This month for LGBT+ History Month, we are pleased to launch the newly catalogued Amy Dillwyn Collection (ref. DC6). Amy Dillwyn (1845-1935) was a pioneering female industrialist, novelist, social justice campaigner, and, according to Professor Kirsti Bohata, ‘a queer writer of international significance’’.
The Amy Dillwyn papers include –
- Amy’s handwritten journals (1863-1917)
- a copy of one of her literary works – ‘The Two Gardens’ 
- correspondence with relatives
- a scrapbook with newspaper cuttings about herself that she compiled (1901-1911)
Dillwyn’s novels (such as Jill, 1884) explore romance/love between women, an early example of lesbian fiction in print. Her own journals [ref. DC6/1] also give details about her relationship with Olive Talbot –
‘When in 1872 Amy Dillwyn began to refer to her friend, Olive Talbot, as her ‘wife’ in her private diaries, the term ‘lesbian’ was not available. In later life Dillwyn would come to relish what she called her ‘difference’ which she accentuated by her unconventional dress, her habit of smoking a cigar in public and her outspoken independence.’Professor Kirsti Bohata ‘The Life and Fiction of Amy Dillwyn‘
However Amy Dillwyn may have viewed herself, or how she was viewed by others, it is clear that she did not conform to conventions of her time. We hope that her collection will provide more of an insight into this inspirational figure.
To find out more
- Professor Kirsti Bohata The Life and Fiction of Amy Dillwyn.
- Bohata, K., (2019) DILLWYN, ELIZABETH AMY (1845 – 1935), novelist, industrialist and feminist campaigner. Dictionary of Welsh Biography.
- Bohata, K. (2018) “A Queer-Looking Lot of Women”: Cross-Dressing, Transgender Ventriloquism, and Same-Sex Desire in the Fiction of Amy Dillwyn. Victorian Review, 44(1), 113–130.
- Professor Kirsti Bohata, Dr Katrina Legg and Mandy Lane (May 2018) Take me as you find me … I am not ashamed of being myself’ Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts issue of ARC magazine. The article explored the life and impact of Elizabeth Amy Dillwyn, and how the collection held in the Archives has been used by students and an artist, Mandy Lane.
- ‘Mandy Lane with Professor Kirsti Bohata‘ podcast and photo essay – for Wales Arts Review series, Artists in Residence.
- Dr David Painting was an expert and author on the Dillwyn family, in particular Amy Dillwyn, and his works include ‘Amy Dillwyn’ (new ed., Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2013). The archival papers of the Dillwyn family have been made accessible to researchers by the generosity of Dr Painting who kindly offered the papers to Swansea University, with the support of members of the family.
- To find out more about the interest in Amy Dillwyn and the broader Dillwyn family at Swansea University see the Dillwyn Project web pages.
- Making Queer History posts – Elizabeth Amy Dillwyn Part I and Part II.
- Companies House blog post – Amy Dillwyn: LGBT History Month.
- Kirsti Bohata – The Contribution that Welsh LGBTQ+ Literature has Made in Wales and Throughout the World, with particular focus on Amy Dillwyn.
We are looking forward to the touring production by Lighthouse Theatre, ‘The Many Lives of Amy Dillwyn’ coming to Swansea’s Taliesin Theatre, 7.30pm, 24th Feb 2022. It will be followed by a discussion with Professor Kirsti Bohata.