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Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: A Scandalous History of Birds, Hats and Votes

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  142 ratings  ·  22 reviews
'Shocking and entertaining. The surprising story of the campaigning women who changed Britain.' Virginia Nicholson

‘Full of fascinating historical detail and colourful characters… A great story, beautifully told.’ Kate Humble

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.
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Aurum Press (first published May 3rd 2018)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  142 ratings  ·  22 reviews

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Jul 21, 2019 added it
DNF at 50%
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I acquired this book after it was a reader recommendation in the Christian Science Monitor. It's the second book about feathers I've read this season. (See: The Feather Thief.)

Boase tells the story of two women activists in Britain at the turn of the 20th century. One is remembered today -- suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst. The other is nearly unknown -- conservationist Margaretta (Etta) Lemon. Not only does Boase provide the history of their movements but she also compares and contrasts the publi
Harriet Carr
Jun 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best thing I've read so far this year. Considered, balanced, immaculately researched and enlightening and thought provoking.
Rakie Keig
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rather interesting coverage of the origins of the RSPB and the (now mostly forgotten) women who spearheaded a movement, founded a royal society, and helped preserve thousands of species of birds from slaughter. The author cleverly ties it in to the suffragist movement, which grew at about the same time and in parallel to the RSPB. It's a different perspective on a part of history that we should all probably know more about. I found it fascinating, if a little heavy-going at times.
Jaimie-lee Northey
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The delightful title made me pick this book up in a bookstore, and I'm glad I did. This isn't simply the story of Pankhurst's and the suffragettes. It looks at two campaigns - to get women the vote and the stop bird feathers, skins and parts being used in women's hats. I've seen feathers used in women's clothing in historical dramas and I never really though about it before, but birds had to die to make each one, and as women did not go outside hatless, millions of birds died to make hats for wo ...more
Miri Marta
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating journey through the end of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth. Tessa manages to neatly discuss issues of feminism, animal conservation, fashion and history while leading you invitingly on a journey that follows two staunch women, pans out to the world, and then hones in on the women again.

We have all heard of Emmeline Pankhurst, and the suffragette struggle. Especially when you read as much about feminism as I do. But Etta Lemon, a woman of the same age as Emmeli
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather was a wonderful book for me to read combining two topics which have played a significant role in my life - women’s history, particularly their efforts to gain direct representation in parliament both through the vote and through women candidates (I have a PhD in the area) and bird conservation (besides reading birding is my other main interest).

This book looks at two intertwined topics. One is the origins of Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, star
The Literary Shed
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
A vivid history melding the burgeoning women's movement, headed by Pankhurst, with the emergence of the Royal Society for Protection of Birds, spearheaded by the formidable (and deliciously named) Mrs Etta Lemon. With competing agendas, both fight for the rights of their particular groups and against the men wanting to steer their agendas. This is a fascinating and alternative history of women's rights in Britain and a gruesome look into the decimation of many beautiful avian species for nothing ...more
Chelsea Berry
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This took me a long time to read (I ran out of time half way through the first borrowing from the library,) but it was kind of cool finishing it the day of the New Zealand elections, being able to go and vote and having our woman PM get in for a second term.

I found the book has to follow at times, lots of different names and switching between the birds and the vote, but I learned a lot and it was interesting reading about the differences and similarities between two amazing women and everything
Nov 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This wasn’t what I was expecting but I did find it an interesting book. It is basically an a telling of the stories of two Victorian women and their causes - Mrs Pankhurst’s fight for votes for women, and Etta Lemon who helped found the RSPB. It starts quite slowly as we learn about the history of each woman, and seems quite dry but it gradually drew me in, with the meticulously-researched narrative laying out the lives of the women, and offering real insight into what drove them.
Naomi Hoffman
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I really loved hearing about the difference Etta Lemon and Emmeline Parkhurst made in Victorian and Edwardian society. As a woman we take it as a given that we have the vote. I loved hearing about the different types of campaign to get both the conservation message across. It’s worth remembering most good ideas start over a cuppa. I liked learning all about how people lived in that age.
Heather W
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An interesting story about the start of the RSPB, this is a relaxing audio book to listen to. I really enjoyed my time in this book, and found the information fascinating. It keeps the reader engaged throughout. My only comment is that it felt like I was taking a tour in a museum. But still really interesting and would recommend
Kate Booth
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Impeccably researched and captivatingly told, this book is one of the best I’ve read this year. Tessa Boase’s ability to bring historical texts to life is second to none. I couldn’t help but think how much more powerful the feminist and animal rights movements of the early 1900s would have been if they were intersectional.
Tam Wallace
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book explored the connection, and distance, between the animal rights (particularly birds) crusades and the women's suffrage movement in Britain. A very good book that looked at how the attitudes and personalities of the chief crusaders of both causes were so similar, and so dissimilar, but achieved their aims.
Jun 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
I expected this book recommendation on the history of the RSPB to be a courtesy read. However, the contrasting lives of Eta Lemon, forgotten founder of the organisation, with firebrand Emmeline Pankhurst proved compelling
Sara Eames
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A well-written, clearly narrated book on a fascinating subject. Highly recommended.
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating account of two women and their plight for the rights of birds and women.
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Informative and interesting

Local and national history recorded at it's best.
Sad, intense, passionate informative and interesting, perhaps even happy. A must read.
Martina Fagan
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book. Worth a read glad I stumbled upon it.
Cath Smith
Jul 18, 2018 rated it liked it
A fascinating comparison between the deservedly famous suffragette, and the undeservedly unknown ladies who founded the RSPB and arguably changed the face of conservation.
Margaret P
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very informative book I learnt a lot of things I didn't know! I knew a bit about sufregettes but I didn't know about the origins of the RSPB which began at around the same time! A great read
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, while Emmeline Pankhurst was wreaking havoc across London with the suffragettes, there was another woman also working tirelessly for a cause close to her heart. Etta Lemon was of a thoroughly different disposition and political motivation to Mrs Pankhurst - her priority was protecting the hundreds of species of birds worldwide that were being brought to extinction by the feather trade. To Mrs Pankhurst, feathers were a symbol of class, of femininity, an ...more
Liz Valette
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Mar 27, 2019
Lynn Mann
rated it it was amazing
Oct 05, 2019
Rose Nicholson
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Feb 22, 2019
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Aug 26, 2018
Janine Smith
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Mar 30, 2020
rated it it was amazing
Apr 13, 2020
Juliet townsend
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Apr 26, 2020
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Oct 09, 2019
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Tessa Boase grew up in the Ashdown Forest, Sussex; studied English at Oxford and Italian in Florence; and has worked for a variety of magazines and national newspapers including The Daily Telegraph.
As a freelance journalist she's written widely on society, the environment, the food chain, and the link between all three. As a narrative non-fiction author, her interests lie in uncovering stories of

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