Posted in Aviation History, Film, History, Literature, Review, World War One

Featured Author: Kerrie Logan Hollihan – In The Field and The Trenches

Author Kerrie Logan Hollihan. ©Fred Logan
Author Kerrie Logan Hollihan. ©Fred Logan

I was delighted when Ohio-based author, Kerrie Hollihan, contacted me to ask if I would like to review her latest book, In The Fields and the Trenches: The Famous and The Forgotten on The Battlefields of World War One. Published last month by Chicago Review Press, In the Fields and the Trenches is Kerrie’s 6th YA non-fiction work for this excellent publishing house. I have previously reviewed several YA non-fiction books from Chicago Review Press, both by author Kathryn J. Atwood Women Heroes of World War 1 and Code Name Pauline.

Kerrie’s new book is a collection of 18 biographies of young men and women who bravely and selflessly decided, to ‘do their bit’ on the frontline in World War One. Several individuals, featured in In The Fields and the Trenches, went on after the war to become well-known in a variety of occupations from writer to president to film star (J. R. R. Tolkien; Ernest Hemingway; Harry Truman and Buster Keaton). Others were from high-profile families such as The Young Roosevelts or Irène Curie, daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie.

Book Cover

In the Fields and the Trenches is divided into 12 chapters, each short biography is clearly written and very well-researched:

  • The Cowboy: Fred Libby (American);
  • The Daughter: Irène Curie (French);
  • The Wordsmith: J. R. R. Tolkien (South African);
  • The Student: Walter Koessler (German);
  • The Aviatrix: Katherine Stinson (American)*;
  • The Family: The Young Roosevelts (American);
  • The Red Cap: Henry Lincoln Johnson (American);
  • The Pitcher: Christy Mathewson (American);
  • The Showgirl: Elsie Janis (American)*;
  • The Kid: Ernest Hemingway (American);
  • The Captain: Harry Truman (American);
  • The Comedian: Buster Keaton (American).

*Biographies feature later in this article.

Walter Koessler (1891-1966). A German architectural student who was called-up to fight for his country in World War One. Walter served in the German Officer Corps. He brought along his camera to capture many aspects of a soldier’s life on the frontline as well as in the trenches. After the war, he arranged all his photographs in an album ‘Walter Koessler 1914-1918’. This photograph was taken during Walter’s first months as a German Officer. He is pictured here with his motorbike. ©Dean Putney.

Although In The Field and the Trenches is aimed at the YA market, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in reading a fresh perspective on World War One. Hidden histories of extraordinary young people many of whose stories may have been forgotten forever if it wasn’t for writers like Kerrie. The book also includes a very helpful World War One Timeline to contextualize some of the events featured in the biographies.

I notice Kerrie dedicated this book to her grandfather, the inscription reads: ‘Frederick Urban Logan – US Army soldier and bugler in France 1918-19’. World War One is obviously a period in history that has a particularly strong personal connection to Kerrie.

One of Walter Koessler’s photographs. Soldiers washing and doing their laundry in livestock troughs during World War One. ©Dean Putney.

Kerrie writes the mini-bios with skill and clarity, managing to avoid the usual fax-pas of sentimentalizing content. In my view, a common error some authors make when writing historical non-fiction for a YA audience. I have always said, never underestimate the young, they know more than we sometimes give them credit for! Just stick to the facts, young active minds will be able to bring the stories to life for themselves. In her ‘Preface’, Kerrie writes:

Wars are fought by young people, and young people fighting wars make history – in ways great and small…They fought in battles, flew warplanes, killed the enemy, nursed the wounded, and fell in love. One died in combat. The rest came home, their lives forever changed.

Some of them had famous names, but most did not. Some had distinguished themselves in battle and returned as war heroes, while others would reach their prime as writers, businesspeople, scientists, and film stars. One became president of the United States. Another died penniless, estranged from his family.

These men and women lived a century ago. They felt altogether modern, and indeed, for the time they lived, they were. They encountered heroes, cowards, comics, and villains. They learned about human nature – power, greed, death, love, hate, courage, and fear. Like women and men of any age, they came away from a devastating experience with mixed feelings of despair, joy, hatred, loss, and hope. Their stories plainly show how they shared with us the tough journey that we call life.

(In The Field and the Trenches: The Famous and The Forgotten on The Battlefields of World War One by Kerrie Logan Hollihan, Chicago Review Press, 2016.Preface: pp. xv-xvi)

Photograph of the trenches in Winter by Walter Koessler. ©Dean Putney.

I have chosen 2 of my favourite biographies, from In The Field and the Trenches, to share with you here. The Aviatrix – Katherine Stinson and The Showgirl – Elsie Janis.

Katherine Stinson (1891-1977)

In Spring 1912, she became only the 4th American woman to earn a pilot’s license. Early in her flying career she made good money ($1,000 to $2,000 per week) performing acrobatic flying displays using her fabric-winged biplane. An extremely dangerous way for anyone to earn a living let alone a 5ft 5, young woman weighing only 100lbs! She took great pride and care maintaining her own plane and hired only the best mechanicians (known nowadays as mechanics).

When World War One started, she wanted to work as a pilot for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). She applied twice and was turned-down on both occasions. In 1916, she decided to take her biplane on an ocean liner and sail to Asia performing display shows. In 1918, she went to work for the US Post Office as a pilot. In May, 1918 she flew to raise money to pay for Liberty Bonds to help with the overseas war effort:

The army might have forbidden her to fly in France, but the US government knew that a flying schoolgirl could appeal to Americans’ hearts and open their pocketbooks. Put to work as an airborne publicity stunt, Katherine flew from town to town on a campaign to sell Liberty Bonds to help pay for the war. She also raised $2 million for the American Red Cross, and she ended that fundraising journey by landing on a white cross in front of the Washington Monument.

(Ibid. p.58)

In July, 1918, she piloted the 1st airmail flight in western Canada, from Calgary to Edmonton. However, she still wanted to ‘do her bit’ in France. If she wasn’t allowed to be a pilot, then she would offer her services as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross. She joined the ambulance corps in August, 1918 and was soon sent to France.

After the war, she got permission to work as a pilot and fly mail between Paris and General Pershing’s army headquarters. Unfortunately at that time, the Spanish Flu pandemic was sweeping across Europe and North America. She succumbed to the virus and ended-up in a Paris Hospital. As it turned out, during the war she had, unbeknown to her, also contracted tuberculosis and her health was now ailing. She spent years convalescing.

Whilst in a sanatorium in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she met Miguel Antonio Otero Jr, who had been a pilot in World War One. They married in 1927. She went on to become an architect.

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Poster celebrating Katherine Stinson’s success in flying the 1st sack of Airmail in Western Canada in 1918. ©City of Edmonton Archives (Alberta, Canada)

Elsie Janis (1889-1956)

She first set foot on stage when at just 2 and 1/2, dancing in church socials. A child star from the get-go, she could sing, dance and act. Her mother, Janice Bierbower, was a typical stage mum who managed her daughter’s career, travelling everywhere with her. A professional stage career took her all the way from Broadway to Europe and back again.

In 1917, aged 28, she was in London with her mother, their maid and her Pekingese, Mousme. Despite not having permission from the US government to visit Europe, she decided to make the journey anyway. Afterall, she was a big star and surely no-one would refuse her entry?

She travelled with her mother to Bordeaux, France, arriving without official approval but helped by the YMCA. She immediately began rehearsing with a pianist and gave concerts to the troops. She became the sweetheart of the AEF. Kerrie writes:

Elsie was a trooper and performed up to nine shows in one day. She entertained on makeshift stages and tabletops, and she felt just as comfortable taking her show into hospital wards. She always opened her act with that same question, “Are we downhearted?” Bold, brash, and talented, she sang, danced, did a few imitations, and cracked jokes for the troops.

(Ibid. p.115)

Not everything went well whilst they were in France. She refused to wear a uniform and one occasion in Provins, on her way to entertain 2,000 US troops at Chaumont, both her and her mother were arrested on suspicion of spying. This incident could have been avoided had she worn military attire. French officials examined the pair’s paperwork and after much fuss, eventually allowed them both to proceed.

Being in France must have been heart-breaking for her. In 1916, her British boyfriend, actor and singer, Basil Hallam Radford (b.1889) had been killed during the Battle of the Somme. He was a member of the Royal Flying Corps.

After World War One, she continued her career on stage and the silver screen, Women in War (1940) was her last film. When her mother died she married Gilbert Wilson, moving to Hollywood in 1936. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Elsie Janis and 'her boys', dressed as World War One veterans from the US, Britain and France. In 1920, Elsie reprised her wartime experiences in a show. Image courtesy of Kerrie Hollihan. Author's own collection.
Elsie Janis and ‘her boys’, dressed as World War One veterans from the US, Britain and France. In 1920, Elsie reprised her wartime experiences in a show. Image courtesy of Kerrie Hollihan. Author’s own collection.

There are many ways to connect with Kerrie and her writing:

  • Follow Kerrie on Twitter (@Kerriehollihan);
  • Visit Kerrie’s website;
  • Visit ‘Hands on Books’ blog. Kerrie, together with fellow authors Brandon Marie Miller and Mary Kay Carson. Between them, these 3 have over 50 published books to their names. Their blog features the ‘world of nature, and history’s makers and shakers’ and ‘share insights and stories about writing non-fiction for young people’.;

Copies of In The Fields and the Trenches as well as any of Kerrie’s other publications, can be purchased:



Posted in Film, Literature, Review, TV Programme

Featured Author: Joan Ellis

Author Joan Ellis. Image copyright Joan Ellis.
Isle of Wight based author, Joan Ellis. Image copyright Joan Ellis.

I met independently published author, Joan Ellis, in August last year whilst doing one of my regular guest slots on That’s Solent TV’ s chat show, Talk Solent.  The show was presented by Shan Robins and we were also joined by award-winning special effects designer, B Jones. It was a fascinating discussion covering a wide range of topics, everyone contributed their well-informed opinions on the topics of the day. I was honoured to share the sofa with such talented and creative women.

Talk Solent chat show, August, 2015. Left to right, presenter Shan Robins, myself, Joan Ellis and B Jones. ©Come Step Back In Time
Talk Solent chat show, August, 2015. Left to right, presenter Shan Robins, myself, Joan Ellis and B Jones. ©Come Step Back In Time

Before leaving the studio that day, Joan pressed into my hands a copy of her latest book, I am Ella. Buy me. (2014). Joan knew that I was retro-obsessive with a particularly fondness for the 1980s (well, it was, afterall, the decade of my ‘yoof’!). Joan wondered whether I would like to feature it on Come Step Back In Time? I was delighted to accept.

Let me first introduce you to Joan. Born in London, Joan has had a long and successful career in PR and advertising. During the 1980s, Joan was a copywriter in several top London advertising agencies (Ogilvy, Lowe Howard- Spink, Banner and Arc Worldwide amongst others).

Some of the accounts Joan worked on included The Milk Tray Man and a rather famous cat food commercial for ‘Spillers Purrfect’. Anyone remember the black and white moggie channelling his inner Humphrey Bogart? Well, here is a reminder:

Never one to let the grass grow under her feet, Joan has also set-up a comedy club where she wrote and performed, even appearing on the same bill as Jo Brand. Once.  Joan’s extensive knowledge of Advertising and PR has seen her lecture at University level and she even taught comedian Noel Fielding.  He learned all he knows about advertising from Joan who encouraged him to showcase his creative talents on a wider stage. The rest, as they say, is history.

Joan now lives on the Isle of Wight with her daughter and husband. She often appears on television and radio discussing her career as well as offering advice to aspiring authors. Joan also performs a one woman, semi-autobiographical, show ‘A Woman’s Wit, Wisdom and Pratfalls’.

Below are a selection of interviews Joan has given on Isle of Wight’s Vectis Radio:

  • Joan discusses books, authors and the creation of writing. (13.10.2015)

  • Joan discussing her book, The Killing of Mummy’s Boy. (1.12.2014)

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Joan’s transition from copywriter to author was a natural progression. Joan explains:

I was writing for eight to 10 hours a day on different briefs so I’d be changing my style and tone of voice depending on the product and the audience. It was fantastic training for becoming an author because you’re getting inside the heads of different audience types as well as the discipline of meeting a deadline and that creative process of taking things in different directions and thinking of things in different ways.

(The Drum (10.7.2015) ‘Advertising’s authors – What can the worlds of commercial and creative learn from one another?’)

Joan, the 1980s career girl. Image copyright Joan Ellis.
Joan, the 1980s career girl. Image copyright Joan Ellis.

I became the rarest of beasts in Adland in the early 1980s, a woman.

(I am Ella. Buy me. p.3)

 I am Ella. Buy me. will transport you back to the 1980s. Joan draws upon her own experiences working in advertising in London during this period and brings Ella’s fictional world vividly to life. A city world of Porsches, tailored clothing, big hair, inflated salaries and fine-dining.

The line between success and failure was very thin. One wrong move for a woman, (or rejected amorous advance from your boss!), would have seen you fast-tracked to the dole office, with your P45 tucked into your designer handbag. Offices had no internet or WiFi and a typewriter was still the secretary’s best friend:

Picking up his new electric typewriter, he hurled it through the window. Fortunately for her, he had forgotten it was plugged in so the wretched thing just dangled by its flex. Had it been a manual the traffic warden would be dead and Peter would be serving time for manslaughter. Progress can be a mixed blessing. (p. 77)

This is Thatcher’s Britain, where ‘greed is good’ but morals are bankrupt and sexism in the office, rife. This is the backdrop of Joan’s novel, a brilliant expose of 1980s life and Adland culture. I am Ella. Buy me.’s main protagonist is Ella David, a rare beast – a woman in a man’s world.

Ella must not lose her head as she has a mortgage to pay (at 9%!) as well as her ill mother’s rent. There is no Trust Fund to catch Ella, she is at the mercy of her sexist and predatory boss, Peter Richards. Peter, bored with his ball-clicker, demands something or someone new to play with, Ella finds herself battling more than just fat thighs.

Can love help her go from a girl in the firing line to a woman calling the shots? Fans of ‘Mad Men’ will enjoy meeting Ella. She’s Peggy meets Bridget Jones.

Bottles of champagne, a goodwill gesture from Jill’s mother, are set out on the tables and we quickly empty them. Everyone is anxious to party, our final fling on the dance floor before the bus comes to pick us up. We finish the meal as Jill announces the awards. For once, no-one really cares. Tonight, we don’t need accolades to make us happy. Only Peter looks lost without the trappings he has come to rely on in Adland. No Porsche, no hand-tailored suit and no fawning entourage. (P. 244)

Ella embodies all the qualities a 1980s career girl needed to succeed, intelligence, ambition, charm and a strong work ethic, ‘I’m programmed to work, not play’. Despite 1960s women’s lib and 1970s feminism, a 1980s office was still a male domain. Getting into the boardroom was a tough call, unless of course you were a secretary bringing in the refreshments (remember 1988 film Working Girl?)

During the 1980s, anyone, male or female, working in advertising was a precarious way to make a living.   If you were a woman, then the stakes were very high indeed. Being propositioned, fired, hired, rehired and having to hustle on a regular basis were all part of its culture. The route to the boardroom was a rocky and compromising one. In I am Ella. Buy me., Joan, has drawn upon her own experiences and has created the 1980s Adland culture very well indeed.

Although I am Ella. Buy me. is not autobiographical, there are many similarities between Ella’s and Joan’s experiences in advertising. More amusingly, on one occasion Ella must pretend to be a Tom cat called Marmalade in order that she can pen letters from him. In real life, Joan once had to create an advertising campaign for pet food in which a cat vocalises his thoughts. The cat’s voice in Joan’s commercial (see above) was, of course, male!

I am Ella. Buy me. is a terrific read, the perfect accompaniment on a long train journey or curled-up by the fire in a holiday cottage. As an experienced professional writer, Joan has skilfully offered her readers an amusing slice of 1980s nostalgia whilst still managing to create three-dimensional characters that you actually care about.

To purchase copy of I am Ella. Buy me., click here.

Joan is the author of four books in 3 very different genres:

  • The Things You Missed While You Were Away (2015). Memoir. Joan’s daughter’s childhood in the 1990s was very different to hers in the 1960s. As neither of them knew what it was like to have their Dads at home, the book was written as a letter to Joan’s Father, highlighting the moments he never got to share. It is for anyone who has been a child, if only to prove when we lose someone special, love comes from unexpected places to fill the space in our heart;
  • I am Ella. Buy me (2014). Humour/Contemporary women’s fiction;
  • The Killing of Mummy’s Boy (2014).  Psychological thriller;
  • Guilt (2014). Psychological thriller;
  • Five star reviews of I am Ella. Buy me, click here;
  • Five star reviews of The Things You Missed While You Were Away, click here; 
  • Follow Joan on Twitter @JoanSusanEllis .



Posted in Country House, Literature, Theatre History

Elizabeth Montagu – Literary Critic, Blue Stocking & Arts Patron

Studies of Shakspere by Charles Knight (1851). From my own collection. ©Come Step Back In Time
Studies of Shakspere by Charles Knight (1851). From my own collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

In 2016, it will be the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s (1564-1616) death. A full programme of public performances, television programmes, exhibitions and creative activities are being organised in London and beyond. Shakespeare400 is a consortium of leading cultural, creative and educational organisations.

Inside cover of my copy of Shakspere Studies by Charles Knight (1851). ©Come Step Back In Time
Inside cover of my copy of Studies of Shakspere by Charles Knight (1851). ©Come Step Back In Time

In light of this anniversary, I was recently browsing my bookshelves and came across a copy of Studies of Shakspere by Charles Knight (1851), I completely forgot I had this book. I am always thrilled when my collection manages to delight and surprise me. I have been buying secondhand books for over 30 years now. I began in my teenage years and, back then, could often be found in a dusty bookshop rather than partying hard at a disco (I grew-up in the 70s and 80s when discos were still ‘a thing’!)

I wouldn’t describe Studies of Shakspere as a ‘light read’ (yes, that is how ‘Shakespeare’ is spelt here, before you all rush to post a corrective comment below).  It is a book to ‘dip in and out of’ which is the way I mostly like to engage with my books anyway.

During one of my bedtime browsing sessions, I came across the writings of Mrs Elizabeth Montagu nee Robinson (c.1718-1800). Quoted in Knight’s book, alongside other notable writers and critics of the Georgian era, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784),  Martin Sherlock and David Hume (1711-1776), Elizabeth has a powerful voice. A female critic of Shakespeare? I was intrigued to find-out more.

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  • English writer Mrs Elizabeth Montagu nee Robinson. Published by Payne. January, 1760.

Brilliant in diamonds, solid in judgement, critical in talk.

(Hester Thrale (1741-1821) writing to Fanny Burney (1752-1840) about Elizabeth Montagu)

Elizabeth was a Yorkshire-born social reformer, arts patron and leading light of the Blue Stockings Society. She wasn’t a great fan of marriage and didn’t harbour particularly strong romantic feelings for men. However, despite these opinions on romantic entanglements, men adored her. They were drawn to Elizabeth’s wit, intelligence, beauty and charisma.

Women were just as fascinated by Elizabeth. In her social circle of Age of Enlightenment luminaries, fellow writer, Hester Lynch Piozzi (1741-1821) gave Elizabeth the highest of charm ratings, 101 out of a possible 120. Mrs Piozzi also credits Irish intellectual, Elizabeth Vesey (1715-91), with adoring Elizabeth as much as she hated her own husband. This was, after all, also the age of the romantic friendship when women of a certain class could indulge intense, platonic, relationships with her own sex.

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  • Hannah More (1745-1833) English religious writer and playwright, and member of the Blue Stocking circle of intelligent educated women, being introduced to Society by the Duchess of Gloucester. Wood engraving, 1753.

Elizabeth was a leader of the famous Blue Stockings Society. The Society, which started in the 1750s, was a very tight-circle of women who met in the London homes of fashionable hostesses such as Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Vesey (c1715-1791) and Frances Boscawen (1719-1805).

In the 1770s, Elizabeth Montagu hosted salons in Hill Street, London, which became home to some of the best salons in London. Her salons attracted the biggest literary and creative names of the age: Samuel Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Burke, David Garrick and Horace Walpole.

The name ‘Blue Stocking’ was first used as an abusive term to insult the Puritans of Cromwell’s ‘Little Parliament’ in 1653. In Elizabeth’s time, it was used to describe botanist, Benjamin Stillingfleet’s (1702-71),  who is thought to have turned-up to one of Elizabeth’s salons wearing blue woollen stockings. This style of stocking would normally have been worn by working men, gentlemen normally wore formal, white silk stockings

Elizabeth and her fellow Bluestockings were also important Arts Patrons, supporting a whole host of female authors: Elizabeth Carter; Hannah More; Frances Burney; Anna Barbauld; Sarah Fielding; Hester Chapone and Anna Williams. The Blue Stockings promoted friendship, philanthropy, education (particularly of women), arts patronage and creativity.

Prior to her marriage Elizabeth Montagu had many suitors, all of whom found their advances and declarations swiftly dismissed. The following extract is from Elizabeth Montagu, the Queen of the Bluestockings: Her Correspondence from 1720-1761 (2 Vols, London: John Murray, 1906) by Emily Climenson).  Elizabeth writes to her sister Sarah Scott nee Robinson (1723-1795), about one such unlucky suitor, Mr Brockman of Beechborough:

Poor Mr B [Mr Brockman of Beechborough] really takes his misfortunes so to heart that he literally dying, indeed I hear he is very ill, which I am sorry for, but I have no balsam of heartsease for him, if he should die I will have him buried in Westminster Abbey next the woman that died of a prick of a finger, for it is quite as extraordinary, and he shall have his figure languishing in wax…..upon my word I compassionate his pains, and pity him, but as I am as compassionate, I am as cold too as Charity…. I am very sorry if the poor man is really what you think, unhappy; if his case is uneasy I am sure it is desperate; complaint I hope, is more the language, than misery the condition, of lovers.

To speak ingenuously you men use us oddly enough, you adore the pride, flatter the vanity, gratify the ill-nature, and obey the tyranny that insults you; then slight the love, despise the affection, and enslave the obedience that would make you happy: when frowning mistresses all are awful goddesses, when submissive wives, despicable mortals.

On another occasion, in 1742, Elizabeth wrote to Rev. William Friend expressing her characteristically strong opinions on marriage, flattery of the female sex, love, the superficiality of physical attraction and other matters of the heart.

Flattery has ever been the ladder to power, and I have detested its inverted effects of worshipping one into slavery, while it has pretended to adore one to deification. If ever I commit my happiness to the hands of any person, it must be one whose indulgence I can trust, for flattery I cannot believe.

I am sure I have faults, and am convinced a husband will find them, but wish he may forgive them; but vanity is apt to seek the admirer, rather than the friend, not considering that the passion of love may, but the effect of esteem can never, degenerate to dislike. I do not mean to exclude love, but I mean to guard against the fondness that arises from personal advantages….

I have known many men see all the cardinal virtues in a good complexion, and every ornament of a character in a pair of fine eyes, and they have married these perfections, which might perhaps shine and bloom a twelvemonth, and then alas! (Ibid.)

Despite her views, Elizabeth did wed. In 1742 she married Edward Montagu (1692-1776), grandson of the Ist Earl of Sandwich (1625-1672). It was a financially and socially advantageous union despite their 28 year age gap (Elizabeth was 22, Edward 50). For the most part, it was an amicable union that produced one son, John (b.1743), whom Elizabeth doted on. She was devastated when he died a year later. The couple had no more pregnancies or children.

Elizabeth kept a female companion who performed in the role of servant. By all accounts, the young woman was not happy in her ‘role’ and escaped, as soon as possible, into marriage. Some theories put forward have suggested that Elizabeth’s female companion was actually her only sister, Sarah Scott nee Robinson (1723-1795).

Sarah was a prolific writer, more so than her sister Elizabeth, publishing her works anonymously.  Sarah’s most famous publication was her utopian novel A Description of Millenium Hall and the Country Adjacent (1762), closely followed by the sequel The History of Sir George Ellison (1766).

In 1751, Sarah married mathematician and tutor to the Prince of Wales, George Lewis Scott (1708-1780), a marriage Elizabeth disapproved of vehemently. Elizabeth felt so strongly about the marriage, that she became temporarily estranged from her sister. Elizabeth’s instincts were correct. George was a bit of scoundrel but details of what actually went wrong with the marriage are sketchy. It is thought the marriage was one of convenience. There were also rumours that he had attempted to poison Sarah. The couple separated in 1752.

Elizabeth had strong, well-informed, opinions on many topics but none more so than on the subject of literature. One of Elizabeth’s most celebrated publications was Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare (1769). It is this book which is quoted and referred to in my copy of Studies of Shakspere by Charles Knight (1851).

In her writing, Elizabeth confidently defends Shakespeare’s texts against French writer Voltaire’s (1694-1778) attacks. Elizabeth earned literary recognition for this essay and by 1785 it had run to 4 editions. Originally published anonymously, it was thought the book had been written by Joseph Warton (1722-1800) but by 1777, Elizabeth’s name appeared on the title page.

In the essay, she endorses Shakespeare’s writings as a vehicle to promote morality and educate the masses. She also declares, that although Shakespeare’s  plays lack formal and classical structure, they do have a natural simplicity and truth of expression.

Inside cover of my copy of Shakspere Studies by Charles Knight (1851). ©Come Step Back In Time
Inside cover of my copy of Shakspere Studies by Charles Knight (1851). ©Come Step Back In Time

Below are a few extracts from Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare, quoted in Studies of Shakspere by Charles Knight (1851). Knight refers to Elizabeth’s attack upon Shakespeare as being rather a ‘maudlin defence’ (p.542) and its ‘half-patronising, half-vindicating tone is very well meant’ (p.543). In fact, Elizabeth praises Shakespeare’s genius for most of the essay, declaring him to be the ‘greatest poet’.

Elizabeth also wrote specifically on his characters, plots and quality of verse. The extract below makes reference to Shakespeare’s lack of formal education. Elizabeth does not hold back with her intellectual snobbery:

Our author [Shakespeare], by following minutely the chronicles of the times, has embarrassed his dramas with too great a number of persons and events. The hurly-burly of these plays recommended them to a rude, illiterate audience, who, as he says, loved a noise of targets. His poverty, and the low conditions of the stage (which at that time was not frequented by persons of rank), obliged him to this complaisance; and, unfortunately, he had not been tutored by any rules of art, or informed by acquaintance with just and regular dramas. (Ibid. p. 542)

On Macbeth:

Our author is too much addicted to the obscure bombast much affected by all sorts of writers in that age…There are many bombast speeches in the tragedy of ‘Macbeth’ and these are the lawful prize of the critic. (Ibid. p.542)

On Julius Caesar:

The quarrel between Brutus and Cassius does not, by any means, deserve the ridicule thrown upon it by the French critic [Voltaire]….but it rather retards than brings forward the catastrophe, and is useful only in setting Brutus in a good light. (Ibid. p542)

On William Shakespeare:

It has been demonstrated with great ingenuity and candour that he was destitute of learning: the age was rude and void of taste; but what had a still more pernicious influence on his works was, that the court and the universities, the statesmen and scholars, affected a scientific jargon. An obscurity of expression was thought the veil of wisdom and knowledge; and that mist, common to the morn and eve of literature, which in fact proves it is not at its high meridian, was affectedly thrown over the writings, and even the conversation of the learned, who often preferred images distorted or magnified, to a simple exposition of their thoughts.

Shakspeare is never more worthy of the true critic’s censure than in those instances in which he complies with this false pomp of manner. It was pardonable in a man of his rank not be more polite and delicate than his contemporaries; but we cannot so easily excuse such superiority of talents for stooping to say affectation. (Ibid. pp. 542-3)

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  • Elizabeth Montagu’s house in Portman Square, London, c1800

In 1777, Elizabeth began work on Montagu House in Portman Square, London and moved there in 1781. Suring this decade her salons became increasingly more opulent attracting an even wider circle of literary luminaries. She called the mansion in Portman Square her ‘temple to virtue and friendship’. Samuel Johnson called her the ‘Queen of the Blues’.

Elizabeth died in Montagu House on 25th August, 1800. She left most of her property and money to her nephew, Matthew Montagu, 4th Baron Rokeby (1762-1831). He published a collection of his aunt’s letters in 1809, The Letters of Mrs Elizabeth Montagu, with Some of the Letters of her Correspondents.

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  • It was at Elizabeth’s Mayfair salons the term ‘Bluestocking’ was coined.



Posted in Activity, Event, History, Literature

Bloggeration Workshop With Penguin Books UK – The Power Of The Booktuber

Location of Bloggeration’s workshops, the O Gallery, a spacious and stimulating studio space beneath the O Bag Factory in Crouch End, North London. Image copyright – Come Step Back In Time.

Being a blogger is a lot of fun and extremely rewarding. However, sometimes it can be a lonely and frustrating experience. I began blogging in 2011 and July, 2016 will be Come Step Back In Time’s 5th Blogaversary. I also set-up a 2nd blog, retro food for the modern cook Viva Blancmange, in 2013. I honestly have had a brilliant experience blogging over the years, visited incredible places, met fascinating people and researched unusual topics I may never have found otherwise. However, I am now at a bit of a crossroads.

I hope 2016 will be my best blogging year yet but in order for this to happen I need a new direction for the content on both of my websites.  This means changes in my writing practices and methods. I also need to be more integrated within the friendly, but close-knit, blogger community. Exchanging ideas with other writers, being more interactive with you, my readers and, of course, embrace all the new and exciting possibilities offered by digital media.

In light of these plans to reboot my blogs, I have been actively looking for top notch blog events to participate in to help inspire my transition. To this end, I am happy to say I struck gold first-time around and wanted to share my experience with you here.

I recently attended a day’s ‘Bloggeration’ workshop, run by Sarah Moody (@Sairey_bearey ). Sarah blogs full time at The Prosecco Diaries and runs Bloggeration (@Bloggeration_ ) which is a fantastic initiative that aims to build blogging communities, offering support and advice to bloggers to help them get the most out of this great adventure. If you are a lifestyle blogger, then Sarah’s workshops also provide an opportunity to pitch and connect with relevant, pre-selected and trusted, brands.

Sarah was a drama teacher before going freelance and has worked with many top brands and written for Cosmopolitan, The Guardian and Blogosphere magazine (a must for all pro-bloggers! Available from WH Smith). Sarah is also studying for her PhD in social media communication, therefore very well-placed to impart her ‘pearls of blogging and digital media wisdom’.

If you have been blogging for a while and are in need of inspiration or guidance to move on to the next level, then I highly recommend Bloggeration’s workshops. They take place at O Gallery, a spacious and stimulating studio space beneath the O Bag Factory in Crouch End, North London.

Bloggeration’s workshops are currently free to attend, brilliantly organised and offer plenty of opportunities to network with other established bloggers, exchange ideas and pitch to brands (if that is the direction you wish to take your blog).

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A selection of lovely bags, watches and bracelets on display in the O Bag Store above O Gallery. O Bags are the hottest accessory trend from Italy that you play a role in designing and customising. The Crouch End branch is the UK’s first, and although you can buy online (, it’s a unique and fun experience to visit the store and create your own accessories with the help of friendly consultants. Image copyright – Come Step Back In Time.


Delicious pizzas to keep us going, provided so generously by Basilico Pizzas (@basilicopizzas). Image copyright – Come Step Back In Time

Each workshop lasts six and half hours, from 10.30am-5pm. No need to bring a pack lunch, you will be watered and fed on hearty fayre.  There are competitions and chances to win prizes throughout the day! You also receive professional advice from Sarah, tailored specifically to your own blog. Topics covered at previous Bloggeration workshops include: crafting; lifestyle; parenting; health; fitness and wellness. The workshop I chose to attend was sponsored by Penguin Books UK. Keep an eye out on Bloggeration’s Twitter account (@Bloggeration_) for updates on 2016’s workshops.

Let me introduce you to the talented bloggers who joined me at Bloggeration’s workshop:

These beauties were provided by flower subscription service, Bloom & Wild ( – @bloomandwild). This photograph won me a three month subscription to Bloom & Wild and I gave the prize to my lovely mum. Image copyright – Come Step Back In Time.
Refreshments for workshop participants provided by British heritage tea brand, Ringtons ( – @Ringtons). Image copyright – Come Step Back In Time.


Such generous goodie bags provided for us by Penguin Books UK (@PenguinUkBooks) and Bloggeration (@Bloggeration_). Image copyright – Come Step Back In Time.

During the afternoon, Junior Campaigns Officer at Penguin, Stephenie Naulls (@stepheniejayne), answered our questions about book blogging and booktubing. We were told about Penguin’s new booktubing initiative, Penguin Platform (@PenguinPlatform), a place for young adults, to share, create, discover and debate.

  • ‘Introducing Penguin Platform’. Uploaded to You Tube 2.4.2015.

We were also introduced to exciting new Penguin book titles already out as well as those available in 2016. Stephenie was engaging, honest, open and keen to develop positive relationships with established, as well as up-and-coming bloggers/booktubers of all ages and interests.

The workshop took the form of a two-way dialogue with Stephenie encouraging attendees to put forward suggestions on how Penguin can improve their relationship with bloggers/booktubers in the future.  Stephenie explained that Penguin books are urging bloggers and booktubers to get in touch with them. Stephenie is your first point of contact in this regard (@stepheniejayne).  It was very heartening to see collaborations with bloggers being taken seriously and respectfully.

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We were also given an insight into how the publishing world works. Penguin do not accept unsolicited manuscripts and if you want the team to look at your writing then you will first need to secure a literary agent (so please lovely readers don’t ask Stephenie to read your latest literary offering!).

Apparently, the previous trend of authors receiving big advances for their book, particularly first-timers, is starting to wane. Stephenie explained it is better, in the long-run, for the author if their literary agent secures them a decent commission percentage for each book sold, rather than a high cash advance. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, particularly if you are a first-time author who already has a large, established readership/audience for your writing (i.e. one of the vloggeratti/bloggeratti or star of a high-profile reality tv show). However, as with all things in life, there is always room for negotiation.

Here is a round-up of Stephenie’s and my fellow bloggers/booktubers top tips for book reviewing:

  • demonstrate to the viewer/reader that you have fully engaged with the book you are reviewing;
  • put across your thoughts in a fun, creative and interesting way using your platform’s unique house style;
  • discuss the characters and themes of the book (sometimes neglected by reviewers!);
  • don’t forget to include information about the type/genre of book you are reviewing, (i.e. fiction, non-fiction, biography, young adult, historical fiction etc);
  • be honest! If you don’t like a book that is fine but don’t just dismiss it without putting forward a carefully considered response as to why? If you love the book, then also explain to your audience, why?;
  • you have a loyal audience who trust and listen to your voice, so use the platform wisely;
  • Stephenie is keen to hear from you, so do get in touch. Her Twitter handle is @Stepheniejayne.

As a post-script to this workshop, I found-out from Stephenie that the famous Penguin logo currently has 6 different poses and the publishing house has very strict guidelines for usage of each one. Who would have thought? For more information about the history of Penguin Books, click here.

Penguin Logos
Penguin Book’s iconic logo since 1935.
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Contents of my brilliant Penguin goodie bag from the Bloggeration workshop. Great titles. I have been reading the harrowing, but very well-written biography, In Order To Live by North Korean defectee, Yeonmi Park.  Image: Copyright – Come Step Back In Time.
A small selection of vintage Penguin cookery books from my own collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

I value all of you, my lovely readers/followers, many of you have been with me since I began in 2011. I hope that you will enjoy 2016’s improved content, across all of my media platforms. I would love to hear from you, so please do leave a comment below or Tweet me (@emmahistorian ) if you have any suggestions of topics you would like me to cover in 2016, on either of my blogs or my You Tube channel.

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There are some lovely vintage clothing shops in and around Crouch End and Highgate, North London. This was one of my favourites, ‘Scarlet Rage Vintage’ ( a stone’s throw from the O Bag Factory. ©Come Step Back In Time



Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, History of Medicine, Literature, World War One, World War Two

Featured Author (Part 1) – Kathryn J. Atwood: Women Heroes of World War I

Kathryn J. Atwood. Image courtesy of author, copyright with author's husband.
‘The women in my World War One and World War Two collective biographies were compelled into action by powerful conviction and they had the courage to follow their instincts in order to find a way to do what they thought needed to be done.’ ©Kathryn J. Atwood (2015)


A short while ago I was contacted by American writer, Kathryn J. Atwood, enquiring whether I would like a review copy of her latest work of non-fiction, Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (June, 2014) published by Chicago Review Press. Kathryn has also written Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (2011, Chicago Review Press) and Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent co-authored with Pearl Witherington Cornioley (2013 – hardback, 2015 paperback, Chicago Review Press). I will be reviewing Code Name Pauline in a second article about Kathryn’s work.

Kathryn lives near Chicago, USA but is a self-confessed Anglophile with a particular interest in writing about remarkable women from history. In Women Heroes of World War I, Kathryn writes about the extraordinary feats of courage and selfless acts of heroism shown by daring girls and women from around the world (including the USA, UK, France, Russia, Belgium, Romania and Australia) during World War One.  Biographical profiles featured are brought to life through the use of engaging narrative, dialogue, direct quotes, document and diary excerpts.

Although Women Heroes of World War I is primarily aimed at the young adult market (12+) it will also appeal to the budding adult historian looking for a solid introduction to aspects of this complex period in world history. Parents of young adults will also enjoy reading this book.

The book is divided into four sections, ‘Resisters and Spies’, ‘Medical Personnel’, ‘Soldiers’ and ‘Journalists’. Women featured include: Edith Cavell; Louise Thuliez; Emilienne Moreau; Gabrielle Petit; Marthe Cnockaert; Louise de Bettignies; Elsie Inglies; Olive King; Helena Gleichen; Shirley Millard; Maria Bochkareva; Flora Sandes; Marina Yurlova; Ecaterina Teodoroiu; Mary Roberts Rinehart and Madeleine Zabriskie Doty.

Photograph of Nurse Edith Cavell taken in her garden, Brussels, 2015. Photograph and book in the Mary Evans Picture Library Collection ©Come Step Back In Time 2015
Photograph of Nurse Edith Cavell taken in her garden, Brussels, 2015 together with her beloved dogs. Her dog Jack was taken to the de Croy country estate in Belgium by Princess Mary de Croy after Edith’s death. Photograph and book from the Mary Evans Picture Library Collection ©Come Step Back In Time 2015

On 12th October this year, it will be the 100th anniversary of the death of British nurse Edith Cavell (1893-1916). When war broke-out in 1914, Edith went to Belgium and treated injured soldiers whether they were British, French or German. She even hid nearly 200 British, Belgian and French soldiers from the Germans by keeping them safe at the nursing school and clinic where she lived.

Edith also ran a secret ‘underground’ group that helped Allied soldiers escape capture by the Germans and receive a safe passage to neutral Holland. She hid her private diary by sewing it into a cushion to prevent the secret of the hidden soldiers from getting out. Edith’s activities were eventually uncovered. In Women Heroes of World War I, Kathryn Atwood describes Edith’s arrest:

On the afternoon of August 5, officers from the German secret police – Pinkhoff and Mayer – arrived at the clinic and, after a thorough search, found a letter from Edith’s mother in England that had been transmitted after the occupation of Brussels through the agency of the American Consul. It was not much, but they used it as grounds for arrest. After unleashing a lengthy tirade intended to terrify everyone within hearing, the police took Edith to Saint-Gilles prison, where she was kept in a tiny cell and interrogated on three separate occasions. When she admitted that she had used the clinic to hide healthy Allied soldiers, the Germans realized that Edith was eligible for the death sentence. Under the German penal code, “conducting soldiers to the enemy” was considered treasonous and a capital offense.

(Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review , pp.30-1)

Ten weeks later, on October 7th, 1915, Edith was tried and sentenced to the death. In the early morning of October 12th, 1915, she was executed at the Belgian national shooting range, Tir National.

Although some of the stories in Women Heroes of World War I are well-known, like Edith Cavell and Gabrielle Petit’s for instance, many are not quite so familiar to us, for example:

  • 17-year-old Frenchwoman Emilienne Moreau (1898-1971) assisted the Allies as a guide and set- up a first-aid post in her home;
  • Russian peasant Maria Bochkareva (1889-1920) who joined the Imperial Russian Army by securing the personal permission of Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918), was twice wounded in battle and decorated for bravery, and created and led the all-women combat unit the “Women’s Battalion of Death” on the eastern front;
  • American journalist Madeleine Zabriskie Doty (1877-1963) risked her life to travel twice to Germany during the war in order to report back the truth;
  • Surgeon Elsie Inglis (1864-1917) founded the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service and bravely stood up to the invading Germans while caring for sick and wounded in Serbia;
  • Flora Sandes (1876-1956) the only British woman to serve as a soldier in World War One. She enlisted in the Serbian army after working in the ambulance service that was the first volunteer unit to leave Britain. The Serbian army was one of the few in the world to accept women. She became a Corporal and then a Sergeant-Major.
Flora Sandes Collection.
The Flora Sandes Collection. ©Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review Press.
Flora Sandes, c.. 1916. The Flora Sandes Collection.
Flora Sandes, c.. 1916. The Flora Sandes Collection. ©Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review Press.

Kathryn’s research is impeccable, the text is written with care, precision and flare, carrying the reader along on an enthralling historical and biographical journey. Drawing upon original sources, for example, documents, personal diaries, photographs and direct quotes, providing a glimpse into the lives of this pioneering group of women, a number of whom had a relatively short lifespan.

Each chapter contains background information panels providing further detail on key historical events referred to within the text (see below). A clever idea to embed this information within each relevant chapter, saves research time whilst you are reading. At end of each chapter is a ‘Learn More’ resources section with useful websites and suggestions for further reading. Readers will also find a useful ‘Glossary’ at the back of the book.

©Kathryn Atwood (
Historical background panels are embedded in most chapters to enrich the reader experience. ©Kathryn Atwood (2014) Women Heroes of World War I published by Chicago Review Press

Interview With Kathryn J. Atwood – April 2015

What first inspired you to write about this incredible group of women?:

Actually, it was my editor at the Chicago Review Press, Lisa Reardon, who first suggested I write a sort of prequel to my first book, Women Heroes of World War II. I initially dragged my heels on the idea because the only heroines of World War One that initially came to my mind were nurses and while I was certain they’d been exceptional human beings, I didn’t want to write an entire book on women who played a single role.

But then one of our sons gave my husband an interesting Christmas gift:  Flyboys, a film about some American pilots who flew for the French during World War One before the U.S. became officially involved.  While it’s not exactly the Saving Private Ryan of World War One films, the excellent period details made me want to more thoroughly understand the war.

Then one night, after I’d initiated my search for women’s stories, I turned on the television to see Matthew Crawley [Downton Abbey] in that amazing replica of the Western Front. It was the first time I’d encountered Downton Abbey and it fuelled my determination to write the book. It also turned me into a Downton fan … although in my opinion that second season has remained by far the most compelling!

©Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review Press.
©Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review Press. Gabrielle Petit (1893-1916), a Belgium who spied for the British in World War One. She used the alias “Miss Legrand” but was captured by the Germans, imprisoned, stood trial and subsequently executed on 1st April, 1916 at the Tir National shooting range.

Whose story did you first discover?

I already knew the outline of Edith Cavell’s story but the second woman I decided to include was Gabrielle Petit. I discovered her through a query to the Ypres Great War Museum when one of their knowledgeable volunteers, Freddy Rottey, sent me a packet of English-language articles about Petit.

He admitted that most of it was hagiography, written shortly after the war, but reading between the exaggerated lines, I could tell there was a great story there. So I purchased more recently written French-language biographical materials and handed them to my Francophile husband for translation.

Why do you think so many of these stories have remained untold for so long?

Women’s history is like an iceberg: when a particular era has passed into history, all that’s showing above water, so to speak, are the roles that men played. Studying women’s roles lets one see what’s underwater, the entire mountain of ice, the entire time period.

And if the heroines of World War Two are hardly remembered, those of the first have been completely snowed under. World War Two is generally considered a more compelling study because of its element of good vs. evil. However, the World War One was fought and supported by young people of such noble aspirations and calibre, it’s not only shameful that their lives were  destroyed in such devastating numbers but that their stories are not more widely known. I hope my book might help remedy that situation!

Which individual’s story has touched/inspired you the most and why?

Gabrielle Petit. Her early life was so chaotic and difficult she tried to end it. But while working for British Intelligence during the war, her passionate nature found a focus which resulted in a patriotism, so winning it resonated for decades afterwards.

She was beloved and mourned by Belgians of various ethnicities who generally couldn’t agree on much else. She also directly inspired Belgian resistance during World War Two: so many flowers appeared at the foot of her statue in Brussels that the Germans posted a sentry there! And Brussels native Andree de Jongh, having grown up on stories of both Petit and Cavell, created an escape network that rescued hundreds of Allied airmen during World War Two.

What would you say are the key character qualities that all of the women you have written about have in common?

The women in my World War One and World War Two collective biographies were compelled into action by powerful conviction and they had the courage to follow their instincts in order to find a way to do what they thought needed to be done.

If you could invite 5 of the women you have written in Women Heroes of World War I to a dinner party, hosted by your good self, who would you choose and why?

For elegant conversation, initially reserved, perhaps, but eventually taking a fascinating turn, I would invite Edith Cavell, Louise de Bettignies, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Helena Gleichen, and Madeleine Zabriskie-Doty.  For a more animated, visceral conversation I’d choose Gabrielle Petit, Maria Bochkareva, Louise Thuliez, Elsie Inglis, and Olive King. I might decide to sit between the latter two as Olive King left the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, founded by Elsie Inglis, because she felt inhibited by the many regulations!

If all these women were alive now, what life lessons do you think they would impart to their female counterparts in 2015?

I find it quite astonishing that they enthusiastically supported the wartime causes of nations who were at that moment denying them equal rights and accepting their services simply because there was no one else to do the job! Perhaps they would have a collective message about seizing windows of opportunity and following one’s conscience.

What does history mean to you and why is it so important, do you think,  to keep the past alive for future generations, particularly young adults, to discover?

While technology and societal norms change, human nature doesn’t. That’s why “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” A positive variation of that thought, and what I try to accomplish with my books is this: those who admire the heroes of the past just might become heroes themselves.

History is full of stories of people who made courageous choices in the midst of difficulty, who gave their time and effort – and sometimes their lives — for something higher than themselves. That’s inspiring no matter what one’s age but it’s particularly important for young people in search of something that matters.

Further Resources

©Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review Press.
Back cover of Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics featuring a selection of review comments.
Posted in Film, History, Literature

Votes For Women! Women’s Suffrage In Southampton & Portsmouth, Hampshire

  • Silent newsreel footage shot by British Pathe, early twentieth century, showing different Suffragette events in Britain. Uploaded to You Tube, 13.4.14.
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  • A parasol parade selling The Suffragette newspaper, Brighton, Sussex, April 1914. From left to right: Miss Reid, Mrs Goodier, Miss Gye, Mrs Brandon, Miss Rae, Mrs Bouvier. Brighton and Hove was one of the first Women’s Social and Political Union branches, founded in May 1907. By June 1908 they had a banner ‘beautifully designed and embroidered by members with the arms of Brighton’. Parasol parades were a regular feature of the union’s sales drives to increase its newspaper circulation in the summer months. Umbrellas were used in the rainy season. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

As part of BBC’s Taking Liberties season (programmes about democracy to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta), Professor Amanda Vickery presents a three-part documentary series, Suffragettes Forever! The Story of Women and Power. Professor Vickery explores the three hundred year-long campaign by women for political and sex equality in Britain. Embed from Getty Images

  • The Reverend Libby Lane smiles as she stands with the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu outside York Minster after she was consecrated as the eighth Bishop of Stockport on January 26, 2015 in York, England. The Church of England consecrated its first female bishop during a ceremony at York Minster. The Reverend Libby Lane, who has been the vicar of St Peter’s Hale and St Elizabeth’s Ashley, in Greater Manchester, was ordained as the new Bishop of Stockport in a two hour service led by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Sunday 8th March was International Women’s Day (IWD) an annual event that has been observed since the early 1900s, in America the first event took place on 28th February, 1909. IWD celebrates women’s accomplishments and promotes global equality and this year’s theme is ‘make it happen’ which aims to encourage and recognise women in their professional fields.

Sunday 8th March was also when Britain’s first female bishop, The Revered Libby Lane (48) preached her inaugural sermon as she was installed in her home diocese, Chester Cathedral. The Church of England formally adopted legislation last November to allow women to become bishops. Rev. Lane was consecrated as the eighth Bishop of Stockport at York Minster in January.

Early Women’s Suffrage

In 1847, the first leaflet advocating votes for women appeared in Britain. In 1867, civil servant John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), tried, unsuccessfully, to secure votes for women in the Second Reform Act. The 1867 Reform Act: 1) granted the vote to all householders in the boroughs as well as lodgers who paid rent of £10 a year or more; 2) reduced the property threshold in the counties and gave the vote to agricultural landowners and tenants with very small amounts of land.

Mill’s failure to secure women the vote, led to the founding of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage. In 1861 (published 1869), Mill wrote one of the earliest essays on sexual equality written by a male author, The Subjection of Women. Although, it is entirely possible that Mill’s wife, Harriet (1807-1858) co-wrote the essay.

In 1868, MP Richard Pankhurst (1834-1898) (husband of Emmeline from 1878 onwards), also tried to push forward votes for women. He drafted the Women’s Disabilities Removal Bill (the first women’s suffrage bill in England) and authored the bill which became the Married Women’s Property Act (1882). The latter gave wives absolute control over their property and earnings. In 1889, the Pankhursts formed the Women’s Franchise League.

A Few Key Miletones Of Women’s Suffrage In Britain

  • Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was appointed Home Secretary in 1910 and was part of Herbert Henry Asquith’s (1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith) (1852-1928) Liberal Government (1908-1916);
  • Conciliation bills were put before the House of Commons in 1910, 1911 and 1912. These bills would extend the right of women to vote in Great Britain and Ireland to around 1,000,500 wealthy, property-owning women;
  • The 1907 Qualification of Women Act enabled women to sit on county or borough councils and boards of guardians;
  • The first female MP was Constance Georgine Markievicz (1868-1927), a socialist and suffragette. In December 1918, she was elected to the British House of Commons but did not take-up her seat;
  • Medical Act 1876 (Russell Gurney Enabling Act) – enabled, for the first time, women to study and graduate in medicine. Dr Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman to receive her medical degree in America (1854) and the first woman on the UK Medical Register. Her sister Emily (1826-1910) was the third woman in America to get a medical degree. English physician Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) was the first woman to qualify in the UK as both a surgeon and a physician.
  • Marriage bars. From the late nineteenth century until the 1960s, married women were prohibited from certain occupations such as administrative roles in the Civil Service. The Sex Disqualification Removal Act, passed in 1919, banned married women from the teaching profession. Lower paid professions were not affected. During World War Two, the laws were relaxed because of the labour shortage.Marriage bars in teaching were removed in 1944;
  • The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) – ‘the Suffragists’, founded in 1897 was a collection of local suffrage societies. This union was led by Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929), who believed in constitutional campaigning and non-violent methods of raising awareness of the suffrage cause. However, this softer approach was rather unsuccessful in drawing attention to their aims;
  • The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) – ‘the Suffragettes’-  was the leading militant organisation campaigning for Women’s suffrage in Great Britain between 1903 (10th October) and 1917. Founded by Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) she ran the organisations with her daughters Christabel (1880-1958) and Sylvia (1882-1960);
  • In 1908, the WSPU adopted the colour scheme of purple (dignity), white (purity) and green (hope). This colour scheme appeared on the organisations banners, flags, rosettes and badges. Non-militant suffragettes adopted red, white and green as their colour scheme;
  • The WSPU, under the editorship of Christabel Pankhurst, published an official publication The Suffragette (1912-1915). At one point it had a circulation of ten thousand copies. Previously, the WSPU published the periodical Votes for Women (1907-1912 and 1914-18, when the United Suffragists ran it);
  • Two suffragettes selling The Suffragette at the Henley Regatta.
  • In a photograph specially taken for the Suffragette paper, a woman sits engrossed in the Suffragette.
  • In the early twentieth century until World War One, approximately one thousand suffragettes were imprisoned in Great Britain;
  • Women in Great Britain over the age of 30, meeting certain property qualifications, were given the right to vote in 1918, and in 1928 suffrage was extended to all women over the age of 21. New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant women the right to vote in 1893 when all women over the age of 21 were permitted to vote in parliamentary elections;
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  • Social History, Suffragettes, c.1910, The Suffragettes campaign office in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, photographed by local photographer Harold H,Camborn (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Women’s Suffrage In Southampton

I have recently been researching suffragettes and suffrage activities in Hampshire, in particular Southampton and Portsmouth. The first suffrage petition in Hampshire was sponsored by the Southampton MP, Russell Gurney (1804-1878), dated 13th May, 1869. The following year the town’s very first suffrage society was established. Founding members of the Southampton executive committee were: Rev. Edmund Kell, Mrs Edward Dixon, Miss Hart, Mrs Jemima Jane Sawyer. Mrs Sawyer was the society’s secretary and lived at Thanet House, Bevois (now Lodge Road).

On 27th February, 1871, Russell Gurney presented another women’s suffrage petition which recorded three hundred and seventy-four of the town’s residents supporting the petition. During the same year the first suffrage meeting was held in the town on the 8th April, a lecture by Millicent Fawcett was attended by two thousand people. Further suffrage meetings took place in 1873, 1876, 1878 and 1882 when crowds had increased sufficiently to hold  the meeting at Southampton’s Philharmonic Hall.

Between 1882 and 1902, there was very little suffrage activity in Southampton. (Source: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey by Elizabeth Crawford, pp. 163-170) Southampton had branches of both the NUWSS and WSPU but they were small in comparison to over parts of the country or indeed the county, for example Portsmouth.

The NUWSS was established in Southampton in 1905. They held meetings at the Bungalow Café (157, Above Bar, destroyed in World War Two by enemy bombing). During the 1910 election the society opened a shop at 3, Above Bar and in March the Actresses’ Franchise League staged three short suffrage plays, Cicely Hamilton’s Pot and Kettle , and How the Vote Was Won and The Apple by Inez Bensusan. (Source: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey by Elizabeth Crawford, p. 163)

Militant activities in Southampton did not begin in earnest until 1912 when:

 …some local suffragettes resort to what was by then the frequent militant practice of destroying letters by thrusting burning rags or pouring corrosive fluid into pillar-boxes. As early as 1907, however, the militants had begun to seize every opportunity of interrupting and trying to disrupt any meetings which members of the Government came down to address; as when in November a band of them had to be ejected from one at which Augustine Birrell the Secretary for Ireland was the principal speaker.

It was during the years 1911-1913, however, that militancy rose to its height in the country, and though the repercussions of this in Southampton were less violent than elsewhere, meetings addressed there by leading members of that wing were frequently marked by much heckling and rowdy interruptions. Throughout 1911, the question of women’s suffrage was kept prominently before the town by a succession of speakers from both wings.

(A History of Southampton 1700-1914, Vol III: Setbacks and Recoveries 1868-1914 (1975) by A. Temple Patterson, p. 137)

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Emmeline Pankhurst’s Visit To Southampton In 1911

Emmeline Pankhurst visited Southampton on Saturday 4th February, 1911 and addressed a large audience at the Palace Theatre. She spoke for an hour without any interruption from the floor. Various speakers who supported the suffrage movement came down to Southampton for this event including: Mrs Philip Snowden, the Countess of Selborne, H. N. Brailsford, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence whose wife Emmeline was a leading, militant suffragette who together with her husband started the publication Votes for Women in 1907. In 1914, Flora McKinnon ‘General’ Drummond (1878-1949), a prominent leader of the WSPU, also addressed a large crowd in Southampton.

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  • Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence (1867-1954), co-editor of Votes for Women, and business manager and Treasurer of the Women’s Social and Political Union, c1909. Before her involvement with the movement Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence had spent five years as a social reformer. In 1905 she founded the Esperance Girls’ Club and Social Settlement, and two years later the Maison Esperance, a cooperative dressmaking business which, unusually for the time, paid the workers a minimum wage of fifteen shillings a week for an eight-hour day, and gave them an annual holiday. She proved to be a remarkable fund-raiser and treasurer for the suffragettes, raising the equivalent of £3 million in five years. Arrested four times and serving over four months in prison, her last conviction (like her husband) was in 1912 for conspiracy to incite violence. She served only five weeks of her nine-month sentence and was released early, severely debilitated after her hunger strike and force-feeding. On their expulsion from the WSPU she and her husband continued to edit Votes for Women (thereafter the official newspaper of the WSPU would be The Suffragette.) They also founded the Votes for Women Fellowship, a new moderate militant organisation. Emmeline’s many publications include: The Need for Women MPs; Women as Persons or Property?; and The Meaning of the Woman’s Movement. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Southampton’s first woman mayor, Lucia Marion Foster Welch (nee Brown, c.1864-1940) was also a supporter of women’s suffrage and member of both the WSPU and the NUWSS. However, she did not condone the WSPU’s militant activities. Welch married twice, first to Philip Braham in 1884, with whom she had three children, and to Robert William Foster Welch in 1904.

Mrs Welch first came to Southampton in 1903 and was elected Conservative councillor for the city’s Newton area in 1918.When Emmeline Pankhurst visited Southampton in 1911, Welch invited friends and supporters of the WSPU to tea at her house, 61 Oxford Street, in order that they could meet the suffragette leader. Welch regularly provided hospitality for the NUWSS meetings.

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  • 7th March 1913: A suffragette adding to messages written by others on a pavement in Kensington. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

I reviewed press coverage relating to Mrs Pankhurst’s Southampton visit in 1911 and include some extracts below from the Liberal supporting Southampton Times:

Mrs Pankhurst’s Visit: The Suffragettes have been busily engaged this week in advertising today’s meeting at the Palace Theatre. Handbills have been distributed in great quantities, and on Thursday the pavements were “chalked”. Yesterday members of the ‘Women’s Social and Political Union drove about the town in a motor car gaily decorated in the purple, white, and green colours of the Union, with placards announcing that Mrs Pankhurst’s meeting was at 3 o’clock this afternoon.

Votes for Women: The Women’s Social and Political Union held a very successful ‘at home’ last week in Southampton. The speaker was the Hon. Mrs Haverfield (hon. organiser for Paddington), Miss C. A. L. Marsh (organiser for Portsmouth and Southampton) opened with a short speech explaining the demand of the Union for votes for women on the same terms as men. Mrs Haverfield then dealt with the position of women in the industrial world, and explained the need of the vote to protect their interests. The speaker also pointed out that the laws were made without women being consulted at all, and she claimed that as legislation affected so much the lives of women and children, the women should be allowed to express their views through the ballot box. Several new members were made and collection was taken in aid of the local funds.

(Southampton Times and Hampshire Express, 4.2.1911)

Mrs Pankhurst’s visit: “The Privileges of Sex”. There was a large gathering at the Palace Theatre on Saturday afternoon when Mrs Pankhurst, leader of the “Votes for Women” movement, delivered an address on the auspices of the local branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union. The chair was occupied by Miss Marsh, the local organising secretary, who remarked that as so many people had an entirely wrong idea of what the suffragettes were fighting for, it would be as well if the aims were explained.

Briefly, they were asking that what qualified a man for the vote should also qualify a woman. As women were called upon to pay taxes, and were expected to obey the laws of the country, it was only fair that they should have a chance of saying how their money should be spent, and what laws should be made. Unfortunately, they could not get Government  to do a thing merely because its justice was proved. Had that been possible, the women would have had the vote long ago (applause).

Mrs Pankhurst, who was speaking for nearly an hour, received a very attentive hearing. If there were no striking outbursts of applause, she had the sympathy of her audience to the end, and there was an entire absence of interruptions. She explained the objects of the Union at length, and desired to disabuse the minds of those who believed that, because women had been driven to extremities by the continuous refusal of their demands, they were making extreme claims. She urged that their claims were not only very moderate, but that they were also absolutely just.

Women had been fighting for fifty years against “the terrible privilege of sex”. She admitted that some small advance had been made in the position of women, such as was talked of by those who opposed the extension of the franchise. There were advantages of education, and an advance was made under the Married Women’s Property Act. These, said their opponents, were secured without women having the vote but people who used arguments of that sort did not know that those improvements were the by-products of the work of the Suffrage Societies of those days.

If women had the vote, not one tithe of the energy which had been spent to secure those reformers would have been necessary. Parliamentary candidates were very considerate towards the people who had votes, and it was the need of the vote that urged some to fight. It was the weakest who had the hardest struggle in life, and the least they could do was to set women free to develop the power of self- protection and self-development by giving them the status of citizenship. (applause)

At the conclusions of her speech, Mrs Pankhurst was presented with a handsome bouquet by Miss Kennedy, who, with Miss Cumberland, represented Southampton on the last deputation to the Prime Minister. The Chairman expressed the hope that if it was necessary to send another deputation to the Prime Minister, a greater number of Southampton ladies would volunteer for militant action.

It was also announced that next month a visit would be paid to the town by Mr Hugh Franklin, who, to quote Miss Marsh’s words, “has just served six weeks” (imprisonment) because he wished to show Mr Churchill that the members of the Men’s Political Union were very much disgusted by the way in which the government treated the women at the recent deputation.

Questions were invited and the first point was, has women’s suffrage proved a success in those countries where it exists? Absolutely, replied Mrs Pankhurst. Has anything been gained by militant methods? was the next question and Mrs Pankhurst said that one result has been that the question had been put is such a position that politicians could not ignore it. The Commons now discussed the matter seriously.

Asked what prospect there was of the Government doing anything for women, Mrs Pankhurst said the prospect was very good, if the women of the country would keep the representatives “up to the mark”. The two local members were friends of the movement but they had done nothing for it.

Another question was: if the object of the Union is to obtain the vote on the same qualification as men, how do you propose to obviate the over-representation of property in parliament? The reply was that of the million and a quarter women who would obtain the vote under the proposed Conciliation Bill, over eighty per cent, were earning their own living and therefore the power of property would not be strengthened.

Another lad asked what good could accrue  to the thousands of factory girls if the vote was only given to propertied women, and Mrs Pankhurst said that the limited franchise for men had proved to be a good thing, and she did not see why a limited franchise should not do a great deal of good in improving the positions of women.

(Southampton Times and Hampshire Express (11.2.1911))

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  • English suffragette Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst (1882 – 1960) stands on a platform to paint the front of the Women’s Social Defence League premises in Bow Road, East London, 11th October 1912. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Educational Reform For Women

Feminist, educational reformer and suffragist, Sarah Emily Davies (1830-1921) was born in Carlton Crescent, Southampton. The fourth child of the Rev. John Davies, D.D. rector of Gateshead who was working in Southampton as a locum vicar at the time of Emily’s birth. Although she had no formal education, Emily met John Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) through her brother and as such was drawn into educational circles. When her father died she and her mother moved to London where she set about achieving her aim of higher education for women. (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, p.22) Emily lived to cast her vote in the 1918 general election, aged 88, she died several years later in 1921.

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  • ‘Food Values in our Restaurants’, 1917. The effect of university education for women on everyday life. A waitress, late of Girton College, Cambridge, is able to advise a surprised diner on the nutrition he will derive from his meal. Cartoon from Punch. (London, 14th February 1917). (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

In 1869, Emily Davies co-founded Girton College, Cambridge University, along with Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827-1891) and Lady Henrietta Maria Stanley Alderley (1807-1895). Originally, the college was located in Hitchin in Hertfordshire before later moving to Girton, near Cambridge. Newnham, Cambridge first admitted women in 1871, Somerville and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford in 1879, and the Royal Holloway College, London in 1886.

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  • Female students at the Royal Holloway College in Egham, Greater London, c.1887. Originally a women-only college, it became part of the University of London in 1900 and began to admit male students in 1945. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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  • 13th June 1908: Suffragettes who are students at Royal Holloway College march to the Albert Hall for a protest meeting. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

In 1878, University of London (founded by Royal Charter on 28th November, 1836), was the first university in Britain to admit women to its degrees. In 1880, four women passed the BA examination and in 1881 two women obtained a BSc. By 1895, over ten per cent of the graduates were women and by 1900 the proportion had increased to thirty per cent. (Source: University of London)

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  • c.1900: Female undergraduates at work in the laboratory at Girton College, Cambridge University.  (Photo by Reinhold Thiele/Thiele/Getty Images)

Florence Exten-Hann, a young socialist and feminist clerk from Southampton as well as WSPU member was one of the suffragettes known for her early morning pavement chalking activities. She joined the women’s section of the Shopworkers’ Union. Her father had been a member of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) which was active between 1881 and 1911. SDF was Britain’s first, organised, socialist political party.

She was also a member of the Clarion Cycling Club (CCC) formed in 1895 which had its roots in socialism (Clarion was the name of Robert Blatchford’s socialist newspaper). The CCC encouraged working class people to enjoy the freedom of a bicycle. By the early 1900s there were over eight thousand members of the CCC in Britain and it still exists today (National Clarion CC) with other one thousand six hundred members in over thirty sections.

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  • England / Social History, Colour illustration, Suffragettes, Three women confront the Minister in their fight for votes outside the Houses of Parliament, c.1910 (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

The Primrose League

Another Southampton resident who played an important role in the political emancipation of women was Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-1885). In between his many globe-trotting adventures, Burnaby resided in Carlton Crescent. Burnaby along with Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895), Sir Henry Drummond Wolff (1830-1908), Sir John Eldon Gorst (1835-1916) and Percy Mitford established the Primrose League in 1883 following their first meeting at the Carlton Club, London.

Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s (1804-1881) favourite flower was the primrose. This group of Disraeli admirers, led by Lord Churchill, set-up the Primrose League to promote Conservative aims and values. The League sought to encourage members of the working classes to be interested in Conservative politics by simplifying its manifesto in order to reach this target group.

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  • Margaret Elizabeth Child-Villiers (1849 – 1945), Countess of Jersey, addresses a meeting of the Ladies’ Grand Council of the Primrose League at Princes Hall, Piccadilly, London, 1894. The Primrose League was founded in 1883 to promote Conservative principles in Britain. It was disbanded in 2004. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Foundation of the Primrose League was an important milestone in the history of women’s suffrage. The League was the first political organisation to give women the same status and responsibilities as men. Women could join in the various social events and community activities giving them an invaluable insight into political campaigning including canvassing at election time and supervision of voter registration.

A separate Ladies Branch and Grand Council were formed. The founder of the Ladies Grand Council was Lady Borthwick (later Lady Glenesk) and the first meeting of the committee took place at her house in Piccadilly in March, 1885. Lady Borthwick’s husband was owner of the Morning Post which merged with The Daily Telegraph in 1937.

However, in 1889, the organisation forbade members to take part in suffrage activities or to support the franchise for women. After women finally obtained the vote in 1918, membership dwindled. The Primrose League was wound-up in December 2004.

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  • The arrest of suffragettes, left to right, Flora Drummond, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, with James Jarvis reading the warrant at Clement’s Inn, London on 13th October, 1908. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Janie Terrero

One of Southampton’s militant suffragettes, Janie Terrero (1858-1944), lived at Fir Tree Lodge, Bannister Road from 1898 with her husband Manuel until they moved to Rockstone House, Pinner, Middlesex in 1913. Mrs Terrero become Hon. Secretary of the Pinner WSPU. Mrs Terrero had support from her husband who was himself a member of the Men’s Political  Union. Whilst living in Southampton Janie Terrero held drawing-room meetings for the society in 1905 and 1907.

In March 1912, Mrs Terrero took part in a series of window-smashing demonstrations in London to coincide with the reading of the Conciliation Bill in Parliament. The women damaged shop windows, using hammers or stones, in the West End, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea. Over two hundred women were arrested, including Terrero who was sentenced to four months in Holloway prison . Whilst incarcerated, she wrote her thoughts on the experience:

I was in close confinement for twelve days, was in two hunger strikes and was forcibly fed in April and again in June. To those who intend to be actively militant, I want to say this; you cannot imagine how strong you feel in prison. The Government may take your liberty from you and lock you up, but they cannot imprison your spirit. The only one thing the Government really fears is the hunger strike. They fear it not because of our pain and suffering, but because it damages their majorities. How strong that weapon made us feel. If they had only dared, they would have put us in a lethal chamber. Some people wonder at the courage of our women, but I believe physical courage is a common attribute, and I do not see why women should possess it in a lesser degree than men.

(Source: The Suffragette Handkerchief)

Whilst in Holloway Prison, Terrero worked a handkerchief, bordered with purple, white and green, containing sixty-six embroidered signatures and two sets of initials of suffragettes who joined demonstrations in London, March, 1912. The handkerchief was probably embroidered during the women’s limited exercise periods. Most of the women who signed the handkerchief had taken part in the March demonstrations (Source: The Suffragette Handkerchief). The handkerchief is part of the Priest House’s collection, West Hoathly, West Sussex.

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  • May 1921: British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst on her release from prison. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
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  • ‘The Cat and Mouse Act’, 1914. Suffragette poster which graphically depicts the workings of the Prisoner’s Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health Act, known by the WSPU as the Cat and Mouse Act. During 1913 and 1914 the force-feeding of suffragettes on hunger-strike stopped. Instead, the weakened campaigners were released from prison on a special license but were liable to be re-arrested to complete their sentence when their health improved. The large, bloody-toothed cat represents the police, the prison authorities and the Home Secretary, Reginald McKenna, who was responsible for the Act. The ‘mouse’ is a small and injured suffragette. Intended to wear down the morale and resolve of the suffragettes, the Cat and Mouse Act failed in both theory and practice: when suffragettes were released they were nursed in suffragette nursing homes and then went into hiding, from where many of them continued to commit yet more militant ‘outrages’. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
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  • Suffragettes on a ‘poster parade’ selling the Suffragette, 31st July, 1914. The women carry newspaper satchels and flags, and wear sandwich boards advertising their newspaper the Suffragette. The cover of the issue they are selling shows a suffragette being force-fed. Suffragettes were regarded by many as a public enemy, therefore it is to their credit that they parade their allegiances so openly. This was the last full week that they were able to campaign before the outbreak of World War One. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Women’s Suffrage In Portsmouth

Although Southampton had a vibrant suffrage scene, a few miles down the road in Portsmouth, activities reached new political heights. The Southampton branch of the NUWSS worked in association with the Portsmouth Women’s Suffrage Society (1911-14), inviting local members of the WSPU to their meetings. On Portsmouth Socialist Network’s website, there is a timeline of the women’s fight in Portsmouth, click here.

The Portsmouth branch of the NUWSS seems to have been best organised. It even had its own headquarters by November 1913 at 2, Kent Road, Southsea. Fundraising was accomplished through jumble sales, sales of work and collections made at public meetings and in the streets. A young lad, Lancelot Surry, recalled a memorable cake and candy sale organised by the WSPU to which his mother sent a cake iced in purple, green and white. Sadly, no-one would buy it, so it was raffled.(Source: Hampshire Times, 7.11.1913 & Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, pp.20-21)

Portsmouth is a naval town with a reputation for strong-minded, independent women used to surviving whilst their husbands were away at sea. During the Victorian and Edwardian eras, a large majority of the town’s women were employed in the dress, corset and tailoring trades, other popular professions included domestic service, public administration and teaching. The middle and working classes of Portsmouth found a strong collective voice in the women’s suffrage movement.  (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983)

The different strands of the movement for women’s suffrage came together in Portsmouth. Women had played a significant role in the economic life of the town throughout the nineteenth century. Between 1841 and 1901, as dress-makers, seamstresses and staymakers, they accounted for between 21 per cent and 33 per cent of the town’s industrial employment. There was of course a large available female labour force: the wives of dockyard workers, naval men and soldiers and foreign service.

When there were so many important questions before the country, a large proportion of which materially affected women’s interests. A wealthy woman who owned houses and land, who employed servants and work people was yet debarred, merely because of her sex, from having any say by way of a vote, in the political questions which were so vital to her interests.

(Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, pp. 4 & 6)

The first recorded act of militancy in Portsmouth in support of women’s suffrage was reported in June 1913 when Frederick Blessley, a ‘well-known speaker on behalf of “the cause” ‘ was charged with smashing a pane of glass worth 12s. 0d. in the Town Hall. The arson campaign continued throughout the summer, with only a brief respite during the holiday months of July and August. (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, p.17)

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  • Songsheet of ‘The March of the Women’, 1911. Songsheet in the suffragette colours of purple, green and white, showing women and children marching with the banner of the Women’s Social and Political Union, demanding votes for women. This anthem was written by Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) in 1911 and was dedicated to Emmeline Pankhurst, a leading campaigner in the suffragette movement. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Nora and Margaret O’Shea were two Portsmouth sisters who belonged to the local branch of the NUWSS. Margaret wrote the women’s suffrage song ‘Forward, Ever Forward’. The sisters’ interests were not confined to the suffrage campaign. They also devoted themselves to the welfare of animals, vegetarianism and the study of herbal remedies. Their hair, universally admired by their followers, owed its magnificence to the fact that they washed it in a solution of sage and other herbs grown in their garden. (Source:Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, p. 8)

Forward, brave and dauntless

Daughters of this earth.

Let your dormant talents

Spring to glorious birth.


Children, toiling sisters,

Cry, and never rest;

Answer! We shall help you

Coming to our best.


Forward, fighting evils,

Deborahs, awake!

Up! And help your sisters

Victims at life’s stake.

(Margaret O’Shea’s women’s suffrage song, ‘Forward, Ever Forward’)

Not all of Portmouth’s women were supportive of the suffrage movement. The inaugural meeting of the Portsmouth branch of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League was held at Sandringham Hall on 9th February, 1909. The  granddaughter of the town’s most famous novelist, Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Mary Angela Dickens (1862-1948) was one of its founding members. Mary spoke in Dublin about the suffrage activities and commented that:

What was called the irresponsible vote – the vote of the man who does not know and does not care – was already sufficiently large. Woman, if she devotes her time to domestic work – what time had she for the study of Imperial politics?

(‘Opponents of the Cause’, The Irish Times, 17.10.2012)

…the whole of the Suffragist propaganda was based on the ignoring and defying of the fundamental differences fixed by Nature herself between the existence of men and women… for the nation women’s suffrage would mean a huge, increased, irresponsible vote, ultimate petticoat government, and a weakening of that respect for law and order which was the very bulwark of the State.

(Mary Angela Dickens quoted in The Hampshire Times, 27.1.1909)

The Portsmouth branch of the NUWSS in the person of their chairman, Mrs Julia Hawksley, challenged Miss Dickens to take part in an open debate upon the subject of women’s suffrage. The debate never took place since the Anti-Suffragists finally declined the invitation. (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983)

In 1918, forty-five thousand women in Portsmouth were entitled to vote and the town was the first in which women were called to vote. On the 18th November that year, Kate Edmund was elected Councillor in the town, by a majority of over six hundred votes.

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  • Helena Bonham Carter takes part in filming of Suffragette at Parliament on April 11th, 2014 in London. This is the first time filming for a movie has been allowed in The Houses of Parliament. Suffragette is due for release September 2015 (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
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  • Actors (L-R) Anne-Marie Duff, Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter take part in filming of the movie Suffragette at Parliament on April 11th, 2014 in London. This is the first time filming for a feature film has been allowed in The Houses of Parliament. Suffragette is due for release September 2015. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Fashion History, Historical Hair and Make-up, History, Literature, Rural Heritage

On Yer Bike! Cycling Tips From 1897


It will be seen that matters cycling occupy an important place in The Rambler. The cycle may be described as the key to the country. Certainly there is no way of learning and knowing the country equal to cycling. In fact without cycling we are absolutely at a loss to understand how the great majority of the dwellers in large cities in this Kingdom could see anything of the country except occasional flying glimpses of it from the train.

However, if a prominent position is given to cycling let it be distinctly understood that the paper will not be filled with cycle puffs and cycling advertisements, nor with accounts of runs by clubs of whom no one ever heard, nor with lengthy reports of the rulings of the various cycling associations.

Everything in The Rambler relating to cycling will be treated of only by experts. For example, in the first number will be found contributions by F. T. Bidlake, M. A. Holbein, and many other well-known writers. We need only mention that the paper will be edited by Mr Charles P. Sisley, the best cycling Editor of the day, and our readers will understand that any statements regarding cycling may be depended upon, as nothing will be allowed to appear on the subject which has not passed his very critical cycling eye.

(The Rambler magazine, Vol 1. No. 1, 22nd May, 1897)

Recently I got the urge to purge my vintage magazines and ephemera.  Sorting my collection always takes twice as long as it really should, I stop to read all the advertisements, articles and classifieds just in case there is a great story hiding in the column inches. I came across a rather dog-eared but nonetheless charming copy of The Rambler from 22nd May, 1897, Vol 1 No. 1, first edition. A penny weekly magazine devoted to outdoor life and articles about cycling in the countryside feature heavily.

By the 1890s cycling had become extremely popular in Britain, particularly with women, as it offered them an escape from house and husband. This was also the age of suffragism, socialism and the civil rights movement. Many female campaigners used bicycles as their preferred mode of transport. The bicycle represented, freedom, mobility and independence.

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  • Cycling, c1890. French illustration of a lady in ‘Rational’ cycling dress of knickerbockers and gaiters, giving her small daughter a ride on the saddle of her bicycle. (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)
The Rambler, 1897.


In my edition of The Rambler, all illustrations depict the female cyclist wearing long skirts, conservatively dressed, modesty preserved. However, in the 1890s, cycling for some women provided an opportunity to make a political statement via their mode of dress. In 1881, The Rational Dress Society was formed, spearheaded by Lady Florence Harberton (1843-1911), Mary Eliza Haweis (1848-1898) and Constance Wilde (1859-1898) (wife of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)). The Society’s mission statement read:

The Rational Dress Society protests against the introduction of any fashion in dress that either deforms the figure, impedes the movements of the body, or in any way tends to injure the health. It protests against the wearing of tightly-fitting corsets; of high-heeled shoes; of heavily-weighted skirts, as rendering healthy exercise almost impossible; and of all tie down cloaks or other garments impeding on the movements of the arms. It protests against crinolines or crinolettes of any kind as ugly and deforming….[It] requires all to be dressed healthily, comfortably, and beautifully, to seek what conduces to birth, comfort and beauty in our dress as a duty to ourselves and each other.

 In 1892 free-spirited traveller and advocate of the outdoors, Miss Lillias Campbell Davidson, established the Lady Cyclists’ Association. Davidson was well-placed to head-up this new organisation and in 1896, her Handbook for Lady Cyclists was published. Previously she had written Hints for Lady Travellers (1889) in which she recommended the following dress code for ladies embarking upon cycling tours:

Wear as few petticoats as possible; dark woollen stockings in winter, and cotton in summer; shoes, never boots; and have your gown made neatly and plainly of flannel without loose ends or drapery to catch in your [bicycle]… Grey is the best colour, or heather mixture tweed, which does not show dust or mud stains, and yet cannot lose its colour under a hot sun.

The Rambler, 1897.

Below are a few of my favourite quotes from The Rambler:

And she smiled sweetly: “How frightful I must look!” exclaimed the young woman cyclist who had fallen into a muddy excavation in the street. “You look,” exclaimed the panting but infatuated youth who had lifted her out, “like 150 pounds of extracted honey!”.

Queen Victoria and cycling: of the ladies in the Royal household Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Albany was perhaps the first to start the fashion of cycling, for in 1884 the Queen presented her with a valuable little tricycle, and displayed much interest in the course of instruction, which took place in the grounds. It is stated that Her Majesty, herself unable to resist the temptation, mounted in private and took a turn round her beautiful domain at Osborne.

A small but important matter: When having the bell attached to the handle-bars of a machine, be careful in seeing that it is within easy reach of your thumb without moving either hand from the grips. The bell should be rung without a moment’s hesitation if danger has to be avoided, and very frequently a second or two lost in reaching it, if near the centre of the bars, means a bad smash. A small bell again is not much good. It is better to purchase, within reasonable limits of course, a bell the clang of which can be heard without difficulty, instead of a tinkling little affair, the sound of which is drowned by the noise of ordinary traffic.

Formidable enemies of cyclists: The most formidable stinging insect in Britain is the hornet. Its attack is really extremely painful, but it is not very often encountered. Wasps are really more of a nuisance than hornets, for though less virulent they are more abundant, and will sometimes sting without provocation, being apparently subject to fits of bad temper.

Learn to ride with your mouth shut and breathe through your nose. To ride a long journey quickly and with comfort, eat beef steak and bread, taking no drink at the time. When very thirsty drink only hot tea, and take bread or toast with it. A good thirst quencher is to put the wrists in cold water.

Stock ties and collars are most invariably
Stock ties and collars are almost invariable with shirts for cycling. Two examples are here portrayed, the one showing the stock in bow form, while the other is simply crossed and caught with a pin. The latter is considered the better style. Many women are advocating skirt straps as shown below. These are of elastic, the loop passing beneath the instep, a method very distinctly advantageous in a high wind. The most useful chatelaine contains scissors, pin case, tablets, pencil and knife. A strap for these is now often found in lieu of a chain. A chronometer is now frequently affixed to the handle-bar. Smart park shoes for riding have Cromwellian flaps. (The Rambler, 1897)
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Film, History, Literature, Maritime History, Motoring History, Rural Heritage, TV Programme, Vintage, Vintage Retail, World War One, World War Two

Rye, East Sussex: Hideout For Smugglers & Haven For Writers

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  • Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex.
Illustration of Mermaid Street, Rye from Rye and District Holiday Guide (1950).
Illustration of Mermaid Street, Rye from Rye and District Holiday Guide (1950).

Through the ages – sackings and burnings, invader and pirates, smugglers and highwaymen, Kings and Queens, statesmen and reformers, and, in more recent years, threats of invasion, bombs and incendiaries, to say nothing of “doodle bugs.”

And yet through it all Rye seems to stand quite imperturbable and seemingly unconcerned with the passage of time, for we read that in 1263 the Friar of the Sack were allowed “to dwell in peace and quietude… in the Town of Rye,” and we can stand in the same street to-day and feel the same sense of “peace and quietude” and realize that nothing seems to have altered in the last 700 years. The peculiar appeal of Rye is that inasmuch as other towns take you back to the past, Rye brings the past ages right into the present day.

(Handbook and Guide: Rye, Winchelsea & Northiam by L.A. Vidler and W. MacLean Homan, 1950)

I spent my childhood in East Sussex, it is a picturesque county with a fascinating history dating back to the 5th Century AD when South Saxons settled there following the Romans’ departure.  The ancient town of Rye, close to the East Sussex coastline, was once contained in the Manors of Rameslie and Brede. I visited Rye many times with my family and is a town that remains close to my heart.


In my collection of vintage publications there is a 1950 copy of the Rye & District Holiday Guide. It is a joy to dip in and out of this little book, a slice of nostalgia from post-war Britain. For a majority of Britons, 1950 was not a time of prosperity, food rationing was still in place and petrol rationing did not end until 26th May that year. During the early 1950s, many Britons chose to spend their holidays or days out close to home. Guidebooks, such as this one, became an invaluable resource. It was not until the end of the decade that one in three British families owned a car and venturing outside of one’s locality became the norm.

Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).
Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

The guidebook is jam-packed full of advertisements promoting local tourist attractions as well as establishments offering that ever popular British staple, afternoon tea. In the back section there is a comprehensive accommodation list, some of the descriptions given are so charming, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favourites with you:

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District  Holiday Guide (1950).

The Mill, Iden-by-Rye. An old Millhouse all on one floor, rooms of good size and comfortably furnished. On Bus route 2 miles from Rye and situated in country surroundings. Our own farm produce. Sandwiches willingly packed. Inclusive terms. 

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Monastery Guest House, High Street, Rye. Principal rooms overlooking secluded garden flanked by the original old Monastery Chapel wall (1379). Spend a restful holiday in a happy atmosphere with comfort, courtesy and consideration.

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Thornton House, Northiam (near Rye). Ideal for country holidays. Good food, a happy atmosphere and every consideration. Bus and London coaches pass the gate. Inclusive terms from 4  1/2 guineas weekly.

Robin Hill is a Guest House unusual – antiquity with fine old oak beams and timbered rooms with cosy chimney corners, yet possessing every modern convenience.

Rye as a touring centre is ideal for walkers, cyclists and motorists. Rolling wooded country North and West of the town, the sea to the South, and the wonderful Romney Marshes to the East. Good roads radiate in all directions with country lanes and paths in profusion.

Advertisement from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).
Advertisement from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Rye together with its surrounding area, has long been a mecca for literary types.  Playwright John Fletcher (1579-1625) was born in Rye in 1579 at the Old Vicarage House and at which his father, the Rev. Richard Fletcher, then resided as minister and preacher during the vicariate of Rev. Richard Connope, an absentee; as he would not resign in Mr Fletcher’s favour, the latter left Rye when his famous son was two years old. John Fletcher’s birthplace was pulled down in 1699 and a new house re-erected in 1701.

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

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  • Henry James poses outside Lamb House c.1900. (Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images).

Lamb House (National Trust), Rye was home to American novelist Henry James (1843-1916) from 1897 until his death. James wrote The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904) in house’s garden room (destroyed by a bomb in World War Two). Lamb House featured as Mr Longdon’s home in The Awkward Age (1899).

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  • E. (Edward) F. (Frederic) Benson, c.1915. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

E. F. Benson (1867-1940) moved to Rye in 1919 and lived at Lamb House. He wrote six novels and two short stories in the popular ‘Mapp and Lucia’ series. These quintessentially English novels depict life in a 1930s provincial market town. Four novels are set in Tilling, a fictional location based upon Rye. Lamb House became the model for Mapp’s, as well as for a little while, Lucia’s home, ‘Mallards’. Benson was Mayor of the Borough of Rye from 1934 and accorded Honorary Freedom of the Borough on March 22nd, 1938.

The main protagonists of Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books are two sharp-tongued, well-healed ladies, Elizabeth Mapp and Emmeline Lucas (Lucia) who both jostle for pole position in Tilling society. Newcomer to Tilling, Lucia, sets out to topple the town’s resident queen bee, Mapp. There are plenty of jolly japes and cutting remarks along the way too.

A new adaptation of Mapp and Lucia aired on BBC One, Christmas 2014. A three-parter written by Steve Pemberton (who also plays flamboyant Georgie Pillson, Lucia’s sidekick) and directed by Diarmuid Lawrence (Desperate Romantics, Anglo Saxon Attitudes, Little Dorrit).

  • ‘On location with Mapp and Lucia’, behind the scenes with the BBC cast and crew in Rye. Uploaded to You Tube (17.12.14) by National Trust Charity.

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Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

In 1773, theologian John Wesley (1703-1791) visited Rye, East Sussex, and wrote in his diary: ‘I found the people willing to hear the good word at Rye but they will not part with the accursed thing, smuggling.’ During the eighteenth century, Rye and nearby Romney Marshes were awash with smuggling activities. Bandits would smuggle goods such as brandy and tobacco in at night by boat from France to avoid high import taxes.

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  • Arthur Russell Thorndike (1885-1972), English actor and novelist, early 20th century. Thorndike was the brother of Dame Sybil Thorndike (1882-1976). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

One of the most notorious gangs of smugglers was the Hawkhurst Gang who frequented The Mermaid Inn, Mermaid Street, Rye. Actor and author Arthur Russell Thorndike (1885-1972), born in Rochester, Kent, wrote a series of books, known as the Dr Syn series, based upon eighteenth century smuggling activities on the Romney Marshes. The main protagonist is the swashbuckling Rev. Dr Christopher Syn who leads a rebel band against the King’s press gangs.

Books in the Dr Syn series are:

  • Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh (1915)
  • Doctor Syn on the High Seas (1935)
  • Doctor Syn Returns (1935)
  • Further Adventures of Doctor Syn (1936)
  • Courageous Exploits of Doctor Syn (1938)
  • Amazing Quest of Doctor Syn (1939)
  • Shadow of Doctor Syn (1944)

  • Clip from The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh , a television adaptation of Thorndike’s concluding Dr Syn novel (but written first). This television series aired in three parts in 1963. Uploaded to You Tube 23.4.11.
Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District History Guide (1950).
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Country House, Event, Literature, Rural Heritage

A Very Merry Georgian Christmas – Chawton House Library, Hampshire

  • A short ‘stills’ film I made showcasing the Georgian Christmas event at Chawton House Library, Hampshire (13.12.14).

Although Chawton House, Hampshire, is not a Georgian property (it was built between c.1583 and c.1665), it is still the perfect setting to step back in time and experience Christmas during the long eighteenth century.

©Come Step Back In Time
Chawton House Library, Hampshire. ©Come Step Back In Time

The Georgian period started in 1714 and ended in 1830. In 1797, Jane Austen’s (1775-1817) third eldest brother, Edward Austen Knight (1768-1852), took control of the Chawton estate after inheriting it from his childless relatives, Catherine and Thomas Knight.

Jane Austen's home, Chawton, Hampshire. ©Come Step Back In Time
Jane Austen’s home, Chawton, Hampshire. ©Come Step Back In Time

Edward’s new situation, as a gentleman of considerable wealth, enabled him to take care of his mother and two unmarried sisters (Jane and Cassandra). In 1809, he moved the three of them into Chawton Cottage, located only a short walk from his estate in the nearby village. Whilst living in Chawton, Jane had four of her novels published:

Edward did not live at Chawton House but instead spent most of his time at his other estate, Godmersham, Kent, letting out his property at Chawton to gentlemen tenants. His brother Frank also borrowed the house at one time. Jane’s mother and her sister are both buried at St. Nicholas Church, situated in the grounds of Chawton House. Jane died in 1817 in Winchester and is buried in the north aisle of the Cathedral nave.

Jane Austen's mother and sister are buried in the churchyard at St. Nicholas Church on the Chawton estate. ©Come Step Back In Time
Jane Austen’s mother and sister are buried in the churchyard at St. Nicholas Church on the Chawton estate. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

During the eighteenth century, the Knight Family kept a handwritten cook book (Knight Family Cookbook), not uncommon for a household of Chawton’s size. However, what is unique is that the Knight’s cookbook has survived in good condition. The cook book was compiled on behalf Thomas Knight for his sister, when he died, the manuscript passed to Edward.

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

When I recently attended  ‘A Georgian Christmas at Chawton House Library’, facsimile copies of the handwritten The Knight Family Cookbook  were available to view. A hardback version of the cook book (un-transcribed) has just been published by Chawton House Press. Eminent food historian, Dr Annie Gray, gave a fascinating talk exploring the Georgians’ dining habits.

The Georgian period as a whole has got an awful lot going for it. The clothing is fabulous, the attitudes are interesting, the Enlightenment is in full swing and people are questioning philosophical, medical and culinary viewpoints, left, right and centre. As for the food, especially the feasting food, you cannot beat it. I would say that the flavours, tastes and textures of Georgian cooking are probably the best. Some of the combinations are just knockouts.

(Dr Annie Gray, extract from Chawton House Library website)

Food historian Dr Annie Gray dressed as a Georgian Housekeeper from c.1770/80. ©Come Step Back In Time
Food historian Dr Annie Gray dressed as a Georgian Housekeeper from c.1770/80. ©Come Step Back In Time

Dr Gray also treated us to food samples recreated from recipes she had transcribed from The Knight Family Cookbook. A delicious spread of sweet treats, cinnamon cakes, ginger cakes, mincemeat pies (with cow tongue!) and Twelfth Cake. There is an excellent interview with Dr Gray about the allure of Georgian festive fare on the Chawton House Library blog. Click here.


In Georgian England, Christmas lasted much longer than it does today. It began on 6th December (St. Nicholas’ Day) and ended with Twelfth Night  (6th January, feast of the Epiphany). This month long season became a time of balls, dinner parties, dancing, playing parlour games, singing carols and, of course, feasting.

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

The upper echelons of society engaged in acts of philanthropy not only towards the poor but also their own servants. On St. Stephen’s Day (26th December), Christmas boxes filled with cake, money and clothing were donated, the modern name, ‘Boxing Day’, originates from this tradition. Dr Gray explained that festivities among the poorer sections of society were rather bawdy, drunken affairs. They would consume lots of boiled meats and puddings, that had been cooked in the household cauldron, normally used for washing laundry!

Christmas dinner table laid a la francaise in the Oak Room at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time
Christmas dinner table laid à la française (where all dishes were served at the same time) in the Oak Room at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time

During the Georgian era, dining was an exciting experience. According to Dr Gray:

No children were present at the dining table, mealtimes were very much an adult affair. It was a ‘choose your own dining adventure’, the most exciting method of dining. The table would be laid à la française [all dishes served at the same time] with between five and twenty dishes for each course. The second course usually consisted of roast meats (game, beef, sirloin and game) from the landowner’s own estate. Another Georgian delicacy was brawn, made from a stewed pig’s head.

Plum pudding [plumb pudden] was treated like modern-day chutney. It goes very well with beef. Georgian plum puddings had a stiffer structure than we are now used to, it held its shape and could be sliced. If you fry slices of Georgian plum pudding, pair with slices of beef and cover in gravy it is delicious. Mincepies were not all sweet like they are now, one third of the filling was actual meat, for example calf or cow tongue.

Service à la française dated back to the Middle Ages and continued until the nineteenth century when it was gradually replaced by service à la russe, a succession of courses, each one cleared away before the next, we still use this style today. The rules of Georgian dining table etiquette were very strict:

When dinner is announced the mistress request the lady first in rank, to shew the way to the rest.., she then asks the second in precedence to follow, and after all the ladies are passed, she brings up the rear herself…The master of the house does the same with the gentlemen…The mistress of the table sits at the upper end (with) those of superior rank next to her, right and left, those next in rank following, then the gentlemen, and master at the lower end….

Soup is generally the first thing served, and should be stirred from the bottom….Where there are several dishes at table, the mistress of the house carves that which is before her, and desires her husband, or person at the bottom of the table, to carve the joint or bird before him…

Eating quick or very slow at meals is characteristic of the vulgar; the first infers poverty, that you have not had a meal for sometime; the last … that you dislike your entertainment. So again eating your soup with your nose in the plate, is vulgar, it has the appearance of being used to hard work, and having, of course, an unsteady hand….Smelling to the meat whilst on the fork, before you put it in your mouth…To be well received you must always be circumspect at table, where it is exceedingly rude to scratch any part of your body, to spit, to blow your nose (if you can’t avoid it turn your head), to lean elbows on the table, etc.., etc.., to leave the table before grace is said.

(The Honours of the Table, or Rules for Behaviour during meals by John Trusler (1791))

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

Greenery featured heavily at Christmas in the Georgian house and represented the strength of life through cold winter months. Greenery included, holly, evergreen, kissing boughs of holly, ivy and rosemary, foliage was dressed with spices, apples, oranges, candles, and ribbons, all of which would be put-up on Christmas Eve. Kissing boughs would only be hung in the servants’ quarter.

Servants' Gallery at Chawton House Library decorated with greenery. ©Come Step Back In Time
Servants’ Gallery at Chawton House Library decorated with greenery and mistletoe. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

Yule logs were the centrepiece of Georgian Christmas decorations. The largest log on the estate would be chosen, one big enough to burn throughout Christmas Day. The log was so large it stick out of the fire hearth into the room and was wrapped in hazel twigs. A small piece of the log would be kept to light the following year’s Yule log.

Smaller version of the traditional Yule log at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time
Smaller version of the traditional Yule log at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time

Twelfth Night was an extremely important feasting opportunity in the Georgian calendar. Wassail and Twelfth Cake were traditionally consumed on this day. Hidden inside a Twelfth Cake would be a dried pea or bean, whoever found these pulses would be King or Queen of the household for the day, even if the finder happened to be a servant!  Twelfth Cake went out of fashion in the Victorian era and replaced by the Christmas Cake. It is still tradition in France to eat a flaky cake known as a galette des rois (kings’ tart) on Twelfth Night (see image below).

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Recipe for Georgian Twelfth Cake

Twelfth Cake cut into squares, made by Dr Annie Gray from The Knight Family Cookbook. ©Come Step Back In Time
Twelfth Cake cut into squares, made by Dr Annie Gray from The Knight Family Cookbook. ©Come Step Back In Time

(From The Knight Family Cookbook (Both recipes below transcribed by Dr Annie Gray)

‘I have already halved the amounts in the original recipe, which calls for a cake tin half a yard.’

Ingredients: 5pt. flour, 1/2 lb sugar, 1/4 oz mace, 1 1/2 nutmegs, pinch cloves, cinnamon, 4 lb currants, 1 lb raisins, 7 1/2 fl. oz. cream, 1 1/4 lb butter (melted into the cream), scant pint of warm water, with a tsp of sugar in it and 6 tsp dried yeast, 10 very small eggs (pullet’s eggs are ideal. Otherwise use 6 medium eggs). Half a jack of brandy (a jack is 2  1/2 fl oz), 1/2 lb peel.

Method: Mix all of the dry ingredients, and then mix separately the cream, melted butter and water/yeast mixture. Leave the liquid for about 30 minutes to activate the yeast (the liquid should be no more than blood-warm). Whisk the eggs. Now add all of the liquid and eggs to the dry mix and mix very well. Don’t use a standard mixer unless it is a catering model, or it will blow up! Use your hand (even using a wooden spoon is unwise, as you’ll get blisters). Layer about a third of the mix into your cake tin, then put in a layer of half the peel. Top with another third of the mix, and then the rest of the peel, and the rest of the mix. Slash the top with sharp knife. Tie several layers of brown paper around the tin and stand it on a few more. If the cake browns too quickly, you’ll need to stick a couple of layers on top as well. Cook in a moderate oven for an undisclosed amount of time.

Cinnamon Cakes

Cinnamon Cakes made by Dr Annie Gray from The Knight Family Cookbook. ©Come Step Back In Time
Cinnamon Cakes made by Dr Annie Gray from The Knight Family Cookbook. ©Come Step Back In Time

Ingredients: 3/4 lb caster sugar, 1/2 oz ground cinnamon, a nutmeg (ground or 2 tsp ready ground), 1/2 lb unsalted butter, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 an egg white, 1/2 tsp rosewater, 2-3 tbsp. water (in reserve in case the pastry is too dry), 1 1/2lb flour.

Method: Mix the sugar, spice and butter and leave to rest for up to an hour. Break up the mix, which should form a loose but dry ball and gently mix in the eggs. Add the flour gradually, mixing until you have a malleable dough, which can be rolled out and cut into biscuits with a cutter (or wine glass, as the original recipe suggests). Prick each with a fork a few times. You may need to add the water if your dough is too dry and crumbly. Half of the amount here makes around 50 biscuits.

Parlour Game – Hunt the Slipper

(Text by team at Chawton House Library)

All players, except one, sit in a circle. In the middle of the circle the remaining person sits. It is their task to Hunt the Slipper. The players in the circle pass the slipper between them and behind their backs very quickly and everyone mimics the action of passing the slipper so that the person in the middle of the circle is unable to find it easily.

The Great Hall at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time
The Great Hall at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Mum and I in the Great Hall at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time
Mum and I in the Great Hall at Chawton House Library. ©Come Step Back In Time
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. ©Come Step Back In Time
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. ©Come Step Back In Time
Posted in Activity, Fashion History, Film, Historical Hair and Make-up, History, Literature, Vintage, Vintage Retail, World War Two

Rationing Fashion in 1940s Britain – Make Do & Mend

The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time

  • June 1943, Berketex Utility Fashions. Those shown in the picture were designed by Norman Hartnell (Photo by James Jarche/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

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  • World War Two Utility clothing for women, c.1942. Photograph by James Jarche. (Photo by Daily Herald Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

Every now and again, scavenging in local charity shops pays dividends. Lurking behind a glut of seventies kitsch my mum (Queen of retro scavenging!) found two cloth-bound publications. She had a ‘hunch’ they might be something special and was right.  The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (1946) and The Complete Book of Sewing: Dressmaking and Sewing For The Home Made Easy by Constance Talbot (1948). Both books cost the princely sum of £2. Mum had struck gold again and I am very grateful that she combs her local charity shops on a regular basis.

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  • ‘Make Do & Mend’ World War Two poster. (Photo by The National Archives/SSPL/Getty Images)

These books are superb examples of the 1940s ‘Make Do and Mend’ culture. A trend borne out of economic necessity and inspired by government legislation. Home dressmaking became extremely popular in the 1940s. In recent times, this approach to needlecraft has returned, although is now referred to as ‘upcycling’ or the ‘pre-loved, re-loved’ trend. Whatever term you choose, it still makes perfect economic sense.

During World War Two, clothes rationing come into effect in Britain on the 1st June, 1941, lasting until March, 1949. Initially, clothes were rationed on a points system and no clothing coupons were issued. Britons were asked to handover their unused margarine coupons if they wanted a new item of clothing.

  • ‘Mrs Sew and Sew’ (1944) British Pathé, Ministry of Information Government film. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.14.

When clothes rationing first began, the government allowed each adult enough coupons to buy one new outfit a year. However, this standard issue soon became unworkable, as the years of rationing progressed you would be lucky if your coupons purchased you a coat, let along a whole new outfit!

  • ‘Make Do & Mend Trailer’ Aka Clothing Coupons Trailer (1943) British Pathé. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.14.

Coupon values for women: lined coat over 71 cm in length (14), jacket or short coat (11), wool dress (11), non-wool dress (7), blouse, cardigan or jumper (5), skirt or divided skirt (culottes) (7), overalls or dungarees (7), apron or pinafore (3), pyjamas (8), nightdress (6), slip, petticoat or combination undergarment (4), corset (3), stockings (2), ankle socks (1), pair of slippers, boots or shoes (5).

  • A book of clothing coupons dated 1947-8, plus three sheets of coupons

Coupon values for men: unlined cape or mackintosh (9), raincoat or overcoat (16), jacket or blazer (13), waistcoat or cardigan (5), wool trousers (8), corduroy trousers (5), overalls or dungarees (denim) (6), dressing gown (8), pyjamas or nightshirt (8), wool shirt or combination (one piece undergarment) (8), shirt or combination, not-wool (5), socks (3), collar or tie or two handkerchiefs (1), scarf or pair of gloves (2), slippers or rubber galoshes (4), pair of boots or shoes (7).

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  • ‘Deft Darns’ by Mrs Sew and Sew, 1939-1945 (Photo by The National Archives/SSPL/Getty Images)

In order to make a purchase, the shopper handed over their coupons as well as money. The more fabric and labour that was needed to produce a garment, the more points required. Children’s clothes had lower points value, pregnant women were given an extra allocation for maternity and baby clothes. Furnishing fabrics were also used for dressmaking until they were placed on the ration too.001

The government tackled the problem of clothing civilians in three ways, rationing, Utility and Austerity. In 1943, the British Ministry of Information issued a Make Do and Mend pamphlet which was:

…intended to help you to get the last possible ounce of wear out of all of your clothes and household things…No doubt there are as many ways of patching or darning as there are of cooking potatoes.

(Hugh Dalton’s Foreword from Make Do and Mend by The Ministry of Information (1943))

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  • Mannequins parading before service women are showing the latest Utility fashions and the ‘731’, an artificial silk-plated stocking called ‘Mr Dalton’s Stocking’ after the President of the Board of Trade, Hugh Dalton. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

During the first week of February 1942, the Utility Apparel Order came into force, all garments produced would now be marked using a ‘CC41’ label (‘Controlled Commodity 1941’).  It carried a reference to 1941 because the mark had been designed by artist Reginald Shipp during the early planning stages for Utility dress. In 1942, 50% of all clothes produced came under the Utility scheme by 1945 this number had risen to 85%.

Clothes have simply got to last longer than they used to, but only the careful woman can make them last well. If you want to feel happy in your clothes as long as they last, start looking after them properly from the very beginning.

(Make Do and Mend by The Ministry of Information, 1943)

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  •  June 1943. Models wearing Berketex Utility fashions designed by Norman Hartnell (Photo by James Jarche/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

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  • Utility Clothes,1943. A model leans against a window sill as she shows off her mustard-coloured wool Spectator dress, costing eleven coupons. She is also wearing a dark-coloured turban and holding a handbag with a large metal clasp. (Photo by Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer/ IWM via Getty Images)

Top 10 Make Do And Mend Tips

A selection of tips and hints from Make Do and Mend (1943), advice that is just as useful in today’s cash-strapped times. Upcycle your wardrobe don’t go out and buy something new, most importantly, look after the clothes that you do have:

  1. Mend clothes before washing them or sending them to the laundry, or the hole or tear may become unmanageable. Thin places especially must be dealt with, or they may turn into holes;
  2. For grease use a hot iron on a piece of clean white blotting paper placed over the stain [brown parcel paper is excellent when used this way to remove candlewax from fabric];
  3. Use dress shields to protect clothes from perspiration, but don’t leave shields in when putting clothes away for any length of time [this also cuts down your dry cleaning bills for silk/satin dresses/blouses. Simply remove the dress shields and wash those in hot soapy water];
  4. When folding clothes, put bunched-up newspaper [or tissue paper] between the folds to prevent creases;
  5. Never hang knitted wool or silk clothes, wet or dry. Store them flat in a drawer, and dry on a flat surface. Spread them out flat in the open air after shaking them gently, to air them;
  6. Remember that even the smallest scraps left over from your renovations will come in useful for something: patching, tea-cosies, coverings for buttons, hanging loops, binding for buttonholes, trimmings, kettle holders, polishers, and so on;
  7. Open the front of a blouse which has become too tight, and put in a contrasting button band, complete with collar. Or, if it has long sleeves, make them short, and use the material left over for your button band;
  8. A useful skirt can be made from a dress, the bodice of which is past repair. Cut it away at the waist, make a side placket and mount it on a Petersham band. The best parts from the bodice can be cut into a belt to finish the waistline or to make patch pockets on the hips. Pocket patches would hide any defects in the front;
  9. A man’s discarded waistcoat can be made into a woman’s jerkin by knitting a woollen back and sleeves. Beige with chocolate-brown, or canary coloured sleeves and back on a black pin-striped waistcoat would be very effective;
  10. Felted or matted wool. Have you a hopelessly-looking, thoroughly shrunk and matted old jumper or jacket? Unpick the seams carefully, don’t unravel it. You can then treat it just like cloth, cutting it out from a paper pattern. If, of course, it is not matted all over, you must tack the parts where stitches are likely to run, before cutting. Machine round the edge of the pattern and join up by hand. This keeps the garment firm and stops it from stretching. This cloth will make boleros, waistcoats, children’s coats, caps, gloves, capes, hoods, indoor Russian boots and many other articles. Old white wool, dipped in cold, clear coffee, will make attractive accessories.
From my copy of The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time.
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time

How To Make A Wrap-Around Turban (The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948))

Use soft woollen, a wool jersey, or a very firmly woven rayon crêpe. A yard of 40-inch material will make two turbans. Cut the turban 36-inches long and half the width of the material. Fold at A and seam the folded end. With a series of gathers, gather this seam into a 2  1/2 inch measure. Place the gathered material at the beginning of your hairline in the centre front, mark the turban, as shown at B. Split the unfinished end through the centre of the fabric up to the mark on the material, so that the ends can cross and wrap around the head. Tie the turban and make sure you have split it so it ties at the most becoming angle. When the effect is just what you want, hem the unfinished edges.

  • February 1943. Model wearing a dress, Green Park is the colour and herringbone allies with plain yoke. The dress costs sixty shillings to buy. (Photo by James Jarche/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

How To Make A Pill-Box Hat (The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948))

Cut a band and a circle of buckram as shown in the diagram. To get the size, measure the head with a tape measure. Use this measure on line A of the diagram, and cut a strip of paper, shaping it as shown in the diagram. Join the ends of the band and place it over a piece of paper as you can outline on that paper the circle formed by the band. This circle is the top of the crown. When you have fitted the paper band to the head in the effect you like, cut a band and a circle from the buckram with these patterns. Cover them with fabric and join the two pieces with small stitches which do not show. Line the hat with pieces cut by the same patterns and seamed together.

  • Hats Aka ‘Make Do & Mend’ Hats (1942) British Pathé. Some Utility fashion ideas from Anne Edwards, fashion editor of Woman magazine. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.14.

The term ‘Mend and Make Do’ – a familiar phrase – sums up all possibilities for helping a worn garment to last just a little longer. This chapter, devoted to all aspects of garment renovation, shows how imagination and the application of small fashion touches can make the repaired garment still a pleasurable one to wear.

(Extract from The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (1946)

The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time

Replacing Frayed Collars (The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948))

Collars can be turned by ripping the seam which holds the collar in place. Reserve the collar, turn it over, and replace it. Baste it before sewing and try it on to see that the collar fits properly round the neck. Or a new collar of contrasting material or fur can be sewn on top of the old one, and in that case the trimming can be extended down the front edge of the coat.

Imperial War Museum London – ‘Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style’ Exhibition

 A new exhibition, ‘Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style’, opens at the Imperial War Museum, London on Thursday 5th March, 2015 and continues until Monday 31st August, 2015. Artefacts (300 of them) include accessories, photographs, film, artworks, interviews and clothing. On display will be key pieces of uniform from the men’s and women’s services as well as more unusual items such as gas mask handbags, blackout buttons, a bridesmaid’s dress made from parachute silk and an underwear set made from RAF silk maps for Countess Mountbatten. Click here.

  • April 1944. (Photo by Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

    ©Come Step Back in Time
    The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (1946) ©Come Step Back in Time
The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (1946) ©Come Step Back in Time
The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (1946) ©Come Step Back in Time

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  • Lady Reading using a sewing machine at the Women’s Voluntary Services headquarters during World War Two.
My grandmother's 1948 Singer sewing machine. ©Come Step Back in Time
My grandmother’s 1948 Singer sewing machine (Serial No. EE617052). My grandmother ordered this machine as soon as World War Two ended in 1945. Due to the shortage of materials following the war, she had to wait three years before taking delivery of her beloved sewing machine. This machine was my grandmother’s pride and joy which resulted in many, many years of home dressmaking. Home dressmaking in our family is a tradition that has been passed down from my mother to me. ©Come Step Back in Time
Detail of my grandmother's 1948 sewing machine. ©Come Step Back in Time
Detail of my grandmother’s 1948 sewing machine. ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time