When Mrs Pankhurst stormed the House of Commons with her militant suffragettes in 1909, she wore on her hat a voluptuous purple feather.
This is the intriguing story behind that feather.
Twelve years before the suffragette movement began dominating headlines, a very different women’s campaign captured the public imagination. Its aim was radical: to stamp out the fashion for feathers in hats. Leading the fight to save the birds was a character just as heroic as Emmeline Pankhurst, but with opposite beliefs. Her name was Etta Lemon, and she was anti-fashion, anti-feminist — and anti-suffrage.
Mrs Lemon has been forgotten by history, but the RSPB lives on. It is, today, Britain’s biggest conservation charity — and its early story has never before been told. Read more…
Secret bundles of letters, old diaries and the neglected archives of stately homes have all been plundered to resurrect a series of extraordinary personal stories from 19th and 20th-century domestic service in the great English country house.
This was one of the most prestigious jobs a 19th or early 20th-century woman could want — and also one of the toughest. The housekeeper might manage a hundred servants and a domestic budget on a par with a small bank. She had no need of a home of her own — or, for that matter, a husband. But for all her importance, she has been invisible to history. Tessa Boase brings out of the shadows five, heroic women across 150 years. Read more…
“A fluent study — Boase builds a deep, rich account of their individual lives, returning from the archive with some telling tales.”
Times Literary Supplement
Picture of slum girls, top: copyright Charlotte Moore.
‘Mary Wollstonecraft’ by Maggi Hambling. ‘It’s a sculpture about now, in her
Victorian campaigner Emily Williamson was so incensed by the millinery trade’s use
Uneasy mingling: the Servants’ Ball at ITV’s Downton Abbey, where Lady Grantham
Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4
Hear all about Etta Lemon, the ‘Margaret Thatcher’ of the birding world. How did this remarkable character hone her campaigning skills, and why was she stabbed in the back by the men who took over the RSPB?
Secrets of the National Trust with Alan Titchmarsh (Channel 5)
Erddig Hall in North Wales was once home to the Yorkes — a family famously kind to their servants. Or were they? I uncovered the story of ‘thief cook’ Ellen Penketh, jailed in 1907 for allegedly stealing £500 from her insecure mistress Louisa Yorke.
Radio Gorgeous interview with Josephine Pembroke, talking twitchers (why are hardcore birders almost always men?), the mysterious workings of the RSPB (why wouldn’t they let me revisit their archives?) and Mrs Pankhurst’s penchant for fashion (why so many feathered hats?).