Categories
Book review Book reviews Non-fiction

#Bookreview Unmarried Women of the Country Estate: Four Stories from 17th-20th Century: Genteel Women Who Did Not Marry by Charlotte Furness (@penswordbooks) A different perspective into women’s history #women’s history

Hi all:

I bring you one of Pen & Sword’s non-fiction titles and a pretty special one. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Unmarried Women of the Country Estate: Four Stories from 17th-20th Century: Genteel Women Who Did Not Marry by Charlotte Furness

Unmarried Women of the Country Estate: Four Stories from 17th-20th Century: Genteel Women Who Did Not Marry by Charlotte Furness

As the fight for women’s rights continues, and whilst men and women alike push for gender equality around the globe, this book aims to introduce readers to four women who, in their own way, challenged and defied the societal expectations of the time in which they lived. Some chose to be writers, some were successful business women, some chose to nurture and protect, some travelled the globe, some were philanthropists. Each one made the conscious decision not to marry a man. Elizabeth Isham of Lamport Hall, Ann Robinson of Saltram, Anne Lister of Shibden Hall and Rosalie Chichester of Arlington Court. These are elite women, all connected to country houses or from noble families throughout the UK, and this book explores to what extent privilege gave them the opportunity to choose the life they wanted, thus guiding the reader to challenge their own beliefs about elite women throughout history. This book is unique in that it brings the stories of real historical women to light – some of which have never been written about before, whilst also offering an introduction to the history of marriage and societal expectations of women. Starting in 1609 and travelling chronologically up to 1949, with a chapter for each woman, this book tells their remarkable stories, revealing how strong, resilient and powerful women have always been.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Unmarried-Women-of-the-Country-Estate-Hardback/p/17955

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unmarried-Women-Country-Estate-17th-20th/dp/1526704382/

https://www.amazon.es/Unmarried-Women-Country-Estate-17th-20th/dp/1526704382/

https://www.amazon.com/Unmarried-Women-Country-Estate-17th-20th/dp/1526704382/

Author Charlotte Furness

About the author:

Charlotte Furness was born and raised in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. After completing a Bachelor Degree in English, and a Masters Degree in Country House Studies at the University of Leicester, she started a career in heritage, working for English Heritage and the trust-managed Lamport Hall. She has also worked at Harewood House, Temple Newsam House and Renishaw Hall.

Whilst working in this field, she has come across many stories which, unless told, would have been lost in the annals of time. She now works as a full-time writer and sees it as her mission to bring these forgotten stories to the attention of as many people as possible, to preserve them so that they can be enjoyed by generations to come.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Charlotte-Furness/e/B07DM3B4G3

My review:

I thank Rosie Croft, from Pen & Sword, for providing me a hardcover ARC copy of this non-fiction book that I freely chose to review.

At a time when we are trying to recover the history and memories of women of the past, this book is a step in the right direction. It is particularly difficult to find information about working-class women, as they rarely had access to education and/or time to write their own stories. Well-off married women might have a bit more leisure and better access to education, although they are often constrained by the social roles they had to play as wives and mothers, but what about single women of means who didn’t get married? That is the question that Charlotte Furness tries to answer, not exhaustively but rather by choosing four “genteel” women who never got married, from the XVII to the XX century. As she explains, some have been subject to more research and are better known than others (although this is changing), but they also share the fact that they were attached to country states (either because they owned them or because they lived there their entire lives) and also that, luckily for us, they left plenty of written materials for us to peruse, be it letters, diaries, or even, as is the case for Rosalie Chichester, fiction and stories.

The author includes a section of acknowledgements, a note explaining her methodology, a list of plates (there are a number of black and white illustrations and photographs in the book, including portraits and photographs of the women, when available, and also of their relatives and the properties), an introduction where Furness talks about what marriage and married life was like in the periods covered, four chapters, one dedicated to each one of the women, a conclusion, a set of detailed notes (where extra information is provided), a select bibliography (for those who need to find out more), and an index.

The four women chosen are quite different, and the differences go beyond the historical period. Elizabeth Isham was deeply religious, battled with mental health difficulties (as did her mother and sister), and she clearly chose dedicating her life to her religious devotion rather than to a standard family life (there was even discussion about her marrying John Dryden at some point, so it definitely wasn’t due to a lack of prospects); Anne Robinson, stepped up and took on the duties of family life when her sister died, becoming the hostess of Saltram House for her brother-in-law and bringing up her niece and nephew; Anne Lister is a fascinating character, who always challenged the constraints of a woman’s role, took over the property and the business-side of things, and would have married her long-term companion, Ann Walker, if that had been possible at the time; while Rosalie Chichester fits more into the spinster image usually portrayed in fiction and movies: staying at home, living with her mother, involved in many local projects, looking after her animals, and leaving her property to the National Trust. But, she was also an eager traveller, kept detailed diaries, wrote fiction, and was passionate about protecting Arlington Court.

This is not a long book, but it manages to bring to life these four very different women, and, more importantly, tries to make sure we get to hear their own voices, rather than just read the interpretations others might have imposed on them. There are many things we don’t know about them, and, there is plenty more research to be done, but this is a great introduction for readers looking to learn about social history and the history of women from a different perspective.

I enjoyed learning about these four women, their lives, and their historical period, and I’d love to learn more about them. I recommend this book to people interested in women’s history, social history, also those interested in UK country properties, and, in general, readers of history looking for a different approach.

Thanks to the author and to Rosie Croft for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe, and to keep reading, liking, clicking, sharing, and smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Non-fiction

#Bookreview ELIZABETH WIDVILLE, LADY GREY: EDWARD IV’S CHIEF MISTRESS AND THE ‘PINK QUEEN’ by John Ashdown-Hill (@penswordbooks) #history

Hi all. I bring you a book that digs deep into a fascinating historical period.

Elizabeth Widville. Lady Grey by John Ashdown-Hill
Elizabeth Widville. Lady Grey by John Ashdown-Hill

Elizabeth Widville, Lady Grey: Edward IV’s Chief Mistress and the ‘Pink Queen’ by John Ashdown-Hill

Wife to Edward IV and mother to the Princes in the Tower and later Queen Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Widville was a central figure during the War of the Roses. Much of her life is shrouded in speculation and myth – even her name, commonly spelled as ‘Woodville’, is a hotly contested issue.

Born in the turbulent fifteenth century, she was famed for her beauty and controversial second marriage to Edward IV, who she married just three years after he had displaced the Lancastrian Henry VI and claimed the English throne. As Queen Consort, Elizabeth’s rise from commoner to royalty continues to capture modern imagination. Undoubtedly, it enriched the position of her family. Her elevated position and influence invoked hostility from Richard Neville, the ‘Kingmaker’, which later led to open discord and rebellion.

Throughout her life and even after the death of her husband, Elizabeth remained politically influential: briefly proclaiming her son King Edward V of England before he was deposed by her brother-in-law, the infamous Richard III, she would later play an important role in securing the succession of Henry Tudor in 1485 and his marriage to her daughter Elizabeth of York, thus and ending the War of the Roses.

Elizabeth Widville was an endlessly enigmatic historical figure, who has been obscured by dramatizations and misconceptions. In this fascinating and insightful biography, Dr John Ashdown-Hill brings shines a light on the truth of her life.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Elizabeth-Widville-Lady-Grey-Hardback/p/16407

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Widville-Lady-Grey-Mistress-ebook/dp/B07WR3Y3M4/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Elizabeth-Widville-Lady-Grey-Mistress-ebook/dp/B07WR3Y3M4/

https://www.amazon.es/Elizabeth-Widville-Lady-Grey-Mistress-ebook/dp/B07WR3Y3M4/

About the author:

Dr John Ashdown-Hill was a well-known medieval historian, having published extensively on a variety of topics within that period but focussing mainly on the Yorkist era. He is best-known for his pivotal role in uncovering the burial place of King Richard III for and for tracing collateral female-line descendants of Richard’s elder sister to establish his mtDNA haplogroup, which matched the mtDNA of the bones found in the Leicester car park. In 2015 he was awarded an MBE ‘for services to historical research and the exhumation and identification of Richard III’.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ashdown-Hill

https://www.johnashdownhill.com/

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for sending me an early hardback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review. This is a book that has put a new spin on the word “research” for me.

I am no expert on UK history in general, and my knowledge of the particular period covered in this book is patchy at best (we’ve all heard of the War of the Roses, and thanks to Shakespeare’s plays are familiar with at least some of the characters who played important parts in the events…), but a passing comment about this queen included in a book I read recently got me curious, and on reading the credentials of the author (who unfortunately passed away in 2018), I decided to read it.

This is not a book that simply picks up a few known facts and creates a semblance of a chronology and a fictionalised biography of the person. This is a truly exhaustive study of all the resources available (I’m no expert, so there might be some the author missed, but judging by the thoroughness of the text and the bibliography, they’d have to be pretty obscure), not only books, letters, official documents, court records, but also portraits, coins, sculptures, and even a study of the DNA of one of the queen’s known distant relatives. The author studies all aspects of this historical figure, many in dispute for years: the spelling of her name (there are many versions available and he explains the reasons why), her hair colour, her marriage (a secret marriage, which, it seems, was not as uncommon as it might sound, and definitely Edward IV was fond of them), her relationships with a number of historical figures (and her possible involvement in their fates), her religious faith, her lineage… He even tried to trace a possible sample of wood from her coffin, but it seems that if it had ever existed it was misplaced, and it’s not reappeared so far. Well, you get an idea.

This is not a book for a casual reader eager to get a bit of information about Lady Grey, but rather one for people who are looking for clarification on specific points of her life, or who want to deepen their knowledge of this figure and this historical period. Anybody interested in the many controversies surrounding the Kingdom of Edward IV, the disappearance of the two princes, Richard III’s role, and the many intrigues and controversies of the era (you have it all: secret marriages, bigamy, accusations of witchery, murders, possible poisonings, mysterious disappearances, executions, battles for the crown, treachery, marriages of convenience, bastardy… Modern soaps and spy novels can’t hold a candle to this), should check this book. Ashdown-Hill comments on biographies and books on the subject, pointing out factual errors, and trying his best to separate fact from fiction. He takes a scientific approach to the subject and does not offer his personal opinion, but sticks to the information available and avoids flights of fancy. In his conclusion he reiterates that there is much we’ll never know about Elizabeth, but some of the things that have been said about her are wrong. I’ve learned plenty reading this book, and although I am sure readers with more knowledge will gain much more from it, it has made me want to dig a bit deeper into the period.

The volume contains a number of family trees for the different branches of Elizabeth’s family, up to present day, and also photos (black and white and colour), illustrations, detailed notes for each chapter, a bibliography and an index.

I’d recommend this book to readers with a good knowledge of the period, looking to learn more about Lady Grey or about all the political intricacies of the era. It will be of particular interest to historians and also to writers eager to ensure accuracy in their depiction of the era, with its intrigues, secrets, and unanswered questions. A rigorous work of historical enquiry.

Thanks to Rosie, thank to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Peasants’ Revolting Crimes by Terry Deary (@penswordbooks). Fun historical facts with a twisted sense of humour #history #non-fiction

Hi all:

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I’ve been working on a present (well, of sorts) in the form of a free read for all, but due to technical problems with my internet connection it’s taken me a bit longer than expected to get it ready, so I hope to bring it to you very soon (perhaps next week), but in the meantime, I have a recommendation that might work as a present for history buffs with a sense of humour, or for yourselves. As I warn in my review, though, this is not a book for children or an illustrated book. Don’t let the cover fool you.

The Peasants' Revolting Crimes by Terry Deary
The Peasants’ Revolting Crimes by Terry Deary

The Peasants’ Revolting Crimes by Terry Deary

Popular history writer Terry Deary takes us on a light-hearted and often humorous romp through the centuries with Mr & Mrs Peasant, recounting foul and dastardly deeds committed by the underclasses, as well as the punishments meted out by those on the right side’ of the law. Discover tales of arsonists and axe-wielders, grave robbers and garroters, poisoners and prostitutes. Delve into the dark histories of beggars, swindlers, forgers, sheep rustlers and a whole host of other felons from the lower ranks of society who have veered off the straight and narrow. There are stories of highwaymen and hooligans, violent gangs, clashing clans and the witch trials that shocked a nation. Learn too about the impoverished workers who raised a riot opposing crippling taxes and draconian laws, as well as the strikers and machine-smashers who thumped out their grievances against new technologies that threatened their livelihoods. Britain has never been short of those who have been prepared to flout the law of the land for the common good, or for their own despicable purposes. The upper classes have lorded and hoarded their wealth for centuries of British history, often to the disadvantage of the impoverished. Frustration in the face of this has resulted in revolt. Read all about it here! This entertaining book is packed full of revolting acts and acts of revolt, revealing how ordinary folk – from nasty Normans to present-day lawbreakers – have left an extraordinary trail of criminality behind them. The often gruesome penalties exacted in retribution reveal a great deal about some of the most fascinating eras of British history.

Links:

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Peasants-Revolting-Crimes-Paperback/p/16754

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Peasants-Revolting-Crimes-Terry-Deary/dp/1526745577/

https://www.amazon.com/Peasants-Revolting-Crimes-Terry-Deary/dp/1526745577/

https://www.amazon.es/Peasants-Revolting-Crimes-Terry-Deary/dp/1526745577/

Picture of author Terry Deary
Author Terry Deary

About the author:

Terry Deary writes both fiction and non-fiction. The Fire Thief was his 150th book published in the UK, this was followed by Flight of the Fire Thief and The Fire Thief Fights Back. Terry’s books have been translated into 28 languages. His Horrible Histories series has sold 20 million copies worldwide. Terry has won numerous awards, including Blue Peter’s Best Non-fiction Author of the Century.

http://www.terry-deary.com/

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for sending me an early paperback copy of this book, which I freely chose to read and review.

I’ve long been intrigued by the Horrible Stories books, and when I saw the stage adaptation advertised, I thought about going to watch it, but, as was the case with the books, I never managed to make it. That, combined with my interest in criminology and the criminal justice system (particularly in the UK), made this book irresistible. Although I cannot compare it to other books by the authors, and must warn readers that this is, by no means, a book written for children, I loved every minute of it. The author combines a vast number of UK historical (and also some fairly recent) facts and events, with a sharp sense of humour (beware of papercuts. Some pages ooze poison), to the point of crossing into satire and black humour at times. The book shows a great deal of social consciousness, and it is far from complacent with the status quo, but it does not glamorise “peasant criminals” either, and it is harsh on popular renderings of figures like the highway man (Dick Turpin is no favourite), or pirates.

Deary explains in his introduction (after three great quotes, and there are many interspersed throughout the whole text) the reason why he decided to write the book. He observes that most books and plays featuring crimes and criminals tend to focus on kings, queens, or high-class characters (he mentions Shakespeare and Agatha Christie), and even when lower class characters are mentioned, they are not usually the heroes or the central figures. And he decided it was time to put it right, and here we have this book. As you can imagine from the topic and the title, there is plenty of gore, detailed accounts of crimes and punishments, and despite the wit and the humour, I’d recommend caution to those who prefer a truly light and cosy read.

The book is divided into seven chapters, plus the already mentioned introduction, an epilogue where the author reflects upon how little things have changed over the years, and an index. The chapters seem to follow a chronological order (or almost): Norman Nastiness, Mediaeval Misery, Wild Women, Tudor Twisters, Sinful Stuarts, Quaint Crimes, Georgian Jokers and Victorian Villains, but the content of each individual chapter is not limited to the period mentioned in the title. Every chapter focuses on a series of crimes that became typified or described for the first time in that historical period, or that are particularly associated with it, but Deary sometimes includes recent examples of similar crimes, to compare the types of punishment then and now or to emphasise the fact that history repeats itself and certain things change little, if at all. Although I have lived in the UK for many years, I didn’t grow up here, and there are periods of UK history and events that I’m not familiar with, so it is likely that much of the information that was new to me might be well-known to others, but the author presents it in an entertaining and seemingly light-hearted manner (I’d leave that to readers’ interpretation and opinion) that makes the book impossible to put down and the facts stick in one’s mind.

I, for one, was fascinated to read about football hooligans and their shenanigans as far back as the 1100s, about clan clashes, to discover the origin of ‘brawling’ (quarrelling in a church or a churchyard), to read about wife-selling (and how it often seemed to be a good option if divorce was not an option and both parties wanted out, no matter how illegal)… And yes, husband-selling also took place. Deary writes also about peasant revolts, about the machine wreckers of the Industrial Revolution era, or the many attempts on Queen Victoria’s life. I don’t want to spoil the book for you, so I won’t go into more detail, but apart from managing to cover a lot of ground, and having a knack for finding the perfect quote, Deary’s sharp wit and his talent for highlighting the connections between historical events and the present make this book a must read for those interested in crime, criminology, and UK history in general. Especially if they have a slightly twisted sense of humour.

I marked so many pages of the book that I had difficulty choosing a few to share here, but I’ll try to give you some sense of what you might expect from the book.

Here is one of his notes (they are priceless) in reference to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

Some critics interpret eating your sons, not so much as ‘cannibalism’ as ‘incest’. Whatever the legality of eating your children, just don’t try it at home.

In Chapter 2, Mediaeval History:

Peasants were at the bottom of the feudal system pyramid. And if you were at the bottom of a pyramid you’d be crushed. As if that weren’t enough, your evil lord made you work like a slave labourer; meanwhile, your Good Lord sent you something to help relieve your misery. He sent you plagues.

This reflection seemed particularly relevant to some recent events in my country.

The Seditious Meeting Act was passed in March 1817. What constituted ‘sedition’, you might ask? Well, like ‘treason’, pretty much anything the Lord Lieutenants of the counties fancied, really.

The book ends in a hopeful note, well, sort of, but not quite.

In summary, this is a great book for people interested in the history of crime and the criminal justice system (and history in general) in the UK, particularly if they enjoy a humorous and ironic take on received wisdom. I am sure fans of Deary will enjoy it as well, but, despite the cover, this is not a book for young children, and I’d advise parents to check it out to decide its suitability for themselves. The book’s back cover states that the author is working on The Peasants’ Revolting… Lives, and I’ve added it to my wish list already.

Thanks to the author, to Rosie, and especially to all of you for reading, and remember to share with anybody you think might be interested, keep reading, reviewing, smiling, and especially enjoy 2020!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview A History of Women’s Lives in Eastbourne by Tina Brown (@penswordbooks) Informative, entertaining, inspiring, and part of an important series #UKHistory

Hi all:

I bring you a book for those of you interested in non-fiction and women’s history.

Cover of A History of Women's Lives in Eastbourne by Tina Brown
A History of Women’s Lives in Eastbourne by Tina Brown

A History of Women’s Lives in Eastbourne by Tina Brown

The south east coastal town of Eastbourne is probably best known today for being a popular seaside holiday resort, frequented by the retired generation. It has long, golden beaches and a gentile pace of life and, from that point of view, little has really changed from the mid 1850’s to today. However, for the women of the town and their advancements and achievements, a significant period was between 1850 and 1950, when changes in medicine, education, family life and the right to vote played an important part in their lives. The First and Second World Wars also brought about their own changes and challenges. A History of Women’s Lives in Eastbourne delves deep into these historical subjects and more.

Links:

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/A-History-of-Womens-Lives-in-Eastbourne-Paperback/p/15918

https://www.amazon.co.uk/History-Womens-Lives-Eastbourne/dp/1526716194/

https://www.amazon.com/History-Womens-Lives-Eastbourne/dp/1526716194/

https://www.amazon.es/History-Womens-Lives-Eastbourne/dp/1526716194/

About the author:

Tina Brown lives and works in East Sussex and runs a business researching and organising historical experiences and guided tours around the area. She has published numerous historical books on her home town of Hastings and is currently working on further titles. Tina is passionate about history and the social changes which have helped to shape how we live today. During the research for this book Tina has spoken with many people who were able to share stories handed down through their families and gather details of the lives of the women who made Eastbourne what is it today. Tina has visited locations, searched archives and interviewed people to try and gain an understanding of what life was like during 1850-1950 for the women of the town.

(Just to clarify matters, the author is not the same Tina Brown who has written about Princess Diana and lives in New York, because when I checked her name on Amazon the other author’s books also came up).

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for sending me an early paperback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

This book is one of a series about Women’s Lives, and I recommend you check Pen & Sword’s website if you are interested in a particular city or area, as a large number of books have already been published and you’re likely to find a relevant one (or one might be on the making). I had been intrigued by the collection for a while and finally requested this one because my first job as a junior doctor was in Eastbourne, East Sussex, in the South East of England, I remained in the area for quite a few years and although I visited museums and talked to people about the place, I didn’t learn much about the role of local women and their lives in the past.

Eastbourne felt quite different to what I was used to when I first moved there, with its gentile atmosphere, the seafront, the fancy (if somewhat old-fashioned) hotels, the Victorian pier, and the natural beauty of the Downs and Beachy Head. As the author explains in the description, the book centres on the lives of women from 1850 to 1950, and it also offers a brief but useful background into the history of the period. Although this will not cover new ground for history experts, it will help casual readers place the lives of these local women in context, and it contains gems specific to the local history and to the women´s social history, and it also incorporates previously unpublished personal accounts and those narrated by relatives and friends of women who had lived in the area.

The book is divided into an introduction, seven chapters, a brief bibliography (a good starting point but not too lengthy or detailed), a section of acknowledgments, and an index. The book also includes pictures and illustrations, some belonging to the personal archives of some of the women mentioned, and also postcards and landscapes of the area. I highlighted many details I found interesting as I read it, and I thought I’d share some of those to give you an idea of the kinds of things you might find in this book (and probably others in the series). Chapter One, Education and Professional Life includes, like other chapters, brief biographies of some local women (either women born in Eastbourne or who lived there for significant periods of time), such as Emily Phipps, who studied for the bar and later moved into teaching. She was said to live by this saying: ‘If you make yourself a doormat, do not be surprised if people tread on you’, and Rosalie Harvey, a medical missionary worker, who helped over 1500 sick people, many children and babies, and animals.

Chapter 2, Working Life, included a mention of the life of female smugglers in Eastbourne, the way the people from town helped families affected by WWI, and the touching story of a woman whose biological father was a Canadian soldier in WWII whom she never got to meet, who considered herself lucky because her mother’s husband (who was also a soldier and away for most of the war) accepted her as if she were his own child, and in fact she never discovered she wasn’t his until she was 22.  One of the biographies included in this chapter is that of writer and journalist Angela Carter, who was born in Eastbourne.

Chapter 3, Family Life: ‘Home Sweet Home’, highlights how society’s rules and political laws curtailed women’s freedom in all aspects of life, even when it came to dress and fashion. Getting a divorce was very difficult for women, even after changes in the law in the late 1850s and in the 1920s.  Having recently read a book about Lady Astor and her penchant for fashion, I found out in this chapter that Queen Victoria wore a headdress made of bird feathers in 1851 and that sprung a fashion (and resulted in the deaths of a very large number of birds). Reading about the change brought to the lives of women by a minor invention, such as the electric iron, made me reflect upon how hard tasks that might seem easy now were for our ancestors. This chapter also includes imaginative and resourceful war-time recipes, and it mentions the good reputation of Eastbourne schools and, in particular, Eastbourne College (a wonderful building I lived quite close to for a while).

Chapter 4, Quality of Life, talks about the changes brought by the NHS, efforts in welfare, and reforms to the workhouse, and the important role women played in those.

Chapter 5, Social Life, is one of my favourites, and includes some gems, such as the fact that nearby, in Bexhill-on-Sea (where I also worked) in 1901, male and female bathers were allowed to mix in the same beach for the first time. The chapter talks in detail about the Eastbourne Pier (I only knew some details of its history and had heard about the controversy caused by its recent refurbishment, but I haven’t seen it since, so I dare not comment); it also mentions the well-known female tennis tournament at Devonshire Park, and I was very taken by the brief biography of Emily Mary Shackleton, who moved to Eastbourne, and when her famous husband died during one of his expeditions, was left to fend for herself with a considerable debt to settle. She worked tirelessly for the Red Cross and became divisional commissioner for the Girl Guides of Eastbourne. The Luxor cinema was before my time, but from the description, I would love to have seen it, and it had a Compton Organ, a fantastic instrument I was lucky to get to hear at the Penistone Paramount (don’t miss it if you are anywhere near).

Chapter 6, Political Life, places an emphasis on the local suffragist movement and some of the women who took part, including some of their heart wrenching accounts of being imprisoned and going on hunger strike, the way the attempts at reforming gender discriminatory laws were received, the first women mayors of the area, and such puzzling things as the fact that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children wasn’t formed until 1891, almost seventy years after the formation of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Chapter 7, Spiritual and Religious Life, talks not only about the churches in Eastbourne, how new denominations became more popular as time passed, and also how the churches started organising social events, clubs, and activities for all ages. This chapter also includes mentions of three ghosts: the redoubt fortress one, the one at Devonshire Park Theatre, and two nurse ghosts at the All Saints Hospital. I have heard about some of them, and considering the author has written books on that topic, I would take it on good authority.

I enjoyed the combination of general history with local events, the biographies of the local women, and, especially, the personal accounts of women who had lived in Eastbourne at the time and shared their experiences (or those passed on by their relatives) with the author. As I have said before, those are the kinds of details that help history come to life and make us understand what a period was truly like, not for politicians and royals, but for the people in the street.

As this is the first book I read in the series, I cannot compare it to others, and I know each one of the volumes is written by a local historian, so their approaches might be quite different. Mine was an early review copy, and I’m sure there will have been changes in the final version, but my only recommendation, based on the copy I had access to, would be to ensure that the biographies are clearly marked as separate from the rest of the text (by using a different type of letter or by encasing them in a box, for example), as currently they are interspersed with the rest of the content of the chapter, and it is not always easy to tell where one finishes and the other one starts again. Some of the topics overlap with each other and that makes the chapters perfect for reading independently, although it results in similar content being mentioned in several chapters when the book is read in one go, but I did not find this a major problem.

I enjoyed this book, which is informative, entertaining, and inspiring, and includes enough information about the general and social history of the period to be suitable for any readers, even those who don’t generally read history. At the same time it contains a wealth of information on the local history of women in Eastbourne, which will satisfy those trying to get a picture of the era, be it for personal interest, research, or as part of an ongoing project (Writers, I’m looking at you). I recommend this title to anybody interested in any of those aspects, and I will be checking other titles in the series.

Thanks to Rosie and the author, thanks to all of your for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview SUFFRAGETTES (IMAGES OF THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES) by Lauren Willmott (@penswordbooks) #womenshistory

Hi all:

I bring you another book by Pen & Sword, and one that I feel remains very relevant. Re-reading the history of the UK suffragettes and the movement to get votes for women, I could not help but notice similarities with the current situation. The struggle is far from over, but we must always remember those who came before. (Oh, and I couldn’t help also notice similarities with some political events and situations taking place in my country right now, but that isn’t relevant to the book so… I’ll keep my peace).

Suffragettes-Images-of-the-National-Archives-by-Lauren-Willmott
Suffragettes (Images of the National Archives) by Lauren Willmott

Suffragettes (Images of the The National Archives) by Lauren Willmott

1918 was a watershed moment for the development of British democracy: for the first time, some women could vote. The occasion marked the culmination of a fifty-year long, arduous struggle of thousands of women and men up and down the country.

Using unique documents and images held at The National Archives, we will delve into the world of suffrage and trace the journey of these thousands of individuals, fighting to achieve women’s rights in a man’s world, and how they were ultimately able to emerge largely victorious.

https://www.amazon.com/Suffragettes-Images-National-Archives-Willmott/dp/1526729458/

https://www.amazon.com/Suffragettes-Images-National-Archives-Willmott-ebook/dp/B07RL28MGD/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Suffragettes-Images-National-Archives-Willmott-ebook/dp/B07RL28MGD/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Images-of-The-National-Archives-Suffragettes-Paperback/p/15598

About the author:

Lauren spent four years at The National Archives as a records specialist. She has an active interest in gender history, and particularly the changing role of women in British society from the Victorian era to the Second World War. She now works as a curator in a major national museum.

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback early copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is one of the types of books this publisher excels at. Experts on a topic with good access to images and visual resources create an informative and compelling narrative of a historically important subject or event, combining easy to read accounts with pictures and documents relevant to the matter that help make it more vivid and memorable in our minds.

In this case, the images of The National Archives about the Suffragettes serve to illustrate the story of the movement in the UK. The fact that the author was a records specialist at the National Archives is evident, as she wisely chooses, from what must be a large selection of material, a variety of documents: comic and cartoon images (of the disparaged “new woman”, wearing trousers or bloomers, ignoring her children, and smoking!), pictures of the women involved (including a fascinating one of Evelyn Manesta, or rather two, one showing clearly that she refused to have her picture taken and therefore somebody was holding her from the back, and then the manipulated version of it, where the person behind her had been removed. No Photoshop yet, but photo manipulation even in the early XX century was already in existence), letters from the women complaining about the conditions in prison, or the fact that they were treated like common criminals, a wonderful image of a boycotted census form, from 1911, with a handwritten note (No persons here, only women!), a picture from 4th June 1913, at Epsom, the Derby Races, where we can see Emily Wilding Davison after being trampled by a horse and another picture of her funeral procession, images of the destruction caused when things escalated…

These wonderful —scary, moving, and incredible, at times— images are accompanied by a brief history of the movement for the women’s vote in the UK. The book is short (under 100 pages) and therefore this is not a very detailed account, but as an introduction to the topic it works well, as it includes the antecedents (how married women had been fighting to try to keep their property for decades, and how they became more and more frustrated on seeing how other countries in “the colonies” like New Zealand and Australia passed more advanced legislation an introduced women’s vote before the UK did), the development of the different associations (Manchester and the Pankhurst women play an important role), their initial peaceful tactics, their focus on deeds and increase in the visibility of their actions, imprisonment, hunger strikes, the pause during WWI (which not everybody was in agreement with), and the final achievement of some sort of vote after the war (in 1918, only for women over 30 who were property owners or married to property owners. It would take 10 years to normalise the situation). The summary is well-written and it is fairly comprehensive, considering the length of the book, although it won’t tell experts anything they didn’t already know.

Although the images include the archival reference, I missed a bibliography, a list of illustrations and an index, but otherwise I found the book great for reference, also as a book to complement a collection for those interested in the topic and a good introduction for people looking for an informative and easy to read account.

If readers are interested in knowing more about the Suffragettes and the efforts to achieve women’s vote in the UK, especially in a particular city or region, I recommend checking the publisher’s website, as they are continually updating their collection Struggle and Suffrage in… (which includes already many cities and counties: Manchester, Leeds, Wales…), and they have other books looking at some of the figures involved in the fight as well. I plan on talking about some of those soon.

Thanks to Rosie and Pen & Sword, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling. Ah, and never forget!

GET MY FREE BOOKS
%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security