Prof. Abigail Harrison Moore: Women and Energy, Crafts and electrick decision making

  • 5.15pm

  • Hunter Building, Hunter Lecture Theatre (017)
    74 Lauriston Place
    EH3 9DF

Led by Prof. Abigail Harrison Moore, University of Leeds

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the idea that domestic décor was an expression of a woman’s personal character, was linked with the idea of home as a reflection of and influence on a person’s morality, and the importance of cleanliness. These ideas were brought very much to the public’s attention by ‘The International Preservation of Health and the Progress of Education’ Exhibition held in London in 1884. There was a clear link made between beauty and health, between a person’s surroundings and their character.

This paper will explore the advice given by Mrs Mary Eliza Haweis (1848-1898), in her pioneering book, The Art of Decorating the Home (1881), with a specific focus on Chapter VIII-Lighting and Ventilation, written at a time when electricity was beginning to be seen as a possibility to power the modern home. The housewife was exhorted to purchase ‘purely utilitarian lights [with] unpretentious and inexpensive fittings’, married with an arts and crafts aesthetic. Mrs Haweis’s guide celebrated craftsmanship, materiality and function as conforming to the Christian values that domestic life should demonstrate. No material should imitate something that it is not and furnishings that obeyed the criteria of beauty, it was argued, were bound to have a good moral influence.

Stemming from my wider, international, inter-disciplinary network project on ‘Women and Energy’, this paper illustrates my work as an art historian contributing to our understanding of the histories of technology and the environment.


Abigail Harrison Moore is Professor of Art History and Museum Studies and the former Head of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies (2014-19). She developed the University of Leeds’ masters programme in Art Gallery and Museum Studies, and co-developed its sister programme, MA Arts Management and Heritage Studies. Abigail was a founding member of the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage, and the Centre for Collaborative Heritage Research, and she has supervised a large number of PhDs in these research areas.

Abigail’s research focusses on the art history of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, particularly the Arts and Crafts Movement, and her last monograph, Fraud, Fakery and False Business (Continuum, 2011), considered the social, legal and political dimensions of the art and antiques market in 1920’s England. She has more recently been working on an international project on the histories and cultures of energy supply, with collaborators from Canada, Austria, Sweden and the US. In the UK, she is very focussed on creative education in schools, has helped develop the curriculum in her subject areas and has written widely on the educational challenges for young people from low social and economic groups.

Part of the 2019/20 History of Art Research Seminar Series