Archive for category Book of the Week

Book Of The Week: Gilbert Stone (editor), Women War Workers, published 1917

Woman and Her Sphere’ has had a long-standing interest in searching out – and cataloguing for sale – books and ephemera by and about women’s involvement in the First World War. With the 100th anniversary drawing nearer, radio and television producers already searching for new angles from which to approach the subject , and the Government heralding what is likely to be a long period of commemoration, it is, perhaps, appropriate to draw readers’ attention to some of the contemporary works that recorded ways in which women reacted to the disruption of their world. The first book I have chosen is:

Woman tram-conductor in Brighton

Gilbert Stone (editor), Women War Workers: accounts contributed by representative workers of the work done by women in the more important branches of war employment, George G. Harrap & Co, 1917. With a foreword by Lady Jellicoe.

The book comprises articles written by women working in new areas of employment. The chapters are titled:

Munition Work;  The Land;  A Postwoman’s Perambulations;  Banking;  ‘Fares Please!’ [work as a bus conductor];  Deliverng the Goods [driver of butcher’s delivery cart];  Nursing at the French Front;  The V.A.D. Nurse ;  The Comforteers [working with ‘Concerts at the Front’] ;  Welfare Work;   The Women of Paris During the German Advance,  and  ‘War Organisations for Women’ – giving statistical information, together with the chief purposes and aims of the more prominent organizations connected with Women’s War Work.

The butcher-boy girl

The book concludes with a very interesting chapter by Gilbert Stone in which he discusses the difficulties that women will face after the end of the war. ‘To coop them up at home without future, without outlook, without freedom, dependent on their father’s purse, yet with a memory of the wide world ever present, or, if possible it is a poor way of showing man’s sense of the meaning of the words Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

The book – with 12 photographs – is surprisingly scarce. This copy is in good condition and is £60.

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Book of the Week: Margaret Sanger, Woman And The New Race – Kitty Marion’s copy – rich with suffrage and Sanger associations

Margaret Sanger, Woman And The New Race, published by Brentano’s (NY), 1921 (3rd printing) – Kitty Marion’s copy

Inscription on free front endpaper of this copy of Woman and the New Race

Margaret Sanger spearheaded the birth-control campaign in the US.  In this book, first published in 1920, she writes: ‘The most far-reaching social development of modern times is the revolt of woman against sex servitude. The most important force in the remaking of the world is a free motherhood’. The Introduction to the book is by Havelock Ellis, one of several leading thinkers with whom she had an affair.

In October 1914 Margaret Sanger fled from the US to England while on bail for violating US postal obscenity laws – the charge was that of sending through the post copies of her radical feminist journal, The Woman Rebel, which advocated the use of contraception.  She remained in England until October 1915. Coincidentally it was in October 1915 that Kitty Marion, a former, German-born,  militant suffragette, set sail for the US. Once in New York she worked for many years for Margaret Sanger, her role being that of street seller of Sanger’s Birth Control Review. 

 In England in 1913 Kitty Marion had been  sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for her part in the burning of the grandstand at the Hurst Park racecourse (as retaliation for the death of Emily Wilding Davison)- although, after going on hunger and thirst strike,  she was released under the Cat and Mouse Act. It would  appear that, on the run, she was  one of the WSPU’s most active arsonists, although she evaded detection for much of the destruction she committed.  In New York, on 14 October 1918, she was again given a prison sentence – this time for distributing Birth Control Review.

This particular copy of this book brings together these various histories. The free front endpaper bears the ink inscription, in Margaret Sanger’s handwriting –  ‘Margaret Sanger, New York, Oct 14-1921. 

Underneath this is written ‘zum Andenken! Kitty Marion’ [translated from German: In Memory!].  This inscription obviously commemorates the 3rd anniversary of Kitty Marion’s imprisonment – of which Margaret Sanger had at the time written ‘We glory in her deed’. I think the second part of the endpaper inscription may be Kitty Marion’s hand. For although the ink looks much the same as the Sanger message, I think the writing is different.

Yet another layer of suffrage association is revealed by the ownership signature, written faintly in pencil in the top right corner of  the same page. It is that of Maud Fussell, another former member of the WSPU – and, again, one who suffered imprisonment.

My reconstruction of the history of the book is that it was signed by Margaret Sanger for  Kitty Marion and was subsequently given by Kitty Marion to Maud Fussell. It was sold to me along with other books that had been in Maud Fussell’s possession.

The book is in good condition and is  a particularly interesting association copy.    Price £165 plus postage.

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Book of the Week: The Love-Letters of Mary Hays, ed A.F. Wedd

The Love-Letters of Mary Hays (1779-1780), edited by her great-great-niece A.F. Wedd, Methuen 1925.

 Tortured by her sensibility, for one blissful year 17-year old Mary Hays enjoyed – or suffered – a romance with John Eccles, a fellow non-conformist who lodged close by her family home in Southwark. Initially opposed by their families, the romance appeared to be approaching a happy conclusion when, shortly before the marriage, John died. However that year had produced an abundance of correspondence, letters treasured by Mary Hays for the rest of her life. In her Introduction to the edited version, her great-great-niece explains how:

 ‘After many years of oblivion, the papers from which this book has been compiled were discovered stored away in a cupboard of the little old house inhabited by the descendants of Mary Hays’s sister “Sister Dunkin”. The Love-Letters, with Mary’s own introduction and notes, had been copied, in the exquisite writing of her friend Mrs Collier, into two volumes, from which the handsome morocco covers, stamped with the initials M.H. and J.E., had fallen.. The other letters, dusty, stained, and nibbled by mice, but still tied in packets and labelled with the names of their famous authors, were contained in a small wooden chest.’

Is that not a researcher’s dream? For, 230 years later, Mary Hays attracts attention. Having struggling to surface from her great grief – it took about 10 years – she turned from letter to book writing, producing novels, polemics – including Appeal to the Men of Great Britain on Behalf of the Women, 1798 – in which she refutes the contemporary rationale for the subjection of women –  and, most importantly, her six volumes of Female Biography, 1802. In these years she moved in the London literary and philosophical circles that included Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, letters from whom are printed at the end of Love-Letters.

By editing these letters Annie Frances Wedd played her part in the renaissance of Mary Hays. In her Introduction she noted that ‘Mary Hays is now unknown; her books are unread; even her connection with the literary celebrities of her day has been forgotten’. However, when the late 20th-century ‘female turn’ in literary studies ensured that novels such as Hays’s Emma Courtney were reprinted, The Love-Letters was there to provide quotable material to place Mary Hays firmly in Mary Wollstonecraft’s circle. Miss Wedd’s Introduction is delightfully tart. She makes clear that, while feeling a sympathy with her forebear, she did not herself suffer from the ‘exquisite sensibility’ that rendered Mary Hays’s days so melancholy – noting, for instance, that when, after Eccles’ death, Mary upbraids ‘the nightingale for not joining in her plaint, as the month was August this was hardly to be expected’.

The book is in very good condition, is quite scarce – £45 (plus postage). To buy contact:



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Book of the Week: A Nest of Suffragettes in Somerset

A Nest of Suffragettes in Somerset: Eagle House, Batheaston by B.M. Willmott Dobbie for The Batheaston Society, 1979. Soft covers – very good condition  (with a newspaper cutting of an obituary of Bristol suffragette, Victoria Lidiard, laid in). £26 (plus postage) For sale – from my stock of books and ephemera about the suffrage movement. To buy – email

‘Annie’s Arboretuem’ and the Suffragette Rest

The story of the Blathwayt family – Col Linley Blathwayt, his wife Emily and daughter Mary -who lived at Eagle House, Batheaston, where for some years they offered a haven to WSPU activists. Annie Kenney – and her sisters – were particular favourites.

Col Blathwayt organised the planting of trees to commemorate visits by both suffragists and suffragettes – such as Lady Constance Lytton.

Lady Constance Lytton photographed by Col Blathwayt

‘Annie’s Arboreteum’ and ‘Pankhurst Pond’ were just two of the features created on the estate. Col Blathwayt was a keen photographer and many of the photographs he took of visiting suffragettes are included in this book. The text includes extracts from the diaries that the Blathwayts kept and which provide us with such a disingenuous view of some of the leading suffragette personalities

For more about Eagle House (and a little about Rose Lamartine Yates and Dorset Hall, Merton, of whom, coincidentally, I wrote in yesterday’s post) see here. For ‘Suffragettes in Bath’ see here. The diaries of Col. Blathwayt, Mrs Emily Blathwayt, and dear Mary Blathwayt, who I describe in the Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide, as the ‘Mr Pooter of the suffrage movement’, are held in Gloucestershire Archives.

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Book of the Week: Cairnes: Political Essays – Millicent Fawcett’s copy

Cairnes, Political Essays, Macmillan, 1873.

Presentation copy to Millicent Fawcett

 The Irish economist John Cairnes had long been a friend of Henry Fawcett, both part of the Blackheath circle centring on John Stuart Mill. When Millicent Fawcett (aged 23) published her ‘Political Economy for Beginners’ in 1870 Cairnes took it seriously, reviewed it and wrote to her ‘I have just finished my study of your useful little book and send you by this post my notes upon it. You will find I have some serious controversies with you.’ Three years later, when he published ‘Political Essays’ , he sent Millicent a copy – inscribing it ‘MG Fawcett from the author’.

Millicent Fawcett’s bookplate

A ‘From the Author’ slip has survived the handling of the last 140 years – and Millicent Fawcett has added her delightful bookplate to the front pastedown. However, an inquisitive inspection reveals that not all the pages are cut.

Latterly the book was in the library of O.R. McGregor (Professor Lord McGregor of Durris) author of ‘Divorce in England’ which had, for its time, 1957, an excellent bibliography – revealing the author’s wide interest in ‘women’s history’. On the spine the cloth binding is chipped – missing in parts – would benefit from rebacking. Otherwise a good copy – and a very interesting association copy £150. 

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Book of the Week: Betham, A Biographical Dictionary of Celebrated Women, 1804

Matilda Betham: A Biographical Dictionary of the Celebrated Women of Every Age and Country, printed for E. Crosby, 1804..

‘I was induced to believe that a General Dictionary of Women, who had been distinguished by their actions or talents, i various nations, or at different periods of teh world, digested under an alphabetical arrangement, which had never been done in our language, might meet with a favourable reception.’

Matilda Betham (1776-18520, poet, artist and biographer, was a friend of Coleridge, Southey and the Lambs. Celebrated Women begins with an entry on ‘Abassa, an Arabian Princess of the Eighth Century’ and ends with ‘Zoe, fourth of Emperor Leo VI’ taking in on the way a hundred stars, their light now a little dimmed, only waiting the discerning eye to burst into life. ‘Authenticity, and impartiality have been my aim throughout, conceiving thsoe principles to be of most consequence in a work of this kind, than ornamental writing.’ A fascinating compilation – not only for itself, but for the thought of a young woman at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries taking the trouble to amass so much information.

First edition – 852pp – bound in half leather and marbled boards – very good – scarce – £200.

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Book of the Week: Bulley & Whitley, Women’s Work

 WOMEN’S WORK by Miss A. Amy Bulley and Miss Margaret Whitley. With a Preface by Lady Dilke. Published by Methuen in the Social Questions of the Day series, 1894.

Amy Bulley (1852-1939) was an early student at Girton, Cambridge, going from there to Manchester, where she taught at Manchester High School for Girls and was involved in the campaign that eventually, in 1883, saw women allowed to sit for Owens College degrees. She then took a very active interest in women’s employement and the labour movement, becoming chair of the council of the recently-formed Manchester, Salford and District Trades Council, 1897-1906, investigating the dire conditions of the ‘sweated’ trades.

Lady Dilke had been involved with the women’s trade union movement since the 1870s

The book affords a comprehensive coverage of the new ‘white blouse’ employment open to women – to professions – such as medicine – and to clerical work – such as typewriting and post office work – as well as the trades and vocations with which they had been associated in the past. The authors include much discussion of conditions of employment and the rise of women’s trade unions.

Women’s Work is a thorough piece of research – the authors do not shrink from using statistics and advocating the reforms they think necessary in the future.

In good condition – some marginal pencil markings, showing how involved one previous reader has been in the subject. An unblinking view of the position of working women at the end of the 19th century. £55 plus postage.

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Book of the Week: Frances Hays: Women of the Day

Frances Hays (ed), Women of the Day: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Women Contemporaries, published by J.B. Lippincott & Co (Philadelphia), 1885. This is a copy of the American edition, published in the same year as the London, Chatto & Windus, edition.

This is a superb biographical source on interesting 19th-century women. The first entry is on Lea Lundgren Ahlborn, a Swedish artist, and the last is on Helen Zimmern, a German-born British journalist and writer. The hundreds of  entries in between give biographical details of women who were ‘notable’ – for their work rather than their position in society – in the latter half of the 19th century but who have now rather faded from view.

This books is, therefore, a very useful vademecum for those researching the period. The general reader, too, will find plenty to interest her in this biographical bran tub.

Frances Hays clearly did much of her research in the Reading Room of the British Museum, thanking both ‘Mr John P. Anderson, Assistant in the British Museum, for much valuable aid’ and noting her indebtedness to Dr Garnett (who was assistant keeper of printed books at the Museum).

This is a copy of the American edition, first published by J.B. Lippincott & Co (Philadelphia), in the same year, 1885, as the London, Chatto & Windus, edition. In fact, apart from the title page, the editions are likely to have been identical. Although the title page of this copy dates it to 1885, bound in at the back is a 32-page section listing Chatto & Windus books dated June 1891. I doubt that the book actually ever saw Philadelphia: it was presented to The City of York Public Library by C.J. [Cuthbert Joseph] Kleiser (1855-1929), a Yorkshire-born watchmaker. What an excellent choice; it makes one want to know more about Mr Kleiser.

The copy is in good conditon, in its original binding, with the City of York Public Library bookplate on the front pastedown and relatively discreet shelf mark on the spine. £75 plus postage.

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