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 tell 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?).
Westgate Litfest’s Afternoon Tea, Westgate-on-Sea, nr Margate, Kent
SATURDAY 27 APRIL, 3pm. Where better to explore the life of Kent-born Etta Lemon, unsung champion of the birds, than on the north Kent coast? Take the salt air, then settle down to learn why the Victorian ladies’ tea party was a political device. £17 includes a fabulous full tea.
Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society
MONDAY 29 APRIL, 7pm. Eliza Phillips, unsung co-founder of the RSPB, ran her emotional ‘Fur, Fin and Feather Folk’ meetings from her house on Morley Road, Croydon. From these beginnings, something extraordinary was born…
Eastbourne RSPB Group
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY, 2pm & 7pm. Why has the RSPB not celebrated its female founders? A talk about the fascinating anti-fashion origins of our biggest conservation charities, and the cut-throat nature of the plumage trade.
Women in Science Festival – at RSPB Pulborough Brooks reserve, West Sussex.
SATURDAY 4 MAY. A lively panel discussion about pioneering women in science and conservation, and why their contribution has so often been overlooked.
The Royal Oak Foundation, New York
MONDAY 13 MAY, 6.15pm. $30 members, $40 guests.
I’m delighted to return to the States to lecture for the Royal Oak on the brave women who campaigned, on both sides of the Atlantic, to save the birds from the plumage trade – and those Edwardian slaves of fashion who wore the offending millinery.
Brooklyn Bird Club @ Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Zoo (venue tbc).
TUESDAY 14 MAY, 7.30pm. Founded in 1909, when plumed hats were at their zenith and the furious ‘feather fight’ cranked up a gear, Brooklyn Bird Club was once concerned with saving birds from women’s headgear. So just what was at stake?
Queen’s County Bird Club @ New York ‘s Alley Pond Environmental Center.
WEDNESDAY 15 MAY, 7.30pm. How did the plumage trade operate? And how did a handful of women persuade us to fall in love with birds – rather than wear them on our hats?
ALSO in 2019. . .
Shamley Green History Society, Guildford – 22 May
Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury: unveiling of Emily Williamson plaque – 1 June
Wardown House, Luton – 6 June
The Egrets Way AGM, Lewes – 10 June
Didsbury Festival – 22 June
Highgate School, London – 1 July
Festival of Chichester – 2 July
Trentham Church, Stoke on Trent – 4 July
Buxton Festival – 6 July
Croydon RSPB’s AGM – 12 August
Hastings LitFest – 1 September
Westgate Literary Festival, Kent – 15 September
Surrey History Group – 19 September
Grosvenor Museum, Chester – 7 October
Banbury Ornithological Society, Oxford – 14 October
Hawkhurst U3A, Kent – 7 November
Macclesfield RSPB – 12 November
FRIDAY 8 MARCH 1pm. Crawley Library, East Sussex.
An illustrated talk on the female founders of the RSPB – and the nature of women. What did it take to prick the conscience of an Edwardian slave to fashion?
Uppark House & Garden, National Trust, West Sussex.
FRIDAY 15 MARCH, 6-8pm. Walk with me through the subterranean servant quarters of this great country house, and hear the moving story of poor old Mrs Wells, hapless housekeeper and mother to H.G. Wells. Was she victim of impossible circumstances?
Faversham Literary Festival
SUNDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2019, 3.30pm, The Assembly Rooms, Preston St.
Etta Lemon, prime mover behind the RSPB, was born 25 miles away at Hythe. How did this corner of Kent shape her magnificent future?
1 Fashion Street, Spitalfields, London E16LY
TUESDAY 12 February 7.30pm. ‘Millinery, Sequins and Suffrage’. £4.
We no longer wear dead birds on our heads, but extraordinary millinery still grabs attention. So where are hats headed? I’ll be joining celebrated milliner Piers Atkinson and innovator Rachel Clowes (of the Sustainable Sequin Company) to discuss millinery’s future, present and murky past – all in a part of London once renowned for the plumage trade.
The Watts Gallery, Compton, near Guildford, Surrey
WEDNESDAY 21 NOVEMBER. Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather is a story rooted in Surrey: the women who fought to save the birds, and the women who fought for (and against) the vote, crossed swords in and around the Surrey North Downs. Fireworks ensued.
Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey: ‘The Road to the Vote’: Grand Finale
SATURDAY 24 NOVEMBER. Etta Lemon, ‘dragon’ of Redhill, lady mayoress of Reigate and prime mover behind the RSPB was also a leading light in the Anti Suffrage Women’s League. Should we be shocked – or was this entirely compatible with her conservative beliefs?
Victorian Eco-Activism and Manchester
TUESDAY 27 NOVEMBER, 7-8.30pm at Friends’ Meeting House, Manchester.
I’m joining forces with Henry McGhie, Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology at Manchester Museum, to bring you a fascinating, untold story of Victorian Eco-Activism, Manchester and the Birth of the RSPB. From gentlemen collectors to lady campaigners – why are these early campaigners so maligned and misunderstood?
Elizabeth Gaskell House, Manchester.
WEDNESDAY 28 NOVEMBER, 2-2.45pm. Rare images, a cast of invisible characters, and a surprising political secret. Discover Manchester’s leading role in saving the birds.
The Bloomsbury Festival: Activists and Architects of Change
SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER. London House, Goodenough College.
Suffragettes, feathered hats and the plumage fight. Why did the magnificently hatted Mrs Pankhurst cross swords with Mrs Lemon?
V&A lunchtime lecture, London
WEDNESDAY 17 OCTOBER. Birds and fashion, ethics and aesthetics. How a small group of Victorian women took on the mighty plumage trade – and won.
Knutsford Festival, Cheshire. Victorian Methodist Church venue.
FRIDAY 12 OCTOBER. A tale of two Manchester heroines, one lionised, the other all but forgotten. Step forward Emily Williamson, co-founder of the Society for the Protection of Birds.
Oldie Literary Lunch, Ilkley Literature Festival, Yorkshire
THURSDAY 4 OCTOBER. A three course lunch, three speakers, and ten minutes for each. It’s going to be pithy, revelatory and entertaining. I’m the only woman – standing alongside two veteran Labour Politicians, Austin Mitchell and Alan Johnson.
Hurst Festival, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex. Village Centre venue.
Sunday 23 September, 2018; 2-4pm; tickets £5.
One of my favourite local festivals, brilliantly diverse – from actors to brewers, artists to thinkers. Join me to consider the rights and wrongs of feathered hats – and to ask why women’s contributions to history are so often overlooked.
Trentham Parish Church, Stoke-on-Trent
Wednesday 19 September, 7pm. £5 entry includes refreshments.
In 1832 a shocking secret was uncovered at the heart of Trentham Hall. Trusted housekeeper Dorothy Doar, who propped up the fabulous lifestyle of the 1st Duke & Duchess of Sutherland, was discovered to be pregnant. Join me at the scene of the crime to hear the thrilling story of Mrs Doar – from her spectacular fall from grace, to her revenge.
Berkswich History Society, Staffordshire.
Tuesday 18 September, 2018, 7.30pm
Behind every work of social history and its writer is often an invisible researcher – in this case, Beryl Holt, Chairman of the Berkswich History Society. I’ll be sharing some of Beryl’s hard-won discoveries in what turned out to be a great detective hunt: rare images, a cast of invisible characters and a political secret at the heart of the RSPB.
Wardown House, Millinery Museum & Gallery, Luton
Thursday, 13 September, 2018, 7.30-9pm, tickets £10.
A forgotten collection of Victorian and Edwardian feathered millinery ornaments were found in the attics of this elegant mansion… Join me for an evening talk on this now vanished trade and its female workforce – and for an exclusive peak inside some very old hatboxes with curator Mary Miah.
Birdfair, Rutland Water Nature Reserve, Leicestershire, Saturday, 18 August, 2018.
You might know your birds – but do you know the extraordinary story behind the RSPB? Introducing Etta, Eliza, Emily and Winifred: the four angry Victorian women protesting against ‘murderous millinery’. They took their ‘feather fight’ all the way up to Parliament – and won. Join me at the ‘Glastonbury of the Birding world’ for the women’s story
Uneasy mingling: the Servants’ Ball at ITV’s Downton Abbey, where Lady Grantham rightly couples
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? It’s the first item on the programme (later featured on Weekend Woman’s Hour, best of the week).