Ph.D. University of Sussex, Britain
B.A., M.A. University of Colorado
Areas of Expertise:
Social and cultural history of 20th century Britain; women and national identity; gender; life history
Courses I Teach:
- Cultural and Social History of Britain, 19th and 20th centuries
- Europe in World War II
- Honors Colloquium
- Modern Europe
- Senior Seminar
- War and Gender in Britain
My research originally focused on British housewives and their experiences of WW2. I published a book, Domestic Soldiers (Constable and Robinson, 2010) based on this research.
My new research has broadened to include Interwar Britain, as well as WW2. Currently, I am researching the life of a pioneer British of sitcom and soap opera, Mabel Constanduros. Constanduros was incredibly important to the evolution of these genres, yet few remember her and fewer academics have considered her life and her impact on British culture. I am currently working on a biography of Constanduros, and recently published an article “introducing” her to the world of Women’s History Review.
Awards & Recognition
I am author of a book titled, The Domestic Soldier: Housewives on the Home Front (published in August 2010). I wrote the article “‘Why Must We So Frequently Save the King?’: British Housewives and National Identity during the Second World War,” in Sex and Sexuality in a Feminist World (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009).
“‘Behind The Blessed Shelter of the Microphone’: Managing Celebrity and Career on the early BBC-Mabel Constanduros, 1925-1957.” Women’s History Review 24, no.3 (June, 2015).
Domestic Soldiers: Six Women’s Lives in the Second World War. London: Constable and Robinson.
“‘Why Must We So Frequently Save the King?’: British Housewives and National Identity during the Second World War,” in Sex and Sexuality in a Feminist World, eds. Karen Ritzenkoff and Katherine Hermes. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press.
“British National Identity and the People: Women’s Ideas of the Nation during the Second World War.” University of Sussex Journal of Contemporary History 11 (2007) online.
“The Domestic Soldier: British Housewives and the Nation in the Second World War.” History Compass 4, no. 1 (2006): 153-160.
“Review of Garry Campion, The Good Fight: Battle of Britain Propaganda and The Few,” Journal of British Studies, in editorial process.
Saint Michael’s College
2011-Present Gender Studies Advisory Committee
2010-Present Faculty advisor of Phi Alpha Theta, history honors society
2010-Present Honors Committee
2010-Present Center for Women and Gender Advisory Committee
2009-2011 History Department Meeting Secretary
2008-2010 Residence Hall Floor Visitor Dialogue Program
Nov 2010 Organized on-campus Norbert A. Kuntz lecture, “Murder in the Metro,” with Gayle Brunelle and Anne Croswhite-Finley
Nov 2009 Organized on-campus lecture, “The Tour Buses Don’t Stop Here: Voices from Small Town Vermont,” with Vermont History Magazine journalists Karl Decker and Nancy Levine.
April 2009 Invited lecture, ‘The Women’s Rebellion’ for Elder Education, South Burlington
2007-2009 Founder and faculty advisor of SMCVoice, student-led club dedicated to researching and documenting campus life and opinion
Fall 2007 History Department Meeting Secretary
University of Sussex
2005 Editorial Board, University of Sussex Journal of Contemporary History
Co-organizer, 2005 Humanities Postgraduate Conference
University of Colorado at Denver
2003-2004 Colorado History Day Mentor and Judge
New England Historical Association
2011 NEHA Jim Hanlan Book Prize Committee Member
2010 NEHA Graduate Prize Committee Member
Presentations at Meetings:
2011 “The Comedy of Mabel Constanduros: Celebrity, Gender, and the BBC,” New England Conference for British Studies, October, Worcester, MA.
2011 “The Power of Mass-Observation,” invited paper. The Second World War: PopularCulture and Cultural Memory, July, Brighton, UK.
2011 “Women’s Use of Humour: The Comedy of Mabel Constanduros,” Social History Conference, April, Manchester, UK.
2010 “Heroism or ‘Purgatory’? Negotiating the Propaganda of the ‘People’s War’,” North American Conference on British Studies, November, Baltimore, MD.
2010 Comment, “Citizenship, Identity and the Self in Britain, 1880s-1940s,” New England Conference on British Studies, September, Burlington, VT.
2009 Comment, “British Imperialism in China and India,” New England Historical Association Conference, April, Portland, ME.
2008 “‘Damn All Foreigners!’: Personal Narratives and British National Identity in the Second World War,” Western Conference on British Studies, September, San Antonio, TX.
2008 Chair, “Nationalism and Identity in Modern Britain and Ireland,” Western Conference on British Studies, September, San Antonio, TX.
2008 “British National Identity and Women’s Ideas of the Nation during the Second World War,” New England Historical Association Conference, April, Boston, MA.
2007 “‘Why Must We So Frequently Save the King?’: British Housewives and National Identity during the Second World War,” War and Gender Conference, April, Central Connecticut State University, CT.
2006 “‘Housewife’ or ‘Domestic Servant in Husband’s Home’? The Domestic Identities of Women in the 1940s and 1950s,” Tenth Annual Women’s Studies Conference, April,Castleton State College, Castleton, VT.
2005 “‘Wish Stalin could be our P.M. a while’: Housewives, Politics and National Identity in the Second World War,” North American Conference on British Studies, October, Denver, CO.
2005 “‘Housewife’ or ‘Domestic Servant in Husband’s Home’? The Domestic Identities of Women in the 1940s and 1950s,” Fresh Perspectives Postgraduate Conference, March, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK.
2005 Chair, “Appropriating Landscapes,” Fresh Perspectives Postgraduate Conference, March, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK.
2005 Chair, “Scientific Environments,” Fresh Perspectives Postgraduate Conference, March, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK.
2003 “The Domestic Soldier: Domesticity and National Identity in World War II Britain,” Western Conference on British Studies, November, Tucson, AZ.
North American Conference on British Studies
The Historical Association, UK
New England Historical Association
The Society of Authors
Life Off Campus:
I enjoy hiking, camping, and kayaking. I am also addicted to traveling in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Jennifer Purcell of the Saint Michael’s history faculty gave a virtual talk for the Vermont Humanities First Wednesday Program on May .; originally this talk was to be presented in person at the First Congregational Church of Manchester, but due to the COVID-19 crisis, this year’s First Wednesday talks were only online. Here’s the announcement from the Vermont Humanities website on Jen’s topic: “How did British housewives experience the Second World War and contribute to the war effort? Saint Michael’s history professor Jen Purcell tells the stories of seven housewives from across Britain. They grappled with the challenges of wartime, navigated shifting relationships at home and in the community, and struggled to be recognized for their efforts.”
(posted July 2021)
Jennifer Purcell of the history faculty this summer received a glowing review from Gilli Bush-Bailey, Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, University of London, UK, for a new Purcell book titled Mother of the BBC: Mabel Constanduros and the Development of Popular Entertainment on the BBC, 1925-57.
(posted February 2021)
Elizabeth “Liz” Scott, the College’s archivist in Durick Library, has found a useful worthwhile project to pursue remotely while in isolation during the pandemic at her home in Jericho “I have been working with Jen Purcell [history faculty] and Mike Stefanowicz [director of admission] to put together something for the future,” inviting all members of the Saint Michael’s College community “to help us in documenting this unprecedented time. We are piloting a project that is intended to capture thoughts and feelings as we meet the day-to-day challenges brought about by Covid-19.”
(posted June 2020)
Jennifer J. Purcell, associate professor and chair of the History Department, has a publication, “Mother of the BBC: Mabel Constanduros and the Development of Popular Entertainment on the BBC, 1925-57 (Bloomsbury)” coming out in March: Jen also recently signed paperwork to become series editor for The Mass Observation Critical Series with Bloomsbury. This will be a massive, long-term endeavor putting out multiple volumes derived primarily from the work of Mass Observation from scholars across disciplines including history, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, political science, and psychology. Related to that, Bloomsbury will be issuing a contract for Jen’s next book on British popular opinion of the royalty in the 20th-21st centuries. The tentative title is Royal Observers: Mass Observing the Royalty, 1937-2020. Her article, “The BBC’s ‘Little Man’ in the Age of Supermen: Situation Comedy, National Character and Masculinity in the late-1930s” was accepted and is coming out at the end of the year in Comedy Studies. Finally, Vermont PBS just asked Jen to speak at their BritCom tea in April 2020.
(posted February 2020)
Jennifer Purcell, associate professor and chair of history, in March formalized her contract with publishing house Bloomsbury for her new book titled Mother of the BBC: Mabel Constanduros and the Development of Popular Entertainment on the BBC, 1925-1957 (May 2019). Also, Jen been asked by Bloomsbury to be editor of a book series on Mass-Observation, a British social research organization which, since 1937, has been dedicated to studying the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. Her first book, Domestic Soldiers (2010), was based on her research of the M-O archives. Constanduros’s emphasis on the everyday and the family had far-reaching impacts on the shape of sitcom and soap opera in Britain, two popular lenses through which the nation sees itself at home. Her role in developing entertainment on the BBC and the ways in which she cultivated her career make her the ‘Mother of the BBC,’ but in constructing a popular image of family life she might also be considered the ‘Mother of the Nation,’ Jen explains.
(posted June 2018)
Jennifer Purcell, associate professor of history, spent June in the final phase of her research on Mabel Constanduros as a Richmond University (London) Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures Summer Research Fellow consulting archives in and around London. She organized the Northeastern Conference on British Studies (NECBS) Annual Meeting on campus Oct 14-15. Saint Michael’s welcomed 80 scholars of British history from across the country and the UK to campus. Jen also gave a paper at the above-mentioned conference on the development of comedy on the early BBC, titled “Finding Talent: The Impact of Amateur Performers on the Development of Comedy on the Fledgling BBC, 1922-1939.” And, she will be in Washington, DC Nov. 11-12 as a commentator on a panel at the North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS) annual meeting about popular culture in the middle 20th century in Britain.
(posted November 2016)
Jennifer Purcell, assistant professor of history, is author of a paper that was published in Women’s History Review in November; she also presented a paper at the Northeastern Conference on British Studies in October.
(posted December 2014)