That time Millicent Fawcett OK’d concentration camps

It’s time to explore Millicent Fawcett’s true Boer War story – from advocate of concentration camps to becoming instrumental in bringing them down.

Over the past few years Millicent Garrett Fawcett has gone from one of those women in history that you only knew about if you were really into women’s history, to a new national treasure.

Until 2018, every time I mentioned Millicent Fawcett to my mates who aren’t giant history nerds, I’d be met with a resounding: ‘who?‘.

So I’d excitedly explain that Millicent was a revolutionary for women’s rights. She was the leader of the NUWSS (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies) the largest suffrage movement in the UK. She set an example of peaceful protest, working within politics and using legal methods to keep women’s votes of the national agenda for decades!

Not only that, but she was an advocate for women’s education, campaigned to raise the age of consent and criminalise any family member who inflicted child cruelty. She fought for equal divorce rights, women’s right to work in the civil service and law. Oh, and she did all this whilst holding down a loving relationship and being an amazing mum.

So when it was announced that Millicent would become the first woman to have a statue of herself erected in London’s Parliament Square, it was a HUGE DEAL. Suddenly people were remembering and celebrating this incredible woman.

But that’s not to say I’m totally enthused about every aspect of Millicent’s new found popularity. I’m not. Because, she’s now become a flawless hero. A beacon of women’s rights, of the fight for equality and hope for the possibility that we can build a better future. And don’t get me wrong, Millicent is all those things, but she was also a person.

Many of Millicents’ flaws are slowly starting to become airbrushed from history. And nothing proves this better than how we now tell the tale of Millicent and the Boer War concentration camps.

As hundreds of the new articles on Millicent’s achievements state, during The Boer War, Millicent led an all female commission into investigating the concentration camps set up by the British Empire, which held tens of thousands of Boer people (mainly women and children).

But they all leave out this pretty crucial point – before Millicent investigated the concentration camps…she was for them. 

Statue of Millicent Garrett Fawcett
Statue of Millicent from London’s Parliament Square

First things first – what was the Boer War?

In 1899 The South African Boer War began, between the British Empire and the Boers of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. Essentially this was a war over gold, but it was also a war that was very much about empire, race and imperialism. 

This was a huge war on an international scale, it wasn’t just British forces fighting against the Boer people, but troops from all over the British Empire, including Canada and Australia. The Empire’s troops fought with machine guns and deadly explosives, with the Boers using guerrilla warfare to hit back.

In an effort to quell these guerrilla forces, the British Empire set up the first concentration camps. The first camp opened up in 1900 and housed mainly women and children.

It quickly became apparent that for those that entered the camps, the chances of survival weren’t exactly vegas odds. Malnutrition and disease ran rampant. Just a year in, Lord Milner, the man in charge of the camps wrote:

‘The theory that, all the weakly children being dead, the rate would fall off is not so far borne out by the facts….The strong ones must be dying now and they will all be dead by the spring of 1903.’

Within two years, an estimated 28,000 Boer women and children died in the camps. As well as 20,000 black people. 

Boers in a trench in 1899
War! What is it good for!? Nothing…seriously NOTHING – Boers in a trench in 1899

So where does Millicent come into this?

Well, although the deadly nature of the camps was at first only known to those in government (and obviously people on the ground at the camps!) one woman was about to blow this whole genocidal horror show wide open – and that woman was not Millicent Garrett Fawcett.

In 1901 British welfare worker, Emily Hobhouse went to one of the camps, Bloemfontein. She arrived with a host of supplies for those imprisoned there. But she wasn’t just there to deliver aid. Emily spent months visiting camp after camp, collecting testimonies, recording the astronomic numbers of deaths and also estimating the number of black people dying inside the camps. Then when Emily had everything she needed, she publicly reported back on the atrocities being carried out. 

….And Emily was pretty much laughed out the door and labelled a ‘hysterical spinster of mature age’ by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Joseph Chamberlain.

Lizzie Van Zyl during a vist by Emily Hobhouse to the Bloemfontein camp
Seven year old Lizzie Van Zyl, a picture used by Emily Hobhouse to illustrate the danger of the camps. Lizzie would die in the camps from typhoid fever

However, some people were listening to Emily and eventually the number of people that wanted the government to answer or at least investigate her claims grew too much.

It became clear the government had to act. BUT we know that at least some people in charge of the war knew of the horror happening at the camps (remember Milner’s letter). So they didn’t want a band of Emily Hobhouse’s turning up to investigate and then blowing the whistle on this whole war.

Which is why the person they put in charge of investigating the concentration camps was Millicent Garrett Fawcett.

From the start of the war, Millicent had been openly ‘anti-boer’. This was not rare position to take. As Millicent herself would recall in her 1924 biography, What I Remember (arguably the most hilarious yet best title for a biography) the war split England in two. On the left those who were ‘pro-boer’ argued that the boers were innocent and being attacked, however the majority of people (‘anti-boer’s like Millicent) were outraged at this, believing those against the war to be not just unpatriotic, but traitors. 

So the fact that someone staunchly ‘anti-boer’ was now investigating these camps, understandably didn’t go down well with everyone. After all, that’s not exactly the neutral third party you want undertaking such a vital job.

Emily Hobhouse herself voiced concerns about Millicent’s appointment. Worrying that although Millicent fought for women and children’s rights in Britain, she didn’t seem to express any empathy for the Boer women and children.

Still, the Fawcett Commission (also known as the slightly ridiculously named, Ladies Commission) was happening whether Emily liked it or not.

Emily Hobhouse and Millicent Fawcett
Emily Hobhouse and Millicent Fawcett

Alongside Millicent, some of the other ladies in the commission were’nt exactly impartial. Among this number was, Lady Alice Knox, who was married to one of the senior officers of military leader, Lord Kitchener. In fact, Millicent would later write that Alice saw the Boer people as ‘socially equivalent to where Scotland were 200 years ago’ (that’s some serious 1900s shade!).

Ok. So I think we can all agree that Millicent and her crack team of incredibly bias women we’re probably not the best team to take on this job. But it’s about to get so, SO much worse. 

Just before she was set to head off to investigate the concentration camps, Millicent wrote an article for The Westminster Gazette, where she tore apart Emily Hobhouse’s report and said that the camps were:

‘necessary from a military point of view’

Bad right? Don’t worry, it gets worse! Because then Millicent argued that as Boer farms were possibly supplying information on the British Empire forces, the women that were helping in this deserved to go to the camps:

‘They have taken an active part on behalf of their own people in the war, and they glory in the fact. But no one can take part in war without sharing in its risks, and the formation of the concentration camps is part of the fortune of war.’ 

And with that, Millicent packed her bags and set off to investigate the concentration camps.

Boer War concentration camp example
Example of one of the concentration camps

If all of this made you angry, then good, it should. I think we can all recognise this as in no way ok. But that’s also why it is so important it’s so vital that this part of Millicent’s life isn’t airbrushed away.

Because, what happened next was that Millicent made it right. On arriving at the camps, Millicent did a total 360. She realised she’d been wrong and led her ladies commission in gathering every scrap of evidence needed to rectify the atrocities going on.

Not only that, but her commission knew that the camps wouldn’t shut down overnight, so the women came up with immediate solutions to the most pressing issues facing those that lived in the camps and ensured they were put in place (which resulted in a dramatic drop in the death rate).

On their return to England, Millicent and her Ladies Commission became one of the most outspoken forces against the camps. 

It’s good that when Millicent’s story is told, we talk about her work on the Boer War concentration camps. But we shouldn’t just tell the end of this story. Not just because to do so isn’t so much telling history, as cherry picking, but because it does a disservice to Millicent.

Millicent Garett Fawcett was first and foremost, a woman. She wasn’t some kind of feminist deity, she was human and flawed. Through her life she did a lot of really amazing things, but she also said and did some really shitty things. Which would make her like pretty much everyone else. In this era of cancel culture and pedestaling, it’s important to remember that.

To make our history heroes shiny blameless beacons, is dangerous. It takes away not only the things that built them into the people they were, but robs us of any lessons we can possibly learn from them.

Further reading on Millicent Fawcett and The Boer War concentration camps:

Gender, Race, and the Writing of Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War by Paula M. Krebs

Dr James Barry and the erasure of LGBTQ+ history

In 1865 Dr James Barry was stripped of his identity. A violation that’s still being exploited today. So who was Dr Barry and what does his story tell us about LGBTQ history?

Doctor James Barry was a well respected and hugely influential Army doctor. His work improved medical conditions for soldiers receiving medical care during warfare and his practices around cleanliness and sanitation made their way into hospitals back home too.

But that’s not why we’re talking about Dr Barry today.

Despite all his achievements, Dr Barry is mainly remembered because of rampant speculation about his gender.

After his death – despite his will and direct wishes – it was ‘exposed’ that James Barry had been assigned female at birth.

As a result of this, the good doctor has been claimed by some as a figure in women’s history. Several books about Barry include the word ‘woman’ in the title, with a new with a novel due out soon that presents Barry as a woman.

Still others argue that his identity is too complex to define… but is this the truth of it?

Dr James Barry in the 1840’s

But before we delve into the modern politics, let’s discover who this incredible man actually was.

Born in Cork, Ireland around 1795, James was an intelligent child who grew up with the aspiration to become a doctor and work for the army. In 1808 he put that plan in motion and set off to Edinburgh University to start his medical degree, receiving his medical doctorate in 1812, after which he moved to London and trained at the prestigious Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals. Shortly after this he passed his qualification under the Royal College of Surgeons.

As soon as he had this under his belt James up and joined the army, kicking off an illustrious and well respected career. Barry spent ten years in Cape Town, South Africa where he improved sanitation and water systems, which reduced deaths from infections.

He also set up a leper sanctuary while he was there and improved conditions for slaves, prisoners, the lower ranked soldiers and the mentally ill. This commitment to those in lower and more vulnerable classes was unheard of at the time and it meant he ruffled a few feathers. The fact he was also a bit of a belligerent ass also meant he was disliked by many of his peers.

He then had postings in Mauritius, Jamaica, the West Indies, Malta, Corfu and even found time to help with the Crimean War effort on his own time. Dr Barry was then posted to Canada, in all his posts he continued to fight for improved sanitation practices. His blunt and stern demenour got him repremanded by superiors many times, but the quality and skill of his work made him almost untouchable!

He had a famous run in with Florence Nightingale while they were both stationed as medical staff during the Crimean War. Nightingale described James as ‘the most hardened creature I ever met.’

In 1859 James was forcibly retired from the army due to his failing health and age. He passed away a few years later in London on July 25th 1865.

Dr Barry requested in his will that no autopsy be performed, his body not inspected in any way and it was to buried as he was found. Unfortunately he did not get his wish and the maid who prepared his body for burial exposed Barry’s previous identity.

She took this information to James’ physician, Dr R. McKinnon, who had signed him as male on the death certificate. Dr McKinnon refused to pay the maid when she tried to blackmail him and she retaliated by taking this story to the press.

Since this then there has been the rhetoric that Dr James Barry was just a woman disguising himself as a man to get by.

His story became sensationalised.

This kind of erasure of LGBTQ history and identity is something that’s prevalent among historians, history fans and in historical media today.

King James I was just good mates with George Villiers, despite love letters calling George his ‘wife’ and a passageway between their rooms being discovered. People still argue Anne Lister wasn’t a lesbian, despite the fact she wrote in her diaries that she loved ‘only the fairer sex’.

Transgender identities in history receive the most debate and outright aggressive erasure of the LGBTQ community.

The excuse used for this type of erasure is that none of these identities existed ‘in those days’. But here’s the thing- Not having the language to express an identity in a way that makes it palatable today doesn’t mean Trans people didn’t exist.

Are there are examples in history of women disguising themselves as men to get ahead in another profession? Yes. But these women still identified themselves as women (see Margaret King).

James was not a woman.

In all Dr Barry’s written discourse he referred to himself as male, he did not want his body examined after death. Dr James Barry was a Transgender man.

Portrait of Dr James Barry

There’s arguments for and against this statement, including the fact that Dr Barry was offered the chance to practice medicine in Venezuela, where women could practice as Doctors, but he turned it down.

Or the fact he maintained his identity as a man even when accusations of sodomy (illegal at the time) were counted against him.

The argument that Barry must have identified as a woman includes the fact that pictures of dresses were found in one of his trunks.

But all these arguments pale when we look at this one simple fact – Dr James Barry lived and died as a man. His correspondence was as a man and he wanted his identity protected after his death. Anything else is just projection.

Dr Barry is sensationalised in a heinous way that exploits and reduces trans identities down to sexual organs and ‘shock’ reveals.

Again I reiterate that he asked for his wishes to be respected after death, and he was violated in an unforgivable way.

And this violation continues today.

Dr James Barry had his identity stripped from him and we need to give it back. After years of arguments and misgendering we at least owe him that.

That was interesting, how can I find out more? Well I highly recommend the following articles by Jack Doyle and E E Ottoman for further reading.

Sara Westrop is passionate about making history accessible (and fun!) for everyone. A disabled, queer writer from just outside London, who loves writing about the unsung chapters of history.

When Cromwell Made Christmas Illegal!

In 1647, Christmas was made illegal in England, when parliament declared the act of celebrating Christmas a punishable offence.

The demise of Christmas had been long coming. Tensions around the holiday had been bubbling for some time and when England’s civil war broke out in 1642, this all came to a head.

There were two sides to this war, the royalists (cavaliers) and Parliamentarians (round heads), both fighting for the way England was governed.

Now the royalists loved them some festive cheer, but the Parliamentarians, er, not so much. With a strong Puritan presence, they were very vocal on their belief that Christmas was an outdated excuse for debauchery, that had more than a whiff of the old Catholic faith (something they wanted eradicated!)

Spoiler alert: the good time guys didn’t win this war.

During the blood soaked feud, pamphlets prophesying the end of Christmas were released. Rebel puritans started opening shops on Christmas Day (a move so scandalous it caused riots) and in 1645 Parliament released its new Directory for the Public Worship of God, that totally omitted any mention of Christmas, making it (at least from Parliaments view) pretty much religiously void – unless you turned it into a service of piety and humiliation.

Christmas was on its last legs and it’s death nell came in April 1646, when the royalist forces were defeated at battle in Naseby and it became very clear, they were about to lose the war and the Parliamentarians, led by Oliver Cromwell, were going to put England under puritanical rule. As one writer put it:

Christmas was killed at Naseby fight’ 

One year later in 1647, Parliament declared the mere act of celebrating Christmas to be a punishable offence.

Christmas was officially cancelled.

You’re a mean one Mr Cromwell

But the people of England weren’t letting Christmas go without a fight.

On Christmas Day 1647, pro-Christmas riots burst forth from all over England.

A group of Londoners set up holly and ivy decorations and in doing so, had to face down a group of soldiers.

On the same day, Canterbury descended into the fantastically named, Plum Pudding Riots. When locals, aghast at the fact that not only had mince pies been banned, but shops were now open on Christmas Day, decided to rebel in the most English way possible: by holding a mass football game where the main goal was to smash up as much shit as possible.

But riots didn’t bring Christmas back. 

As the ban on Christmas continued, religious services celebrating the birth of Jesus became much more subdued and secretive, with several ministers actually being arrested for their activities.

In 1657 diarist John Evelyn recalled that he was attending a Christmas service at church, when the church was totally surrounded by soldiers. The congregation were held inside and interrogated over what they were praying for.

Eventually most people stopped trying to hold religious services for Christmas The risk just wasn’t worth it!

But do you know what was worth the risk? Christmas carols!

These god damn badasses…

Carols were the double whammy of both being music (banned in churches under the new rule) and Christmassy (so, super banned.) Never before had the act of singing Hark The Heralds been so dangerous.

But clearly carols were still a beloved part of the new underground Christmas. In 1656 during a Christmas Day parliament session (after all, no Christmas equals no day off!) one MP moaned that his neighbours loud carol practising had kept him up all night, meaning he had not had time for:

‘preparation for this ‘foolish day’s solemnity

But then in 1660 there was a Christmas miracle! The monarchy was restored and with King Charles II on the throne that meant 2 things:

1.The end of puritanical rule
2,The return of Christmas!

Christmas was officially un-cancelled!

And the people celebrated in the most English way possible; by enacting exactly why the Puritans banned Christmas in the first place! By eating too much, drinking too much and getting way too merry.

Natasha Tidd is 1/3 of F Yeah History. She’s worked at museums and heritage sites across the UK. A huge history nerd, she will happily talk your ear off about women’s history, over several glasses (be real, bottles) of wine

Carol Cleveland: The Female Python

Carol Cleveland is a face you’ll recognise if you’re a British comedy fan. She’s been in SO many comedy shows and sketches throughout her career including Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Carol!!! We are not worthy!

Born in 1945, Carol caught the performance bug at a very young age. After all both her parents were actors and so from the age of just 2, Carol was out booking modelling gigs (because hey, 2 is a totally normal age to be earning living)

Carol’s parents divorced when she was 4 and her Mum got together a dashing US serviceman  named Cleve, which led to the family upping sticks and moving to the USA, where Carol grew up around various Military bases.

Acting! Emotion!

In 1960 Carol and her family moved back to London and Carol immediately signed up to prestigious drama school RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts).

Now guys, Carol was at RADA at an AMAZING time!

Her first boyfriend was fellow student Ian McShane, who’s best mate just happened to be John Hurt. She was best mates with Lynda La Plante (Who created the EXCEPTIONAL TV series Prime suspect) and shared a stage with Antony Hopkins and the mighty beardy bellowing Brian Blessed.

We imagine this was most of RADA…

After graduating Carol started treading the boards and appearing in some well-loved cult TV series like The Avengers (no not those ones, the Brit TV series ), The Saint, The Persuaders and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased).

During her actors ‘resting period’ (AKA when she was  out of work) Carol auditioned to be a Playboy Bunny for the new club in London. She landed the  job and worked under the name Didi in the club based in London during its grand opening in 1966.


By 1967 Carol was getting movie gigs. She snagged a bit part in the last film ever directed by Charlie Chaplin, The Countess from Hong Kong which also starred Marlon Brando and Sofia Loren.

After that brush with stardom, Carol landed yet another  bit part as a glamour girl in Salt & Pepper, a Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr film about two lads who open a Playboy Bunny style club (in it she gets to be a called a ‘Pepperette’ which is possibly the saddest faux sexy name ever created)

The Glamour Stooge

By the late 60’s Carol’s career started to veer towards comedy. She’d been wasted as a disposal glamour-puss, but now her skills as a seriously funny lady had a chance to shine, thanks to roles in stupidly popular British programmes The Two Ronnie’s and With Morecambe & Wise.

Carol then  worked with comedy legend Spike Milligan on his TV sketch show, Spike referred to Carol as a ‘funny dolly bird’ *rolls eyes* ;after that Carol coined her own name, referring to herself as a ‘Glamour Stooge’

We do too.

As a result of her growing comedy chops she was hired by director John Howard Davies to appear in 4 episodes of this new sketch show he was directing called Monty Python’s Flying Circus (you might have heard of it…)

Carol turned up for her first day shooting without much thought about what she was walking into. She was totally bewildered by the script, especially as most of the sketches tended to have 0 punchlines or even proper endings!

After her first read through Carol called her Mum and told her;

“You know… I’m not sure this will last more than 5 episodes”

Yeah….Carol got that one wrong. Monty Python would become one of the most popular and beloved comedy shows EVER.

One of her first sketches is a fave of mine; the Marriage Guidance Counsellor sketch. The set up is simple, Carol and her hubby (played by Michael Palin) go to see Eric Idle’s marriage guidance counsellor, and by the end of it Carol’s getting off with Eric Idle behind a screen and they tell Mike to piss off.

The cast LOVED her giggle, and the fact that she was up for doing anything. Carol’s contract for the show wasn’t renewed, but the Python boys demanded she be kept on.

They started writing more parts for her. Though they all admitted they weren’t great at writing roles for women, and they played most of the women’s roles themselves.

No one does eye candy like Carol!

She appeared in most of the episodes throughout the 4 series (30 out of 45 to be exact) and she appears in EVERY Monty Python film. She plays a 19 year old virgin in Monty Python & The Holy Grail with Terry Jones teasing her that this must be her most ‘difficult role to date’

She was also brought in for various Monty Python Live shows too. Starting with Monty Python’s First Farewell Tour in 1973.

After some more touring Carol was invited back again to do Monty Python at The Hollywood Bowl in 1980. She was getting ready to go for a swim when she got the call, and she was so excited that she forgot to put on her bathing costume and walked out to the public pool stark naked.

We’ve all been there!

Recently Carol’s been on cult comedy smash Toast of London, playing a US talent agent, AND in 2014 she reunited with all the living Pythons for a live show of some of their mot well loved sketches. We saw it twice, she was THE BEST.

Carol is still working today and says regularly that the only way she’ll stop being in showbiz is if she dies.

I’m so grateful for Carol, she was such an inspiration when I was growing up. She showed the world you can be both pretty AND funny. She held her own in a sea of strong personalities and made her mark on comedy in a fun and sexy way.


That was interesting, where can I find out more? Well Carol has her own hilarious autobiography out PomPoms Up!: From Puberty to Pythons and Beyond. It is hilarious, and she’s had an amazing career so there’s some wonderful anecdotes in it!

Sara Westrop is passionate about making history accessible (and fun!) for everyone. A disabled, queer writer from just outside London, who loves writing about the unsung chapters of history.

What was prison like for Suffragettes?

What was life actually like for suffragettes in prison? An in depth look from how it actually felt to be force fed, what was the Cat and Mouse Act and the constant abuse and surveillance the women endured.

A little more than 100 years ago, thousands upon thousands of women across the UK were tirelessly fighting; not only for women’s right to vote, but for women to have basic human rights. 

Of this, a small chunk formed up the WSPU (Womens Social and Political Union) the militant arm of the Votes for Women fight, these women undertook illegal activities as part of their campaigning; smashing windows, vandalising property, even committing arson and organising targeted bombings.

This lead to many members of the WSPU (or as they were commonly known, Suffragettes) going to prison and in doing so, taking on a gauntlet of abuse designed to break them.

Here are 5 of the monumental barriers that were faced by suffragettes entering prison – and I guarantee by the time you finish reading them you will NEVER see the Votes for Women campaign in the same way:

Suffragette Dora Thewlis, during her 1907 arrest
16 yr old Suffragette, Dora Thewlis, during her 1907 arrest

1 . Life Long Illness

Whilst in prison, many incarcerated suffragettes chose to go on hunger strike, a move that was whole heartedly supported by the WSPU as a whole. Once released, suffragettes who had taken up hunger strike were celebrated; awarded with a medal which they’d wear with pride; a symbol of their sacrifice and a sign of respect amongst sisters.

But the personal impact of these women’s hunger strikes was more than a medal; many were left with long term health issues.

Believe me when I say, hunger striking does some serious damage to your body. Put bluntly, when you go on hunger strike you stop giving your body food and if you aren’t giving your body food, then it starts eating itself.

Muscle and fat are the first to go and after 1-2 weeks you can expect to have a lot of trouble doing something simple like standing, not to mention the high likelihood of uncontrollable (and very painful) vomiting. Should the hunger strike keep going, you can expect vision loss, hearing problems and you’ll struggle swallowing. Organs also start to be at risk of shutting down and by day 40, death is a very real threat.

Just to underline how horrific the effects of hunger striking are, here is a picture of Suffragette, Olive Wharry, after just over a month of hunger striking: 

Olive Wharry, Suffragette, after 32 days on hunger strike
Olive Wharry, 32 days into hunger strike

So it’s unsurprising that after leaving prison, it took weeks of bed rest and care for suffragettes to recover.

That meant that many women who had jobs and children to look after, simply couldn’t go on hunger strike. After all, there was no way that on their return from prison, they’d be able to work and care for kids in such a weakened state.

So we know that going on hunger strike just once will fuck up your body. But it wasn’t just once for these women.

Many suffragettes went on hunger strike several times over multiple stays in prison. That led to life long and often serious health problems.

And this all gets a whole lot worse when we factor in:

2 . Force feeding

force feeding image
A suffragette being force fed, from a 1911 copy of, The Suffragette

Hunger striking was a deadly method of campaigning and the government couldn’t be seen to be letting suffragettes die. So they opted to ensure striking prisoners had enough nutrients by force feeding then.

I’m going to put a quick warning here, because – guys, force feeding was more than brutal.

Prison guards would force suffragettes into a bed or chair, where a tube would be inserted through the nose and down the throat, through which a nutritional paste would be sent.

This could happen every day for weeks.

Here’s how Sylvia Pankhurst described her experience of force feeding:

“I struggled as hard as I could, but they were six and each one of them much bigger and stronger than I…They soon had me on the bed and firmly held down by the shoulders, the arms, the knees and the ankles. I felt a man’s hands trying to force my mouth open, his fingers trying to press my lips apart — getting inside. I felt I should go mad; like a poor wild thing caught in a steel trap.”

Force feeding was essentially torture for the women that went through it. Many were left with physical injuries after the fact, including bruised jaws, broken teeth, bleeding gums and stomach pain from so much vomiting.

Not only that, but force feeding could be deadly. Suffragette Lilian Lenton almost died after the force feeding tube missed her throat and went straight into her airways.

Then in April 1913 The Cat and Mouse Act was put through

4 T
Doesn’t the poster make it look like a winner! – 1914 anti Cat and Mouse Act poster

The Cat and Mouse Act offered a cruel new spin on the abuse Suffragettes were receiving.

Once substantially weakened from hunger strike, suffragettes were sent home. Only to be arrested and bought back to prison when they started to recover.

Which meant that they could go through the whole ordeal again, and again…and again.

And it wasn’t just this merry go round of abuse that the suffragettes had to face.

3 . Abuse by prison staff

Working class suffragettes often faced an even more gruelling prison experience. The best example of this is that of Lady Lytton. Upon hearing rumours of the rough time working class suffragettes had, she first went to prison as herself, an upper class Lady, and then took on the identity of seamstress, Jane Warton, for her second spell in prison.

Jane Warton’s time in prison was incomparable to Lady Lytton’s.

Jane was force-fed until she vomited over herself and then continued to be force-fed despite the sick that was now on her body, hair and even the prison walls.

Jane was slapped by a doctor. She almost died during another bout of force-feeding; a doctor listening to her heart, which was just about beating for 2 minutes… and then advising his assistants to continue with the feeding.

Lady Lytton disgused as Jane Warton, 1910.jpg
Lady Lytton disguised as Jane Warton

There were also accounts of working class suffragettes being force-fed via their vagina or anus. An act that would have provided absolutely no nutritional benefit. The pointless pain, degradation and violation of this assault, known to those who carried it out.

4 . Surveillance Reigns 

Prison was used as a ground to monitor suffragettes movements and capture their images. After all, until arriving at prison, many of the women managed to keep up their campaigning with their identities unknown.

However by placing long lens cameras outside of prison grounds, police were able to secretly capture pictures of suffragettes whilst out on exercise, with many of these images used to create wanted posters and to warn local areas of known suffragettes.

Surveillance photograph of suffragette prisoners; 1913
Surveillance photo taken in the Holloway prison exercise yard

In some cases, guards would strong arm suffragettes into the correct position, so the cameras would be able to capture a clear face for the picture.

Notably, Evelyn Manesta, was pulled into a headlock to keep her in place for her picture. Interestingly,  the arm pushing down onto Evelyn’s throat and restraining her, was handily edited out for her wanted poster, instead replaced with a scarf.

Evelyn Mansta, headlock wanted picture
That’s some top notch turn of the century photo dickery

5 . Your life is gone 

Becoming a suffragette was not a decision to be made lightly; it could change your entire life and not for the better! It was a cause worth fighting for, but the price to fight was BIG.

Families would disown daughters who joined the WSPU; inheritances were cut, engagements were called off, marriages broke down.

Often the abuse received by suffragettes who went to prison, was matched by the reception they got after being released.

Many working class suffragettes lost their jobs, leaving them penniless. This meant that many women would attempt to go to prison under false identities, in a desperate bid to both be able to fight and be able to eat when they got out on the other side.

Then of course there were the mothers, forced to leave their children behind to go to prison. Heart-breaking enough, but these women not only missed their children when they were in jail, they risked losing them all together! Branded as unfit mothers, due to their activism.

For a strong example of this look no further than Suffragette, Helen Archdale, who narrowly escaped losing her two sons, after foiling her Mother in Laws attempt to kidnap the boys, in a big to rid them of their ‘pernicious mama’

anti suffrage propaganda
Just some of the delightful anti-suffrage posctards aimed at these women

It’s important that we remember just how much the women of the WSPU gave up, in their bid to fight for women’s equality. That they not only were brave enough to take on the fight, but did so knowing they were walking into countless dangers, opening themselves up to trauma and were at risk of losing everything.

This was interesting, where can I find out more?

Well there are way to many books to choose from! BUT if you are just starting to read up on the suffragettes, I’d suggest:

Rise Up Women, the remarkable lives of the suffragettes, by Dr Diane Atkinson, this book gives a great overview of the movement, along with individual suffragettes.

The Suffragette Movement – An Intimate Account Of Persons And Ideals, by Sylvia Pankhurst, an incredible personal account of what it was actually like being part of the WSPU. Unparalleled insight, this is a must read!

Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, by Mary M Talbot, Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot.Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, by Mary M Talbot, Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot. The suffragette movement told as a first person graphic novel. Do I need to say more?

History’s ultimate ‘crazy ex girlfriend’: Caroline Lamb

Caroline Lamb has been remembered by history, thanks to her tenure as mistress to poet, Lord Byron.

Rather than the several books she published, it’s her love life that remains her legacy. With countless books and academic papers on Byron citing Caroline Lamb as the ultimate crazy ex; unhinged, obsessed, stalker-ish and prone to sending bloody locks of pubic hair as romantic favours.

But is this fair? Who actually was Caroline Lamb and does she really deserve the title of history’s ultimate ‘crazy ex’? Lets find out… 

Meet, Caroline Lamb, passionate writer and possible sender of bloody pubes

Caroline didn’t have a great childhood. Her parents were Henriette (Harriet) Spencer and Frederick Ponsonby, and believe me when I say, these two had a wildly unhappy marriage.

This had a huge impact on Caroline, namely because her parents were way to busy arguing and having affairs to actually parent her.

This led to Caroline developing some major behaviour issues, with her screaming fits and tantrums soon becoming part daily life.

When she was 9, Caroline’s parents shipped her off to live with Harriet’s sister, Georgiana Devonshire (her off of that Kiera Knightly film) and once more everyone failed to parent the by now irreparably out of control Caroline.

They tried medicating her with laudanum (a highly addictive pain killer), isolating her from the family and shipping her off to boarding school but nothing worked. Possibly because drugging kids up and ignoring them isn’t known to be a great parenting method.

By this point the family were sick of Caroline; something the now young teen was very aware of. Though she tried, she couldn’t make herself ‘better’ nor make her family love her, writing:

‘I’m mad
That’s bad
I’m sad
That’s bad
I’m bad
That’s mad’

Eventually, a doctor was bought in. He advised that Caroline was far to delicate to be stuck in a stressful school environment, and so Caroline’s formal education was stopped.

Caroline was now living every child’s dream: no school, no discipline and complete control over what she did.

There’s no doubt this was awesome… at least until she grew up to become an adult who was almost entirely illiterate in some areas and had no concept of boundaries or life experience!

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Yeah, it’s not the ideal start to life

But there was at least one thing in Carolines life setting some form of moral code: GOD

Left to her own devices, Caroline had become absolutely fanatical; she devoured the bible, turning to God and religion as her only source of sanctuary and wisdom, which is great when you have other outlets and relationships, but for Caroline it led to a really unhealthy dependency on her religious beliefs.

BUT bar the religious ferver, Caroline had grown up to be pretty cool – well, at least on the surface.

She was stunning, in an elf like way, rode horses bareback and despite her patchy education was super smart. She even started re-educating herself, studying Latin, Greek and discovering an unparalleled flare for literacy.

Naturally, as such a catch, Caroline was immediately married off and in 1805, at just 20 years old, she married family friend, William Lamb.

William Lamb by Sir Thomas Lamb, 1805
William Lamb: Bar the dodgy eyebrows, a pretty good guy

William and Caroline were good together. He was sweet, kind and patient. Finally after so many years lost and alone, it looked like Caroline was getting her happy ending.

Until the wedding night.

Sex left Caroline traumatised. She was overwhelmed by guilt, absolutely convinced that what she had done was a sin against god.

Caroline entered a constant battle with her sexual urges. Disgusted with herself and plagued with an ill placed religious guilt, she decided she never wanted to have sex again.

Still, 7 months after first sleeping with William, Caroline gave birth to a baby girl.

The baby was stillborn.

It was a tragedy that in no way helped Caroline’s fear that her sexual urges were inherently wrong. And so she sunk into a pit of despair.

In the midst of this, Caroline gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Augustus.

BUT Augustus was born with severe learning difficulties; though Caroline refused to have her son hidden away (as was the norm at the time) she struggled to raise him; his disability just adding to her depression and sense of guilt.

It’s pretty unsurprising that Caroline and Williams relationship was hitting the rocks during all of this.

They had frequent arguments, a desperate Caroline threatening to have an affair in a bid for happiness.

William found this a laughable notion; his wives crippling religious guilt was so much she couldn’t have sex with him, what were the chances with her doing it with someone else, outside of the godly ties of wedlock?

His reaction crushed Caroline, writing:

‘William cares nothing for my morals. I might flirt and go about with whom I pleased.’

Everything had become too much and Caroline broke, in what we might now see as a manic episode.

And so, she cut ties with the religious mania that had consumed her for so long. Deciding the only way she’d find happiness and solve her problems was to find a man and have an affair.

She couldn’t have picked a worse man to do this with…

(c) Newstead Abbey; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Meet Lord Byron, writer, poet, cad and categorically the worst romantic partner if you’re in any way emotionally vulnerable

Caroline had become obsessed with Lord Byron after reading his poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

To say Byron had a reputation would be an understatement. He was one of the greatest poets and writers of his era BUT was perhaps more known for his excesses (and subsequent debts) drinking, partying and stacks of affairs.

After their first meeting, Caroline summed him up as:

‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know’

BUT this huge red flag didn’t deter Caroline, who immediately followed up with:

‘That beautiful pale face is my fate’

And so in 1812 the pair started what would become history’s most ill-advised affair.

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Seriously, nothing with this many red flags will ever end well

Though at first, Byron was less into the relationship than Caroline, the more time he spent with her the more fascinated he became, describing her as:

‘the cleverest most agreeable, absurd, amiable, perplexing, dangerous fascinating little being that lives now or ought to have lived 2000 years ago.’

And with that, the pair embarked on a whirlwind few months.

There was talk of running away together and as Caroline’s barriers started to drop, she even began dressing as a page boy, sneaking into Byron’s rooms for illicit and by all accounts, super X rated, afterhours rendavouxs.

It seemed that her crippling sexual guilt was loosening it’s grip, replaced with a new overwhelming obsession with her boyfriend. But this wasn’t good for her either, as everyday Caroline become more frenzied.

On one famous occasion, Caroline broke the glass she was holding in her hand when she saw Byron speaking to another woman.

Anouther infamous episode was when Caroline sent Byron a lock of her pubic hair, writing in the attached note:

‘I cut the hair too close and bled more than you need’

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Yeah bloody pubes may have crossed the line from cutesy to scary AF

Kinda understandably, the bloody public hair and accompanying unceasing attention was proving a bit too much for Byron. Not only that, but he’d already starting fancying a new woman anyway. A break up was imminent. 

BUT Instead of ending the relationship like a grown up by explaining why things just weren’t working; Byron did what any dickhat would – he made up a string of lies, bought in another women and then fled the scene.

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Losing any sympathy and proving his fuck boy status once more.

Caroline fell into a deep depression. Oddly it was her, until then, forgotten, husband who offered Caroline a shoulder to cry on.

William Lamb had seen ALL the red flags between Caroline and Byron and expected a nasty implosion, so he’d patiently waited to help his wife pick up the pieces when her affair ended.

This support couldn’t have been more needed, Caroline was in the throes if a full breakdown and it was agreed that she needed space and a break from her life at home. So she went to Ireland to recouperate.

Now when I say Caroline wasn’t doing well, I MEAN IT! The situation was dire. By the time Caroline reached Ireland she was swinging between devastating bouts of depression and wild manic episodes; her bones visibly jutting out from her refusal to eat.

Of course it was now that Byron decided to write to Caroline (I should add, Byron did this despite the small fact that he was already attempting to woo another women into engagement, whilst sleeping with an additional woman on the side-so a great move all round)

Byron wrote passionately with suggestions the pair may met again. This letter was then promptly followed by another that read:

‘I love another…I am no longer yr lover’

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Seriously, talk about emotional whiplash

Understandably Byron’s letters did a huge number on the already fragile Caroline and any hope of her re-cooperation ended.

She started to self harm and broke into ever more frequent manic episodes.

These episodes pushed Caroline further from reality. During one she even recruited little girls from the local village, dressed them all in white and had them perform whilst she burnt a Lord Byron effigy and threw gifts he had bought Caroline into the fire; all the while she chanted a self composed poem:

‘Burn, fire, burn, while wondering boys exclaim, And gold and trinkets glitter in the flame.
Ah, look not thus on me, so grave, so sad, Shake not your heads, nor say the lady’s mad.
London, farewell; vain world, vain life, adieu! Take the last tears I e’er shall shed for you.
Young tho’ I seem, I leave the world for ever, Never to enter it again; no, never, never!’

Once the embers died down, Caroline sent the girls home, before writing down the nights events in a letter to her former lover.

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Ok. Thats…a lot

Carolines love had become consumed by anger and she vowed to destroy Byron.

Interestingly it was this that actually allowed Caroline to give the world a chance to see her as more than Byron’s ex lover and as a talented writer in her own right.

In 1816 she published Glenarvon, which was a thinly veiled fictional account of Caroline and Byron’s relationship. This was followed by two critiques of Byron’s work and abuse of his talents AND two more works of fiction, Graham Hamilton (1822) and Ada Reiss (1823).

It’s Caroline’s latter novels that really stand out, not just because of all the transposed fictional Byron digs BUT because she looks at some pretty cool issues. Including (the now timely) topic of how power is achieved, with Caroline delving into whether being ‘well born’ and rich actually qualifies anyone to lead.

In fact, right now Caroline’s novels are enjoying a bit of a literary review, with current academics starting to revisit her work and voice.

However, when Caroline’s work was released, it didn’t get an amazing critical reaction. After all, Glenarvon was pretty much a tell all; an A-Listers ex getting one back and trying to make some cash in the process.

Her books were picked up for the scandalous details, nothing else.

It wasn’t just Caroline’s writing that was taking a nosedive. Her ever faithful husband, William Lamb, had been left devastated by the publication of Glenarvon.

Suddenly his wives fictionalised love affair was immortalised in print, on bookshelves across the country. Heartbroken, William was left alone to pick up the pieces this time; Caroline oblivious to the pain she’d caused.

Now, Believe it or not, things were about to get even worse.

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I know, I’m sorry, this whole thing is just one huge clusterfuck of sad

In 1824 Lord Byron died

Caroline was obviously devastated when she heard the news.

This was made worse when one of Byron’s close friends published: ‘Recollection of Lord Byron’ which revealed that her former lover hadn’t mentioned her in his final moments and thought of Caroline as nothing more than one more notch in his bedpost and a terrible wife.

This time Caroline couldn’t turn to William for support. Her husband had had enough; enforcing a legal separation.

Caroline wandered Europe, picking up a string of short lived lovers as she went. She published a book under a sudo-name but it bombed.

Truly, she was alone. By now, Caroline had alienated everyone who’d want to help her. There was no solid mental health system, so as Caroline got sicker, got thinner and fell deeper, there was nowhere to go.

Eventually William took Caroline back, not as his wife, but as a sick friend who desperately needed help.

On her return to London, Caroline was declared ‘insane’. Just like she had been as a child, she was medicated with laudanum. And though she’d been trying since she was a little girl, she didn’t ever ‘get better.’

Caroline Lamb died in 1828, at just 42.

But history, would remember Caroline and her the two loves of her life, long after they were gone.

William Lamb went on to become Prime minster of Britain. Lord Byron would be remembered as one of the greatest poets to ever live. And Caroline? Caroline became a cautionary tale to men, a punchline; history’s best example of the ‘crazy ex girlfriend’.

Caroline Lamb, Painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence
Portrait of Caroline by Thomas Lawrence

This was interesting where can I find out more? You can still get copies of Carolines book, personally I’d say Glenarvon is the weakest, but worth a read, with the others all must reads!

There are some great papers you can access on Caroline, including this one around her  ‘construction of madness’

Also, worth checking out is Paul Douglass’ biography on Caroline, which looks at why she is been so vilified by history.



Alice Keppel: The Last Royal Mistress

Alice Keppel grew up in obscurity, relative to the English nobility – meaning she spent her childhood frolicking in the grounds of her family home, a Scottish castle (naturally)

Born in 1868, Alice was one of nine children (because boy could those Victorians breed) the daughter of the 4th Baronet Edmonstone, she was pretty much at the bottom of the nobility pecking order.

But relative lack of status aside, Alice was an extraordinary young woman. Beautiful, with smarts and a wicked sense of humour to match, she was, to be blunt, a catch.

So unsurprisingly Alice was snapped up almost as soon as she entered the marriage market. Marrying soldier George Keppel, when she was just 23. 

Alice Keppel
I mean, Alice Keppel looks the dictionary definition of elegance

But sadly, Alice and George’s newlywed bubble was quickly burst, when they realised they were totally broke.

Well kind of. They had servants, just way less servants than their friends – which in Alice and George’s minds meant they were as good as broke.

Appearances had to be maintained though and after assessing their finances, Alice declared there was only one option: She would have to take a wealthy lover.

It might surprise you to know that George was totally on board! See, George and Alice essentially had an open relationship; they loved each deeply, but they also had lovers on the side. Now admittedly this side piece would be based on cash rather than lust, but it wasn’t such a huge step out of the norm for the couple.

So whilst Alice was out romancing rich men, George would be out courting his own side pieces, sure, it may not have been a fairytale, but it worked for them.

Soon enough, thanks to Alice’s hustling, the Keppels were far better off than they ever had been. Still though, they weren’t as rich as they’d like…

And then Alice met a Prince

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And you know the Keppels were diving straight for that rich AF D.

Edward Prince of Wales (Bertie to his friends) was heir to the English throne. BUT until that crown was on his head, he was intent on having some fun.

He was a heavy smoker, drinker and with a 48 inch waist you know he loved some good food. Bertie was also a serial womaniser and despite having a wife at home, he had so many notches in his bed that it was basically kindling.

Enter Alice Keppel.

Now 29, Alice immediately entranced Bertie. Over 25 years her senior, The Prince was immediately captivated with her beauty, wit and incomparable charisma. And in no time at all, Prince Bertie was following Alice around like a lost puppy.

Edward VII in Coronation Robes
Bertie in all his regal and corpulent glory

Now, if Bertie thought he was in control, he was wrong. Alice was determined that she wouldn’t be another notch on his bed post; picked up, used and immediately abandoned.

Nope! If Alice was going to be Bertie’s mistress, she was going to get her due.

So Alice and her husband worked together on both ensnaring the Prince AND creating a long term sustainable income from the relationship.

The plan paid off; with both Keppel’s working to get Alice the mistress spot, any competition was knocked back.

Alice mastered the tightrope line of Royal mistress-ing; working out how to manage Bertie’s many mood swings, all while appearing vivacious and deeply in love.

The Prince fell hard and (believing he had control) arranged a cushy and veeery well paid job for husband George, to ensure he remained out of the house and that Alice was free to be no1 mistress. 

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Seriously, lets take a moment to appreciate the cunning teamwork of Alice and George

Between the lavish gifts the Prince gave Alice and George’s new stupidly well paid job, the Keppel’s were now extremely rich.

Not only that, but Alice had also become the leading beacon in fine society. Hosting grand parties, she was renowned for her wit and kind nature; Alice’s daughter later comparing her mother to:

‘A Christmas tree laden with presents for everyone’

But Alice’s lights started to get a little dimmer when Bertie actually became King in 1910.

Unlike Royal Mistresses of the past, Bertie had been banned from giving his no1 mistress any form of pension or monetary gain – after all that was tax payers money and they probably didn’t want their hard earned cash splashed on the king’s lover!

With their income sources drying up, things weren’t looking so bright for the Keppel’s.

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Like, STILL shit tons of servants, but ya know, in the Keppel’s minds…

The other big issue was that Alice didn’t want to end her relationship with Bertie. She’d caught feelings.

Alice still loved her husband, BUT she also loved the new the King, there was no way she could let either man go.

So she maintained her Royal mistress position. Working out a way to get around the lack of income, by picking up shares and bonds from Bertie (in addition to husband George’s well paid job)

Alice then further cemented herself as Official Royal Mistress by making herself indispensable. It was often only she who could get around Bertie’s many, many moods and convince him to actually do his job as King; which he naturally did with Alice by his side.

This actually helped endear Alice to Bertie’s wife, Queen Alexandra; and though the two didn’t become friends (hey, Alice was sleeping with Alex’s husband!) , they did become something like allies.

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With the wife onside and her influence undeniable, Alice was officially immovable as Royal Mistress!

But then in 1910 it all came crashing down.

Bertie became ill – you know, because of the whole constantly smoking, drinking and eating thing…

As the King lay on his deathbed, Alice ran to be at his side.

This turned out not to be a great move on Alice’s part. The appearance of her husbands mistress at his deathbed pressed on Queen Alexandra’s now (understandably) fraught nerves. What made this all the worse, was when Bertie turned to his wife, and commended her to

‘Kiss Alice’

This proved to be the last straw for Alexandra and she immediately commended for Alice to leave. This didn’t go down well, with a hysterical Alice crying as she was dragged away from her lover:

‘I never did any harm, there was nothing wrong between us! What is to become of me?’

Bertie, died on 6 May 1910; on his death Alice was duly thrown out of court.

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No matter your feelings on the relationship, you have to admit, this is just heartbreaking!

Alice was allowed to the funeral, but only through a side exit.

Her royal love gone, Alice returned home to her husband George and the couple picked up where they left off.

Together they used their, now piles of cash, to travel the world, going on adventure after adventure with each other.

When Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, Alice emerged out of a gorgeous French villa just long enough to roll her eyes and say:

‘It was done better in my day’ 

Oh you thought just because she’d been shamed and kicked outta court, Alice would be quiet? Pffft please

Alice died in 1947. But that’s not where the story ends…

You see Alice may have been the last Royal Mistress but her legacy of mistress-ing wasn’t quite over.

Alice’s granddaughter ALSO became involved with a Prince of Wales; this affair with the heir to the throne becoming both notorious and era changing; in fact you might have heard her name before…

Camilla Parker Bowles

BOOM! Mic drop.

This was interesting where can I find out more? I‘d suggest checking out, Alice Keppel and Agnes Keyser: Edward VII’s Last Loves by Raymond Lamont Brown; it looks at the life of Alice and another of Edwards mistresses, Agnes Keyser, because hey, equal mistress-ing opportunities for all.

The Woman That Made The Winter Olympics

Madge Syers dreamed of Olympic gold; a figure skater, she was world renowned as one of the best skaters alive, surely she was set for the medal podium! Well, at least she would be, if women were allowed to compete in figure skating, which they must definitely were not!

But Madge wasn’t going to let that stop her

Madge Syers
Madge, refusing to be stopped by physics or patriarchal bullshit

One of 15 children (Madge’s Mum definitely deserves a medal!) Madge fell in love with figure skating in her late teens, this love only intensified when she met her coach (and future husband) Edgar Syers.

The couple started skating as a pair, as well as individually. Both pushing each other to up their game.

They even wrote guides to figure skating, including one which was entirely poetry (natch).

But all the skating prose in the world couldn’t give Madge what she really really wanted – the right to compete.

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Madge is going for gold….your gold gents

You see, women weren’t allowed to compete in figure skating, BUT after some serious combing through the rules, Madge worked out that the World Championships rulebook didn’t actually specify anything on gender.

So she packed up her skates and headed off to the 1902 World Championships.

When Madge took to the ice, the crowd were memorised. In part because, oh my god a woman on the ice, and in part because our girl was seriously dressed to impress (pearl necklace and all!), but mainly because she was really bloody good!

By the end of the competition, Madge had placed second, beating a whole host of the worlds best male skaters.

In fact the gold medalist, Ulrich Salchow, was so impressed with Madge’s bravery and talent, he presented her with his medal; showing he believed her to be the true winner!

The International Skating Union was not having this.

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Wow. A group of old timey men being dicks. Shocker.

The International Skating Union immediately met to discuss the problem that was Madge.

Their solution was to bar women from their competitions entirely. Citing 3 reasons:

  1. Long skirts prevented judges from having a good view of a skaters footwork
  2. It was hard to compare a woman’s talents to a man
  3. A woman may be romantically involved with a man; which could lead judges to over marking

In response to point 1, Madge shortened her skirts to the knee.

For points 2 and 3…well they were bullshit, so Madge skated on regardless.

Madge Syers skating
Pointing to all the fucks she gives (btw they are faaaaar away)

Though she couldn’t compete in the World Championships anymore, Madge kept herself busy by winning as many other competitions as possible.

By 1906, Madge had made it impossible for female skaters to continue being ignored, so surprisingly her old foes, The International Skating Union, created a female figure skating championship.

Madge obviously won the gold.

In 1908, figure skating became an official Olympic sport (weirdly as part of the summer olympics).

It was pretty obvious to everyone by now that refusing entry to women was not an option; Madge would find a way to skate anyway.

And so at the 1908 London Olympics, Madge took to the ice once more. Her skills amazed the judges, who praised her as being in

‘A class of her own’

Ain’t that the truth!

By the end of the competition, Madge had won bronze in the pairs skating and gold as an individual skater; making her the first ever female figure skating Olympic champion!

Thanks to Madge’s refusal to EVER give in, the door was now open for female skaters. And they came in by the boatload, transforming figure skating into the batshit sport of insane feats of human athleticism that we know today:

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I MEAN!!!!!!!

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