, whether focused on art and design, social and economic history, or gender studies. In addition to extensive research in public and private archives in Britain, South Africa, and the United States, it is clearly based on a thorough knowledge of the relevant theory and literature and includes excellent notes and bibliography. [...] it will be essential reading and a stimulating resource for anyone working on the period and should be in the library of every institution studying and promoting history.'
    Annette Carruthers, Journal of British Studies

    'Encompassing intellectual, entrepreneurial, cultural and political history, it shifts the focus from the finished artworks to the network structures, the business strategies, and the spaces of women art workers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, making a tremendous contribution to both women's history and to scholarship on the Arts and Crafts period.'
    Dublin Review of Books

    'Though confined largely to Great Britain, this examination of the women art workers of the Arts and Crafts Movement is a welcome corrective to the astonishing absence of women from the literature of the movement generally (including how it is represented in the extensive Wikipedia entry). Thomas (Univ. of Birmingham, UK) moves away from the male-run Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society established in 1887 to focus, for the first time, on "the extensive network of women working at the highest echelons of the English Arts and Crafts Movement" (p. 5). Following an introductory overview of the politics of gender in the movement, Thomas's study unfolds in five chapters and an epilogue organized around the entwined themes of gender and space: clubhouses and guild halls, homes, business spaces, and "into the city"-the last signifying women's progress in the suffragette movement and in their roles in industry during WW I. Thomas's recovery of the history of the women art workers is sustained by a wealth of archival materials, which include letters, newspaper accounts, and vintage photographs.'
    --J. Quinan, emeritus, independent scholar
    Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
    Reprinted with permission from Choice Reviews. All rights reserved. Copyright by the American Library Association.

    'I am grateful to Zoë Thomas for writing a rich and thoughtful book that suggests such intriguing connections and points of comparison. It marks an important contribution to the scholarship on middle-class women's work as well as providing a convincing account of how women, as well as men, taught the English middle classes good taste.'
    Twentieth Century British History

    'Zoë Thomas's authoritative account of how women artist-makers pioneered diverse and vigorously active roles in late 19th-and early 20th-century Britain is an invaulable contribution to the scholarly literature on the Arts & Crafts Movement. Meticulously researched, cogently argued and elegantly written, it presents a revelatory body of material that documents in fascinating detail women's organisations - guilds, clubs, committees and exhibitions - that challenged the male-dominated art world of the time.'
    The Journal of Stained Glass, Peter Cormack

    'Through outstanding archival research of personal and professional accounts, and meticulous engagement with previous critical studies of the subject, Thomas examines the Arts and Crafts movement from the perspective of the collective of female artists who helped to bring the movement into the public eye. [...] Thomas's mode of rethinking the movement has set a new trend that will inspire students, teachers, and researchers alike.'
    Romance, Revolution & Reform

    An excellent contribution to scholarship on women and art in the nineteenth century, this book should interest anyone wanting a fuller picture of the Arts and Crafts Movement as a whole and women's distinct role in it.'
    The Pre-Raphaelite Society

    'Women Art Workers and the Arts and Crafts Movement is a thought-provoking, scholarly and detailed account that brings new insights and knowledge to the study of the Arts and Crafts Movement and women's participation in it. Its strength is undoubtedly its focus on the private and public spaces: exhibitions, workshops, homes, and clubs in addition to the businesses and workshops, and organizations and societies that facilitated and enhanced women art workers. It makes a considerable contribution to the field.'
    Cheryl Buckley, Journal of Design History



    Winner of the Women's History Network Book Prize 2021


    Historians of British Art Award for a single-authored book with a subject between 1800-1960


    Introduction: The Arts and Crafts movement, work cultures, and the politics of gender
    1 Clubhouses and guild halls
    2 Exhibiting the Arts and Crafts
    3 'At Home' in artistic houses and studios
    4 'Artistic' businesses and 'medieval' workshops
    5 Out of the guild hall and into the city

    Select bibliography


    Zoë Thomas is Associate Professor in Modern History at the University of Birmingham

    Women art workers and the Arts and Crafts movement

    By Zoë Thomas

    Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

    Paperback £19.99 / $29.95

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