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Tessa Boase

Tessa Boase

Mrs Pankhurst’s voluptuous purple feather

Printed Matter Bookshop in Hastings has invited local writer, Tessa Boase to give a talk on her new book, Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather : Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women’s Fight for Change. Owner Lee Humphries writes.

When Mrs Pankhurst stormed the House of Commons with her crack squad of militant suffragettes in 1908, she wore on her hat a voluptuous purple feather.

This is the intriguing story behind that feather. Twelve years before the suffragette movement began dominating headlines, a very different women’s campaign captured the public imagination. Its aim was radical: to stamp out the fashion for feathers in hats.

Leading the fight was a character just as heroic as Emmeline Pankhurst, but with opposite beliefs. Her name was Etta Lemon – and she was anti-fashion, anti-feminist – and anti-suffrage. Mrs Lemon has been forgotten by history, but her mighty society lives on.

Few, today, are aware that Britain’s biggest conservation charity, the RSPB, was born through the determined efforts of a handful of women, led by the indomitable Mrs Lemon. While the suffragettes were slashing paintings and smashing shop windows, Etta Lemon and her local secretaries were challenging `murderous millinery’ all the way up to Parliament. This gripping narrative explores two singular heroines – one lionised, the other forgotten – and their rival, overlapping campaigns.

Moving from the feather workers’ slums to the highest courtly circles, from the first female political rally to the first forcible feeding, Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather is a unique journey through a society in transformation. This is a highly original story of women stepping into the public sphere, agitating for change – and finally finding a voice.

Mrs_Prankhursts_Purple_Feather-Tessa-Boase-1Book talk with Tessa Boase on her new book, Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather : Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women’s Fight for Change on Weds 13 June at 6pm. Printed Matter Bookshop, 185 Queens Road, Hastings, TN34 1RG. 6pm. Free entry.

Tessa Boase’s website.

Posted 10:20 Sunday, Jun 3, 2018 In: Literature


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  1. tessa boase

    I’ll be adding to the list of events on my website; hoping to talk at RSPB visitors’ centres in Rye Harbour and Dungeness in the near future. Meanwhile – you might like to read the book! thanks, Tessa

    Comment by tessa boase — Monday, Jun 4, 2018 @ 13:56

  2. Lee

    Hello Sunbear,
    I dont know if Tessa will be doing another talk as she has already one when the book got released but you never know. If you are interested the book is available in Printed Matter Bookshop, 185 Queens Road, Hastings, TN34 1RG. Or via the website
    Best wishes

    Comment by Lee — Monday, Jun 4, 2018 @ 13:08

  3. Sunbear

    What an interesting story. I had never heard of her either but she must have been amazing. I have been searching for tall peacock feathers and will not buy natural ones. I am sure you can imagine how difficult it is to find artificial feathers.
    I wish I could come to the talk but will be away. Will there be another?

    Comment by Sunbear — Monday, Jun 4, 2018 @ 12:17

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