Perkin, Joan 1926-

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Perkin, Joan 1926-


Born July 27, 1926, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England; daughter of Henry (a shopkeeper) and Jane (a shopkeeper) Griffiths; married Harold James Perkin (a university professor and social historian), July 4, 1948 (died, 2004); children: Deborah Jane, Julian Robert. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: University of Lancaster, B.A. (with honors), 1979. Politics: "Labour supporter." Religion: Church of England.


Home—London, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Freelance writer, 1979—. Northwestern University, part-time lecturer in women's history through 1997. Worked in England as civil servant and industrial relations advisor; magistrate, 1975-84.


Amnesty International, Social History Society of Great Britain, Fawcett Society.


It's Never Too Late: A Practical Guide to Continuing Education for Women of All Ages, Impact Books (Chicago, IL), 1984.

Women and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century England, Lyceum Books (Chicago, IL), 1989.

Victorian Women, John Murray (London, England), 1993, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

The Merry Duchess, Athena Press (London, England), 2002.

Contributor to periodicals, including History Today.


Perkin's book The Merry Duchess served as the basis for a play produced in Highgate, in London, in 2006.


Joan Perkin once told CA: "I was a victim of prejudice against higher education for women, which existed in Britain when I was young. In my forties, with two teenage children, I took the qualifying exams and went to university to earn a degree. Thereafter I wanted to encourage other older women to return to education. I feel very fortunate that my life and career have blossomed into writing and teaching."

Perkin updated CA: "I retired from Northwestern University in 1997, but continue to research and write. In August, 2001, I was asked to talk on the British radio program Woman's Hour about the invention of the sewing machine and its influence on women's lives. I wrote up my research in an article that was published in History Today, which led to much discussion. My current interest is, of course, in the use of the sewing machine in the 'sweated trades' around the world.

"I never thought, when I was young, that I would ever write a book, though I loved reading and the study of English literature. I left school at sixteen and went to work in the British Civil Service. Here I learned the art of writing reports in clear English, but later I found it difficult to rid myself of using the passive voice.

"At university in the late 1970s, in Britain, I became particularly interested in the history of Victorian women and started to research and write books on the subject. My writing process was greatly encouraged by my husband, a famous social historian and writer of excellent prose. In the early stages I suffered a lot of criticism from him, but eventually I took off on my own, which pleased my husband greatly, though he continued to edit my work. I miss him greatly since his death in 2004."



Times Literary Supplement, April 7, 1989, Anne Summers, review of Women and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century England, p. 357.