Tessa Boase’s Etta Lemon tells the story of the foundation and early development of what is now known as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
The powerful charity began life as a campaign to ban feathers from Victorian and Edwardian women’s headware. Feathered hats were incredibly fashionable at the time, and many species of wild birds were hunted almost to extinction for their attractive plumage.
The campaign was headed by the book’s eponymous Etta Lemon (née Smith), an energetic, rather conservative woman with a talent for organisation.
As the story unfolds, Boase provides plenty of background information about the feather and millinery trades. She also contrasts the campaign against ‘murderous millinery’ with parallel campaigns for women’s suffrage, led most notably by the redoubtable Emmeline Pankhurst in her outrageously feathered hats.
A very well researched, and entertaining read.
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.