Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women’s Fight for Change by Tessa Boase - review by Henrietta Garnett

Henrietta Garnett

Ruffling Feathers

Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women’s Fight for Change

By

Aurum Press 320pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

Tessa Boase has written a fascinating account of what she describes as the story of ‘two difficult, driven, heroic and compassionate women of vastly differing ambitions, personalities and methods’. Shocking, frequently funny and full of unexpected information, it is all of that and more. The two principal characters are the well-known leader of the Suffragettes, Emmeline Pankhurst, and an almost entirely forgotten campaigner for the Society for the Protection of Birds (SPB), the splendidly named Etta Lemon. How this piercingly intelligent woman, a confirmed Evangelist, came to be consigned to oblivion is one of the mysteries Boase unravels.

At the turn of the century, all women of all classes wore hats in public. Hats lavishly trimmed with feathers were the height of fashion. Pankhurst was both a militant feminist and a fervent fashionista. She was known for her flamboyant hats adorned with dyed purple ostrich feathers (purple

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