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Nineteenth-Century letters as a resource: Midlands women as a case study.This paper argues that a letter’s physicality is as important to the twenty-first century social historian as the written word. It is not enough to interpret the letter as a literary document nor is it intelligible to take the letter simply as an historical artefact for both lines of enquiry will result in the recounting of one half of the complete whole. A critical evaluation of the archival collection of the Ogston Estate in the heart of the Midlands, indicated that this group of records can deliver more than a concise male orientated genealogical record or history of a Midlands country estate. It has shown that, and most importantly to this study, the majority of the surviving familiar letters from one Midlands family, were written by women, principally the wives, mothers and daughters of the Turbutt/Gladwin family. This offers a unique insight into the personal preoccupations of gentry women in the Midlands, their economic roles and social lives not only from a gentry family focus but also as a vehicle from which to investigate the extent to which the letter and letter writing in the Midlands in the 1800s played a key role in feminine polite society.
To the Ladies Turbutt: Three women, three wills and three legacies.The paper demonstrates that three women from one Derbyshire Gentry family, the Turbutt family through wills and legacies influenced, shaped and controlled the matrilineal line for well over two hundred years. From paper and ink to text and the digital screen the consequences of their decisions reverberate into the twenty-first century. A judicious evaluation of the archival collection of the Turbutt family indicated that this group of records would yield rather more than a regular male oriented family pedigree. The paper argues that through bequests in both life and death the three women had agency to help, guide and empower. It explores the choices made by later generations of the same family that society would otherwise have prohibited; in these choices the women would not only enrage their close male relatives but also later generations of the familial patrilineal line. The paper explores how the platform of letters enabled/allowed women to step out of the hegemonic ideal of domesticity and into a world outside the gates of the landed estate. It will see how legacies and letters afforded two women to play the nineteenth-century stock market, and furthermore, it demonstrates the difference a century made in the nature of the financial subjects about which the Ogston women were writing to determine what and whom was of greatest concern.