From scientists to weapons testers to doctors – bringing to life the formidable female pioneers who helped win the war and the vote
One hundred years ago next month, on 6 February 1918, women working in hospitals, laboratories and universities throughout Britain raised toasts and burst into triumphal song as they celebrated being given the vote.
Before the first world war, many of these doctors, scientists and academics had been impassioned suffragists and even militant suffragettes who marched on parliament and smashed windows in support of votes for women. On the outbreak of war they had immediately hung up their banners and laid down their missiles to devote their expertise to fighting the common enemy. The government’s decision to award the vote to women over 30 – the rest would have to wait another 10 years – was widely regarded as a reward for women’s war work. Continue reading...
Valentine relished working in a variety of mortuaries and now curates a pathology museum. She presents all the grisly details
When well-meaning adults asked young Carla Valentine what she wanted to be when she grew up they generally recoiled in horror. From the age of nine she was adamant she wanted to be a mortician. For some time, she had been fascinated by death.
As a young child, Valentine’s favourite pastime was staging funerals for roadkill victims. Witnessing the death of her grandfather at the age of seven only strengthened her morbid vocation, while the sight of his false teeth landing at her feet seems to have given her a taste for gallows humour. When friends left on their gap year travels, Valentine spent 12 months as an embalmer’s assistant in a funeral parlour. “It was heaven to me,” she says. After studying forensic science she achieved her ambition – ...
Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield shed fresh light on how a woman in Victorian society adopted a male persona and became the UK’s first female doctor
Some people only become famous after they die. When Dr James Barry died in 1865 he became infamous. By all accounts, he had led a colourful life. A renowned military surgeon, he rose to become inspector general of hospitals – one of the highest army medical posts – and served throughout the British empire. Notoriously irascible, Barry fought a duel with a fellow officer, ticked off Florence Nightingale and survived several army inquiries into his conduct. He was a humane doctor, fervent public health reformer and famous for his peculiarities: a teetotaller and vegetarian, he travelled with a menagerie of small animals.
Yet all these eccentricities were as nothing compared with the revelations that emerged on Barry’s death. For the brilliant Dr Barry ...
A richly descriptive account of strange beasts on the streets, which ranges from royal lions and a dodo to ostriches that ate nails
Most of us today divide neatly into cat lovers or dog lovers. In the past the choice was a good deal more colourful. Roman settlers in Britain imported peacocks to adorn their villas, while medieval animal lovers favoured monkeys and parrots as pets. The 16th‑century Cambridge scholar John Caius
kept a green monkey, a chameleon and a marmoset in his house, and a century later the diarist Samuel Pepys
shared his London home with a lion cub and an eagle, which fouled the house “mightily”.
By the 18th century every self-respecting aristocrat with a scientific bent boasted a collection of exotic animals, so that our green and pleasant lands were grazed by zebus, moose and zebras, and the country air was rent by the roars of lions and tigers. No visit ...