Telling: Using creative writing and motherline stories to reclaim herstory and Petals: A Novel

  • Victoria Bailey

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


creative writing practice-based PhD thesis focuses on reclaiming and representing herstory in fiction, inspired and informed by motherline stories. My research comprises two parts: a critical-reflective exegesis exploring my creative writing process within a framework informed by feminist and matricentric feminist studies; and a novel.
In Part One, I outline the personal and ethical challenges I encountered in reclaiming and representing herstory inspired by my motherline stories and explore ways in which creative writing helped me to process these challenges. I examine the critical terms ‘herstory’ (Morgan, 1970), ‘reclaiming,’ and ‘motherline’ through this process. I describe how I came to reconsider the power of ‘telling’ and ‘not telling’ and argue that, when reclaiming seemingly ‘silenced’ voices, writers need to be sensitive to the risk of overlooking, or even undoing, choices made by those who came before us. I conclude that creative writing is a powerful means of critical inquiry into motherline herstory and that, reciprocally, motherlines are a rich resource for creative writers seeking to explore herstory. I introduce the term ‘mothervine’ in order to express the complexity of the concept of maternal lineage. I also identify areas for potential future critical and creative exploration.
Part Two consists of a novel, Petals. This text of herstorical fiction is inspired by stories passed along my motherline and informed by my critical reading and research. Set in Middlesbrough, my novel focuses on the experiences of an unwed working-class female teen who becomes pregnant and gives birth in the interwar years. Through their choices regarding what they ‘tell’ and ‘do not tell’ about the baby, the girl and her mother actively resist patriarchal social norms of the time. The novel sets out to find new ways of reclaiming and reframing an aspect of experience that has been historically marginalized.
Date of Award23 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorRoisin Higgins (Supervisor), Sophie Nicholls (Supervisor) & Rachel Carroll (Supervisor)

Cite this