Emmeline Pankhurst is an elegantly attired revolutionary trying to break down the establishment, a fashionista who doesn’t give a rap for animal rights. Known as ‘Pank’ to her suffragette devotees, she promotes window smashing, arson and martyrdom in Holloway Gaol to press her cause. Votes for Women is her goal; the feathered hat is her brand.
Etta Lemon is a formidable conservationist trying to save the world’s birdlife from ‘murderous millinery’ and the insatiable plumage trade. Known as ‘The Dragon,’ or ‘Mother of the Birds’, she is a woman of strong emotions and even stronger opinions, with no time for the male science of ornithology – or, indeed, for the idea of women’s suffrage.
Founder of the Society for the Protection of Birds in Didsbury, Manchester, 1889, in response to the plight of the crested grebe, a milliner’s favourite.
Fervently Christian founder of the Fur, Fin and Feather Folk of Croydon, Surrey, 1889. Head of publications at the early SPB, when her and Emily’s societies merged in 1891.
Humanitarian aristocrat behind a roster of good causes, from pit ponies, to girls’ education, to caged birds. President of the RSPB for 60 years.
Fashion-conscious wife of the adulterous King Edward VII, ‘Alix’ put her influential name behind the bird protection movement in 1906.
Lowly feather washer of Finsbury, London, jailed for the theft of two ostrich feathers in 1885. Unreliable earnings of five shillings a week.
Undercover investigator of London’s most impoverished women. Disguised as a ‘plain hand,’ she sought needlework in Whitechapel, 1885.
Popular novelist and leading figure in the women’s Anti-Suffrage League. Author of the Solemn Protest Against Women’s Suffrage, 1889.
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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.