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…
Revelatory, gripping and unexpectedly poignant, this is the story of the invisible women who ran the 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 of an English country house 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.
The Housekeeper’s Tale draws on entirely new sources to tell the extraordinary stories of the women who ran some of Britain’s most prominent households. There is an unwanted pregnancy, a forbidden love affair, a prison sentence and several cases of summary dismissal. Far from the cosy, complacent world of Mrs Hughes in Downton Abbey, real housekeepers worked surprisingly hard, often in humiliating circumstances, for very little financial reward. This was not, as it turns out, such a cushy job. Read more…
A dozen feathered hats, hidden within the fashion archives of the Victorian
V&A Lunchtime Lecture, WEDNESDAY 17 OCTOBER 1pm, Hochhauser Auditorium: ‘Bird Hats and Murderous Millinery.’ Whole birds, half birds and birds’ wings decorate dozens of hats held in the V&A’s fashion archives – evidence of a craze that gripped women for half a century, from the 1870s to the 1920s. Join me to hear the intriguing untold story of women, birds, hats – and votes.
This lecture dovetails with the current Fashioned From Nature Exhibition.