F Yeah History

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    In 1918 women were finally given a portion of the vote: that is, the Representation of the People Act allowed women over 30 who were married to a property owner, were graduates in a University Constituency, or were a member of a Local Government Register (or at least married to one!) to vote in elections.

    Getting to this partial step towards equality had been one loooooong fight. Thousands upon thousands of women fought for decades for the simple right of having a say in their own lives.

    So, let’s remember a few of the badass brave ladies that history all too often forgets! 

    1. THE FIRE STARTER: KITTY MARION 

    kitty marion survaliance image 59c3bPhoto of Kitty Marion that was also used by the police for surveillance

    A former chorus girl, Kitty Marion was steadily climbing the ranks to become a headlining music hall act. But she quickly discovered that wasn’t going to happen unless she got on the casting couch. 

    Sounds familiar, huh?

    Kitty was appalled by just how disgustingly sexist the theatre industry was. But she wasn’t going to give in that easily.

    Instead of walking away, she decided to fight; not just for her, but for every woman! She wanted women to be seen as equals, not as objects. In her mind, that couldn’t happen until women had equal political power.

    And so, in 1908, Kitty joined the WSPU(Women’s Social and Political Union, commonly known as The Suffragettes).

    Now, to say Kitty was happy to use militant tactics for the cause would be the understatement of the century.

    kitty marion during one of her arrests 6576fKitty during one of her many arrests

    Kitty was arrested often, for a whole litany of crimes including window smashing, pulling fire alarms, and—Kitty’s personal favorite—arson. She burned down Hurst race courses grand stand, an MP’s house, and several properties across Manchester and Liverpool.

    Kitty actually kept a scrapbook,where, much like her theatrical press cuttings, she popped news articles about her arson attacks, including several pieces on attacks where the culprit was never found. Hmmm, I wonder who could have done those?!? 

    sherlock gif 3b1e4Yeah, I don't think we need Sherlock to crack that particular case.

    Unsurprisingly for someone carrying out all of the arson, Kitty spent a lot of time in prison. She regularly undertook hunger strikes, which led to her being force fed a record 242 times.

    But Kitty was unwavering, even setting fire to her cell after one force feeding (girl had a theme!).

    kitty marion in sash 2 e1517748944950 3d769I mean, look at that steely stare.

    By 1915, the First World War was in full swing and the German-born Kitty was seen as way to much of a threat to remain in the UK (to be fair, she was doing all of the arson..) so she was deported to America, where she could live a quiet life and stay out of trouble.

    Obvs, Kitty immediately joined the U.S. birth control movement.

    She was part of the group that would go on to create Planned Parenthood and spent a lot of time on the streets raising awareness of birth control.

    This led to Kitty receiving deaths threats and daily abuse. Her actions also meant she was arrested again and again and again!

    kitty marion selling birth control papers a7665At this point, we all know that Kitty refused to give up.

    In 1921, Kitty and Margaret Sanger set up America’s first birth control clinic. The police never stopped trying to close it.

    Kitty continued campaigning until her old age, eventually dying in 1944, surrounded by her friends and fellow fighters. 

    2. THE TEENAGE TEARAWAY: DORA THEWLIS

    Dora had been working in a Huddersfield mill since she was just over 10.

    Now, to be blunt, being a mill worker was the worst. The hours were long, the pay shit and the safety negligible, with children and adults both working in hazardous conditions.

    But Dora was one smart cookie. She’d been poring over newspapers and chatting politics since she was just 7! All this parliamentary prose has made Dora determined to see change, but she knew this couldn’t happen when half the population couldn’t even vote!

    So, in her early teens, Dora became a founding member of her local WSPU branch.

    In February 1907, a 16-year-old Dora hopped on a train with her fellow WSPU members and travelled from Manchester to London for a quick parliamentary protest road trip. Dora’s ‘clog and shawl brigade’ were joined outside Parliament by WSPU groups from all over Britain, but they weren’t alone; an army of hundreds of policeman met the ladies head on and things quickly escalated.

    Pretty soon, 75 suffragettes were arrested for trying to ‘rush’ the House of Commons; Dora was one of them.

    Within hours of her arrest, Dora was the face of the suffrage movement, with this picture slap in the middle of the Daily Mirror’s front page.

    dora thewlis arrest 2a292This picture went on to become a popular anti-suffragette postcard.

    The newspapers dubbed her the baby suffragette.

    When she appeared in court, the judge (here to be known as Captain Asshat) was equally condescending and flippant, proclaiming to the court that he was sure the reason Dora was actually in London was to ‘entice’ men. Captain Asshat then went on to ask:

    ‘Where is your mother?’

    Sadly, if Captain Asshat was thinking Dora’s mom would be pissed at her daughter, he was wrong—Dora’s mother actually wrote to him saying just how proud she was of her headstrong and intelligent daughter.

    Sadly, no matter how amazing this was, it didn’t help. 16-year-old Dora was sent to prison.

    oh no gif 3ca75

    Now, being in prison as a suffragette was hard, but being in prison as a working class suffragette was HAAAAAAARD.

    Dora was bullied by the guards and most probably experienced beatings in addition to the daily verbal harassment.

    By the time she left, the teenager’s spirit was crushed.

    But that didn’t stop the Edwardian paparazzi hounding Dora as soon as she stepped off the train in Manchester! They all wanted to know what the baby suffragette would do next.

    Dora was not down with this!

    She was done with the hierarchy treating her like a child whose views were a cutesy joke. Nearly 17, she shot back at journalists:

    ‘Don’t call me the ‘Baby Suffragette.’ I am not a baby. In May next year I shall be 18. Surely for a girl, that is a good age?’ 

    yes dora bde0fYes, Dora!!

    Dora continued campaigning until, in 1914, she decided to escape mill life and moved to Australia. There she lived happily until a ripe old age, with her husband and children (who, BTW, were all obvs educated in feminism and the need for equal rights for all!). 

    3. THE WILD WOMAN: LEONORA COHEN

    Leonora Cohen grew up in a hardworking family. Just like Dora, she worked from an early age, eventually settling down with a nice man to pop out a few kids.

    But this wasn’t the end of Leonora’s story! 

    leonora cohen f4cefLeonora Cohen

    You see, Leonora had watched her mother struggle as a single mom, had herself faced horrific working conditions as woman, and was generally treated as a second-class citizen. She watched as those around her just took this and that sparked something inside:

    ‘My mother would say ‘Leonora, if only we women had a say in things’, but we hadn’t. A drunken lout of a man opposite had a vote simply because he was a male. I vowed I’d try to change things.’

    emotional clap gif ab540Can we please have more Leonoras in the world?

    In 1909 Leonora joined the WSPU, initially selling suffragette papers in the gutter (so she couldn’t get arrested for obstructing pavements).

    But two years into her activism, Leonora decided to go all in. With her husband backing her all the way, she went big on militant actions!

    Leonora attended more protests than ever before. She learned to give powerful speeches and ignore the masses of hate mail that followed them. She even went to Holloway Prison for stone throwing!

    But it wasn’t enough. Leonora wanted to do something that would grab people’s attention.

    And so she planned to break into the Crown Jewels.

    standard gif 4b9baWell, this seems like a perfectly normal reaction...right?

    In 1913, Leonora walked into the Tower of London, a crowbar hidden under her coat.

    Nobody noticed the slight woman…until she whipped out the crowbar and smashed through the glass protecting the Crown Jewels. She was immediately tackled to the ground amid a shower of broken glass. But the damage was done.

    Leonora had succeeded. Her act was front page news; the note she’d wrapped around the crowbar providing the words on everyone’s lips:

    ‘My Protest to the Government for its refusal to Enfranchise Women, but continues to torture women prisoners – Deeds Not Words. Votes for Women. 100 Years of Constitutional Petition, Resolutions, Meetings & Processions have Failed’

    leonora blue plaque 100d5

    Leonora continued her work after women were partly granted the vote in 1918. She became the first female president of The Yorkshire Trade Councils, before becoming one of the U.K.’s first women to take the bench, when she was made a magistrate in 1924.

    Leonora stayed an active feminist right up until her death in 1978, at the grand old age of 105!

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah History and has been reprinted here with permission.

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    1. HYPATIA

    Hypatia was a genius. She was a mathematician, astronomer and inventor. Our babe had some serious brains and was also ballsy as fuck. She’s one of the first recorded women in mathematics—if not the first.

    already the greatest 55002Yeah, we haven't even started and you already KNOW she's the greatest...

    Hypatia was born sometime between 350-37 BC in Alexandria (an Egyptian province). Her dad, Theon, was one of the last members of the Library of Alexandria (an incredibly fancy palace of knowledge). A famed mathematician, Daddy Hypatia wasted no time teaching his little girl everything he knew.

    Now, Hypatia was super smart and she quickly surpassed her Dad’s (pretty bloody genius) intellect… and so the student became the teacher.

    People came from miles around to hear her teach, and around 400 BC, she became the head of The Platonist School in Alexandria where she lectured on mathematics and philosophy.

    But this is history….so it doesn’t stay good. (Sorry.)

    See, back then science and the like was considered a pagan pursuit by Christians, so Hypatia’s teachings were not going down well with the locals. In fact, they were not fans to the extent that they formed a mob and killed her…

    img 0390 6e9eaDeath of the philosopher Hypatia, by Louis Figuier

    But her work lived on; her influence monumental. Sadly we don’t have any of her surviving work, but she had a real impact on her peers, who talked about her with a reverence that was awe-inspiring.

    2. DOROTHY HODGKIN

    img 0389 a1a83Dorothy 🙌🏻

    Dorothy is a scientific marvel. Fact. She specialised in X-Ray Crystallography, which basically is a way to decode the structure of biomolecules. This was important in recreating synthetic structures in 3D to replicate those biomolecules. Like, for example, PENICILLIN! INSULIN! And other stuff people need to not die…

    Dotty studied chemistry at Oxford in 1928, and left with a first class honours degree. This was pretty bloody amazing at the time, as there were limited spaces available for women to study at degree level (damn you, patriarchy!). In fact, Dotty was the third woman to receive a first in the history of Oxford University!

    After smashing it with her degree, Dotty went on to study her doctorate at Cambridge where she became interested in X-Ray Crystallography.

    She came back to Oxford in the late 1930s to continue her research and also to teach a new generation of Crystallographers.

    In 1945, Dotty had her first big breakthrough…penicillin! She pinned down the molecular structure of penicillin, a revolution in medicine that would save countless lives.

    yeah science 862feScience, successfully staying the only thing keeping us from death!

    But Dotty didn’t stop! She later cracked the coding for insulin and B12, for which she was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964. She is still the only British woman to receive this honour.

    img 0396 44d0fDorothy’s model of the stucture of penicillin

    During all of this Dorothy pioneered new techniques to better capture the structures of even more complex biomolecules. Medicine owes one Dotty one hell of a debt!

    3. MAE JEMISON

    img 0391 8223cMae looking BADASS

    Mae is famous for being the first African-American woman in space, but that ain’t all she’s done (though it is still quite a lot…)

    Born in 1956, she grew up with a fascination for space travel and was obsessed with the coverage of the Apollo missions, as well as being a massive Trekkie (Lieutenant Uhura was her absolute hero)

    slap 106b8And who can blame her?

    Mae was also a shit hot dancer, training in every type of dance imaginable. But she also had that passion for science, she struggled with what to do….be a dancer or doctor? Her mum told her:

    ‘YOU CAN ALWAYS DANCE IF YOU’RE A DOCTOR, BUT YOU CAN’T DOCTOR IF YOU’RE A DANCER.’

    That settled things. Mae trained to be a doctor at the Cornell Medical College and got her degree in 1981. As soon as she got that under her belt, Mae joined the Peace Corps (because Mae is the best like that).

    After the Peace Corps, Mae applied to NASA; the dream of going to space one she just couldn’t get out of her head. And then she got the call…she was going to be an astronaut!

    In 1992, Mae was a mission specialist on mission STS-47 on the space shuttle Endeavour. Mae often started her recordings in space with the classic trekkie line:

    ‘HAILING FREQUENCIES OPEN.’

    img 0393 37f82Uhura would be proud

    After she returned to earth, Mae quit NASA and went on to found her own company, The Jemison Group, that develops science and technology for everyday use. Another one of her companies developed a device that mean doctors can monitor a patient’s day-to-day nervous system functions, which was developed from NASA technology.

    But Mae still can’t quite shake the stars. She’s the principal of the 100 Year Starship project who aim to travel to the next solar system by the next 100 years AND are looking at developing ways to improve recycling & develop more efficient and green fuel solutions (Peace Corps for life!).

    Live Long and Prosper Mae, we think you are an absolute legend.

    4. WANG ZHENYI

    Wang Zhenyi is was born in 1796 in China. She was fascinated by eclipses, which were still a mystery back then, but Zhenyi knew it weren’t no magic making that happen!

    She wrote a paper on what she she thought was going on and created a model for those less wordy; using a globe, a mirror and a lamp, Wang showed how the eclipse was made by the moon blocking out the sun. Simple!

    img 0399 34ead

    She also understood that the earth wasn’t flat, that it was a globe, and that the earth rotated around the sun. This was revolutionary thinking for the time.

    But Wang didn’t stop there. At the age of just 24, she wrote a book called Simple Principles of Calculation…I don’t know what you were doing at 24, but I know I wasn’t spending my time molding mathematics..

    With all this science and maths, you’d be forgiven for thinking Wang was just a giant brain….but she had a huge heart to match. She wrote political poetry, touching on topics like gender equality, and in her additional spare time she worked to ease the suffering of China’s poor.

    amazing gif 34b8bHow can one twenty-something do this much?!?

    She died aged only 29. But in her short life she published so many papers on maths, the solar system as well as some lush poems. Her work influenced countless numbers of clever clogs who came after our girl.

    I’ll leave you with this mic drop of a poem by Wang:

    IT’S MADE TO BELIEVE, WOMEN ARE THE SAME AS MEN; ARE YOU NOT CONVINCED, DAUGHTERS CAN ALSO BE HEROIC?

    5. ALICE BALL

    img 0392 32d0dAlice in her graduation gear 😍

    Born in 1892, Alice grew up in Seattle and took an interest in chemistry when helping her photographer grandfather develop shots in his darkroom.

    Super smart and a tough cookie, she become both the first woman and the first African-American to graduate from the University of Hawaii.

    high five 0d2d6Just casually breaking all the boundaries

    With those barriers firmly broken, Alice moved onto a bigger task…saving Hawaii.

    See, Hawaii had an influx of patients suffering with leprosy. It got so bad that people with the disease were arrested and shipped off to a leper colony on an island off the mainland! The only treatment was a very painful injection of oil made from chaulmoogra tree seeds…and it only relieved some of the symptoms.

    But, Alice had a solution! When she was 24, Alice figured out a way to make the oil injectable! She isolated the ethyl esters of the fatty acids in the oil.

    Sadly Alice died shortly after perfecting this method (likely from inhaling chlorine gas during research) One of her fellow peers at Hawaii university decided to be a total shit rag and tried to steal her research and pass if off as his own. BUT thankfully, one of Alice’s mates put that fucker in his place.

    img 0397 7b5daI WILL CRUSH YOU!

    The treatment worked. It meant people affected with the disease could now go home and see their families, and Hawaii stopped arresting their sick and chucking them on an island to forget about them.

    Alice’s method of treatment, known as The Ball Method, was so good that it was used until the 1940s to treat patients with leprosy.

    Her influence was huge in combating this disease, though it did take the University of Hawaii NEARLY 90 YEARS to recognise Alice’s achievements by putting a plaque to her on a chaulmoogra tree outside the University.

    This post originally appeared on F Yeah Historyand is reprinted here with permission.

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    Unfortunately, discussion and dissection of women’s clothing is something of a historic tradition – and many aspects of what it is to dress like a women having remained the same for centuries. Here’s just a glimpse into how women were expected to dress throughout history.

    Beauty is pain

    To be beautiful is to be in pain, a fact anybody who has ever worn heels for more than 3 hours can attest to. This is, of course, nothing new, from bruise-inducing heavy fabrics to mantuas that required hinges to allow for the wearer to get into and out of carriages (and don’t even start on managing doors!).

    Being really bloody uncomfortable goes part in parcel with being on trend. Of course, these trends have also proved deadly. Yes, the thing that makes you beautiful can also be a weapon: corsets, of course, are famed for their organ-mangling powers, but crinolines were also a very lethal culprit.

    Unsuspecting wearers would catch themselves on a candle and the whole crinoline would go up in flames. To make matters worse, the crinoline’s design prevented the victim from putting the fire out themselves, and any crinoline-clad bystanders were also hampered down by their large skirts and rendered powerless to help – all they could do was watch their friend burn alive within their dress. In 1864, one Dr. Lancaster reported a supposed 2,500 people in London alone suffered this fiery end.

    3 fire at ballet 1861 660x448 be44bThis actually happened in 1861 in Philadelphia: 9 ballerinas died. Crinoline fires, arguably worse than chip pan fires.

    You are what you wear

    When you read any book about the wives of Henry Vlll, you will quickly realize the wives’ hoods are an indicator of who they are as people: Anne Boleyn with her rule-breaking and saucy French hood, Jane Seymour trying to appease with her plain and ungainly English hood, etc., etc., etc. The clothes are packaged as an integral part of these women’s core identity.

    anne boleyn 231x300 c5665

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    Even executions of women in this period turn into a (blood-soaked) runway. Catherine Howard, newly conservative but still glamorous in dark velvet; Lady Jane Grey, pious in black; and Mary, Queen of Scots, working rebellious martyr chic in crimson. What you wear is who you are, even if that could not be further from the truth.

    Margaret Cavendish, forerunner of Science Fiction, poet,and one of the first philosophers to really dive into the gender divide was maligned by her peers. She was seen as a bimbo.

    image091 2fe59

    Cavendish loved fashion and dressed vividly and eccentrically. Samuel Pepys described her as ‘conceited and ridiculous’ and her ‘dress so antic’: one of the greatest minds of her time overlooked, because her dress was a bit out there. But don’t worry, Pepys also describes her as a ‘good comely woman,’ so everything’s fine, really.

    The sex is in the heel

    If you are a woman then, at some point, you will have been told that you are dressing too provocatively (you bitch) or not provocatively enough (you bitch). Yes, the debate on putting it away vs. putting it out there is long and aged and something everyone, apparently, has some kind of stake in.

    What is permitted for women to wear is somewhat cyclical. There is a fine line between what is seen as ‘attractive’ and ‘slutty’ but it is a line that keeps on fucking running all over the pitch.

    For example, if you were a woman in the court of Charles ll, then your neckline would be low to the extent that nipple paint would be a thing in your life – go and find any portrait of a bright young thing of this court and you will find an image of a woman barely containing her breasts (if they aren’t just out and roaming free). It seems like the birth place of liberal love for the raw female form, free the nipple and all that…but, for the love of Christ, don’t show an ankle, because a naked breast was one thing but a naked ankle was seen as scandal itself.

    Sexual fetishization was also ripe in Victorian England. What we now think of as the a bastion of sexual repression was actually incredibly sex-obsessed (seriously, Victorians LOVED their porn). But, like today, sexuality was a nuanced minefield.

    Take our old friend the corset. It was seen as key to maintaining the ideal female figure: a waspish waist, curvy hips, and breasts. A narrative was created around this fashion, and it became a sign that you were someone, feminine, rich, desirable, demure, and sophisticated all at once. Yet at the same time, the corset became a symbol of loose morals: it pushed up the cleavage and alluded to the hips and vagina.

    To dress like a woman is a myth and one far more complicated than I have been able to touch on in this (another time, perhaps). It is an ever-changing goalpost built on cultural expectations and outdated stereotypes. It exists…it clearly very much still exists (hey again, Mr. President!) but it doesn’t have to be something we adhere to. We can look at history and notice the rule breakers, the women that created their own fashions and lived how they chose. 

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah History and has been reprinted with permission.

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    Anne of Cleves gets a historically bad rap. This is in no small part because she will forever be remembered as Henry VIII’s ‘ugly’ wife; ‘the Flanders Mare.’ Which seems pretty bullshit, because:

    1. Have you seen Henry VIII??
    2. Why are we still putting a woman’s entire worth on how fuckable Henry VIII found her?

    Anne was an incredibly amazing and accomplished woman. she was smart, shrewd, and is far and away the wife I’d most like to have a pint with. (Sorry, Anne B.)

    Anne grew up the awkward middle child, both on Europe’s political stage and at home: Anne was told that the only thing she would ever achieve was to be a good-ish wife. Her older sister was a famous beauty who was soon married off, her younger sister was also beautiful and witty, her older brother was an asshole, but a semi-successful one…and Anne was just there, under the family thumb, getting on with her wife studies and waiting to be told what to do and where to go.

    Sadly for Anne, her family decided the best place for her was on the arm of this asshat:

    henry vll 6c7a5

    Henry VIII was on the hunt for wife number 4. With one wife divorced and essentially exiled, one beheaded and one dead, his dating profile wasn’t great. So it’s unsurprising that Europes princesses weren’t exactly tripping over themselves to marry this aging megalomaniac.

    But that wasn’t an issue for Anne’s family!

    Anne and her younger sister had portraits taken and sent to Henry (sort of like ye olde Tinder). Henry was immediately taken with Anne’s portrait and description. Sure enough, Anne was picked to be Henry’s bride, and her passage to England was set.

    For her part, Anne was thrilled. Finally, she’d get away from her oppressive family and get to live her own life!

    But there were issues. For one, Anne couldn’t actually speak English, which is a bit of a worry when you’re off to go be Queen of England. She also didn’t know anything about music or dancing, which were Henry’s favourite pastimes. Plus, she hadn’t actually been raised to be a Queen.

    Sure, she was a Princess, and yes, she’d been raised to be the best darn wife she could be…but she was princess of a tiny territory and only ever expected to marry a Duke or maybe a low-level Prince. Being Queen of one of the world’s biggest powers was a different thing entirely!

    But Anne wasn’t a quitter. She spent the long journey to England trying to pick up the language and customs, and learned games that Henry liked. She was aiming to wow!

    And then she got there….

    bad gif 1dc92

    Henry was both a tyrant and a romantic, a combination that basically guarantees dickery. True to dick form, he decided to don a disguise to meet his new bride, sure that their love would be so strong, she would immediately see through the ruse and leap into his arms.

    Obviously, this didn’t happen…

    Instead, Anne patiently ignored the sweaty man as he pawed at her and tried to get her attention. She was waiting to meet the King and neither wanted to engage with or offend this new unwanted admirer.

    And then the guy kissed her and Anne stepped back in shock. Because, well, you would. This was too much for Henry. He threw off his disguise and stormed out the room, leaving a confused Anne in his wake.

    The damage was done: the marriage was in ruins before it even began.

    Still, though, the Henry and Anne had to tie the knot! The wedding was set, Henry well-versed in what to do, and, well…it would have been embarrassing not to.

    So, in 1540, Anne and Henry were married.

    But the pair didn’t consummate the union.

    Rumors soon spread that Anne didn’t actually know what sex was. She told her ladies that she had ‘laid’ with the King and thought she might be pregnant – despite openly acknowledging that the two had just kissed.

    This is where the question comes in:

    Was Anne smart, or just super naive?

    Look, cards on the table – yes, it is likely that Anne wasn’t, er…as well-versed in sexual conduct as others may have been. She came from a strict and religious upbringing and it is very likely that her mum neglected to tell her about the birds and the bees as much as she should have, especially considering her daughter was being shipped off to go make babies.

    This aside, though, I reckon Anne was pretty bloody on it!

    Anne knew that her marriage was heading for the rocks. She understood that this was a very dangerous situation and that, if not careful, she would possibly be dead or ruined in a few months’ time.

    So Anne played the game. She learnt from past players’ mistakes (she wouldn’t argue back or push for reform and change like Anne B. and Catherine). Though she shared a lot of their personality traits (determined, spirited and vocal), Anne worked hard to play this down for the volatile King Henry.

    anne of cleves 8583cA portrait, possibly of Anne of Cleves

    During her short reign as Queen, Anne of Cleves implemented no major changes. 

    This will be the only time I ever say this, but: doing absolutely nothing was the best thing she could have done!

    Being docile and impassive guaranteed her survival. Perhaps that’s not making any inspirational posters, but it’s true and it worked…

    That’s not to say Anne didn’t occasionally show her true self. Once, when discussing Henry’s daughter Mary and her marriage prospects, Anne was (gasp) open and frank in her opinions. This didn’t go down well, and soon, Henry was loudly complaining about Anne’s stubborn and willful nature.

    After this incident, Anne made sure to double down on her docile ruse and soon, she looked on track to escape this marriage with her head. Win! But that wasn’t the only thing she wanted.

    Anne wanted independence.

    Anne hadn’t known independence before coming to England. She had been strictly under her mum’s and brother’s control. She had thought that marrying the King of England would be the shot at independence that she had longed for…but, instead, she’d become a shadow of herself as she tried to appease a tyrannical super-dick.

    With this marriage coming to a close, Anne’s future was up in the air.

    The English court was soon full of gossip. Would Henry find her another husband? Would she live the rest of her days as a nun? Perhaps she’d be sent back to her family?

    Not on Anne’s watch! She had no intention of once more living under anyone else’s rule.

    Anne was determined to finally be an independent woman.

    Though she was expecting it, Anne was still devastated when she was told Henry wanted a divorce. There was a lot on the line and, suddenly, everything felt very real. But she quickly regained composure and determined to not repeat Catherine of Aragon’s mistakes: Anne complied with all of Henry's wishes.

    However, she was resolute on staying in England. She had started to realize the full level of her disgrace should she return to Cleves and genuinely feared that her brother may kill her in retaliation for her failure as a wife.

    Shit was very real, and time was running out.

    Henry demanded Anne send him her written agreement to his offer of a divorce. But Anne needed more time to think and make sure she was completely safe…so she refused Henry Vlll, steadfast that she would only speak to the King in person.

    It was a big gamble, but it paid off. The marriage was annulled (saving Anne from divorce and offering her a little bit of dignity). She also received a generous lifelong yearly pension and the new title of ‘King’s Sister’; her status at English court would be higher than that of any other lady.

    With her place in English court locked down, Anne made one more brave decision:

    She decided not to get married.

    This was – to put it mildly – a fucking ballsy move.

    In Tudor England, an unmarried woman was a cause for pity; a divorced andunmarried woman was a cause for pity, scorn, and a side of ‘what’s her problem?’

    But Anne didn’t care what anyone thought. She wanted her independence. So she ignored the whispers and wore her new title of ‘King’s Sister’ with humor and grace.

    She visited court regularly and became a popular and beloved figure. She was given land and property, where she set up a home for herself and spent the next 17 years living the life she chose.

    Finally, Anne was free. 

     

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah History and has been reprinted here with permission.

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  •  

    mpress wu zetian 1 daad0

    Today, we’re going to take a look at China’s first female Emperor in 3,000 years of Chinese history (!!!): Wu Zetian. A lady whose life was full of sex, scandal, murder and a neverending quest for ALL OF THE POWER.

    Born in the 7th century, Wu started life lower down the social ladder. Her dad was a general and she began her career at the court of the Emperor Taizong as a concubine.

    Wu worked for him until his death, at which stage the concubines were supposed to spend the rest of their lives in a convent – fuck that.

    Wu ran away from the convent and went back to the court of Taizong’s son Gaouzong, starting off as a consort to the new Emperor, who was—to be frank—abbout as useful as a chocolate teapot. She advised him on pretty much everything from politics to who he kept on as advisers.

    Wu was now the top concubine, but this wasn’t enough for her. She wanted to be the Emperor’s wife!

    IT’S MURDER AT THE TOP


    Wu needed to get the current wife, Empress Wang, out of the way, so she devised a harrowing plan to put Wang in an early grave and get herself on the throne.

    She (allegedly) strangled her own infant daughter and framed the Empress for the crime.

    a3ebaba0 c277 4abe a509 0b25a2f69191 6f2eevia Giphy

    We don’t really know if the child died at Wu’s hand, or if Wu just took advantage of the death for her own gains. But we do know that, unbelievably, it worked!

    The Empress Wang AND her poor mother (?!?) were executed. Not long after that, Wu and the Emperor got hitched. 

    When the Emperor passed away in 683, Wu saw her chance to take over. Though Wu’s son became the Emperor Zhongzong, she kept power by being Empress Dowager.

    Sadly for Zhongzhong, his reign only lasted 6 weeks, because he wouldn’t do as he was told. Wu was the real boss here, so she overthrew Zhongzhong and plonked another one of her sons on the throne.

    26d62fa4 12c6 42ca 8f6e b6db910d6f37 6af9cvia Giphy

    This son behaved himself, but Wu decided she was the one doing all the work, so she should have the title. In 690, Wu declared herself Emperor.

    To make sure she kept the throne, Wu set about destroying all families with any claim to it. She executed dozens of people, wiping out entire family lines. Then, to keep control over the court, Wu had a series of spies who reported all information and gossip back to her.

    Empress Wu held onto her power for over half a century, even before her 15 years as Empress (690-705 to be exact). Her time as a ruler was marked by a period of economic growth and stability that rippled out into the next century. The Tang Dynasty (all of whom were her descendants) that came after her is seen as a golden period in China’s history.

    HERE’S THE THING…

    There’s lots of different tales of Empress Wu’s treachery and bloodlust, but we need to remember that at the time it was unthinkable to have a woman in charge. People found it abhorrent, and historians at the time wanted to paint her as a disgrace and an abomination.

    d6125e5b 9d80 4122 9337 6175625a1f46 07932via Giphy

    There’s no doubt Wu did some pretty questionable shiz to get hold of power and keep it (baby murder framing remains not okay) but none more so that many male rulers in China’s long and illustrious history.

    We should look at Wu as an exception to the rule: she was clever and driven and, unthinkably for a woman at the time, she managed to hold onto power for decades.

    No, she isn’t going to win any Nobel Peace prizes, but she’s still an interesting figure who deserves to be remembered.

    We don’t just want to look back at the women who were “good.” We want a whole picture: good, bad, and everything in between.

    This post originally appeared on F Yeah Historyand is reprinted here with permission.

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  • millicent fawcett giving a speech d18a6

    Think votes for women and you think Pankhurst’s, you might think fearless suffragettes risking everything, committing violent acts to win the day.

    And you would be wrong. 

    awkward 54e2fWell, this is awkward...

    Okay, fine, not entirely wrong, but you would only be seeing about 10% of the picture. Women’s suffrage was a fight that had been going on since the early Victorian period, decades before the suffragettes were formed – it’s a battle that’s largely been forgotten, but thanks to some badass feminists and historians, that’s all changing!

    So how do you get up to speed with this unsung era of history? Well, there’s no better place to start than Millicent Garrett Fawcett.

    millicent cd9d6Feminist hero and queen of the updo.

    Millicent was born in 1846, one of the youngest of 10 (yep, that’s right—10!). She was raised right, taught to think for herself and pursue her passions.

    When Millicent was 12, her older sister Elizabeth moved to London to study medicine (FYI- Elizabeth went on to become Britain’s first female doctor – you will soon learn that these sisters had badassery hardwired in their genes). It was whilst visiting Elizabeth in London that the young Millicent had her first brush with the women’s rights movement.

    Elizabeth introduced her younger sister to Emily Davies, a fervent campaigner for women’s rights. Soon, the two friends descended into talk of overcoming gender barriers in education (Emily) and medicine (Elizabeth), deciding that it was only after achieving equal rights in fields like these that women would be able to fight for the vote. Then, as if as an afterthought, the women turned to Millicent and Emily said:

    "YOU ARE YOUNGER THAN WE ARE, MILLIE, SO YOU MUST ATTEND TO THAT.”

    Older sisters, right!

    But attend to it Millie did. She threw herself into reading up on the law and female rights. She went to a talk given by radical MP John Stuart Mill in favour of women’s rights and became his ardent supporter…she did all this before she was 19, and she wasn’t done.

    Now, let’s pause for a moment and think about what your life’s greatest achievement at 19 was. I’ll admit that working out jägerbombs do not a good evening make is an achievement. But it’s not got shit on 19-year-old Millie.

    Because in 1866, she delivered a petition to Parliament calling for women to have the vote.

    That’s right. At 19, Millicent kickstarted things, with the first official move in the loooong battle for equal votes.

    sickening bac44Yep, it's both amazing and sickening. via Giphy.

    Having fired the opening shot, Millicent was keen to continue her campaign. She started writing and working at getting more politically active. Then, in 1867, she met Henry Fawcett, a radical liberal MP and scholar. The two had a lot in common, and Millicent felt like she had met a kindred spirit, even though Henry was a decade older than her and was also newly blind.

    Against everyone’s wishes, the pair married, with Millicent helping Henry come to terms with his new disability and with Henry supporting Millicent as she found her feet in politics.

    henry and millicent 13257Henry and Millicent Fawcett

    As  part of Millicent’s effort to get women's right to vote into the public consciousness, she gave her first speech in 1869. She hated every moment of it.

    public speaking be05cUgh, public speaking. via Giphy

    But without any real mass media to spread the word on women’s suffrage, she didn’t really have a choice. So Millicent fought through it: chucking herself into the deep end, she went on a speaking tour in 1871. She kept pushing through and eventually became one of England’s most popular and passionate public speakers.

    Whilst overcoming her fears, Millicent published several in-depth political and economic books and founded Newham College, Cambridge – you know, as you do. A boss at multitasking, she also found time to give birth and raise a daughter, Philippa (who went on to become an acclaimed mathematician and educator, BTW). 

    Everything was coming up Millicent, and she was fast becoming one of the most vocal proponents for women’s rights in the world; her husband, Henry one of the most loved and respected figures in British politics (not an easy feat, being a liked politician!). It seemed nothing could stop this power couple.

    And then Henry died. 

    it isnt fair e652b

    But Millicent persisted. Now a single mother, she buckled down on women’s rights. Soon becoming the clear figurehead for the movement in the U.K., Millicent fought for the campaign to seek more than the vote, fighting for women’s sexual rights, working rights, and so much more.

    In 1897, she helped form the NUWSS (The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, also known as the suffragists), bringing the majority of the country’s women’s rights groups together and making their collective voice even louder. 

    suffragist 13e62

    Though the Suffragists’ means were peaceful, that didn’t mean Millicent couldn’t get militant.

    She had an active role in the Personal Rights Association, who sought to shed light on men with, er, nefarious intentions when it came to young women. Once throwing flour at a seemingly untouchable Army General who had been sexually harassing a maid, Millicent then pinned a sign to his back which outlined his deeds and sent him packing down a crowded street of onlookers (because seriously, fuck that guy).

    snap 2a9eeA witness said Millicent "had no pity and would have cashiered him if she could."

    But it wasn’t just women’s rights that concerned Millicent. In 1900, NUWSS member Emily Hobhouse traveled to South Africa and shone light on the treatment of the Boer People who were at war with England (The Boer War).

    The Boer People were being sent to concentration camps (never not a good time to to remember that the British invented them!),their land overturned and scorched. This quickly became a hot topic in Parliament, with all around liberal bae David Lloyd George declaiming the British military’s actions as an extermination of a people.

    Believing Hobhouses’ claims to be vastly exaggerated, The British Government created a commission of women with the purpose of travelling to South Africa and reporting back on the camps. Millicent was made head of the commission, which was met with criticism…as Millicent was in favour of the camps.

    awkward 1 fd3d9

    Millicent went out expecting to find the conditions in the camp slightly grim but with the people well fed, clothed, and sheltered. This was not what she was met with.

    To say the conditions in the camps were grim would be a gross understatement (emphasis on the gross). Disease and famine were widespread and, by the end of the war, of those in the camps, 1 in 4 had died.

    Despite a (pretty darn racist) government release defending the camps, The Fawcett Commission backed up Hobhouses claims and made their damning evidence very public knowledge. The Boer War ended in 1902, the camps quickly removed. 

    cheering 2c63d

    BUT IT WASN’T ALL GOOD NEWS. BACK IN ENGLAND, THE WOMEN’S RIGHTS MOVEMENT HIT A WALL. 

    The Suffragists arguably had most MPs persuaded that votes for women was the right thing to do, but as anyone who has spent 5 minutes in Parliament will tell you – just because MPs know it’s right…doesn’t mean they will do it. And so, from 1901-1914 the Liberal government refused to do anything around women’s votes.

    what the dick a23afYeah, don't try to look for logic in that bullshit. via Giphy

    In this climate, the suffragettes were born, with the WSPU (The Women’s Social and Political Union) forming in 1903. The suffragettes were a much smaller movement than the Suffragists (by a David and Goliath level comparison) but their violent methods caught the eye of the media, and they stayed in the headlines for much of the decade.

    suffragette e9bbf

    Yet Millicent maintained that the NUWSS wouldn’t enter the violent fray, intent on keeping the dialogue with politicians open; saying:

    ‘I can never feel that setting fire to houses and churches and litter boxes and destroying valuable pictures really helps to convince people that women ought to be enfranchised.’

    Then, in 1914 England entered the First World War and the suffrage movement met a crossroads. Should they halt their actions and support the war effort, or continue nonetheless? The WSPU agreed to halt activity, with the government releasing all imprisoned suffragettes the movement threw themselves fully into recruiting soldiers.

    BUT the NUWSS disagreed with the war. Millicent was torn; to publicly call for peace would lead to a public outcry against the suffragists; horrific considering the fight for the vote hadn’t actually been won – but to do like the WSPU and drive recruitment would splinter the party.

    In the end Millicent opted to stay neutral, not calling for peace, but not actively speaking out for the war. It meant she lost some face within the party and the NUWSS lost some members, but crucially, it ensured the public remained on side and lines with politicians open. 

    munitions ad abdde

    Throughout the war, women from all over the country took up the job roles men had left behind. Both the NUWSS and the WSPU were key to this work effort, which did far more than help the British military…it showed on a practical level that women were just as capable as men on every level.

    And so, in 1916, Millicent wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to take into account the tremendous daily work being carried by women and reconsider the vote.

    And this time he did.

    IN 1918, WOMEN OVER 30 WHO WERE HOUSEHOLDERS OR WIVES OF HOUSEHOLDERS WERE GRANTED THE VOTE.

    A year later, now in her 70s, Millicent stepped down from her role leading the NUWSS. But, of course, her fight was not over. As she always campaigned for women’s rights, calling for equal access in the fields of civil service and law and fighting for better divorce rights for women.

    IN 1928, PARLIAMENT GRANTED WOMEN THE SAME VOTING RIGHTS AS MEN. 

    Millicent was one of the only original suffrage campaigners to see their decades-long campaign win out. After over 60 years of campaigning, she watched the bill be carried out in Parliament.

    Forgotten for decades, Millicent’s story is finally getting the attention it deserves and in 2018, she became first woman with a statue in Parliament Square. 

    millicent fawcett 5ab78

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah Historyand is reprinted here with permission.

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  •  

    jane parker holbein sketch 627ef

    Jane Boleyn was a bitch – or so history tells us.

    Centuries after her execution, she remains one of the most vilified figures in history. Opinion of her can be pretty much summarized by Historian C. Coote:

    ‘The infamous lady Rochford… justly deserved her fate for the concern which she had in bringing Anne Boleyn, as well as her own husband, to the block.’

    Aww, remember the good old days when historians could openly celebrate the brutal execution of people…

    Coote’s opinion isn’t a one-off. You see, Jane is famed with bringing about the downfall and eventual execution of her husband George Boleyn and his sister, Anne Boleyn. With Jane giving false evidence which led to Anne’s, George’s, and four other courtiers’ execution.

    And it’s not only that! Just a few years later, Jane would be embroiled in yet another royal scandal: aiding and abating the treasonous affair between Thomas Culpepper and Henry Vlll’s young wife, Catherine Howard. This was a scandal Jane couldn’t survive and she, Culpepper, and Howard all met with the executioner’s axe.

    It’s all this that made Jane Boleyn history’s favorite conniving bitch.

    But is that right? Does Jane deserve to be vilified by history? As historic research keeps getting better, we’re seeing more and more cracks in what we know about Jane Boleyn. What was once hard fact is starting to look fictitious. Which raises the question – did Jane Boleyn actually do any of the things she has been demonized for? 

    Let’s find out! 

    Did Jane kill Anne Boleyn?

    The most common story tells us that, spiteful and jealous, Jane gave false evidence that sealed the fates of Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, and four other unfortunate courtiers. Jane told the court that Anne was having affairs all over the place…even with her brother. This effectively nailed down 6 people’s coffins.

    bitch gif f1011Whoa, hold up with the hate - let's dive into the evidence!

    Here’s the thing: the facts on this one are pretty bloody shaky at best! There’s little surviving evidence on both sides of the argument. 

    Which makes working out whether Jane did effectively kill 6 people detective work to the extreme.

    Here’s what we know:

    We know that several of Anne’s ladies were asked to give evidence at her trial. To refuse was not an option (unless you fancied joining the rest of your pals at the execution block). Jane was part of this number.

    We also know that ,during the trial, one of these ladies gave false evidence that Anne and George had a more than platonic relationship. But no name is given as to who this woman was.

    In the account of Imperial Ambassador Chapuys, the only description of the woman is this:

    ‘That person’

    Super helpful, Chaps!

    But don’t worry, at his trial George Boleyn mentions the woman who sealed his fate, so maybe there’s something useful there:

    ‘On the evidence of only one woman you are willing to believe this great evil of me’

    ‘Woman’ ….yeah, not that helpful either, George.

    So, left without a name or a description, how the hell can we possibly work out who gave this evidence?

    Well, we can hazard a guess at who would have been most likely to be privy to this kind of information.

    On that level, it’s not looking great for Jane. As sister-in-law and confidan,  she would be best placed to hear of/witness an affair – but remember the evidence is false – so the question is this: though Jane’s neck is quite literally on the line here, would she lie to this extent when:

    She has the most to lose

    The families of people convicted of treason didn’t tend to live out the rest of their days skipping through a field of daisies.

    Yes, execution really was the worst punishment. But the potent decades of shame, poverty, and even prison that the families of the accused had in store was also pretty shitty.

    With her husband and sister-in-law convicted of treason in such a scandalous way, Jane stood to lose a lot.

    The Boleyns’ high position of power, titles, and lands all disappeared overnight and, as she and George hadn’t popped out a son, she wasn’t entitled to his fortune. Jane did get to keep her title (Viscountess Rochford) but without a place at court, lands, or a fortune, it was kind of useless.

    It should also be noted that Jane wrote to George when he was awaiting his execution. And his reply didn’t contain the words:

    ‘Fuck you, I’m totally going to die because of you’

    In fact, his reply was nice, which suggests he didn’t blame Jane for his death.

    George and Anne’s dad also appears to have been in the same camp, arranging a yearly small pension for Jane. Armed with this pension, Jane convinced Thomas Cromwell – the King’s right-hand man and key player in the Boleyn downfall – to offer her financial and social support. With this in place, she returned to court and started to try and claw her way back into a good position.

    Her hard work paid off and Jane served Jane Seymour until Seymour’s death and then her successor, Anne of Cleves.

    She started to get back in Henry’s good books, performing a role in Seymour’s funeral and giving evidence to help Henry divorce Anne of Cleves (because being nice to Henry Vlll involves a lot of deaths, wives, and court proceedings.)

    But then, all Jane’s hard work turned to shit.

    Enter Catherine Howard! 

    k how 1 1faad

    As she had with the two previous Queens, Jane also served Henry’s new young bride, Catherine Howard (who was a relative, through Jane’s marriage to the deceased George Boleyn).

    Jane quickly become Catherine’s confidant and soo,n the two women became embroiled in a secret so great that it would end both their lives. The story goes that Jane and Catherine worked together to hide the new Queen’s relationship with one Thomas Culpepper, a favorite of the King and Catherine’s cousin, with Jane acting as secret keeper and go-between.

    But the relationship didn’t stay in the shadows for long. Catherine and Culpepper were caught and accused of adultery. Soon they, along with Jane, were sent to the Tower of London to await their fate.

    Now, hiding a Queen’s affair seems like a monumental fuck up on Jane’s part and hardly fits in with the behavior of someone trying to regain the Kings favor and move on from their scandalous past. 

    But as with everything in this story – it’s not that simple!

    On F Yeah History, we’ve previously discussed Catherine and how new evidence suggests that her affair with Culpepper was less affair and more abuse and blackmail dickery.

    To summarize: Catherine had a hidden past of sexual abuse, a past that would put her marriage at risk if Henry ever discovered it. It’s likely that Culpepper discovered this and was blackmailing Catherine (for sex, for power, etc.).

    Culpepper was not a nice guy: he was a known rapist and murderer and volatile as fuck. Basically, not someone you want to be around.

    So maybe Jane got involved in the situation because she wanted to gain the trust of the new Queen; maybe she just felt bad and wanted to help. Whatever it was that led her to make that choice, once Culpepper knew of Jane’s involvement, it would have been near impossible for her to back out.

    Personally, I think this really puts pay to the picture of Jane as a master manipulator. Jane entered an obviously dangerous situation, where the gains in no way outweighed the risks.

    Unless Jane just lived for the drama, it seems very unlikely that she got involved due to a machiavellian lust for power and more likely that she made one bad decision and the situation spiraled beyond anyone’s control. Either way, Jane ended up in The Tower of London facing execution and, under this intense stress, she had a severe mental breakdown.

    Or did she? Because one theory that has followed Jane through history is this:

    Jane Boleyn faked madness to avoid execution.

    This really fits the cunning bitch narrative, but yet again is based around literally no evidence.

    We do know that Jane had a full-on breakdown in the Tower. Completely breaking away from reality, everyone around her became deeply worried about what was going on with her mental health. From the guards to her family, they all agreed that Jane was very unwell.

    However, there’s no evidence that suggests this entire mental break was a cunning ruse.

    Jane was eventually removed from the Tower of London and cared for by members of the court in their home. However, Henry wasn’t letting her off that easily! It was against the law at the time for a person suffering ‘madness’ to be executed. But that wasn’t going to stop Henry ‘I invented a religion for a divorce’ Vlll. Henry Vlll changed the law just so Jane Boleyn could be executed – I mean, I guess you have to give Henry props for determination.

    And so, on February 13, 1542, Jane Boleyn was beheaded inside the Tower of London alongside Catherine Howard. 

    As with her life, Jane’s execution managed to create its own mythology, with Jane tearfully apologising for her role in the deaths of Anne and George Boleyn (she didn’t and yet again, there is no evidence that she did).

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah Historyand has been reprinted here with permission.

    Top photo: sketch believed to be of Jane Boleyn

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  •  

    img 0298 e1497877274183 6d0d9

    It’s Pride season, and we’ve already started planning our outfit for London & Brighton Pride (hint… RAINBOW, LEOPARD PRINT, GLITTER). So let’s celebrate everything LGBTQ+! To kick things off, here are some of our favourite queer ladies throughout history.

     

    Sappho

     

    You cannot start a list about history’s greatest queers without mentioning Sappho. She was a Greek poet who lived on the Island of Lesbos (sign me up) around 615 B.C. Sappho wrote about her love for many a woman and was one of the highest regarded poets of her lifetime.

    Plato called her “the Tenth Muse,” which was a massive compliment at the time. The other nine muses were the Greek Goddesses of Art & Science, so he thought Sappho was a pretty big deal.

    There’s an argument between historians as to whether Sappho did have relationships with women or if her poetry was just about her dearest “gal pals.” Only fragments of her poems survive, and since she lived a really fucking long time ago, we can’t ask her.

    Personally, I think her poems evoke a deep sense of love and sexual longing for her female subjects that goes way beyond the “female admiration” lots of male historians like to think Sappho had for platonic pals.

    img 0316 78dddPresented without comment.

    See what you think for yourself. Here’s an extract from Sappho 94, translated by Julia Dubnoff:

    “For by my side you put on

    many wreaths of roses

    and garlands of flowers

    around your soft neck.

    And with precious and royal perfume

    you anointed yourself.

    On soft beds you satisfied your passion.”

    ……HELLA GAY!

    Later, history mocked and destroyed her work. It was denounced by the church and was ridiculed by poets and playwrights who wrote her off as a sexual deviant or a tragic character. But finally, our girl is getting her rep back! Sappho is the mother of lesbians and her influence cannot be argued with.

    Mabel Hampton

    img 0302 e1497877327264 f5d41

    Mabel was a staunch activist and LGBT+ historian. She was instrumental in recording and preserving queer history, especially the experience of living as a gay, black woman in America during periods of huge upheaval.

    Hell… Mabel IS the reason we know so much now. The Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York are full to the brim, thanks to Mabel. She was a bit of a hoarder.

    She had a pretty tragic upbringing: her mother died not long after giving birth to her, and her grandmother followed a few years later. She was raised by an abusive aunt and uncle before deciding fuck this, I’ve had enough.

    She moved to Harlem and worked as a dancer during the Harlem Renaissance. And she was a regular at Harlem drag balls, an early celebration of queer black identities during the roaring ’20s.

    She left showbiz and started work as a cleaning lady. When asked why she left behind the glitz and glamour, she famously answered,

    "Because I like to eat."

    I have never related to a statement this hard.

    Mabel publicly declared herself as a lesbian during a time when being black alone made you heavily persecuted. Gay too?! THE LADY WAS BRAVE!

    She met her partner Lillian Foster at a bus stop in 1932, describing her as having been “dressed like a duchess.”They were together until Foster’s death in 1978. Serious relationship goals.

    img 0308 bf3ae

    Mabel and Lillian spent their lives documenting their experiences as a lesbian couple. They helped set up the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and Mabel and Lillian donated hundreds of newspaper clippings, gay books, photographs, and other paraphernalia to the archives.

    Mabel gave a speech at the New York Pride Parade in 1984, stating to the crowds,

    "I, Mabel Hampton, have been a lesbian all my life, for 82 years, and I am proud of my people. I would like all my people to be free in this country and all over the world, my gay people and my black people."

    She was incredible. We were lucky to have her.

    Anne Lister

    img 0301 e1497877377590 c631b

    Possibly our fave on this list, Anne (born in 1791) was seriously rich…like, MTV Cribs level-minted. Her family owned a bunch of land in Halifax, West Yorkshire, and they were desperate to marry her off to some rich oik to keep that money rolling in. ANNE WAS HAVING NONE OF IT!

    She inherited fancy country house Shibden Hall from her uncle, immediately built herself a posh new library, and decided to live openly with another super rich babe, Ann Walker. She’s lucky Ann came along when she did, because the money was running out at that point.

    She was known locally as “Gentleman Jack” (which is also the title of the new HBO series based on Anne’s life) because of the way she dressed in male clothing. She tended to wear sensible black jackets, with no frilly business. Our girl was a Georgian butch. She kept coded diaries which tell us pretty plainly that Anne was very definitely a lesbian.

    “I love & only love the fairer sex & thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any other love than theirs.”

    Her diaries were coded, she thought we’d never crack it, but thank fuck we did because these diaries are SO JUICY! Anne had mad game, and went through a lot of high society ladies.

    Here are some of our fave snippets:

    "But I mean to amend at five & thirty & retire with credit. I shall have a good fling before then. Four years. And in the meantime I shall make my avenae communes, my wild oats common. I shall domiciliate then."

    So she wanted life to be like a big gay 18-30 holiday. Can’t argue with that.

    img 0310 fc944Same. via Giphy

    “I begin to despair that M- & I will ever get together. Besides I sometimes fancy she will be worn out in the don’s service & perhaps I may do better.”

    M was Mariana Lawton, who was the love of Anne’s life. She married a rich old dude, which devastated Anne, as she wanted to live with M as her partner. Their affair carried on for a while after the marriage, but it fizzled out a few years later.

    Much of the info we have on Anne’s diaries is from Helena Whitbread, another incredible woman working to preserve lesbian history. THANK YOU, HELENA!

    Marlene Dietrich

    dietrich d7166

    Marlene is one of my favorite old Hollywood starlets. This German had a mind like a razor and cheekbones to match; plus, she looked fucking amazing in a suit.

    She made androgynous dress sexy and alluring. Up until this time, women dressing as drag kings was done very much for laughs or in the sanctity of queer spaces underground. Marlene brought it to the mainstream.

    img 0311 975c9via Giphy

    Dietrich was a German silent film actor in the ’20s before moving into talkies and raking it in with her “exotic” looks and fabulous accent. During this time period, the gay scene in Berlin was hip and happening.

    Marlene bloody loved a drag ball, as she was openly bisexual, and could frolic with all the young ladies she could get her hands on. At these parties, she learnt how to rock the fuck out of a three-piece suit.

    In the late ’20’s/early ’30s, she got her big break in Hollywood films where she usually played a sexy cabaret singer of some kind. In one of her most famous films, Morocco, (in which she plays a sexy cabaret singer) Marlene dresses in a fancy very masculine top hat and suit during one of her numbers, and at the end sneaks in a kiss with a young lady! SCANDAL!

    img 0312 fa77evia Giphy

    She just about got away with it because Americans assume we Europeans are a passionate and sexually charged lot.

    This theme of taking on masculine traits was something she embraced with gusto, training as a boxer in a sweaty gym in Berlin owned by a Turkish prizefighter. She enjoyed boxing and followed the sport throughout her life.

    Marlene was known to have a network of Hollywood starlets she had affairs with; she referenced this overlapping group as Marlene’s Sewing Circle. I’m going to sew this onto my biker jacket right now.

    Later in life, she said some stupid shit (women’s liberation was ‘penis envy’…) so she’s a pretty problematic favorite. But she wasa real pioneer. 

    Billie Holiday

    img 0300 e1497877504140 b5496

    The Lady of the Blues is one of the most recognizable voices in the world. Billie had a tragic and abusive upbringing after which she then spent most of her adult life battling a serious addiction to drugs and alcohol.

    Billie had relationships with many women but her most well-known was with actress Tallulah Bankhead. It was a volatile relationship which was always on again, then off again, THEN ON. We’ve all been there.

    While Tallulah was starring in Noel Coward’s Private Lives on Broadway, Billie had a contract singing in New York’s Strand Theatre. Tallulah would sneak in and watch Billie performing after her show finished. That’s sweet, isn’t it?

    However, the breakup went badly. Billie was arrested for opium possession and Bankhurst bailed her out, then got her into therapy. They parted ways soon afterwards, but things did not stay civil.

    Billie was working on her memoirs, which included mentioning her friendship with Bankhead, but Tallulah maintained she’d never even met Holiday (despite lots of evidence to the contrary) and she sent a letter to Billie’s publishers threatening to sue unless she was taken out of it.

    Billie sent back an amazingly shitty letter to Bankhead, reminding her that she had people around who could back up her story and she wrote:

    ‘And if you want to get shitty, we can make it a big shitty party. We can all get funky together!’

    Mic drop. Holiday out.

    Top photo: Sappho with Erena - Simeon Solomon

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah History and has been reprinted here with permission.

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  • mary queen of scots header e1547725764711 c9a6e

    By 1586 Mary, Queen of Scots had been imprisoned by her cousin, Elizabeth I, for almost two decades.

    She’d lost her throne in 1657, having been forced to abdicate in favor of her baby. Then, after fleeing Scotland for safety in England, she’d been (at least in her mind) royally screwed over. Instead of helping Mary regain the Scottish throne, Elizabeth had her locked up. 

    Mary was a serious threat to Elizabeth’s rule. Viewed by Catholics as the true Catholic ruler of England, there was many a plot to bump off Elizabeth and put Mary on the throne. 

    Thus, Mary was imprisoned, spending year after year dragged around England, locked up in its various castles.

    So you can see why, approaching her 20th year of imprisonment, Mary eagerly took part in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth.

    Enter: The Babington Plot. Put together by young nobleman Anthony Babington and priest John Ballard, along with other conspirators, the plot was an incredibly convoluted scheme to:

  • Start a Spanish invasion
  • Kill Elizabeth I
  • Put Mary on the throne
  • Return England to Catholicism
  • While, locked away, Mary advised the plotters, both in terms of strategy and how to ensure she’d win the English throne. And naturally, as the “rightful” ruler of England, Mary would be the one to sign off on the plot starting. Which she did, in July 1586.

    Unfortunately for Mary, the plot had been infiltrated and Elizabeth I’s own spy master, Sir Francis Walsingham, had been using the letters to entrap Mary and get her to call for Elizabeth’s murder—which, by signing off for the plot to go ahead, she’d done.

    Everyone involved with The Babington Plot, including Mary, was duly arrested.

    img 4382 ceef8The Babington Plot postscript and its secret cypher

    In September 1586 the first of the conspirators were executed, including ringleaders John Ballard and Anthony Babington. Onlookers said that by the time Ballard arrived at the execution site, his limbs were barely in their sockets as a result of the torture he’d undergone.

    One at a time, the men were hung, drawn, and quartered, forced to watch their fellows’ dismemberment before their own death. The executions were so brutal that a public outcry meant the other conspirators were just “hung until they were quite dead”before being dismembered.

    With that bloodbath over, the attention turned to Mary. What could be done with the traitorous Queen?

    The idea of executing a Queen was very possible. After all, Elizabeth’s own mother, Anne Boleyn, had been beheaded. But this wasn’t a outcome that Mary entertained.

    In her mind, she had been anointed by God to reign. That was something holy and untouchable. There was no law in the land that could hold jurisdiction over her; the only judgement she was accountable to was God’s.

    However, it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t God’s holy anointed Mary going on trial for treason, but (as the royal warrant for the trial put it) Mary, a mere woman who was:

    Pretending title to this crown of this realm of England.

    img 4378 25205

    Mary’s trial hearing started on October 14, 1586, though it operated as less of a trial and more of a really long argument between Mary and those convicting her.

    To say Mary would have made an excellent lawyer would be an understatement. She rallied hard, with a stream of well thought-out and articulated arguments, always ready with something to fight the prosecutions, threats, and refusals to acknowledge her words.

    Mary’s arguments included:

  • That she wasn’t an English subject, and therefore couldn’t be held as an English traitor; 
  • She’d been denied legal counsel or the right to view evidence being bought against her;
  • And did she mention, she was a Queen? Anointed by God? It would literally be a sin to kill her.
  • After Mary’s hearing was finished, the trial was adjourned to The Star Chamber, leaving Mary at Forgeringay Castle. Then on October 25, the trial was completed…without anyone telling Mary.

    The trial’s commissioners found Mary guilty of treason. And together with Parliament, they urged Elizabeth to execute Mary as quickly as humanly possible.

    BUT Elizabeth didn’t want to execute Mary.

    img 4383 22b12 

    Though there’d been a lot of bad blood between the pair of Queens, there had also been a kind of respect. They were so similar in so many ways, cousins thrust into positions of power, considered above their gender. No matter how begrudging, there was a bond there.

    After Mary’s second husband, Lord Darnley, died in an incredibly suspicious explosion, Elizabeth wrote to Mary, urging her to distance herself from the scandalous tragedy, as:

    ‘I treat you as my daughter, and assure you that if I had one, I could wish for her nothing better than I desire for you.”

    But even more important than the bond Elizabeth shared with Mary, she didn’t want to execute her because it set a deadly precedent: to lawfully kill a sovereign.

    Elizabeth had hoped she’d be able to pardon her cousin, that Mary would beg for forgiveness. But none of that happened.

    As pressure mounted from her councillors and parliament, Elizabeth had no choices left. On February 1, 1587, she signed Mary’s death warrant. With the warrant signed, Elizabeth’s councillors decided to carry out the execution immediately – without telling Elizabeth.

    On the evening of February 7, Mary was visited at her prison of Fotheringhay Castle and told she was to die the next morning.

    Her last hours were spent both in prayer and sorting out her affairs. Sleeping would be near impossible, thanks to the incessant loud hammering as the execution scaffold was hastily erected.

    Early on the morning of February 8, Mary serenely entered the castle’s great hall to face the scaffold. And after that, everything turned into a shit show.

    img 4380 f7704Mary bids her servants farewell in a 19th century re-imagining (which explains the sheer drama here)

    To kick things off, Mary was curtly informed that she was to go to her death alone. This was a shock.Traditionally, women of Mary’s status were allowed their ladies around them on the scaffold. They not only gave one last herald of the condemned’s status. But, perhaps more importantly, the women provided comfort before the axe fell and then shielded the broken body, offering dignity in death by not subjecting the woman to being stripped by men for burial.

    To be rejected this right at the last minute was a huge blow.

    Though she maintained a calm exterior, Mary begged to be allowed her ladies. She was rejected, but refused to give up, pleading for this, her final right.

    Eventually, the councillors gave in on condition that Mary’s ladies didn’t loudly weep, wail, or generally erupt into female hysteria.

    And so Mary climbed the stairs of the scaffold, her ladies in tow.

    As Mary waited for the death sentence to be read out, a man burst forth from the crowd. Dr. Fletcher, The Protestant Dean of Peterborough, proclaimed that it wasn’t too late for Mary to save her soul and convert from Catholicism to the Protestant faith.

    Mary ignored his loud protestations and prayers, until eventually breaking and saying:

    ‘Mr. Dean, trouble not yourself any more, for I am settled and resolved in this my religion, and am purposed therein to die.’

    In response, the Dean fell to his knees on the scaffold’s stairs and started loudly praying at her. Mary politely turned away and began her own prayers.

    Despite the Dean’s complete inability to read a room, Mary finished her prayers. With this over she stood, readying herself for this final act of ceremony.

    She paid the executioner, forgiving him in advance for what he was about to do. Then, Mary’s ladies helped her remove her black gown, revealing a red petticoat with deep crimson sleeves. 

    This color wasn’t a a random choice, but the red of Catholic martyrdom. Mary was making a clear statement – she was anointed by God, to kill her was a sin, and in death, she would become a holy martyr.

    the execution of mary queen of scots artist unknown 1 3e711The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Artist unknown.

    The wordless statement from Mary’s blood red petticoat rang throughout the great hall, even as Mary was blindfolded, head laid on the block, and arms stretched wide to signal the executioner’s axe.

    The first blow hit the back of her head.

    Accounts vary on if Mary cried out from the pain or remained silent. However, as this was a chop wound (a mix of sharp force and blunt force trauma) it’s most likely that Mary felt excruciating pain for a few seconds before losing consciousness.

    The axe’s second blow hit her neck, severing it almost entirely, with one third chop needed to separate Mary’s head from her body.

    The executioner then picked Mary’s head up by the hair, held it forth to the crowd and proclaimed,

    ‘God save the Queen’

    At which point, he lost grip on the head as Mary’s wig fell off, revealing her greying hair (something people were shocked about, despite the fact she was 44 and they’d just witnessed her bloody execution).

    And with that macabre farce, the story of Mary Queen of Scots came to an end. 

    lexecution de marie stuart reine decosse 1791 3bd5b

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah History and is reprinted here with permission.

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  • classic wonderwoman1 e1498305169640 84b80

    Like any superhero, Wonder Woman has a pretty complicated origin story. Born out of both feminism and misogyny, Diana Prince was the creation of psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston. The good doctor had been bought in by the famed comics powerhouse DC to create a female superhero that would silence critics who called DC sexist and overly masculine.

    Wonder Woman first appeared in 1941 and her unique brand of red, white, and blue heroism seemed like just the superhero feminism DC needed.

    original concept art for wonder woman 1941 e1498242304120 66422Original concept art for Wonder Woman

    Dr. Moulton Marston was a self-confessed staunch feminist…just, you know, the kind of ‘feminist’ that might happily crack, ‘get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich’ jokes. (We’ll get to that!)

    For his era, Marsten was a new type of man. He talked about gender equality and believed in things like female contraception. He also had some pretty radical feminist theories: that is, he believed that women were the superior sex, held back by a societal duty to be housewives.

    He also led a progressive life for the time, living with both his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marsten, and lover, Olive Byrne. To avoid scandal, the trio told outsiders that Olive was their widowed sister…who just happened to give birth to Marsten’s kids.

    gasp gif 79783Yeah, I'm sure that excuse totally flew.

    Olive and Elizabeth were children of the suffrage movement, with Olive’s mother having both opened the USA’s first contraception clinic and been the first woman in the US to go on hunger strike as part of the fight for suffrage. Elizabeth, meanwhile, was 1 of just 3 women to graduate in her law class.

    oliver byre elizabeth holloway and thier partner and wonder woman creator dr william marsten a69dfOlive, Elizabeth, and Dr. Marston test out a lie detector.

    On top of living with two incredibly strong women and holding some strong feminist views, Marsten was pretty sexually liberal (which you probably got from the whole living with both wife AND lover thing) and an ardent member of the BDSM community.

    ALL OF THIS TRICKLED INTO WONDER WOMAN.

    wonder woman tied up 197ff

    Believe me when I say, Wonder Woman spent a lot of her time tied up, manacled, chained and gagged. Though she used her lasso of truth to pin down bad guys, her main source of weakness was being captured and tied up…because…reasons.

    Marsten was always hands on with his work, BUT he was particularly specific around art work that showed Wonder Woman bound (no idea why…).

    His heroine was seen trussed up and tied in almost every issue, with Marsten enthusiastically telling his editors:

    ‘WOMEN ENJOY SUBMISSION’

    But not all women did. Dorothy Roubicek, the first female editor at DC, took issue with Wonder Woman’s treatment. Marsten shrugged off her concerns, explaining that:

    ‘OF COURSE I WOULDN’T EXPECT MISS ROUBICEK TO UNDERSTAND THIS…HAS BEEN IN COMICS ONLY 6 MONTHS OR SO, HASN’T SHE?’

    eye roll fe9d8See what I meant about the sandwich jokes?

    But despite all of this, Wonder Woman’s origin story remained revolutionary for the time.

    Okay: yes, part of the reason she leaves her home and comes to America is because she falls in love with a man. BUT she also goes because she’s heard that America is one of earth’s last hopes for female equality and that there’s a whole bunch of men trying to fuck that shit up; so, naturally, she needs to stop this through the medium of ass-kicking.

    wonder woman justice league gif b476aA whole lot of ass-kicking!

    Marston said Wonder Woman was created for:

    ‘THE NEW TYPE OF WOMAN WHO SHOULD, I BELIEVE, RULE THE WORLD.’

    Now, let’s all be in agreement, this is incredibly badass for the 1940s! Is it any wonder then that this new type of hero started to inspire girls to become real world heroes?

    But all of this amazing ass-kicking quickly stopped when, in 1947, Marsten died. His death was pretty much immediately followed by:

    1) A PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY WHICH CLAIMED VIOLENCE IN COMICS HAD A DETRIMENTAL EFFECT ON YOUTH. THIS LED TO COMICS PUTTING MORE EMPHASIS ON SOAPY ROMANTIC STORYLINES, AND

    2) THE DAWN OF THE SILVER AGE OF COMICS-WHICH THE INTERNET HAS LOVINGLY DUBBED ‘SUPER DICKERY’ FOR SHIT LIKE THIS:

    jimmy olsen adopted by superman c8bf4

    All this left Wonder Woman without a leader and easy prey to the super-dickery that was now gripping comic books.

    And so Wonder Woman spending a lot of the 1950s writing a love advice column and dreaming of marriage, babies, and a career as a model.

    img 2835 93176via Giphy

    But that wasn’t to say Wonder Woman’s initial radicalism had been forgotten! The little girls she had inspired in the ’40s were now all grown up and spearheading a new wave of feminism.

    Wonder Woman was the cover star of feminist magazine Ms. in 1972. Gloria Steinem explained how vital Diana Prince was to this movement:

    ‘WONDER WOMAN SYMBOLIZES MANY OF THE VALUES OF THE WOMEN’S CULTURE THAT FEMINISTS ARE NOW TRYING TO INTRODUCE INTO THE MAINSTREAM: STRENGTH AND SELF-RELIANCE FOR WOMEN; SISTERHOOD AND MUTUAL SUPPORT AMONG WOMEN; PEACEFULNESS AND ESTEEM FOR HUMAN LIFE’

    In 1975 Diana Prince set out to inspire a new generation of children, when she made her TV debut with hit live action series Wonder Woman.

    But Wonder Woman was more than a TV show. It soon turned into a national debate as to what exactly was proper attire for saving the world – a debate which has continued to this day… just now on a global scale!

    The most recent actress to play Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, has faced plenty of criticism on her costume and physique – during a recent TV interview Gadot was told she was too skinny and flat-chested to play Wonder Woman (no, I don’t get this logic either.)

    Fortunately, Gal Gadot can read a bitch out, and told the reporter that Amazon women of old actually only had one breast so they could have more space for their bow and arrow.

    Sadly, this was far from the first time Diana Prince had to clap back. In 1942, Wonder Woman was actually banned for a short time, all because of her dress attire! Wonder Women’s knee high skirt, bodice and knee high boots were seen as incredibly skimpy and likely to induce wide spread ‘lesbianism’ among impressionable young girls. And Lynda Carter’s 1970s Wonder Woman was as known for her tiny waist and low cut costume as she was her feminism and world saving.

    In fact, just this year, Lynda Carter had to slam sexism yet again, after Wonder Woman lost an honorary UN ambassador role, following complaints the character was too sexualized.

    For those wondering, the UN Ambassador role Wonder Woman lost was to fight gender inequality…

    But if we can learn anything from Wonder Woman, it’s how to keep on busting walls down despite the adversity. Now with the mammoth success of her character on the big screen, it looks like Wonder Woman is set to become a hero to a whole new generation of girls.

    Born from both suffrage and misogyny, she opened the door for female superheroes in comics, sparked the imaginations of fledgling female leaders, and is now kicking the door down on the future of female-led blockbusters. She may be in her 70s, but Wonder Woman’s got a lot of fight left in her.

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah Historyand has been reprinted here with permission.

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  • work 5d77c

    Born into a political powerhouse, the Schuyler sisters—Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy—were expected to make something of themselves. Their father was a General in the American revolutionary army, and the sisters spent their early lives surrounding by the likes of George Washington. Yet despite their incredible upbringing, nobody could have expected that one day Angelica (the eldest), Eliza (the middle child), and Margarita ‘Peggy’ (the youngest) would help shape America.

    ANGELICA

    Witty, bright, and razor-sharp, Angelica Schuyler was born in 1756.

    angelica schuyler portrait 80ea4Pictured later in life with her child

    She grew up to be a force of nature, shining incandescent at the sumptuous parties held at her parents’ mansion. So it’s hardly surprising that with this personality, not to mention looks, wealth, and her powerfully politically-placed parents, suitors were lining up for Angelica.

    And yet, the man she choose was one nobody could have guessed.

    shock a77aeAnd that man was not Alexander Hamilton! via giphy

    John Church was a roguish Englishman now residing in America. The reasons for his transatlantic move were foggy at best, with rumors rife that Church had killed a man in a duel/was in mountainous debt in his native England. Troubling? Yes. But none of this mattered because John Church supplied arms to the American Revolutionary cause.

    Unsurprisingly, Daddy Schuyler wasn’t exactly thrilled at his eldest daughter’s choice in men. But the heart wants what it wants and teenagers are dumb, so Church and Angelica exchanged love letters in secret before, in 1777, they took the plunge and eloped. A year later, Angelica was pregnant with the couple’s first child.

    Okay, let’s hit pause for a moment. Now, if you’re here because you’re fan of the musical Hamilton, then I’m guessing right you’re probably feeling a tad confused. You were expecting an Angelica, Eliza, and Alexander Hamilton love triangle right? Well guys I’m afraid that history is a lot more complicated than musical theatre, but stay with me, because history is also a lot more juicy – there’s duels, aslymns and yes, a love triangle in store…on that note:

    ELIZA

    Elizabeth Schuyler was born in 1757, just a year after her older sister. Known as Eliza by friends and family, she was a tomboy at heart, with a potent mix of intelligence, warmth and determination. 

    mrs elizabeth schuyler hamilton 5bfa9

    In the winter of 1779-1780, Eliza met Alexander Hamilton, an upstart from the West Indies who had emigrated to America and risen to become General George Washington’s right-hand man.

    Hamilton fell fast for Eliza, writing furvant letters to Angelica about his new love and also suggesting that the revolutionary army’s chances of success would be greatly diminished if Eliza didn’t wed him…which is kinda weird and intense, but I guess it worked because in December 1780 the pair were married!

    wedding 40aef

    John Church secured a nice job in Parliament and so he, Angelica, and their children set off for a new life in his native London (turns out possible deadly duels don’t mean a thing if you got that green).

    Meanwhile, Eliza, Hamilton, and their growing brood settled in New York, where Hamilton dazzled in his leading role in Washington’s new cabinet, working to settle the country’s debts and set up a banking system (I know it sounds deathly dull but it was v necessary)

    Eliza passionately worked with her husband on his writings and plans, while across the pond Angelica had become the toast of London, joining the inner royal circle and hosting intellectual debates at her home – she transformed into quite the political influencer!

    Though apart, the sisters remained close, Writing each frequently. But Eliza wasn’t the only person Angelica was writing. She was also one half of an increasingly flirtatious pen pal relationship with none other than Eliza’s husband!

    yay 076fcAnd they say war achieves nothing!

    Angelica was discovering that her husband John was in fact deeply dull (probably because he had just become a British politician…) so it’s unsurprising that she poured herself out in letters to Hamilton, who in many ways was similar to herself; intellectual, witty and ballsy. Hamilton seemed to feel the same, writing to Angelica:

    'I SELDOM WRITE TO A LADY WITHOUT FANCYING THE RELATION OF LOVER AND MISTRESS...'

    Bit intense/weird (which seems to be Hamilton’s trademark with the ladies). Surprisingly, Eliza was aware of this relationship, with Angelica writing to her sister:

    ‘I LOVE HIM VERY MUCH AND IF YOU WERE AS GENEROUS AS THE OLD ROMANS YOU WOULD LEND HIM TO ME FOR A LITTLE WHILE.’

    Again, bit of a weird thing to send your sister? For sure! But the real question is, did Angelica and Hamilton ever seal the deal?

    The debate wages on…but probably not. Angelica was loyal to her sister; in the letter above, she goes on to assure Eliza that her intentions will remain pure (aside from the whole ‘you sex your husband Mon-Thurs and I’ll have weekend sex custody’…thing). We also know that it’s unlikely the sisters would have remained as close as they did if Angelica and Hamilton had sex. As you’ll find out later, Eliza is not a woman you want to cheat on!

    But Hamilton wasn’t the one Angelica was writing. In 1788, she first wrote Thomas Jefferson.

    thomas jefferson 5a8eb

    The pair pinged back and forth political musings and discussed visiting each other and travelling together (sounding less like founding fathers and more gap year students…)

    Angelica also worked to convince Jefferson, an enthusiastic advocate of the French Revolution, to reconsider his views and help those at risk; many of whom were her friends (by 1794 two of her friends, Madame de Gramont and Madame de Chatelet, had already fallen victim to the terror).

    But Jefferson couldn’t be swayed, paying little attention to Angelica’s accounts of French Revolutionary horror, though he did manage to take the time to remind her that women were much happier when they weren’t involved in politics.

    But if Angelica thought she had it bad, she didn’t have shit on Eliza. In 1797 Hamilton published the Reyonolds pamphlet, a 95-page document (so less a pamphlet more a tome) outlining and apologizing for his affair with one Maria Reynolds.

    reynolds pamphlet c5976Jeez, the title alone takes forever to read.

    Eliza was unsurprisingly humiliated and incredibly pissed off. She took Hamilton to task and burned all the letters they had ever sent each other (effective at the time, but making it incredibly hard for future historians to discover who Eliza was!).

    Your husband telling literally everyone about his affair in painful detail is bad, but Eliza’s lot was about to get a whole lot worse.

    oh no 1e387via giphy

    In 1801 her oldest son, Philip, was killed in a duel at the age of 19. The Hamiltons were a wreck, when the death of a child was worsened when their daughter, Angelica, who was deeply affected by her brother’s death, had a mental breakdown.

    Angelica eventually regressed into a state that she would never recover from; she spent the next 50 years being cared for in a mental facility, only occasionally emerging into bouts of lucidity until her death at age 72.

    During this time, Hamilton and Eliza were pushed together by grief and rekindled thier relationship. It was to be short burst of happiness: in 1804, Hamilton was killed in a duel.

    Now a widow, Eliza was knocked once more by both her parents dying within months of each other.

    bad 91ebePlease say it doesn't get any worse!

    Luckily by now Angelica was back home in America and the sisters leaned on each other for support—support Eliza desperately needed, as she was left with Hamilton’s mounting debt (because when it rains, it fucking pours).

    Ironically, around the same time as Eliza lost her family home to her late husband’s debt, Angelica’s son founded a new town on The outskirts of New York, which he named after his mum (the town of Angelica is still there today, FYI. Aww for Angelica, but it was just more crap for Eliza.

    With all this shittery you wouldn’t blame Eliza for just throwing her hands up and sinking under.

    BUT SHE PERSISTED. 

    Yep, despite everything, Eliza decided to spread as much good as she possibly could. And she didn’t do this by halves.

    Eliza was known to take in homeless children and care for them. And in 1806 she set up New York’s first orphanage, the Orphan Asylum Society (which sounds super child friendly…)

    But she was dealt yet another blow in 1814, when Angelica died at the age of just 57.

    Still, though devastated, Eliza persevered. In 1818, she set up the Hamilton Free School, which was the first educational institution in Washington Heights. In 1821 she became directness of the orphanage she had set up, now directly looking after the 100+ children cared for there.

    eliza hamilton age 94 ea1c9Eliza later in life

    She continued her charity work but also fought tirelessly to create a legacy for her husband, extensively chronicling his work. She wore a necklace containing scraps of a sonnet he wrote her until she died in 1754 at the ripe age of 97.

    But that’s not the end of Eliza’s story. Her orphanage is still running, over 200 years later; it’s now called Graham Windham and cares for children and families across New York. A legacy I am sure Eliza would be proud of.

    THE END

    Well, okay – not quite! ‘What about Peggy?’ I hear you shout. 

    and peggy 15515

     

    AND PEGGY 

     

    Okay, there isn’t enough time to go into all of Peggy’s life (another time) but I will leave you with this. Without Peggy there would not be this article, because Peggy saved goddamn everyone.

    In 1781, the Schuyler sisters were at home in Albany, New York. Eliza and Angelica were both heavy pregnant and getting some TLC at home in the Schuyler mansion. This was not to be, as a huge group of British Loyalists and native Americans encircled the Schuyler’s home; they were looking for the sisters’ father, Philip, who was supposedly in charge of a revolutionary spy ring – he wasn’t at home, but the angry mob weren’t to know that.

    The trapped women were terrified, and knowing they wouldn’t be able to fight (two pregnant women against a group of pissed off men with weapons probably won’t come out that well…) they ran upstairs and hid.

    The mansion was quickly raided by the mob who were intent on finding and capturing Philip at any cost. The sisters stayed quiet, hidden upstairs, when they suddenly realised that their brothers newborn daughter was downstairs…right in the path of the angry mob. 

    Scared of military repercussions, the men fled, but not before one particularly pissed off man threw a tomahawk at Peggy as she ran upstairs with her niece. It narrowly missed, inserting itself deeply into the banister where her head had just been.

    Yet another reminder, if we needed one, that the Schuyler Sisters are the living end.

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah History and has been reprinted here with permission.

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  •  

    mata hari nude e1497608100257 55d65

    Mata Hari’s life has blockbuster written all over it. Honestly, it’s Oscar bait at its finest:

    A SMALL TOWN GIRL FINDS INTERNATIONAL FAME AS AN EXOTIC DANCER AT THE TURN OF THE 20TH CENTURY. SHE TAKES LOVERS FROM ACROSS EUROPE AND IS PRIVY TO SECRETS OF GLOBAL SUPERPOWERS.

    BUT HER GLITTERING WORLD COMES CRASHING DOWN WHEN SHE IS DISCOVERED TO BE A GERMAN SPY. SHE IS CAPTURED, IMPRISONED, AND TAKES HER FINAL BOW IN FRONT OF A FIRING SQUAD IN A SMALL CORNER OF FRANCE.

    It’s Hollywood gold dust! A blockbuster biopic in the making (seriously, someone give Baz Luhrmann a call), but is it actually true?

    ERRR, KINDA, BUT NO.

    Born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in 1876, Mata was raised in the Netherlands. Her dad made some incredibly canny investments which allowed Mata and her siblings a very comfortable and happy childhood. Everything was great!

    …and then her dad lost all his money, and a year later Mata’s mom died.

    oh no ebb91via Giphy

    Things were already pretty shit when Mata’s dad decided to reveal himself as the literal worst. As soon as the funeral was over, he shrugged off his old family and started a new one, sending Mata far away to live with a godfather she barely knew. At just 15, Mata was on her own.

    But she picked herself up and decided to take on a profession: training to be a teacher.

    Unfortunately, when it rains it pours, and the headteacher of her school had a thing for teenage Mata and he wasn’t taking no for an answer. The ‘affair’ was quickly discovered. The headmaster kept his job (naturally) and a shamed Mata was sent packing, returning to her severely pissed-off godfather.

    huh gif 04ba2Ugh.

    Okay, so the job hadn’t panned out, but work wasn’t the only thing that could get a girl money and the hell out of dodge. So Mata turned to the Lonely Hearts pages.

    Aged 18, Mata married Rudolph “John” MacLeod, an officer in the East Indies Army twice her age—who was also almost constantly drunk. I think you’ve probably guessed after that description, but Rudolph was a notorious dick.

    mata hari marriage 27d06Great mustache. Still a dick.

    Rudolph was jealous (despite constantly sleeping with anything that moved) and an all-around abusive drunk who regularly beat his wife. Despite these numerous issues, the couple had two children, Norman and Non, and the whole family moved to Indonesia where Rudolph was now based.

    As with everything until this point…tragedy soon struck.

    oh no i cant gif fac96Seriously, it's going to be a never-ending stream of shit. via Giphy.

    In 1899, Mata awoke one night to the sound of screams. Immediately, she ran to check on her children, only to find both Norman and Non convulsing in intense pain. A doctor was called, but it was to late for Mata’s eldest: two-year-old Norman died in front of her.

    The cause of Norman’s death was shrouded in mystery. Locals theorized that the boy had been poisoned either by a soldier that Rudolph had ruthlessly beaten or by the child’s own nanny (who Rudolph endlessly harassed). A more modern theory is that the children were being treated for syphilis (caught from dear daddy Rudolph) and were accidentally given an overdose of medication.

    rudoplh mcleod 52f18It always comes back to Rudolph.

    The couple was barely hanging on by a thread and just couldn’t continue after Norman’s death. Rudolph drank even more and blamed his wife for their son’s death. Mata descended into a deep depression, struggling just to get through each day. Yet somehow, she clawed her way back to life and found the strength to finally leave her husband.

    woohoo 248feDon't get too excited, it's all about to go to shit again. via Giphy

    But Rudolph wasn’t done being a monumental asshat just yet! Mata had custody of Non, but (of course) Rudolph wasn’t paying his half in full. This was pretty shitty behavior, escalated dramatically when Rudolph never returned Non after a scheduled visit.

    Mata didn’t have the connections or funds (after all, she’d essentially been a single mum) to fight for her daughter. Worse, when she confronted Rudolph, he came at her with a bread knife; Mata narrowly escaped the encounter with her life.

    It was one knock too many and Mata lost her will to fight. So she gave up. Hoping that Rudolph would do right by their daughter, Mata did what felt like the only option left to her – she ran away.

    ‘I THOUGHT ALL WOMEN WHO RAN AWAY FROM THEIR HUSBANDS WENT TO PARIS.’

    Surrounded by the glittering lights of Paris, Mata worked to reinvent herself. She joined the circus, entertaining the masses as a horse rider. With the circus not paying much, Mata needed to earn extra to support herself, so she made up the rest by posing as an artists’ model and dancing on the side.

    And it was this dancing that would be her making.

    When asked, she told audiences that when she’d lived in Indonesia, she had trained with local dancers, and it was these ‘exotic’ moves she bought to Paris.

    mata hari dance f1f1aPresenting Mata Hari

    Mata Hari was born and Margaretha Geertruida Zelle was all but dead.

    Mata was a princess of noble Indian birth, raised in Indonesia and trained from childhood in the ancient art of dance. Her near-naked dances weren’t for titalation – they were sacred religious acts.

    Now, this is obviously entirely horseshit concocted by Magaretha. But damn, it sold tickets!

    Soon Mata was an independently wealthy woman, a huge achievement in this period.

    money 59020via Giphy

    With money came men. Dazzled by Mata’s beauty and mystery, Europe’s most powerful men flocked to her side. With the ability to speak multiple languages, as well as a fast wit and ambitious streak, Mata had her pick.

    She chose military men. Girl apparently had a type. 

    mata hari stand 606c7

    As WW1 dawned, Mata was reaching her late thirties. With younger imitators snapping at her heels, she slowed down on the dancing and instead supported herself as a courtesan, sleeping with some of Europe’s military mights.

    She hopped from country to country, living a lavish strings-free life. But when wartime hit, this had to change.

    WELL….IT SHOULD HAVE CHANGED.

    Mata continued flitting from country to country (thanks to her neutral Netherlands passport). She slept with high ups from across Europe, no matter what side they fell on.

    Now I think we can all agree: this was not a smart plan.

    not end well 44dedvia Giphy

    Okay, now here’s the thing: this next part is a bit of a clusterfuck. See, some historians think Mata was a spy, some don’t, and some think she was passing on information on the odd occasion but wasn’t a spy.

    See what I mean…clusterfuck. So let’s just focus on the concrete facts here!

    We know that Mata had access to all kinds of information from pretty much every major player in WW1 (because she was in the bed of pretty much every military higher-up).

    In 1916 Mata was detained during a jaunt to London and taken to Scotland Yard for questioning. The British had been tipped off by French Authorities that Mata was a German spy, an accusation she refuted under interrogation.

    extract b5e11Extract from Mata Hari’s interrogation (released in 2016. You can find the whole thing in the National Archives.)

    But Britain and France weren’t convinced and at such a delicate time in global politics, these weren’t exactly people you wanted gunning for you. Though not concrete, there was anecdotal evidence to support the spy theory.

    In 1914 the Germans supposedly offered Mata money in return for secrets of those she bedded, and the French had put forward a similar offer.

    So was Mata a spy? A double agent? Just trying to see what she could get?

    confused 4afbbWho knows at this point? There are so many different theories and strings to keep track of!

    So with the spy theory still hanging over her, Mata was released from Scotland Yard.

    Free? Sadly, no.

    The heat was too much and Europe’s political powerhouses from all sides were keen to get their hands clean of the embarrassing tangled web that had become Mata Hari.

    The French intercepted a (almost definitely purposefully leaked) German message detailing the actions of spy H21. The French figured this spy was Mara Hari and so, on February 13, 1917, French officers marched into her Paris hotel room and arrested her.

    ‘I AM INNOCENT….SOMEONE IS FOOLING ME.’

    Mata Hari’s trial was, at best, a joke. At worst, a formal slut-shaming exercise.

    Mata admitted to taking German funds to spy, but argued that she hadn’t actually carried out these acts. She just took the money.

    The French weren’t having this and claimed that her actions directly resulted in the deaths of up to 50,000 men.

    I think it’s worth noting here that at this point the war was not going well for the French. They were suffering massive losses and their men were turning against them.

    The French needed a fall guy. So they created the ultimate villainess.  

    mata hari seating 36824

    Not only was Mara Hari on trial for spying, but her lifestyle was on trial. Her accusers claimed she regularly bathed in milk at a time when there wasn’t enough for French children to drink. Her bed-hopping and sensual dancing proved her lack of morals, which itself was proof she would be happy to spy.

    There was never going to be a good outcome of this for Mata. And there wasn’t: she was sentenced to death.

    mata hari arrest 3bfebPicture of Mata Hari whilst incarcerated.

    On October 15, 1917, Mata Hari woke at dawn in a small corner of France. She wrote two letters; one to her daughter Non. Then, she dressed and was led outside to where a firing squad were waiting.

    Mata refused a blindfold and stood unbound, staring directly at her executioners. Shots were fired and she fell. Her final curtain call.

    (pic)

    Mata Hari’s story is one that shows just how easily manipulated history can be.

    Once held up as an example of loose morals and villainy, documents released to tie in with the WW1 centennial show a very different story, one that is still being pieced together.

    Personally, I don’t think she was a spy. I do think she was privy to a silly amount of information from all sides, and I think she occasionally leaked this information to whatever side she was with at the time.

    But this isn’t Hollywood. Mata Hari wasn’t a master spy. She was just a person who had flaws and made some really shitty choices—ones that she paid the ultimate price for.

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah History and is reprinted here with permission.

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    The tradition of tattooing dates back thousands of years all across the globe, from Ötzi the 12,000 year old ice mummy found in the Alps whose skin shows the oldest tattoos on a specimen, to Ancient Egyptians using tattooing to heal various ailments. Tattooing is steeped in tradition and has an incredibly rich and diverse history. And there is just way too much of it to fit into one article, so today we’re going to focus on the women who transformed the art form at the start of the 20th century. 

    1. Maud Wagner – The First Female Tattoo Artist

    Maud was born on February 12, 1877, in Lyon County, Kansas. From a dirt poor family, there were little opportunities for her future. So when Maud was a teen, she ran away to join the circus.

    db1c5b49 0c81 4b89 b9c5 ddc1922ce453 f0635Gus, Maud and their baby, Lovetta.

    By the time Maud met her future husband, Gus Wagner, in 1904, she was a famed contortionist and aerialist. He was a sailor who was covered in tattoos he’d picked up during his travels, and Maud was utterly entranced by his artwork. Gus also had a reputation as quite the tattoo artist.

    Smitten, Gus asked Maud out and of course, she said yes… on the condition he teach her how to tattoo!

    Instead of dates, they had lessons. Maud learned a traditional hand poked tattoo method. This is where a single needle is dipped in ink then pushed under the skin by hand over and over to create a pattern. It quickly became her preferred method (in fact, Maud would never use a tattoo machine!).

    Maud quickly grew one of hell of a collection of tattoos on herself, thanks to Gus and his lessons, so she became a tattooed lady attraction. 

    But after Maud and Gus tied the knot, they left the circus to tattoo full time, travelling around around with Vaudeville shows, county fairs, circuses and curiosity exhibits.

    Not long after they were married, Maud and Gus had a daughter, Sarah, born in 1908. Sadly, just one month after her birth, Sarah died. It crushed Maud, so understandably when the couple had another daughter, Lovetta (born two years later in 1910),Maud was a very overprotective mum. 

    Maud actually banned Gus from ever tattooing their daughter. And though Lovetta grew up to become a tattoo artist just like her parents, she never had any tattoos. When Gus passed away in 1941 Lovetta said she’d never get tattooed, because if it wasn’t her Dad’s, then what was the point? (And also, because there was still no way in hell that her mum, Maud, would tattoo her baby girl!)

    ef70f193 55c4 485f 8340 3af161d89e9f 1b059Lovetta holding a famous pic of her Mum, Maud

     

    As time went on, Maud found fame as America’s first known female tattoo artist. This kept her in demand all over the country, and she worked right up until her death in 1983. 

     

     

    Her last tattoo was a traditional rose she tattooed on fellow artist Don Ed Hardy.

    The Wagner family helped bring tattooing inland, popularizing it not just in the coastal and Naval towns in America. 

    Maud is still celebrated as the first known female tattooist in the USA and she influenced so many other artists who came after her. Including…

    1. Millie Hull - The Mother of Modern Tattoo

    Mildred Hull, known to her friends as Millie, was a marvel of the tattoo world. In the 1930s, she was the only woman tattooing as part of the legendary Bowery tattoo group, which would become known as the originators of modern tattooing.

    Born in 1947, she lived in the rougher (putting it mildly) areas of New York City. A school dropout aged 13, Millie soon joined the circus (you can see a pattern emerging here) and started working as an exotic dancer.

    9436c5c1 6687 464c 9ca8 e9fff1b98867 5bd27Millie with her tattoo gun

    A sideshow spotter told Millie she’d make way more money as a tattooed lady, earning up to $80 a week. 

    So she met with famed tattooist Charles Wagner and began the very painful process of covering her body in tattoos in just a matter of WEEKS! (If you’ve ever had a sleeve done, then you can imagine the pain of covering your whole body in a few weeks!)

    Millie talked through the process in an interview in the late ’30s, and she clearly comments on how she felt forced into getting tattooed so she could make more money, but she also had a wicked sense of humour about it: “I had a few weak spells as a result of the tattooing, but mainly I suffered anemia of the bankroll.”

    So, Millie ditched the sideshow, learned the tattoo trade and opened her own tattoo parlor, The Tattoo Emporium, in Bowery at the back of a barber shop. (Most of the tattoo shops down Bowery were in tiny spaces at the back of other businesses.)

    ac2c796e 676d 4753 9046 fbaedb030e4b 98dfcMillie tattooing a customer at her Bowery shop

     

    The fact that Millie had her own business was an unbelievable achievement. At the time, tattooing was totally dominated by men. And with Bowery being a really rough area to live and work in – EVERYTHING was against her. But Millie didn’t care. She held her own and grew The Tattoo Emporium into a successful business. 

    She sat at the heart of an ongoing tattoo revolution, creating the traditional bright and bold styles that are still used today. More than this, Millie gained a kind of mainstream fame. Just to give you a flavour of her success, in 1936, Millie appeared on the cover of Family Circle, a famed women’s home and life magazine that gave tips on interior design and the best recipes for meatloaf. Stars on the cover tended to be wholesome Hollywood stars, and there was Millie front and center – tattoos on show!

    Sadly, Millie had a tragic ending. She suffered with depression throughout her life and in 1947, she committed suicide, consuming poison while sitting in a restaurant in Bowery. She left behind a huge legacy, firmly cemented as the founding mother of modern tattooing.

    1. Jessie Knight

    Jessie is a slightly more well-documented figure in tattooing. She was famed for being the first documented British female tattoo artist! Born in 1904 in Croydon, London, Jessie was part of a large family, with seven other siblings. Her dad was a Captain in the Navy, a tattoo artist and sharpshooter, while her mum was a poet and Illustrator.

    bba368a8 5b7a 4b05 a79f fd269707bcc5 7f896Jessie tattooing a servicewoman in 1952

    Jessie was another circus gal! Her whole family was in the game. She worked as a human target and a sharp shooter. In 1933, she appeared on the BBC with her sister and brother in a knife throwing act, one of the first circus acts ever televised! Her career in the big striped tents came to a premature end, though, when she was shot in the shoulder during a terrible accident.

    She then decided to follow in her tattooist father’s footsteps and took up a tattoo gun of her own, swapping it out for her rifle. She started tattooing with her dad in 1921 in Barry, South Wales. By the time Jessie was 18, she already had quite a large client base at her Dad’s tattoo shop, and was well-liked in her local community in Wales.

    Jessie’s style of tattooing was bold and colorful. She worked freehand, meaning she drew her designs straight onto her client’s skin, and she didn’t use stencils (a method of pre-drawing and outlining a tattoo design). This made her even more of a novelty in the tattoo world.

    Her tattoos were getting a stellar reputation, and in 1955, Jessie won second place in the Champion Tattoo Artist of All England for her tattoo of a highland fling. This was a monumental achievement for Jessie. Female tattoo artists were totally unheard of, so this award generated huge buzz around Jessie’s work.

    6699e33b 73b7 4f3d a838 d3a41ec0de33 af669Jessie’s award-winning Highland Fling

    After this success, Jessie went on to open her own tattoo shops, first in harbor town Portsmouth and then later one in Aldershot. Again, her achievements with this are utterly incredible: she had the means and the popularity to own her own business and tattoo her way. Tattooing still wasn’t in the mainstream, so not many artists could do this.

    It wasn’t easy, though. Other tattoo artists would spread rumours about her being unsanitary, called her a whore, and vandalized her shops. She was robbed and had her designs stolen, so much so that at one point she had a bodyguard help her take her shop money to the bank to deposit it.

    In another dark chapter, Jessie was married when she turned 27, but her husband was an abusive nightmare. After 8 years things came to a head and Jessie shot and injured her husband with a gun she’d exchanged with a client for one of her tattoos. Her husband had kicked her dog down the stairs… I would have shot him, too.

    This didn’t stop Jessie, though. She loved tattooing and in 1968 Jessie moved back to her beloved Barry, Wales (Apparently with her 300-something year old lover!) and though she’d officially retired from tattooing in 1963, she kept on doing what she loved. Most of her clients were now women! Attitudes were changing and shifting. Jessie was at the forefront of that and is remembered fondly by everyone who knew her.

    Top photo: Maud Stevens

    This post originally appeared on F Yeah Historyand is reprinted here with permission.

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    The Contagious Diseases Act (here by shortened to the CD Act, because as important as it is…it’s one hell of a mouthful) came about in part due to the rapid rise of prostitution in Victorian England. Prostitution was the fourth largest occupation for working women* and it grew along with the boom of the British Empire.

    fyeah2 6c71c

     

    This bombastic empire expansion led to thriving new trading routes and soon, British sailors were bringing home ships full of tea, textiles, and venereal disease. Yep, you have to take the bad with the good, and one of the prices for this exciting new empire? An exciting new STI! Sailors picked up VD from their travels and then spread it back in Britain when they arrived home after a long time at sea and in need of some company…

    The disease spread quickly and became an epidemic. Parliament needed to do something to control the situation and fast! So in 1864 they covertly passed the Contagious Disease Bill.

    The bill allowed for any person suspected of being a “common prostitute” to be forced into submitting to an internal genital exam by a male doctor.

    Here’s the thing: the law only applied to women.

    The examination was humiliating and painful. It would later be described as ‘surgical rape.’ Countless female sex workers found themselves subject to this ordeal.

    Even worse, there didn’t need to be any evidence for a woman to be accused and therefore internally examined. This resulted in many women who were not sex workers having to undergo the examination. With both the accusation and their examination now public knowledge, these women found their reputations destroyed – they became “ruined women,” and their chances for a hopeful future were vastly diminished.

    fyeah3 38dde

    Parliament renewed the CD Act in 1866 and again in 1869, increasing the penalty for not submitting to a genital exam to 3-6 months in prison with the possibility of hard labor. This was later raised to 6-9 months to help the women ‘become clean.’

    Over the course of the Act’s frequent revisions, hardly any of the public knew about it – though it affected 50% of the population, it remained a secret. That was all about to change.

    fyeah5 67f9fElizabeth Wolstenholme

     

    In 1869, a meeting about the bill was held at Bristol’s Royal Hotel. At this meeting was women’s suffrage campaigner Elizabeth Wolstenholme. She was shocked to hear about the CD Act, which had now been in effect for almost 5 years.

    Elizabeth saw the CD Act as a violation of women’s rights and made it her mission to raise public awareness. After leaving the meeting Elizabeth contacted her friend Josephine Butler and asked for her help. Butler was a social reformer and women’s rights campaigner who had previous experience working with and campaigning for the rights of women working as prostitutes.

    fyeah6 8e8eeJosephine Butler

    Butler and Wolstenholme toured the country giving speeches about the Act. To say this is shocking would be a huge understatement: a woman talking openly in public about sex in the Victorian era was shocking and seen as deeply concerning. Yet the speeches worked. The women sparked something and people started talking, and when people started talking, they became outraged.

    Soon Butler and Wolstenholme formed the Ladies’ National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act (LNA for short) and in doing so arguably became two of the first publicly known feminists. Though women before them had previously fought against slavery and war, this was the first time in British history that women were fighting for all women’s rights and women’s sexual rights at that.

    (pic)

    In 1869, the fledgling LNA published a petition with 124 signatures calling for a repeal of the CD Act. Two years later in 1871, they produced another petition calling for the repeal – when it was handed in to the House of Commons, it had to be laid on the floor as there was not a table that was large enough to hold it. Groundbreaking doesn’t even cover it.

    The LNA worked tirelessly over many years to end the CD Act, but that wasn’t all Butler and Wolstenholme did – in fact, from the start of the Contagious Diseases Act to its end, both women did an extraordinary amount:

  • 1865 – Elizabeth Wolstenholme, along with 11 other women, forms the Kensington Society, a discussion group which would lead to the birth of the suffrage movement in Britain.
  • 1867 –Josephine Butler becomes chair of the North of England Council for the Higher Education of Women, a council both women work on.
  • 1868 – Both Butler and Wolstenholme join the Married Women’s Property Committee which sought to allow wives the right to buy, own and sell property.
  • 1875 – Butler tours Europe, giving speeches about sexual rights for women. This creates the International Abolitionist Movement, a group whose aim was to prevent international trafficking and stop state regulation of the sex trade.
  • 1882 – Married Women’s Property Act allows married women to retain property following campaigning by both Butler and Wolstenholme.
  • 1885 – Josephine Butler succeeded in campaigning for the age of consent to be raised from 13-16, helping to lower the rate of child prostitution.
  • 1886 – Wolstenholme’s campaign to improve women’s right to custody following divorce succeeds with the Guardianship of Infants Act.
  • IN 1886, THE CONTAGIOUS DISEASES ACT IS FINALLY REPEALED.

    *Though a reliable estimate of the actual amount of women working in this field does not exist, we can see that throughout the 1840s and ’50s the number of women working in prostitution was rapidly growing.

     

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah History and is reprinted here with permission.

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    Here at F Yeah History, we love women who boss at everything. Be it literature, politics, art, employment, activism – the two women you’re going to read about next had it ALL.

    Star of the stage Ellen Terry and her thespian daughter, Edith Craig, were two of the jazziest, energetic, and engaging characters of the early 20th century. From defying social norms to sticking it to theatre censorship laws, Ellen and Edith shook up the world they lived in, and everybody they met along the way.

    Hooked? Good. Let’s start with the mother…

    IF YOU’RE A FAN OF SHAKESPEARE, YOU’LL KNOW HE WROTE SOME CRACKING LEADING LADIES. PORTIA, KATHERINE, VIOLA, SYLVIA, AND WHO COULD FORGET BEATRICE, QUEEN OF WIT AND SASS?

    They’ve been portrayed on stage and screen over the past five hundred years, but never with quite as much wow factor as when Britain’s best loved stage actress, Ellen Terry performed them.

    ellen terry as lady macbeth 0d79dD-R-A-M-A: Ellen as a stonkingly scary Lady Macbeth, painted by John Singer Sargent

    And if you want a quick summary of how much Britain loved Ellen Terry, then here it is in a little poem written for her:

    ‘Britain’s pride,
    The genius of the stage personified,
    Queen-like, pathetic, tragic, contemporary, merry,
    O rare, O sweet, O Wondrous Ellen Terry.’

    Ellen Terry lived a dramatic life on and off the stage. Born to a family of performers, she became a child actress and grew up on the stage, before joining the Theatre Royal at Bristol and becoming famous for her depiction of Shakespearean heroines. 

    BUT it all went a bit wobbly when Ellen turned sixteen, and married George Fredric Watts, a renowned artist, for whom she had once modelled. Watts was 46 at the time – 30 years her senior! – and the marriage was doomed (again…she was 16!), lasting less than a year.

    Ellen returned to the stage, often alongside Henry Irving (who apparently inspired the looks for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, don’t you know). Henry and Ellen’s relationship was intense, and passionate; they partnered in productions for decades. 

    Ellen was also close to George Bernard Shaw, exchanging letters with him for most of her life. There was even a play written about their letters! Shaw referred to their relationship as a courtship by letters, and wrote to her, in one:

    ‘Do you read these jogged scrawls, I wonder. I think of your poor eyes, and resolve to tear what I have written up: then I look out at the ghostly country and the beautiful night, and I cannot bring myself to read a miserable book…Yes, as you guess, Ellen, I am having a bad attack of you just at present. I am restless; and a man’s restlessness always means a woman; and my restlessness means Ellen.’

    I’d say I felt sorry for his wife, but their relationship was pretty weird already…

    But enough about the men. Ellen loved a romance, yes, but her career remained extraordinary. 

    She was unable to resist stage life, though this was sometimes for financial reasons.

    Even after giving birth to her two children with Edward Godwin (who she had eloped with but didn’t actually marry), she returned to acting and slayed across theatres in the U.K., U.S.A., and Australia.

    picture 1 25552The Terry/Craig/Godwin fam: Terry and her children, Edward and Edith

    Ellen was adored by legions of fans, and became the muse to many directors and playwrights. Her performance of Portia in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice was world-renowned, and in her later years, she successfully toured the U.S., delivering lectures on the Bard himself.

    Ellen’s children travelled with her as she toured the world, and as she grew older, her daughter Edith managed her career. 

    Born Edith Godwin, she was keen to distance herself from her illegitimacy…and thus, Edith Craig was born! 

    Ellen’s star may have eclipsed all others, but her daughter lived an colourful, unique, and inspiring life equal, if not greater, than her mother did.

    terry craig 237b9The ultimate stage parent!

    Starting on the stage at a young age, Edith acted, like her mother, with Henry Irving’s Lyceum Theatre, and in the plays of her mum’s pen pal, George Bernard Shaw. 

    But she wasn’t going to be an actress, oh no! Edith took a very different theatrical direction. Inspired by the radical movers and shakers that surrounded her, Edith set up a new theatre company, the Pioneer Players. 

    In a move to end censorship in performing arts, Edith and the Pioneer Players, well, did what it said on the tin. They put on plays that had been previously banned – plays about social reform, humanists; and, unsurprisingly, feminism.

    Because what cause was flourishing at the time of the Pioneer Players? Women’s suffrage, of course!

    Now, Edith was already pretty indoctrinated into the women’s suffrage movement, having attended a forward-thinking school with a pro-suffrage teaching staff, as she said:

    “When I was at school I lived in a house of Suffrage workers, and at regular periods the task of organising Suffrage petitions kept everybody busy. Perhaps I didn’t think very deeply about it, and my first ideas of Suffrage duties were concerned with the interminable addressing of envelopes; but I certainly grew up quite firmly certain that no self-respecting woman could be other than a Suffragist.”

    Edith was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, but soon left in protest at the Pankhursts’ autocratic rule and joined the Women’s Freedom League with other suffrage bigwigs, including Teresa Billington-Greig and Charlotte Despard. 

    As theatre became even more prolific in the suffrage world, with plays by Ciecly Hamilton and Elizabeth Robins depicting pro-suffrage and feminist narratives, in 1908 Edith became instrumental, along with her fellow actresses, artists and playwrights, in forming the Actresses’ Franchise League. 

    Apart from bearing one of the most gorgeous suffrage banners of all time (don’t @ me), the AFL didn’t use tradition campaigning tactics, but used performance as propaganda. The organization grew and got stronger, thanks to Edith’s strong, organizational mad skills.

    Edith dedicated her life to challenging, questioning, and fighting social norms. With the drama and passion that her mother applied onstage, Edith applied it to fighting injustice and inequality. 

    She openly lived in a ménage-a-trois with playwright Christabel Marshall (known as Christopher St John) and artist Clare Atwood, to which her brother said was a result of her "hatred of men" (really original, Edward, round of applause to you). 

    Edith was a wee bit of a battle-axe; she was hard-faced and uncharismatic, unlike her mother, who once said she was too afraid to kiss her own daughter, she hated affection so much. 

    Despite this revulsion for PDA and hugs, Edith was absolutely dedicated to her mother. 

    She lived next door to Smallhythe, Ellen’s country house – although out of hatred for Ellen’s third husband, she built a hedge between their houses so she never had to see him, quite literally.  

    When Ellen died, she transformed the house into a museum so that her mother’s memory would be preserved forever, and the story of her stardom would shine on. Though she was estranged from her brother (who was the father of Isadora Duncan’s daughter…), she continued to share the story their family’s life, dominated by their mother, by going into partnership with an organization dedicated to saving stories of then nation…the National Trust. She died in 1947. Right up to her death, she flaunted social conventions, and lived life the way she wanted to. 

    Just like her mother.

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah History and is reprinted here with permission.

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    img 0212 2 e1504945919895 46687

    Booze! Who doesn’t love it? Trick question – we all do! But what happens when this universal love suddenly becomes illegal? Well, you drink it anyway…just very craftily.

    During the prohibition you could be fined thousands and even thrown in jail if you were caught with alcohol, so smuggling booze became serious business.

    Now, first step for smuggling alcohol – you need to get alcohol to smuggle.

    While some breweries got through prohibition by making “near beer” (anywhere from 0.5 to 2% alcohol) those who kept on making the strong stuff had to go deep underground, operating in woods or under the guise of farms and other out-of-the-way businesses. It was vital that these suppliers remained unknown and untraceable for police.

    This wasn’t an easy task – keeping entire breweries secret required some James Bond-level covert operations! Bar sneaking and guns, we all know that James Bond is nothing without weird gadgets from Q…with that in mind, I present:

    COW SHOES

    cow shoes b0bd1

    No, these are not lift shoes (a la Tom Cruise). They are, in fact, designed to make the wearer’s footprints look like cow hooves.

    The idea was that any cops looking to try and trace bootleggers to their supplier would lose them when a person’s footprints suddenly turned into a cow’s…which I guess was a totally normal occurrence in the 1920s and early ’30s, along with cattle going for lone forest jaunts…

    shrug gif 4a00cI don't know...I'm not a cow historian.

    Cow shoes weren’t the only method to throw off police. Bootleggers also pimped their rides into suped-up cars that were easily able outrun the po-po. They even went so far as to build a cross-country underwater cable car to outfox the fuzz.

    Yep, that’s right:

     A CROSS COUNTRY UNDERWATER CABLE CAR… MADE OF TORPEDOES.

    Detroit was a bootlegger’s dream, mainly because it sat right next to Canada, land of maple, manners, and legal alcohol!

    But how to transport this booze to the U.S.? A boat was very visible (therefore, very catchable) and swimming it over seemed like a whole deal. So naturally, an underwater system was built.

    underwatercar 55141From Popular Science, March 1932

    Torpedoes were filled with liquor and then attached to a mile-long underwater cable line, running from Canada to Detroit. Thanks to the quick motor running the cable line, a 1932 edition of Popular Science estimates that around 40 torpedoes worth of hooch were transported to America every hour.

    As well as torpedo underwater pipelines, bootleggers also had more, erm…homespun ways of smuggling alcohol:

    STUFFING BOOZE IN RANDOM CRAP 

    The imagination of bootleggers was apparently endless. Sadly, rather than using this imagination for writing the next great American novel, they funneled their skills into putting alcohol into anything they could get there hands on.

    Here are just some of the things Alcohol was smuggled in:

  • Eggs
  • Tinned “food”
  • Walking canes
  • Bibles
  • Tailors’ dummies
  • Christmas trees
  • Pig carcasses
  • But no matter how ingenious (or cruel to pigs) the smuggle, the bootleggers always got caught…well, unless they were women.

    THE RIOT GIRLS OF RUM RUNNING 

    For some reason, police just didn’t seem to suspect women of smuggling booze and even when they were caught, they were let off really lightly (seriously, one woman’s sentence was actually to attend church each Sunday for 2 years…)

    Unsurprisingly, some women took advantage of this and made serious coin.

    Marie Waite (A.K.A. Spanish Marie) was one of these women. Marie singlehandedly created an entire convey to move tons of alcohol from Havana to Florida’s Key West. Through her active prohibition years she raked in at least $1 million, which, in 1920s money, is some Gatsby-esque shit. 

    money gif 8225f

    Marie wasn’t alone: female bootleggers even created a guide to smuggling booze on one’s person. From flasks attached to thighs to full-on aprons laden with whisky bottles, their creativity for creating clothes made of alcohol knew no bounds.

    The world of female “rum running” was a really diverse one. This open yet illegal trade allowed women from all walks of life to make their fortune, as one journalist put it:

    ‘SOME ARE BOLD, BRAINY AND BEAUTIFUL, SOME HARD-BOILED AND HOMELY, SOME WHITE, SOME BLACK, SOME BROWN. (BUT) ALL ARE THORNS IN THE SIDES OF PROHIBITION.’

    This article originally appeared on F Yeah History and has been reprinted here with permission.

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