The Endowment of Motherhood Wars of the 1900s

Who doesn’t love Mother? Consider two scenarios that faced late Victorian and Edwardian social reformers and opinion makers: working-class mother tending the family’s oh-so-many children while father drinks up his wages at the local public house (I’m thinking of the premise of Reginald Cripps’s Public House Reform 1901); and, moving up a notch, mother pointlessly tending the family’s suburban villa (“The Laurels” of George and Weedon Grossmiths’ Pooter sagas) and anxiously watching one or two children (all the family can

Read more

Books, Reading, and Daydream Believing: Christy Carew Has ‘Nothing’ to Do

The current pandemic triggered what appears to be a reading revival. As I noted media discourse on people accumulating books, I wondered whether sometimes these books were companions to a daydream, as individuals imagined an alternative present or felicitous future; experiencing, as Charlotte Bronte expressed it in Villette, “the life of thought, and that of reality”.[1] Researching fictional experiences of reading in women’s writing at the fin de siècle, I notice a book is often accompaniment to a daydream. It

Read more

Language of Feminism in Arabic and British Fin-de-Siècle Writing

Writing a comparative PhD thesis on the New Woman in Britain and the Arab world at the fin de siècle entailed establishing similarities and differences in language usage in the early feminist movements in both cultural contexts. Considering that the New Woman is a well-established field of study in Western scholarship, the main focus of my research project was to demonstrate that, contrary to the assumptions made in existing literature – that the New Woman appeared in Arabic from the

Read more

Venerating Verses and Disrespectful Ditties: Informal Music Inspired by Queen Victoria

Over the course of her record breaking six-decade reign, Queen Victoria was the subject of numerous formal and informal musical compositions alike. While most formal music was reverential in nature and sought to praise the monarch, by and large the informal music that Victoria inspired among the lower classes tended to contain derogatory or mocking depictions of the queen. However, there were a small number of compositions that celebrated Victoria’s personal and political successes. Still, most of these were informal

Read more

Women’s Self-Defence: How Ju Jutsu played a key role in the fight for women’s suffrage

Since the #metoo movement in 2017, the martial arts world has seen a huge uptake in women participating in self-defence classes. These classes aim to strengthen a person’s capacity to protect themselves against a physical attack. Yet, for women, they are also essential in building self-esteem and offering a sense of self-empowerment. This is particularly the case for trauma-informed martial arts programmes, which serve to give victims of sexual assault or domestic abuse control over their bodies and help them

Read more

Claws and Petticoats: The Victorian Lion Queens

In a recent article I wrote about Maccomo, the first black lion tamer in Victorian England. But working with wild cats was not only just for men. Several Victorian women became famous in their own right for braving the lion’s cage. The earliest mention of a female working with wild cats appears in the Liverpool Mercury on 1 August 1845: ‘A Mrs. King, who takes the title of the Lion Queen, has been exhibiting her foolhardiness at Glasgow, by going

Read more

Mask Rage: The Modern-Day White Feather Campaign

From 24 July 2020 to 19 July 2021, it was a legal requirement to wear masks in indoor spaces in England. On the whole, people have adhered to this regulation and now it has become second nature for us to grab a mask, along with our phone, wallet and keys, before leaving the house. However, the law recognises that individuals with certain physical or mental illnesses, impairments or disabilities may not be able to wear masks and are, therefore, exempt.

Read more

“Pull off this lady’s breeches”: The Case of Mary Newell

Little is known about Mary Newell before 1860, and perhaps she might have remained a relatively anonymous woman in mid-nineteenth century England. That is, if not for the events of the autumn of 1861 and her subsequent trial that winter, where her story shared newsprint with one of England’s most galvanizing tragedies.[1] Born in 1839, Mary Newell’s name appears on the April 1861 census record in the household of William J. Barker. Residing with the Barker family at 29 Bessborough

Read more

William Seymour: ‘The Female Cab Driver of Liverpool’

On 10 February 1875, William Seymour, a cab driver, was remanded in custody and charged with stealing ‘22 lbs of beef’ and ‘5 lbs of veal’ from Mr Henry Moorby who owned a butcher’s on Leece Street in Liverpool.[1] Although William categorically maintained his innocence, he was charged with theft and the Liverpool Mercury commented that ‘upon the arm and breast of [his] coat were traces of suet which proved incontestably that he was guilty of the crime’.[2] Although this

Read more