Katherine Wallace

Katherine Wallace

Department of History
Doctoral Researcher

Contact details

PhD title: Feminist and queer women's experiences in social and leisure spaces in 1970s and 1980s Britain 
SupervisorsProfessor Mo Moulton and Dr Chris Moores 

History PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)


BA History (First) University of Birmingham, 2020 
MA Modern British Studies (Distinction) University of Birmingham, 2021


I studied BA History (2020) and MA Modern British Studies (2021) at the University of Birmingham, and started my History PhD in September 2022. My PhD is funded by the Wolfson Foundation Postgraduate Study Scholarship. As a researcher, I am interested in feminist and queer history in modern Britain. I am widely interested in histories of gender and sexuality as well as local history in twentieth century Britain and beyond, as well as spatial histories. Most recently, I have become interested in histories of communication, specifically telephonic history. I also volunteer as a Creative Ambassador at GINA UK, and I am a Lead Editor at Midlands History Review.


  • PGTA The Making of the Contemporary World, Spring 2024


My thesis examines the experiences of feminist and queer women in social and leisure spaces in 1970s and 1980s Britain. I consider the fundamental role of cafes, discos, pubs, clubs, as well as gay or feminist centres and their relationship to women’s formative experiences in defying and challenging pre-existing notions of gender and sexuality. Alongside this, I turn to networks of communication and technologies, such as gay switchboards and lesbian lines, to understand how women became involved in social spaces. I argue how these spaces enabled different women with varying identities or priorities to create and continue to develop their own identities. Building on a range of key works by feminist and queer historians, my thesis aims to contribute to historiographical narratives of feminism and queer experience through turning to the way social spaces enabled women to have possibilities and opportunities to be involved in different communities.

My thesis utilises a local method to understand how social space and networks were created in local conditions. Drawing away from a metronormative focus in feminist and queer histories, particularly on London, my research showcases the importance of looking towards local narratives to explore queer experience. Accordingly, I focus on three cities: Birmingham, Bristol, and Oxford. I examine a range of spaces and networks within these cities, and identity the different way feminist and queer women developed their own communities.

For instance, I turn to networks such as gay switchboards and lesbians lines, as a way to understand the local and national communication of spaces, and how information was shared through the country. I am still investigating new areas of research, most recently the role of cafes, coffee bars, and restaurants. Equally, I am keen to explore how social spaces were spaces of both pleasure and peril, in particularly in regard to dangers of the night-time economy. My research similarly is concerned with policies of exclusions, in particular trans exclusion in queer networks and social spaces. All in all, my research showcases the way feminist and queer experience of social and leisure spaces were grounded in their temporality and the powerful way women sought to defy, disrupt, and challenge pre-existing notions of gender and sexuality in these spaces.

In order to understand the complex and often temporal experiences of feminist and queer women's experiences, my research looks to a wider range of sources. My research benefits from this wide source approach. For instance, I utilise both local and national feminist and queer periodicals, newspapers, guidebooks, reports, and call logs of gay switchboards. As well, I turn to photographs and a range of pre-existing oral histories. The range of primary source material contributes to a wider understanding of the importance of local history, as well as continued importance of uncovering queer voices in the archive.

Other activities

Research Papers:

  • Networks of information and communication: Gay Switchboards and queer urban social spaces in 1970s and 1980s Britain', Queer (Second) Cities Conference, University of Surrey and University of Freiburg, in cooperation with ALUS, the Association for Literary Urban Studies, 30th and 31st August 2023
  • "I am glad I did take the step…it feels good”: Locating queer joy in telephonic networks of gay switchboards and lesbian lines', 3rd Annual LGBTQI+ Multidisciplinary Research Conference, University of Sunderland, 4th July 2023

Poster Presentation:

  • 'Hello this is Gay Switchboard': Locating Feminist and queer women's socialisation through telephonic lines in 1970s and 1980s Britain', Culture, Power and Identity: School of History and Cultures Postgraduate Research Conference, University of Birmingham, 5th May 2023
  • 'Feminists in the city: experiences of liberation in 1970s Birmingham', We're Still Here! PGR Research Showcase, Centre for Modern British Studies, University of Birmingham, 8th and 9th July 2021

Volunteer Roles:

  • Creative Ambassador at GINA UK 2022-present
  • Lead Editor at Midlands Historical Review Journal 2022-present


  • The Baxter Prize in Local History, BA History Dissertation 2020.


  • Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarship (2022-2025)