A history of dieting (and why it’s the worst!)

From fighting obesity in Ancient Greece to the Victorian love of arsenic pills and tape worms, join us for a look at dieting history and why history tells us that the diet industry may in fact be the worst!

Fun fact: dieting does not work! Research tell us that the majority of people who diet, don’t only gain back weight, but actually put more weight on than they started with.

And yet, every year millions of us get on that diet band wagon looking for a quick fix. This isn’t a modern thing, it’s a tale as old as time. So let’s look back down the annals of history and try and find out why dieting is so prevalent and what our ancestors used to do (plus there’s some really gnarly dieting techniques here, so if you’ve ever done one of those horrific detox teas, this will make you feel better about your life choices!)

Example of a weight loss advert for Korein, in 1915 the pill was found to contain 60% petroleum and 40% sassafras oil (now banned for consumption in the US due to its toxicity)

In Ancient Greece, it was understood that being overweight contributed to a lot of health issues. Greek physician, Hippocrates, actually wrote in his collection of medical work, the Hippocratic Corpus, that people carrying extra weight may experience conditions like (what we now know as) sleep apnea. He also outlines how bring overweight often means you die earlier and in general when it comes to obesity, the ‘danger is great’.

To combat this Hippocrates advised that Greeks taking on a ‘diaita(the Ancient Green term that diet stems from btw) not only make changes to the food they ate, but to their lifestyle as a whole.

Incorporating more exercise, drinking less alcohol and more water and eating lighter meals with a range of fruit and veg. So far so good, in fact, dare I say, it actually sounds kind of smart…

And right there is where Hippocrates health advice falls off a cliff.

You see, Hippocrates also advised:

  • ‘Violent exercise; such as running long distances to the point of exhaustion
  • Abstaining from sex while trying to lose weight
  • sleeping on a plank of wood
  • Frequently making yourself vomit

There’s a lot to unpack there. First, let’s all agree that the no sex and whole plank thing are awful ideas. But more importantly, all that advice is not only ill advised but incredibly dangerous!

Hippocrates, you may be the father of modern medicine, but your diet advice is far out of line my friend

Like Hippocrates, a lot of early sources around diet, didn’t call for people to lose weight as a way to look good, but because it was important for their health. 1558’s The art of living long, was written by Venetian merchant, Luigi Cornaro, who had previously been so overweight his health was in jeopardy. Cornaro advocated for a stripping back a diet to the necessary (though he still allowed fourteen ounces of wine a day).

London undertaker turned diet guru, William Banting had a similar story. His obesity had meant he was in and out of hospital, so after losing weight he published A letter on Corpulance in 1863, primarily as a way to flag up why losing weight was healthy and to tell people about the diet he’d used.

This letter blew up (seriously, it basically went viral) and soon Banting’s high fat, high protien and low carb diet was spreading like wildfire. In fact it was so popular that ‘Banting’ became Victorian slang for dieting (as in ‘sorry Fanny, that spotted dick looks great but I’m afraid I’m banting today.)

Interestingly Banting is still being flogged to dieters today (though tbh, I wouldn’t recommend as a long term plan) image from Wellcome collection

It’s also in the Victorian era that we start to see a real rise of diets being sold as a necessity to be attractive. Want to achieve that teeny tiny waist? Well girl, don’t just get a corset, get a tape worm!

That’s right. A tape worm. A flat parasitic worm that lives in your gut and can grow up to 25 metres. Yeah, knowingly ingest a pill to get one of those, so you can lose weight.

Victorian beauty standards were harsh, as one Beauty bible, ‘The Ugly Girl Papers(jesus, what a name) put it:

‘It is a woman’s business to be beautiful’

Women were expected to have a healthy appetite and yet also be approperialty thin with a waspish waist. That is a hard balancing act! Made even worse when there were countless advertisements popping up telling you that one magic little pill could make you thin with zero side effects.

But of course there were side effects! It’s a parasitic worm people! One of the biggest issues was getting the tape worm out. You see, tape worms like living in your stomach, its basically an all you can eat buffet for them, so why would they want to leave? But if left in there, things get deadly pretty quickly.

So to coax them out, people had to get a little creative. For example one Dr. Meyers of Sheffield used to lure the tape worm out by inserting a cylinder of food down a patients throat. This actually worked, but unfortunately sometimes his patients had a nasty habit of suffocating to death before the tape worm could be fully removed.

It’s because of incidents like this that the Victorian tape worm fad fell out of fashion. However it still remains a thing! With many desperate dieters heading to dark corners of the internet to buy tape worm pills. In fact on one episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Khloe Kardashian managed to turn a whole new generation of people onto the parasite pills, with just once sentence! Saying:

‘I’d do anything to get a tape worm’.

Advert for tape worm pills. They be ‘jar packed’ and ‘easy to swallow,’ but they will mess up your insides!

Along with pills containing tape worms, Victorian women looking for a quick diet fix turned to arsenic pills.

Now, in this era, arsenic was used in everything! It was a cleaning aid, an ingredient in soft furnishings, it was used to make bright green fashion accessories and also occasionally used in a little light murder. So naturally some bright business person thought to market it as a diet aid.

But here’s the thing. Not all these pills actually said they contained arsenic. Some just advertised themselves as ‘diet pills’ or simply ‘wonder remedies’.

The pills worked by speeding up the metabolism and actually only contained a small amount of arsenic, that wasn’t enough to kill or do much damage. So whats the big deal? Well, it’s a diet pill. And what do people often do with diet pills? They take more than the advised amount. Which meant a lot of people giving themselves accidental arsenic poisoning.

But those weren’t the only diet pills on the market. There were a lot of options! With names like Dr Gordan’s Elegant pills, Corpu-slim and the very simple, Slim. These also contained incredibly dangerous ingredients, including dinitrophenol, an industrial chemical that can cause blindness, as well as thyroid ‘activating’ chemicals, which often resulted in long term heart issues.

Always trust a crudely drawn before and after image

It wasn’t all diet aids though. Way before Beyonce’s cayenne pepper ‘master cleanse’ and Tracey Andersons’s ‘baby food diet’, there was the Lord Byron diet. The mac daddy of celeb diets.

In 1816 famed poet Lord Byron lived on a thin slice of bread for breakfast, a few biscuits, soda water and copious quantities of cigars to keep the hunger pains at bay. He exercised in layers upon layers of winter coats in an attempt to sweat more and told friends he would rather not exist than ever be ‘fat’.

It’s now almost unanimously agreed on that Byron was suffering from severe anorexia, but in 1816 nobody knew that and so he became a diet icon.

Those desperate to get the pale and thin look sported by the huge pop culture icons that were Byron and his romantic poet set, eagerly took up highly publicised Byron ‘diet’.

The popularity and extreme nature of the diet was so much that it became a big talking point of the era. With Dr George Beard commenting that young women

‘live all their growing girlhood in semi-starvation… (for fear of)…incurring the horror of disciples of Lord Byron’

Lord Byron, painted by Thomas Phillips, 1816 – leader in terrible diets and child abandonment

Along with celeb diets, calorie counting also isn’t new. Sure it’s now moved onto apps, where we can just scan a bar-code and our phones do the rest, but for decades dieting by counting intake has been a thing. In 1918 Lulu Hunt Peters published, ‘Diet and health with key to calories’ and it became the first true bestselling book based solely on a diet.

Those eager to get that flapper thin up and down figure learnt from the book how to count everything that went through their lips. Sustaining themselves on 1,200 a day (or less)

It’s from here on out that we see the boom of diet blockbuster books and lives built entirely around working out if an apple still counts as 90 calories if it’s large.

Meet Lulu Hunt Peters, AKA the reason I spent years mathematically analysing food instead of enjoying it

Around the same time as calorie counting came the cigarette diet. For much of the early to mid 20th century, there weren’t advertising standards around selling cigarettes. So advertisers could say anything and oh boy, they sure did. Cigarettes were touted as everything from good for people with asthma, healthy, to (of course!) an amazing way to lose weight.

And technically, cigarettes are an appetite suppressant. But they also cause major medical issues and will kill you. So you know swings and roundabouts.

Though these health fears (and more stringent advertising rules that came in the 1960’s -thus the first excellent episode of Mad Men-) meant that the trend for smoking to lose weight fell out of fashion, it of course came back.

In the 1960’s the ‘model diet’ advocated smoking and drinking black coffee. And not much else. This lovely one somehow managed to linger in different forms throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s!

Lucky strikes advert demonstrating the definition of subtlety

Now hopefully you’ve spent this whole article saying ‘my god, what was the past doing!?!‘. Which is good, and please never try any of these diet techniques.

But also, think before trying any diet – will this look ridiculous in 50 years? Because I can tell you right now, that diet lollipops, detox teas and 5:2 are all going to be fodder for some future snarky history writer.

So from me (someone who has a long history of hating my body and dieting) let me say this: The only time I have lost weight, sustained it and been happy, was when I:

A) Made gradual healthy lifestyle changes, which in time helped me find exercise I love, amazing food that’s good got my body and a better lifestyle that will hopefully mean I’m around to write random history articles for many years to come

B) Learnt to be OK with the body I have, not the body I hope to have

Hard truth, you can’t wait to be happy. You can’t pin everything on a future hypothetical perfect body. Life is way to short, and like tape worms, cigarettes, and arsenic pills, the diet ‘miracles’ that are popular now, might be messing your body up, making that life even shorter.

This was interesting where can I find out more? Calories and Corsets: A history of dieting over two thousand years, by Louise Foxtrot is a really fantastic read and massively helped with the research for this!

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Review: The Five, by Hallie Rubenhold – Jack The Rippers victims are finally given a voice

Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five is easily one of the most important history books of the last decade.

For the first time a book that contains the words ‘Jack the Ripper’ isn’t about the over mythicised serial killer. It’s about the women whose lives were not only brutally ended, but their memory twisted. Over a century they’ve become a carnival sideshow, pantomine prostitutes at tourist attractions like The London Dungeons, pictures of their brutalised bodies on display in a mocked up ‘morgue’ at The Jack The Ripper Museum, they’re the butt of a pop culture joke.

Which is why this book is so important. Restoring the dignity of Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary Jane.

Hallie Rubenhold places the women into history, revealing that each women was indelibly linked to a key moment in Victorian history, be that the Trafalger Sqaure encampment or The Princess Alice disaster. Turning the book not only into a story of individuals but one of those forgotten by history, Englands underclass.

Each women’s story is told over the course of multiple chapters and in such a way that even though as a reader you ultimatley know each womens fate, you’re still attached to them. Rubenhold examines their lives with an understanding that for the first time makes these women real people; flawed, good, bad and utterly relatable.

Annie Chapman, leaves behind a traumatic childhood to start climbing the ladder to becoming middle class, only to fall into alcholisim. Losing her husband, children and spiralling further down until she hit the streets of Whitechapel.

Elizabeth Stride, a Swedish farmers daughter whose encounters with sexual abuse led her to London, where she managed to snatch a chance to become an entrepreneur. But in era where one finicial blow could end it all, her buisness failure leads to her downfall. By the end Elizabeth is supporting herself by posing as a disaster victim.

Annie Chapman with her husband

One of my favourite things about the book is that it doesn’t feature any images of the womens bodies. That might sound ridiculous, but when the first google result for these women is their bloodied faces, thats a huge achievement.

Rubenhold also challenges usual perceptions of the women, mainly that each victim was a sexworker (showing evidence that most weren’t) but also calmly tearing down the moral demonisation over the women who were.

In addition Rubenhold argues that it is incredibly likely that the Rippers victims were asleep. The killer targeting down and out women as they bundled up asleep in darkened allies or door ways.

Its a theory that makes a great deal of sense and also one that highlights how history has wanted so badly for the victims to be sexworkers ‘who got what they derseved’, that its been willing to overlook the truth. 130 years on, it’s time we fixed that.

The Five, The Untold Lives of Jack The Ripper’s Victims, by Hallie Rubenhold, is out now.

Vinegar Valentines: hate those you love

In the mid nineteenth Valentines Day started to undergo a disturbing transformation. Sure, the syrupy sonnets proclaiming love were still there, along with the de rigueur over priced gifts and cards, but just under that rose tinted surface something terrible was rising up: a wave of hate disguised as love.

Dubbed Vinegar Valentines, these cards took the guise of traditional valentines, but replaced sentiment with twisted vitriol and cutesy pictures with cruel caricatures.

The only man who smiles on you, via Museum of London
The only man who smiles on you, via Museum of London

So, I hear you ask, what started this mean spirited valentines revolution?

Changes to the postal service.

Sexy, I know….

In the early Victorian era postage was really expensive, but letter writing was the only way to talk to anyone not in walking distance. Lovers, business contacts, family, friends – all needed to be corresponded to through letters, which cost a bomb.

Many tried to save money by doing things like cross writing. Where you first wrote vertically and then when you ran out of room, turned the page horizontally (at a right angle) and wrote over the letters first part. It may have saved on paper but to our eyes it looks way more like a cipher than any discernible letter (it was a rough time to be dyslexic)

As the era progressed and the number of people able to read and write rose, the fact that much of Britain was priced out of communication became a huge issue. A massive national campaign for affordable post was sparked and by 1840 the battle was won – the penny post was born.

Once postage prices plummeted, Britain went card crazy. The country went from sending 200,000 cards in 1820 to a staggering 1,500,000 by the 1870s.

Valentines cards saw a spike, especially since the amends to the post also meant you could now send cards anonymously. Thus there was a boom in embossed, frilly cards. With some men purportedly saving a months salary so they could send OTT embellished card making confections to their paramours.

Embossed Valentines, 1860s-1880s, via Museum of London
Embossed Valentines, 1860s-1880s, via Museum of London – the workmanship that went into this, you just can’t bin come 16th Feb

But not everyone wanted to spend a months rent on a fancy card, nor did they necessarily want to spread the love.

Printed on cheap paper, crudely coloured and sold for a penny, Vinegar Valentines, were the answer.

Many of these cards were bought as a joke gift to send to a mate, poking fun at something they were self conscious about (e.g their weight, lack of hair or low paying job) which still seems like kind of a dick move, but let’s be generous and file this one away under ‘banter’.

Still, for as many people that used the cards for a fun joke amongst friends, there were others who were excitedly using the fact they could send the cards anonymously to target someone they loathed.

Just have to tell an ex they’re going to die alone? There’s a vinegar Valentine for that. Co-worker you want to knock down a peg? Yep, vinegar valentine for that too. Woman turned you down and now you need to point out all her flaws? Of course, there was a vinegar Valentine for that!

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Though there are archives containing Vinegar Valentines, not a great deal survive. Not that surprising, after all whose going to hang onto something designed for personal insult? Much like we hit the delete key today, Victorians threw these vitriolic messages in the bin.

But there’s still so much that we can learn from the surviving cards! And kind of horrifyingly, we can see that not a lot as changed in well over 100 years!

Lesson 1: The majority of the cards were targeted at women.

Drawing from the archives, we can see that there was a mix of genders, but there is a roughly 60:40 split, with women being the focus of the majority. Interesting when you consider that…

Lesson 2: The cards insults drew from people stepping outside of societal norms

Be it physical or lifestyle based, the cards took a shot at it. From being slightly bigger, single at 40 or in a job deemed outside of gender norms.

Lesson 3: Those deemed ‘lower class’ were blamed for the cards.                         Vinegar Valentines were condemned as morally reprehensible, ripping the fabric of mannered society. So of course, it was those in ‘lower social standing’ who were pointed at as the perpetrators, suggesting that this huge group of people may have fought for the right to communicate but had then used that power to create a harder, harsher world to live in.

And just like with trolling today, Vinegar Valentines had fatalities. In London in 1885 it was reported that a husband shot and killed his wife, after receiving a card that he believed could only have been from her. There were also suicides, with deaths happening shortly after the recipient got the card in the post.

So what happened? Why don’t we still have Vinegar Valentines? 

Well… Vinegar Valentines died out. 

By the end of the Victorian era they just were not as popular. That’s not to say they disappeared completely, sticking around right up to the early and mid 20th century:

show off, later Vinegar Valentine
‘You claim you’re good at anything! so come on show some proof. And let me see how good you are at jumping off the roof!!’

There are a couple of reasons for these cards dying out. The social demonization of the cards didn’t help, especially as many people at the time aspired to one day escape the working classes. Later when the First World War hit, people understandably didn’t really love the idea of using their precious letters to loved ones to send hate.

And of course there is the really schmaltzy reason – given the choice, most people would rather send out love than hate.

  • Oh, that and people evolved into finding new and better ways of telling people they hated them.
Yeah sorry to end that on such a downer. Ok. Bye

This was interesting! Where can I find out more? Brighton Unviersity has a great paper on Vinegar Valentines, by Annabella Pollen, which you can download for free here

More great stuff likes this:

Revenge of the jilted women

For much of history, women were property. Their greatest expectation was to marry well and pop out a couple of babies (preferably boys)

So when a man promised to marry a woman, it was serious business.

Wedding planning wasn’t just a hassle like it is today. It was the starting gun for a woman’s entire world changing. Working women quit their jobs in preparation for married life (losing any source of independent income), sacrifices were made as she stepped away from her family and into her new life as wife. Illegitimate children would even occasionally spring up (because most people in the past didn’t actually wait until marriage…)

So, if after all of that, a groom changed his mind and jilted his betrothed, she was left well and truly screwed!

Depending on how well off the jilted woman was to begin with (both in terms of society and finances) a woman could not only be left disgraced but in mountains of debt. Her future prospects lying in tatters.

So what could women do when their groom bolted and suddenly they were left with no future prospects and no cash (meaning they couldn’t just stop the clocks and spend the rest of their days living in lavish Victorian gothic eleganza, a la Miss Havisham?

Girl, you know the answer….You lawyer up!

Time to face justice asshat. 

Let me introduce you to, A Breach of Promise. It’s a handy legal loophole that allowed a person to recoup losses sustained through a failed engagement

A jilted lover could take their former spouse to court and sue for both emotional and finical damages.

Cases of a Breach of Promise started to become popular around 1650. But pretty quickly, the number of men suing former girlfriends dropped off. With society feeling that taking the ‘weaker sex’ to court was just plain ungentlemanly.

Sadly for their male counterparts, jilted women didn’t have any such qualms and by the Victorian era, the number of breach of promise cases had skyrocketed. 

breach of promise example
Example of a case of Breach of Promise from Somerset

Nine out of ten cases of breach of promise were won, with average payouts ranging from £100 to £1000 (Roughly £8000-£80,000 in today’s money)

Suddenly jilted women didn’t have to be a victim for the rest of their lives. They could reclaim not only their hard earned cash, but also their reputations.

Now illegitimate children could be properly raised, jobs could be regained and if they wanted, women could start again in a new relationship without a huge scarlett letter looming.

BUT before you crack out the prosseco, let me quickly rain on this parade – see men had grown wise to The Breach of Promise and were working on ways to get out of a costly trial.

Seriously though guys… could you just not? 

Now the most obvious way to avoid a scandalous breach of promise court case would be to settle out of court (along with, you know, generally avoiding jilting people)

But if you were a special kind of dickey Victorian gent, there were ways to make sure you were part of the 10% that had their breach of promise case thrown out of court:

1. Claim that your intended was prone to lude conduct – this could be anything from bad language to reading racy books.

Anne Blakely saw her breach of promise case thrown out, after it was shown she had not only read but also owned a copy of – then infamously scandalous – Fanny Hill (gasp)

2. she’s just too ugly to marry: Charlotte Emms walked away with a pitiful £20, after it was claimed her fiancés parents were too appalled with her ‘pock marked’ face to allow their son to marry her. Nice.

3. just straight up call her a liar: in 1875, Susannah o’Sullivan, sought breach of promise, claiming her then fiancé had plied her with wine and assaulted her.

But after her asshat ex stood in court and branded Susannah’s claims a lie, the case was promptly chucked out of court, with Susannah branded ‘laughable’ by the press.

burn it all.gif
Urgh, same. 

By the 1900s, rates of Breach of Promise cases were dropping rapidly.

The whole thing was now seen as farcical, the cases regular comedy fodder, especially in literature (probably most famous is Charles Dickens, Pickworth Papers)

Breach of Promise wasn’t doing great outside of the realms of fiction either. The media circus the cases caused meant that any plaintiff would see their entire life thrown under a microscope for public analysis. Unsurprisingly not many women were game for going through that ordeal, no matter their need.

PLUS, there was the very vital fact that what had once counted as the evidence, was now starting to look flimsy as!

With evidence that didn’t stand up under any scrutiny, the trials often amounted to little more than he said she said. And so there was suddenly a boom in women leaving these court cases branded fraudulent liars.

Were some playing the system to make a quick buck? For sure! But most were like Susannah o’Sullivan, desperate to turn around their shitty situation.

breach of promise case from Penny Illustrated .jpg
The Penny Illustrated dedication of a Breach of Promise case 

By the mid 1900s breach of promise had pretty much disappeared; though it still popped up for comedic effect (notably its used as a plot device in Hard Days Night, when Pauls grandad is accused of breach of promise by a much younger girl – ick)

Now UK law doesn’t recognise engagement as a legal contract. With Breach of Promise now nothing more than a relic, more than often used to showcase the ridiculous whimsy of the past…

This was interesting, where can I find out more? I’d suggest checking out Denise Bates book, Breach of Promise to Marry: A History of How Jilted Brides Settled Scores (absolute bargain on kindle, btw)

Fanny Eaton: The Jamaican Pre-Raphaelite Muse

Fanny was an amazing woman, she moved from Jamaica to London where she became a model for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (them famous dandy painting types)

Sketches of Fanny Eaton by Walter Fry Stocks 1859

But before we get to that bit let’s give you some background.


She was born in 1835 to her mother, Matilda Foster, who was an ex slave, but no father was mentioned on her birth certificate which means there’s a theory now that her father was a slave owner.

This was not an uncommon occurrence. Thanks gross old slave owning white dudes!

History again proving dudes are the worst 🤢

There’s also suggestion that Fanny’s Dad was a soldier named James Entwhistle or Antwhistle (Fanny’s maiden name) who died at just 20 in Jamaica.

Either way her Dad ain’t in the picture.

Matilda and Fanny moved to London sometime during the 1840’s and in 1857 Fanny married a hot young cab driver named James Eaton (GO FANNY!).

Fanny mostly worked as a cleaner/domestic servant in London but had a side job working as an artist’s model.


Fanny was mixed race and was by all accounts a total stunner so it’s no surprise she caught the eye of many an artist.

The first sketches and paintings of Fanny are attributed to artist Simeon Solomon.

In fact, the first painting featuring Fanny was The Mother of Moses by Simeon Solomon, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1860. FANNY HAD MADE IT!

The Mother of Moses by Simeon Solomon 1860

While working she caught the eye of some of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

‘Who are they?’

I hear you cry. Well these guys were a bunch of bohemian painters who loved nothing more than hanging out and painting super dreamy babes in big elaborate scenes pulled from the bible or popular mythos.

The core founding group was made up of William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rosetti, but they had roughly a metric shit ton of associated artists.

They were influenced by medieval art and wanted to focus on details and complex scenes rich with imagery.

Gif version of Ophelia by Millais. Via  Giphy

Now the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood considered Fanny a total fucking hottie, because – duh- they had working eyes.

She was a favorite among them. Rosetti was said in a letter to his artist mate Ford Maddox Brown, that Fanny had a

‘very fine head and figure’


One of the most famous paintings of Fanny was The Head of Mrs Eaton by Joanna Boyce Wells (sister of Pre-Raphaelite artist George Boyce)

The Head of Mrs Eaton by Joanna Boyce Wells 1861

Sadly Joanna died tragically young just as her career was starting to take off, so we don’t know the true story behind her work with Fanny. But the portrait of Fanny was thought to be a study for was a larger painting that would depict Fanny as a Libyan prophetess or a Syrian Warrior Queen (both sound fucking amazing).

The last painting of Fanny was Jephthah by John Everett Millais.

Fanny worked as a model for classes at the Royal Academy from 1860 to 1879 and after that life got in the way… you see Fanny had 9 children by then.



Fanny’s contribution to the arts was largely forgotten, excluded from art history because of her race; the focus always on other Pre-Raphaelite models like Janey Morris or Lizzie Siddal.

But Fanny is a hugely important figure because she was a black woman whose beauty was celebrated in art.

She wasn’t just painted as a token black figure used to make art more exotic, the focus was on HER face, celebrating HER beauty.

FUCK YES!!! Via Giphy

Fanny was sadly widowed in her 40’s, so she brought up (by now) 10 children on her own and worked tirelessly to provide for them all, working as a cook and seamtress.

Unfortunately, little is known about this period in her life.

We do know she lived a long life and died at the grand age of 88 and was living with her loving daughter and grandchildren.

We’re glad Fanny is being brought to the forefront of art history because her impact during a time of serious racial prejudices and divides Fanny was still a symbol for what was then thought of as other forms of beauty.

She’s also an example of how varied working class Victorian culture was, History is often white washed and then it’s presented as fact, but Britain has always been a pot of mixed cultures and influences.

Fanny is a symbol of celebrating black beauty during a time of rigid ideals of what women should be. Long may we celebrate her for that.


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.

A brief history of ladies underwear (and why it’s the worst!)

It’s a brave woman who lives her life eternally sans knickers (or panties for you Americans) but until very recently it was the norm.

Though men throughout history wore underwear (Charles ll was a fan of a silken boxer short FYI) it was considered improper for a lady to have anything between her legs.

Tin Man can’t even face the idea of something between a woman legs, that is the level of scandal.

The only ladies who dared buck this trend were scandalously rich Italian women in the sixteenth century. But sadly not everyone in history was richer than Midas yet poor in morals; so medieval ladies wore one long under dress (sexy) which later evolved into slips and petticoats.

By the early Victorian era we start to see ‘drawers’ being worn by women. Queen Victoria was a fan and as with any regal fashion, it soon became synonymous with class…which meant soon enough, everyone was clammering for a pair of drawers.

Within one century drawers went through a full style evolution. From a fashion irregularity to the norm.

They went from functional to frilly, sexed up and colourful.drawers

By 1901 only the poorest women weren’t sporting drawers every day.

But the evolution didn’t stop there, within the next 20 years drawer hemlines went up and thus the knickers we know today was born!

In fact by the 1940s what was once a fashion novelty was now deemed so essential that during WW2 women opted for wearing home knitted knickers rather than going commando!


Much like knickers, men sported this underwear trend way before women. Long socks were worn by Vikings, Celtics and Saxons as a way to combat chilly weather and prevent chafing from shoes (believe me, if you think your new shoes pinch, they haven’t got shit on medieval footwear!)

But it wasn’t all practicality, long almost stomach high stockings were a sign of fashion and nobility for men at Tudor Court. One lover of the stocking was Henry Vlll, who  was known to proudly comment on the attractiveness of his calves

Henry Vlll.jpg
Those calves…I can hardly contain myself!

In this era women also wore stockings, but theirs stopped at the knee.

Elizabeth l was a massive fan of silk stockings worn in as many bright colours as possible! People who weren’t Queen obvs couldn’t afford this fancy expensive dyed silk goodness, so most just made do with plain old wool stockings.

Now, I’ll be blunt, stockings wise things stay pretty same-ey for the next few centuries…so let’s fast forward to the 1930s!

By this era hemlines in general were MUCH higher. And with their legs now on show and open to the elements, women needed a strong stocking more than ever.

Sadly they had silk stockings which:

A) didn’t stretch

B) laddered like a mo-fo

But then some beautiful bastard invented nylons

Wallace Carathors .jpg
This bastard in fact, meet Wallace Carothers, inventor of Nylon, stealer of hearts

Within 2 days of hitting New York department stores in 1940, Nylons had completely sold out.

This phenomenon wasn’t limited to NYC, with women across America snapping up the incredible new invention. Finally, women were able to strut their stuff without fear of ladders!

And then Pearl Harbour happened…

fucking no!.gif
God damn Pearl Harbour ruining everyones fun

Thanks to the war, nylons were rationed in 1942, with the material only to be used to help the US’s defense.

Women resorted to staining their legs for the illusion of stockings, with canny beauty brands selling liquid stockings (AKA shit fake tan)

When the war was over in 1945, the first thought in women’s minds was celebration, quickly followed by:

‘oh my god I needs to get me some nylons!’

Almost immediately Nylon riots spread across America, as women stormed department stores in the name of underwear.

In Pittsburgh over 40,000 people descended upon one store, desperate to get their hands on 1 of just 13,000 nylons.


Ok so we have the basics down, knickers and tights – but now we need to get us some body!

But how does one achieve that hourglass shape that history has persisted in telling us is IT. Well first you go in and then you go…out

Crinoline 1.jpg
Like way out – From Punch Magazine, 1856-


We’ve previously talked about crinolines on this blog so I’ll be brief, here’s all you need to know:

Crinolines were a fashion staple in the 1800s, beloved for their ability to create an OTT hourglass shape.

sadly, there was one big downside, you see:

Crinolines hate you and want you to die.

Seriously, no other underwear has a thirst for blood quite like these voluminous contraptions of death.

crinolines 2.jpg
See! It’s trying to eat her!!!

In 1864 one London doctor estimated that 2500 women had died as a direct result of wearing crinolines. You see the garment had a habit of catching onto things; after all it was bloody enormous. Sadly the thing crinolines mainly caught onto was fire.

That’s right, crinolines led to thousands of women being burned alive in their dresses.

But the danger didn’t stop there – as said earlier – crinolines were out for blood!

There are accounts of women’s crinolines getting caught on moving carts and carriages, resulting in the unfortunate lady being pulled down the street after it.

I’ll leave you with this: one summers day in Herefordshire one lady was out enjoying the sun.

When she went to sit on the grass, part of her crinolines steel supports snapped – sending a jagged piece of metal into a very very uncomfortable place and inflicting severe internal injuries.

Screaming .gif
Nothing is EVER worth this 


Crinolines weren’t the only underthings causing grievous bodily harm, corsets were also more than happy to fuck women’s bodies up, both internally and externally!

You know she is in so much pain

The great great great grandmother of the corset we know today is the cote; a tightly laced bodice worn by medieval women to acquire an hourglass silhouette (gotta get them child birthing hips!)

Around the 16th century people start using stiffening materials like wood, whalebone and steel to create a much more tighter waist than would be possible with just lacing; and thus the corset is born!!

The corsets design was not just to create a waspish waist, but also to lift the boobs, emphasis the hips and create a rod straight posture.

For the next few centuries women would be squidged, pulled and generally forced by any means into tighter and tighter corsets. With the Victorians desperate to make the average 28 inch waist, a frankly terrifying 16 inches.

Prince is not here for your mangled ribs

It’s the Victorian corset that remains the most iconic. In this era the empire waists of earlier periods were dropped and with more emphasis now on the natural waistline the corset really came into its organ crushing stride.

On that note, lets do some myth busting :

Corsets will not kill you.

I know, they should. Corsets literally squeeze your organs and shuffles them about…but it turns out that bodies are pretty hardy and the typical tightly laced corsets worn by Victorian women were not lethal. Uncomfy? Yes. Deadly? No.

That’s not to say I’m endorsing wearing something that mangles your skeleton, tosses your organs around and is generally the most uncomfortable thing ever. I’m just saying that it wont kill you. Which is good, because everyone in Victorian England wore corsets, even pregnancy couldn’t stop the corset! pregnancy corset.jpg

The Edwardian era sought to rectify some of corsetry’s comfort issues with the invention on the S bend corset (because everyone wants to wear an s bend…)

The S bend was designed to lessen the pressures on the stomach, whilst still nipping in the waist, pushing the boobs and giving a nice posture.

This was the result:

The New Figure!
Not to be a bitch but…hahahaha no

Soon Corsets were packed full of extra enhancements to help women achieve the monumental feats that Edwardian fashion demanded from their bodies.

My personal favourite of these is the lemon cup, sort of a mix between chicken fillets and a push up bra; these small cotton cups were full of horse hair with a coiled spring attached to whalebone hidden inside. When all these elements combined the wearers breasts were buoyantly pushed up and out.


Arguably when you’re attaching springs to your tits, things have gone too far.

Edwardian fashion agreed. As designs that worked with the bodies natural curves came in, corsets starting to go out. Making room for underwear that allowed women to actually do shit, like dance, walk and move without creaking.

This was really interesting! Where can I find out more? I’d suggest checking out the V&A’s book Undressed, A History of Underwear. It’s a detailed look at their recent exhibition on underwear and contains highlights from that collection, plus it’s only a tenner, so winner all round.

Why Millicent Fawcett was the fucking best

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

And you would be wrong. 

Well this is awkward

Ok 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 thats largely been forgotten, but thanks to some bad ass feminists & historians thats all changing!

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


Feminist hero and Queen of fidly up-do’s

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 in an after thought 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 lets pause for a moment and think about what your life’s greatest achievement at 19 was. I’ll admit that working out jäger bombs 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.

Yup 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. BUT Henry was a decade older than her and was also newly blind..not your stereotypical dreamboat.

Yet against everyone’s wishes the pair married with Millicent helping Henry come to terms with his new disability and he supporting her to find her feet in politics.

Henry and Millicent
Henry and Millicent Fawcett 

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

public speaking.gif
Urgh 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 in at 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.gif


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 countries women’s rights groups together and making their voice even louder. Suffragist

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)

A 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!) and 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


Yes, I’ll admit this is pretty awkward, but bear with me!

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.gif

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?
Yeah don’t try and look for logic in that bullshittery             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


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 cross roads. Should they halt their actions and support the war effort, or continue none the less? 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

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 will become the first woman with a statue in Parliament square. Millicent Fawcett

6 crimes that scandalised Victorian England Part 3

In the final part of our series on Victorian crime and murder we have Britain’s most prolific serial killer and an actual case of death by chocolate, so without further ado let’s get to it:

via giphy

The Angel Maker

If you asked a child to draw a picture of a serial killer, they would draw Amelia Dyer…and then have nightmares for literally ever because ohmygod have you seen this woman?!?

Never sleeping again

Amelia Dyer grew up reasonably well off. She trained as a corset maker but gave up the trade in 1861 to marry George Thomas (at 59 over twice as old as 24 year old Amelia). Once married Amelia started training to be a nurse and it was nursing that would introduce her to baby farming and turn Amelia Dyer into Britain’s most prolific murderer.

Shits about to get real – via giphy


Baby farming was a black market career choice but a not uncommon one. The 1834 Poor Law Amendment saw unwed mothers lose most rights to support; these women were now only able to receive clothes, food or shelter if both mother and child went to the workhouse – not a good option to put it mildly. Single mothers were limited to a few desperate options: prostitution, taking their chances on the streets or making their own children ‘angels’. Less Sophie’s choice, more super fucked no matter what you do.

This is where baby farms came in. For a fee women would take in these children, adopt or foster them, care for the child as their own and then rehouse the child with suitable parents. Of course the reality was very different, most destitute mothers couldn’t afford a rolling fee for their child’s care, many paying a one off fee of around £5 (around (£225 today). Anyone who has seen the price of nappies knows that sum isn’t going to care for a child for long, so it’s unsurprising that some baby farmers had no intention of caring for the child as their own. Instead they fed their charges the bare minimum, used opium to keep the children quiet and left them in squalid conditions. It was not uncommon for baby farm children to die as a result of neglect.

It was this world Amelia Dyer chose to enter.


By 1869 Amelia had left nursing and soon after this her husband died. she needed a source of income fast and baby farming seemed like the best choice to make a quick buck. Amelia threw herself into this new profession but she soon got greedy and started allowing some of the children to die, purposefully neglecting them to free up space for more babies.

She tried to make these deaths seems as legitimate as possible (well as legit as tons of dead babies can be). after several years a local doctor finally started to think there might be something dodgy about all the dead children at Amelia Dyers house and reported her to police on suspicion of neglect, she was found guilty and in 1879 was sentenced to just 6 months of hard labour.

Via giphy


Once out of prison, Amelia left baby farming, she tried to get back into nursing, but was deemed mentally unstable and was sent to a mental asylum. When she left the aslym Amelia had no place to go, so she turned to what she knew: baby farming.

It was perhaps her mental break that led Amelia to stop trying to get death certificates for the infants that died in her care. Instead she decided to cut the middle man out entirely, killing the children almost immediately after their arrival. This meant she could take on more children then ever before. At one point neighbours saw up to 6 children a day being handed over to Dyer. Business was booming.

One unwed mother soon to cross paths with Amelia Dyer was Evelina Marion, a young barmaid who had given birth to an illegitimate daughter, Doris. Short on options Evelina came across an advert in The Bristol Times and Mirror:

It seemed to good to be true – it was


On 31st March 1896 Evelina met with the woman who posted the advertisement, Mrs Harding, and handed over Doris. Mrs Harding was of course Amelia Dyer using a pseudonym. Now on a roll, just a day later Dyer took guardianship over another baby Harry Simmons.

But Amelia’s luck was running out. The day before she was given Doris Marmom, a bargeman fished a brown paper package the Thames at Reading. Upon inspection the wrapping came loose and a child’s foot fell out. When fully unwrapped, the package revealed the tiny body of Helena Fry, a child who had been left in Amelia Dyers care.

After the discovery the river was immediately searched. A carpet bag was dredged up and inside were the bodies of Doris Marmom and Harry Simmons. Both had been strangled with white tape.

However the brown paper packaging that Helena Fry had been Found in provided police with a vital clue. The paper was addressed to a Mrs Thomas, yet anouther pseudonym used by Amelia Dyer.

Whilst the police hunted for Dyer, four more children’s bodies were dredged from the river. Each had been strangled and like Doris Marmom and Harry Simmons, white tape was wrapped around their necks.

It didn’t take long for the police to catch up with Dyer and on 4th April 1896, just days after she had taken custody of Doris Marmom, she was charged with the child’s murder. Amelia Dyer confessed, telling police to look for children with white tape around their necks, that way they ‘Could tell it was one of mine’


Daily Mail article following Amelia Dyers arrest


Amelia Dyer stood trial on 22nd May 1896 at The Old Bailey. She confessed to only one murder, Doris Marmom. The evidence was stacked against her, along with her written confession, several people reported seeing Dyer acting strangely and it transpired she had almost been caught on multiple occasions.

Despite Amelia Dyers pleas of insanity and her long history of stays in mental asylums, it took a jury under 5 minutes to find her guilty. She was sentenced to death.

Amelia Dyer described herself as ‘the angel maker’. Prior to her execution she wrote a confession which filled over five exercise books. It’s thought she killed over 200 children, though the number may be as high as 400 or even 700.


Death By Chocolate

Christiana Edmunds was a fashionable lady about town and also one of Victorian England’s most interesting mental health case studies. Her increasingly elaborate killing spree sent her to Broadmoor and thanks to newly released archives we are just starting to discover what led her to killchristiana edmunds .jpgEdmunds came from a background streaked with mental illness, her Dad died in an asylum in London from what was considered ‘madness’ (now considered the side effects of syphilis) Christiana’s brother was also sent to an asylum this one ‘for idiots’ (don’t you just love those Victorians) where he died from an epileptic fit. Christiana’s sister attempted suicide several times, finally collapsing and dying outside her home following the death of her brother. Soon after all of this Christiana was diagnosed with that Victorian classic, hysteria – or what we would now diagnosis as (at least) severe depression, most likely stemming from ALL THE FUCKERY.

Like things couldn’t get any worse, right? via giphy

In the 1860’s Christiana, her mother and sister moved to Brighton and an by 1867 a Dr Beard starting treating Christiana for her hysteria. Beard was attractive, intelligent, kind and married. The married part was less than ideal for Christiana, especially as the two grew closer and she started to fall in love with Beard, but life had knocked Christiana so many times she wouldn’t allow a little blip like a wife to get in the way of her future happiness. So in September 1870 Christiana visited the Beard residence armed with a box of chocolates.

Dr Beard was out but his wife Emily invited Christiana in  and the two women sat in the kitchen with the chocolates between them and chatted. Emily reached for a chocolate cream but quickly spat it out, something was wrong, the cream inside was bitter and spoiled. That night Emily was incredibly ill, vomiting and in increasing pain- she had been poisoned with Strychnine.

I’ve chosen to illustrate this with Turkish Delights, which might as well be poison

Emily lived, much to Christiana’s frustration. To make matters worse Dr Beard appeared at Christiana’s home the next day. He confronted her and revealed that he had recognised the symptoms of strychnine and he knew that Christiana had tried to murder his wife; if she knew what was good for her then she would stay away from him and his family.

To Christiana this was just another blip on the road to happiness. She now knew she must do two things:

1) Successfully kill Emily Beard

2) Ensure Dr Beard no longer suspected her as the poisoner (because murder is kind of a turn off)

Christiana decided to stick with chocolates as her murder weapon, injecting chocolate creams from a local sweet shop with strychnine and then planting them back on the shelves. Planning to kill Emily Beard under the guise of a serial killer and throw Dr Beard off the scent. It seemed to work and over the coming months numerous people fell deathly ill after eating the chocolates. But nobody actually died.

via giphy

But then in June 1871 4 year old Sidney Barker was on holiday in Brighton with his family. His Uncle bought the boy some chocolates as a treat. After eating just a few chocolates Sidney was dead.

Sidney Barkers death was initially ruled an accident but it didn’t take long for police to join the dots between his death and the other curious illnesses that had spread across Brighton. At the inquest into Sidney’s death, Christiana Edmunds actually appeared, giving evidence that she herself had become ill after eating chocolates bought from the same shop.

But Christiana didn’t stop there, she started writing Sidney’s father letters, urging him to take legal action against the shop that had sold the chocolates. The police quickly noticed Christiana’s continued involvement in the case. Rather than helping to to create an imaginary serial poisoner, it was just leading police right to her.

And then shit got real. The Beards announced they were moving to Scotland. Christiana went into full defcon mode and started work on one last ditch attempt to kill Beard’s wife and make him fall in love with her and stay in Brighton.

Christiana created a batch of poisoned plum cakes and distributed them around Brighton, sending them to random people as well as the Beards and herself.

I am now highly suspicious of this bitch – via giphy

The cakes didn’t work and Dr Beard finally alerted the police to his suspicions.

In January 1872 Christiana Edmunds stood trial at The Old Bailey in London. Her lawyer, John Humffreys Parry openly admitted to being confused at Christiana’s motives, however upon meeting with her he decided that the only route to go down was to plead insanity. This was not an easy task in Victorian England, the only way the plea would be granted was if a jury could all agree that Christiana could not be blamed for her actions.

A, in no way terrifying drawing of Parry

Parry leaned on her family history and also had several notable doctors come to examine Christiana, all agreeing that she could not tell right from wrong. Still the plea didn’t work and Christiana Edmunds was sentenced to death. Though she did attempt to avoid the hangman’s noose by faking a pregnancy – the rouse was quickly discovered.

But then Christiana underwent a full psychiatric evaluation and her sentence was remitted, she was then moved to the newly opened Broadmoor. This move resulted in a public outcry, with many seeing it as a clear sign of class privilege and massive miscarriage of justice. None the less Christina spent the rest of her life in Broadmoor dying there in 1907, aged 78.

That was interesting, where can I find out more: I’m glad you asked! If you haven’t already caught up with the rest of this series you totally should! And you can! Right here:

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