Ursula Masson Memorial Lecture

Womens Day - Ty Crawshay

Ty Crawshay, Treforest Campus, lit up for Women's Day

Ursula Masson Memorial Lecture

Each year on March 8th, International Women’s Day (or on the nearest week day), the Centre for Gender Studies in Wales presents a public lecture, the Ursula Masson Memorial Lecture, to celebrate the day and to commemorate its founder.

Ursula Masson Memorial Lecture 2024

‘Political Women in Interwar Wales’

This talk will explore how women were political and what it meant to be a political woman in interwar Wales. Drawing from examples from across Wales, the lecture will discuss how women practised their politics through parties, voluntary associations and social movements in the years after the vote was won. It will consider how political activism was part of a woman’s wider life and the ways in which the identities of housewife and mother intersected with political identities. Finally, the lecture will use representations of Welsh women’s politics to re-evaluate whether it is possible to speak of a Welsh woman’s political sphere.

Dr Stephanie Ward is a Senior Lecturer in Modern Welsh History at Cardiff University. She has recently published the edited collection (along with Beth Jenkins and Paul O’Leary) Gender in Modern Welsh History: Perspectives on Masculinity and Femininity in Wales From 1750 to 2000 (University of Wales Press, 2023). Stephanie’s work focuses upon women’s political activism, femininity and class, embodied masculinities, social movements and family life.

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About Ursula Masson

Ursula Masson was a woman who made things happen.  Proud to call herself a feminist, she was a fine scholar and an inspirational teacher whose passionate commitment to woman and to politics was evident to everyone who knew her.

Ursula Masson

As a history lecturer at the then University of Glamorgan from 1994, she became a leading figure in the field of women’s history, especially Welsh women’s political history. Ursula was an early proponent of what is now called in REF-speak ‘Impact’. That is, she took historical research out of the academy and back out into the wider world.  She was also instrumental in founding Archif Menywod Cymru/Women’s Archive of Wales. Their very successful women’s history roadshows were initially her idea and she was instrumental in pushing through the Heritage Lottery bid which gained the fund to support this campaign. 

Her published work included two editions of women’s political writing for Honno Press: Elizabeth Andrews’ autobiography/memoir, A Woman’s Work is Never Done(2006), and The Very Salt of Life: Welsh Women’s Political Writings from Chartism to Suffrage (2007). She also produced an edition of the minute book of the Aberdare Women’s Liberal Association from 1891-1907, entitled: Women’s Rights and Womanly Duties (2005). An active member of Llafur, the Welsh People’s History Society, she was also co-editor of their journal. And she was Chair of the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network.

Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Ursula took her first degree at Cardiff University followed by an MA at the University of Keele. She worked as a journalist in Australia and then in Adult Education in Swansea before she came to Glamorgan. Her PhD research focused on Women’s Liberal Associations in Wales and was published posthumously as For Women, for Wales and for Liberalism: Women in Liberal Politics in Wales 1880-1914 by the University of Wales Press.

She also set up, with Professor Jane Aaron, the Centre for Gender Studies in Wales. It is fitting, therefore, that the Memorial Lecture is given in her honour on International Women’s Day.

Photo of Ursula reproduced with kind permission of Colin Molyneux 

Previous lectures

Previous lectures

  • Professor Jane Aaron, Emeritus Professor of English: 'Woman on a Mission: Cranogwen (Sarah Jane Rees, 1839-1916) (2023). A sailor’s daughter from the fishing village of Llangrannog in Ceredigion, Sarah Jane Rees was from the 1860s onwards frequently hailed as a woman on a mission. Many of her contemporaries saw her as a pioneer, leading her society, and its women in particular, out of the dark caves in which they were entombed by Victorian class and gender prejudices into the light of a more egalitarian world. This lecture traces Cranogwen’s progress, through her various occupations as seamstress, sailor, teacher, poet, lecturer, traveller, essayist, editor, preacher and women’s movement leader, towards becoming an early role-model for the New Woman of late nineteenth-century Wales.

  • Gwyneth Lewis, poet and writer: Chronic: Time in Health and Poetry. Gwyneth Lewis was Wales's National Poet from 2005-06. She wrote the bilingual words for the front of the iconic Wales Millennium Centre. She’s an award-winning poet. Her most recent collection is Sparrow Tree (Bloodaxe Books). She has published seventeen books of poetry, non-fiction and, with Rowan Williams, a translation of The Book of Taliesin (Penguin Classics). Gwyneth was awarded a Cholmondely Award by the Society of Authors in 2010. She’s a freelance writer and teacher and has held a number of fellowships in the US, where she’s taught at Princeton University and is a faculty member of Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont where, in 2016 she was the Robert Frost Chair of Literature. (2022)

  • Gaynor Legall: Making amends: reparative histories for the Black and minority ethnic population of Wales. Gaynor Legall is Chair of The Heritage & Cultural Exchange and leader of the Welsh Government task and finish group undertaking an audit of public monuments, street and building names associated with aspects of Wales’ Black history. In this talk, Gaynor discussed her views on reparative histories and what it might mean to attempt to make amends for the misleading recording of history that is about the Black and minority ethnic population of Wales. (2021)
  • Professor Laura McAllister (Cardiff University): “Are we there yet?": The illusion of gender equality in Welsh politics / "Ydyn ni yno eto?": Rhith cydraddoldeb rhywiol yng ngwleidyddiaeth. Centering on devolution and the wider context of politics and governance in Wales, Professor Laura McAllister traced progress made since 1999 in the number of women elected to the National Assembly for Wales. The lecture was followed by the opening of the award-winning Forty Voices, Forty Years exhibition (2020).

  • Dr Rhian Davies: A refined and beautiful talent’: Thoughts on the centenary of the death of Morfydd Owen (1891–1918).

  • The 10th anniversary Ursula Masson Memorial lecture, which also marked 100 years since the granting of partial suffrage to women, was held at the Senedd in partnership with the Welsh Government and Archif Menywod Cymru/Women’s Archive of Wales as part of a day of celebratory events. The lecture was delivered by Dr Ryland Wallace and entitled ‘The women’s suffrage movement in Wales’. It was accompanied by performances by Welsh National Opera’s Rhondda Rips it Up!  (2018). 
  • Dr Sian Rhiannon Williams: Delicate and troublous questions: women teachers, gender issues and local education politics in south Wales, 1908-1928 (2017).

  • Dr Kirsti Bohata: ‘Industrial Fiction by Women Writers in Wales, 1880-1914’ (2016).

  • Neil Evans: We are a Happy Company: The Culture of Women’s Movements in Wales (2015).

  • Professor Katie Gramich: The Soldier’s Return (2014).
  • Professor Karen Hunt: Only Connect’: Women’s Politics and the Everyday between the Wars (2013)

  • Professor Jane Aaron: The Witch as Heroine in Welsh Gothic (2012).

  • Professor Angela John: Rhonddaworld: Lady Rhondda’s Life Story, (2011).

  • Professor June Hannam: Writing to History: Autobiographies of the first Labour Women MPs, (2010).

  • Professor Deirdre Beddoe: Women and Change in Twentieth Century Wales (2009).

The Ursula Masson Memorial Prize 

The Ursula Masson Memorial Prize is awarded annually for the best undergraduate dissertation in women’s history or gender history to recognise the legacy of the late Dr Ursula Masson.  Ursula was an esteemed and much-loved historian at USW who, amongst many other endeavours and achievements, founded the Centre for Gender Studies in Wales.  Her premature death in 2008 was a blow to the research and teaching community at USW though this prize is one of the ways in which we remember her wonderful contribution to her subject and to the University.        


2020: Christine Powell, 'Why Did Abertillery's First Local Authority Birth-Control Clinic Fail?' and Alis Thomas Stone, 'A Rejection of Femininity?: A Study of Female Self-Starvation in Britain, 1864-1914'    

2019: Nicola Pitman: 'Heroines in Muddy Boots?: Perceptions and Portrayals of the Women's Land Army of the Second World War'

2018: Julie Marie Edwards, 'The Disappearance of the Younger Witch in Early-Modern Art' and Rebecca King, 'An Exploration of the Erasure of Trans Voices in the LGBT+ Movement and its Historiography'

2017: Leah Ellis, ''Bleidlesiau I Ferchned!': An Assessment of the Newspaper Coverage of the Women's Suffrage Movement in Wales, 1869-1914'