Claire Martin

PG Researcher and Postgraduate Tutor

Summary: Female sexuality in Yorkshire, c.1900-1940


My Research

Thesis: Constructing Woman: Medical Discourse, Popular Culture, and Society in Yorkshire, c.1900-1940

My thesis explores the discursive construction of the female body and female sexuality in science and popular culture in Yorkshire between 1900 and 1940, and seeks to assess the impact of these discourses on working-class women’s experience with a focus on menstruation, sex, pregnancy, and menopause.

The period 1900-1940 in England was marked by a multiplication of discourses on sexuality, prompted by feminist campaigns and social anxieties about prostitution, venereal disease, and race degeneration, and later with an increasing concern with family limitation and public health, and a perceived crisis in marriage and gender roles. These discourses all contributed to the reshaping of gender roles and sexuality. Their impact on individual practices, understanding, or experience however was certainly not straightforward or univocal. Engaging with the recent historiography of sexuality, my thesis focuses on class and regionality as defining factors of experience.

Drawing on Michel Foucault’s analysis of power and knowledge, this project thus aims at exploring the relationships between these different types of discourses as well as the mechanisms of their dissemination and transformation, in order to uncover the ways in which they influenced the intimate experiences of a category of the population defined by their gender, class, and regional identity.

Main supervisor: Dr Kate Dossett; Co-supervisor: Dr Jessica Meyer

About Me

I am a graduate of the Université Paris Est Créteil, where I studied for a BA in Anglophone studies from 2006 to 2009, before specialising in modern British history for my MA (2009-2011). During the course of my MA, I wrote two dissertations on different aspects of female sexuality in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: in my first year I explored the regulation of prostitution in Victorian London, and in my second year I analysed the medicalization and eroticisation of the female body in Britain around the turn of the twentieth century. 

I arrived at Leeds in 2011 as a tutor in the French department, before starting my PhD in 2013.

Teaching and Mentoring

I am currently teaching on the following undergraduate modules:

HIST1300 – Primary Sources for the Historian

FREN2065 – Aspects of French History, 1789-1914

I am also a mentor for the LSSI 'Students as Scholars' scheme.

Conference and Seminar Papers

"A Matter of Space: Gender, Class, and the Women's Co-operative Guild" - Women's History Network annual conference, University of Kent, September 2015 

"Class, Region, and the History of Sexuality: Yorkshire working-class Women, 1870-1930" - 'What is the History of Sexuality?' one day workshop, Birkbeck University London, June 2015 

"'Life Begins Again at Forty': Changing Narratives of the Menopause" - Health, Medicine and Society postgraduate colloquium, University of Leeds, June 2015 

“Rewriting Menstruation and Menopause: the Work of the Medical Women’s Federation” - Social History Society annual conference, Portsmouth University, April 2015

“Thinking Beyond the Gender Binary 100 Years Ago: the radical sexual counter-discourse of Urania” - Identity, Power and Protest seminar series, University of Leeds, May 2014

“Gender expectations in marriage and sex education literature, 1900-1930” - White Rose Doctoral Training Centre and Leeds Social Science Institute seminar series, University of Leeds, April 2014

Community Engagement

As Education Outreach Fellow for the School of History, I give regular talks on higher education to school pupils, as well as subject-specific taster seminars.

I am also currently involved in "QueerStories", an LGBT*IQ social history project with Leeds Museums and Galleries.