The nineteenth-century women’s life writing archive is a space rife with gendered intervention. ‘Silence in the Archives: Censorship and Suppression in Women’s Life Writing’ engages with forms of archival spaces ranging between the institutional, the familial, and the imaginary. Five scholarly articles examine the preservation, construction, and censorship of nineteenth-century women’s life writing using a wide range of primary sources and across disciplines including literature, history, art history, and information sciences. These articles examine evidence both incorporated within and peripheral to traditional institutional archives, suggesting that researchers’ materials and methods of interpretation must be creative and interdisciplinary, and that the concept of the ‘archive’ must be stretched beyond its traditional limitations in order to grapple with the many dimensions and remnants of nineteenth-century women’s life writing. A forum section presents new models for mediating and negotiating archival absences in nineteenth-century women’s life writing through digital innovations. The forum also suggests strategies for recovering the doubly silenced voices of nineteenth-century women of colour. This issue of 19 queries women’s role in society in the long nineteenth century across temporalities and contributes to understandings of how the creation and preservation of life writing interacted with women’s evolving domestic, societal, and self-reflexive identities. It does so by examining extant archives and recovery projects relating to both canonical and lesser known women, including Claire Clairmont, Margaret Fuller, Eva Knatchbull-Hugessen, Christina Liddell, Mary Watts, Dora Montefiore, and Margaret Harkness.
Cover image: Ms in English, Martha Bradford (née Wilmot), Letters from Russia, April 1803–October 1806 (Copied by her mother), p. 123, Dublin, Royal Irish Academy MS 12 L 24. By permission of the Royal Irish Academy © RIA.