Welcome to our blog! This is a platform where the rich diversity of women's voices can be heard and where we can come together to turn attention on the myriad of issues that affect a variety of women. We celebrate where things are good, and focus a spotlight on areas where they aren't. If you want to write something for this space please just get in touch!

Before sending us your blog, please note: We publish articles that are written by women, pro all women & not for profit in their intention. We welcome lighter pieces as well as articles on more serious issues. There is no specific word count, but most pieces are around the 700 word mark.

Our latest post is by Karla McLaren, Campaign Manager: Women’s Rights in Afghanistan for Amnesty International UK who are campaigning for women in Afghanistan.

[ Items 34 - 36 of 38 ]

Beyond the Flopsy Bunnies

Beatrix Potter: Scientist, Entrepreneur and Environmentalist

“You may go into the fields and down the lane, but don’t go into Mr McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put into a pie by Mrs McGregor.”

Less than fifty words into The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter leaves us in no doubt we are in a world where the price of failure is death, with extra gravy.

Hitchcock would have been hard pressed to convey so much menace with such economy of effort.

Precision is the hall-mark of her work. The coat “of cherry-coloured corded silk embroidered with pansies and roses, and a cream coloured satin waistcoat—trimmed with gauze and green worsted chenille” which she illustrated in The Tailor of Gloucester was drawn from an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Many years later, a family arrived at the museum begging to see the original. Armed with her illustrations, the museum had little difficulty finding the right coat in their vast storage rooms. It is now on display again.

Peter Rabbit and his friends have inspired a ballet by Frederick Ashton, a film starring Rene Zellweger and Ewan MacGregor, and numerous cartoon adaptations. However, though her books still sell over two million copies a year, and it seems impossible to visit the Lake District without being inundated with Peter Rabbit merchandise ranging from duvet covers to cereal bowls, Beatrix Potter was far more than simply a beloved children’s author.

In fact, Potter - scientist, linguist, artist, merchandising rights pioneer, hill-farmer, breeder of prize-winning sheep and early environmentalist - was a true polymath, despite the limits imposed by her Victorian upbringing and domineering parents.

For a young woman from her background - the professional upper-middle class, with solid Lancashire cotton money on both sides of the family - going away to school, let alone University, was virtually unthinkable. She was educated by governesses, who seems to have done an outstanding job.

It was a period when gifted amateurs could still make their mark. Despite her lack of formal qualifications, Potter was very gifted indeed. In the 1890s she became particularly interested in mycology, the study of fungi and lichens.

She cultivated algal cells and fungal spores, subjected them to microscopic examination and drew them at all points in their life cycle. Her observations tended to support the theory (originally advanced by a Swiss botanist, Simon Schwendener, in 1869) that lichens, rather than being a single, simple organism, were a symbiote, combining an algae and a fungus in one entity. This theory (not finally accepted until 1939) required a radical re-evaluation of how life could develop, and was, as a result, hugely controversial.

Potter began working on a paper documenting her spore germination experiments.

Her uncle, Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe, formerly professor in chemistry at Manchester University and now vice-chancellor of the University of London, secured her an introduction to George Massee, the leading mycologist at Kew Botanical Gardens. The relationship seems to have started uneasily. She observed,


“I do not quite like to give the paper to Mr Massee because I am afraid I have rather contradicted him. Uncle Harry is satisfied with my way of working but we wish very much that someone would take it up at Kew to try it, if they do not believe my drawings. Mr Massee took objection to my slides, but the things exist, and will be all done by the Germans.”[1]


However, Massee came round. Though the Linnaean Society, the leading scientific body in the field, refused to let a woman attend their meetings, he acted as her proxy in presenting her 1897 paper, “Germination of the spores of the Agaricineae” to the Society.

The paper has unfortunately been lost, although several hundred of Potter’s scientific drawings can be seen in the Arnitt Museum in the Lake District, where they are still used by mycologists to identify fungi.

Whether through frustration with the Linnaean Society, or because other things were taking up too much time, Potter did not return to her work on fungi. After the publication of Peter Rabbit in 1901 she concentrated not only on writing and illustrating its sequels, but on merchandising.

Like many British other authors, including Tolkien half a century later, she fell foul of the US copyright system, failing to register Peter Rabbit at the Library of Congress and so losing out to pirates. Determined not to be caught again, in 1903 she hand-stitched a Peter Rabbit doll and registered it at the Patent Office, making Peter the first literary character to be patented.[2] This was the start of the multi-billion pound character merchandising industry we know today; even the vast Disney corporation has to follow in a small rabbit’s pawprints.

The royalties from her books and merchandise enabled her to buy a farm in the Lake District, where she became increasingly concerned about the danger to the environment from unchecked development. She had known Canon Rawnsley, co-founder of the National Trust, since meeting him when she holidayed in the Lake District as a girl. He provided much needed support when, later, she was struggling to find a publisher for Peter Rabbit.[3] Now it was her turn to help him.

First alone, and then with the support of her husband, William Heelis, a local solicitor whom she married in 1913, at the age of 47, she threw herself into the work of conservation. Her strategic purchases of land threatened by development, both on her own and in cooperation with the National Trust, ensured the preservation of much of what is now the Lake District National Park.

For Potter, preservation emphatically did not imply stagnation. Her vision was for the Lake District as a living landscape in which traditional ways of life could flourish and be built upon by judicious and sensitive innovation.

Her farm management style was extremely hands on; she was known for going out in all weathers, and being familiar with every last inch of her land and boundaries. Her scientific interests found an outlet in breeding Herdwick sheep, including by pioneering new remedies for sheep diseases. She built a prize-winning herd and, at the time of her death in December 1943, was due to take office as the first ever female President of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association.

On her death and that of her husband, a year later, their estate passed to the National Trust. It was the largest single bequest to the Trust at that date, and comprised some seventeen farms, all of which continue to support Herdwick sheep to this day.

Without Mrs Heelis, the physical landscape we know would have been changed beyond all recognition. Without Beatrix Potter our imaginative landscape would be greatly the poorer. Anyone inclined to write her off as simply a twee producer of fluffy bunny books is strongly advised to take a moment, pause - and look underneath the pie-crust.


[1] Massee’s first response had been to fob her off by sending her away to read the works of Professor Brefeld on spore germination, a series of heavy tomes all in the original German. Fortunately, this was a language in which Potter was fluent.

[2] We would now use the registered design system to achieve the same results.

[3] In a familiar story, publishers repeatedly turned her down. Potter self-published a limited edition of 250 copies, at Rawnsley’s suggestion, which finally gained the attention of publisher Frederick Warne & Co.

LINK TO THIS ENTRY (copy + paste):
http://www.thewomensroom.org.uk/showpage.php?blogpage=34&blogtitle=Beyond+the+Flopsy+Bunnies

COMMENTS: [ 0 ]

You must be logged in to post comments.

Domestic Violence Drama – Changing the perception of issue-based drama.

Claire Moore – Director of Certain Curtain Theatre Company established 1989 - A not-for-profit professional touring company specialising in new writing. Producing exciting, innovative theatre, challenging pre-conceived ideas with dynamic originality… from the page to the stage.

Domestic Violence Drama - Our Approach

We've been at the forefront of the use of theatre and drama within the field of domestic violence since 1995 and work to improve services for woman and children experiencing abuse using our work to raise awareness, educate and engage. Using original theatre we seek to reveal the dynamic of power and control in male violence against women and to do so frankly. We take the harsh, raw elements of life and language, mix them with a startling lyrical flavour and add a touch of attitude, to create something new, edgy, daring and dangerous - and give people what they don't expect!

LADY IN RED – the original stage play

I believe the main barrier to people truly understanding domestic violence comes hand in hand with the 'Why doesn't she just leave?' question. LADY IN RED seeks to answer that question and audiences across the Country have said time and again that the play has finally helped them understand why. LADY IN RED combines superb dialogue, a compelling plot, powerful performance and evocative colours to take the audience on a moving and mesmerising journey with 'Rose' - enabling them to explore one woman's attempts to leave an abusive relationship and the barriers she faces. It explores all elements of domestic abuse and is particularly concerned with highlighting the effects of emotional and psychological abuse. It has helped many women identify abusive behaviour and many support workers answer the age old question 'Why doesn't she just leave?'

Publishing the play via Kickstarter – Crowd-funding – Get involved – make it happen.

The Kickstarter crowd-funding site is a kind of grown-up Sponsorship site. Individuals pledge to back a creative project in return for 'rewards'

This Kickstarter project is to publish LADY IN RED in book form along with support information on domestic abuse. As a not-for-profit Company that receives no revenue funding we've turned to Kickstarter to help make it happen. To get the information out to as many people as possible.

The minimum pledge is only £1 with rewards starting at only £6!

Rewards include signed copies, mentions in the book, a performance in your area and so on - as well as the satisfaction of supporting a worthwhile cause and project!

We have until 13th April to get the support needed - if the goal isn't reached by then - no money is collected. Here's the link - hope you'll have a look and share – support!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1399568370/lady-in-red-the-book-of-the-award-winning-stagepla?ref=home_location

Anyone can support the project - whether they are interested in new writing, domestic violence – violence against women, poetry, philanthropy - so any contacts you can share this with would be a great help.

LINK TO THIS ENTRY (copy + paste):
http://www.thewomensroom.org.uk/showpage.php?blogpage=34&blogtitle=Domestic+Violence+Drama

COMMENTS: [ 0 ]

You must be logged in to post comments.

Rowing to Beat

Esther Rich

Rowing has historically been one of the most male-dominated sports around. 5am starts, gruelling gym sessions, spending hours outside in the freezing cold or pouring rain… it would be absurd to think women could deal with that for more than a week, right? WRONG! In the London 2012 Olympics, the GB rowing squad won a record-breaking 9 medals – a third of these won by women’s crews! More importantly all 3 of the women’s medals were gold, placed against just 1 from the men. Rowers encounter palm blisters, numb bums and intense muscle ache on a daily basis – but do we women give up because it hurts? You bet we don’t! We train just as much as the men, with the same focus on our goal!

Conversely, when it comes to eating disorders it is men who are under acknowledged – when in fact they represent anywhere from 10-25% of sufferers in the UK. Perhaps it is for this reason that eating disorders are stereotyped as the manifestation of manipulation and attention seeking in teenage girls, when in actual fact they are traumatic conditions which can affect anyone regardless of age or gender. In my own experience, even in the 21st century eating disorders retain the age-old stigma encountered by the majority of mental health conditions, and are widely misunderstood as a life choice rather than a legitimate illness.

It may seem counterintuitive to be able to progress from anorexic teen to member of the rowing team at university, but I found that rowing was the very thing which enabled me to maintain my recovery away from home. It has taught me the value of a sufficient diet for fuelling training sessions, provided a much needed sense of acceptance within the group, and given me a profound awareness of what my body can do if I build strength rather than avoiding muscle-gain. Poor body image in general is not uncommon among women, and is something which many of the crew I row with at Corpus Christi College have experienced in some form. Rowing has enabled us to view exercise not as a way to get the bodies we desire, but a way of celebrating the amazing things our bodies can do – and this is the message that we want to convey to others!

The women’s squad of CCCBC have therefore decided to embrace our rowers’ thighs and embark on an unprecedented challenge: rowing the 180km from Oxford to London over 4 days as an all-female crew to raise money for Beat – the UK’s leading eating disorder charity, whom I volunteer as a Young Ambassador for. Our aim is to stamp out the stigma on eating disorders and show sufferers that recovery IS possible (as well as obviously raising a lot of money for Beat to help them do so!). We will push our bodies to the limits to stop eating disorder sufferers from doing the same!

It is going to hurt. A LOT. So we would absolutely love it if as many people as possible might be willing to help make that main worthwhile by sponsoring us at www.justgiving.com/londonrow

LINK TO THIS ENTRY (copy + paste):
http://www.thewomensroom.org.uk/showpage.php?blogpage=34&blogtitle=Rowing+to+Beats

COMMENTS: [ 0 ]

You must be logged in to post comments.

News Index

1)

2) The Unsung Heroes of Afghanistan

3) Overdue: a plan of action to tackle pregnancy discrimination now

4) Just how accessible are the UK's free, universal Health Service?

5) Why We Need Female Role Models

6) Discovering the First Female English Playwright; or, Why We Should Care About Cary

7) Black women, feminism and the view from the outside: #solidarityisforwhitewomen

8) Why hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen went viral in 24h

9) From Sexist Exclusion to Feminist Inclusion: the Art of Pauline Boty

10) Lean In Public Speaking

11) Starting a new business following redundancy

12) equals - Blank Media Collective

13) The Wench Front Interviews Churchill On This, His Fiver Hour

14) Comedy and Continence

15) EverydaySexism

16) Check out our latest storify, by @bluecowmoo

17) Sound Women Festival

18) An invitation to Sky News

19) Why it is Time for a Criminal Offence of Domestic Abuse

Twitter