The Nature Room

The Victorian women who founded the RSPB

April 29, 2020 Ashley Coates Season 1 Episode 2
The Nature Room
The Victorian women who founded the RSPB
Chapters
The Nature Room
The Victorian women who founded the RSPB
Apr 29, 2020 Season 1 Episode 2
Ashley Coates

An interview with Tessa Boase, author of "Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women's Fight for Change", which is available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3fgtnZv.

Few people are aware that the RSPB, Europe’s largest conservation organisation by membership, was founded by Victorian women working to end the cruelty of the feather trade.

 Established in a house in Manchester 130 years ago this year, the Society for the Protection of Birds was initiated by Emily Williamson, the wife of a middle-class solicitor. An organisation with the same aims, known as Fur, Fin and Feather Folk, was set up in London by Eliza Phillips and merged with the SPB in 1891.  

Active years before the suffragette movement, Emily Williamson, Eliza Phillips and the fastidious campaigner Etta Lemon, were fair-sighted activists who utilised all the tools of communication available at the time, successfully capturing society’s hearts and minds and helping to bring about a change in consumer behaviour as well as some of the first laws to protect wildlife. 

Show Notes Transcript

An interview with Tessa Boase, author of "Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women's Fight for Change", which is available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3fgtnZv.

Few people are aware that the RSPB, Europe’s largest conservation organisation by membership, was founded by Victorian women working to end the cruelty of the feather trade.

 Established in a house in Manchester 130 years ago this year, the Society for the Protection of Birds was initiated by Emily Williamson, the wife of a middle-class solicitor. An organisation with the same aims, known as Fur, Fin and Feather Folk, was set up in London by Eliza Phillips and merged with the SPB in 1891.  

Active years before the suffragette movement, Emily Williamson, Eliza Phillips and the fastidious campaigner Etta Lemon, were fair-sighted activists who utilised all the tools of communication available at the time, successfully capturing society’s hearts and minds and helping to bring about a change in consumer behaviour as well as some of the first laws to protect wildlife. 

Speaker 1:

[inaudible].

Speaker 2:

The cozy kitchen of a relatively modest house in the Manchester suburb did spree is probably not the place you'd expect a global conservation organization to be born. Yet it was at the Croft at Fletcher Moss one afternoon in 1889 that a group of Victorian women gathered together around cups of tea for the inaugural meeting of the society for the protection of birds. Later, the Royal society for the protection of birds or RSPB, their activities were mirrored by another organization. This time Hailey from Croydon, the wonderfully named for fin and feather folk who had also been established with the same aim to put an end to the cruel trade and feathers. This may seem a highly selective angle for a young society to take, but the global feather trade at this time was worth around 200 million pounds a year, and at one year it is thought to have resulted in the death of around 5 million birds, the trade field, the fashion for feathers and women's hats.

Speaker 2:

Today, a completely forgotten business, but back in the late 18 hundreds and early 20th century, London was in the words of one Americans of ologist, the Mecca of the bird killers of the world. The place where huge shipments of exotic feathers from all corners of the empire were brought to milliners in the city. It was 30 years before the importation of plumage act would be parked in Britain, and in that time, the early campaigners against the feather trade would come across every possible barrier to participation in British political life. They were subjected to what we would today consider to be an extraordinary level of sexism and were actively vilified in the press and excluded from the birding and scientific communities of the time. But the societies, two founders, Eliza Phillips and Emily Williamson, together with the society's leading protagonist at lemon, not only successfully pushed for a major change in the law, they left behind a charity that would become Europe's largest conservation organization by membership and would continue to be extremely influential to this day that their history is known at all, is largely down to the author and journalist Tessa Bose, who has done an enormous amount of work and covering the lives of these early founders.

Speaker 2:

Her book is called mrs Pankhurst purple feather. It's one of the most interesting books that I read last year. It's kind of got something for everyone, so the historians in the listenership will enjoy the way it delves into British political history at the time and the social history and our very different attitudes to taxidermy. There's a lot of business history in there, which I was completely unfamiliar with. The way that the global penetrate operated and how these very elaborate and bizarre hats were produced, not just in London, but also in New York and Paris. So if you haven't done so already, I highly recommend going out and getting this book. But in the meantime, here's my interview with Tessa herself. I've read your book well twice now. It will be it through audible. Um, it's completely fascinating. Um, I guess a lot of it is, I guess it's part part of social history, past cultural, political history, a bit of environmental history as well. W what kind of book did you think you were, uh, making, you know, that you might not have been trying to categorize it in quite that way?

Speaker 3:

Um, my, my previous book is very much women's social history and I suppose that that is my comfort zone. I not an ornithologist, I'm not a birder, I'm not a twitcher. So my, my entry point was very much, um, these, these, the Colton women, um, and feeling rather indignant that such a massive institution, the RSPB, you know, biggest conservation charity in Britain had somehow sort of fudged its origins, had, had almost willfully suppressed the origin. So I came at it from a rather indignant feminists standpoint, I suppose. But it, um, it's definitely brought me closer to the birds and to environmental issues today and period during which I worked on it and it since its publication, which is 2018 there has been, I would say a complete flowering of women and particularly younger women in conservation right up the ladder. That voice has been, the RSPB now has a woman at his helm, Becky Speight such a breath of fresh air, completely different and the workings of the RSPB have undergone a huge change since I first started sort of knocking on their door saying, please can I look at your archives? And I had all sorts of sort of, misogyny is a strong word, but there was a definite sort of sexist sort of recoil from the male elders that at the high table shall we say saying what's her agenda? She's a woman, she's not a birder. This worries me a great deal. And I noticed, cause I got sent in an email chain by mistake from one of them.

Speaker 2:

It seems amazing that that was something that you had to kind of go through because you think it would be a history that you'd really celebrate cause it is, it is fascinating that these, um, obviously ETR lemon leading it, these three are kind of at the foundation of the organization. You were it to happen you were having today I suppose it perhaps you wouldn't recognize it in quite the same way, but they were trailblazers in their own time. Um, and such a unique background for a major charity to have. Uh, and, and I guess unusual that it had been hidden. I mean it was there and then so much of the digging came with something that you had to do by the looks of things as opposed to anywhere else

Speaker 3:

that, um, that one of the big pleasures for me actually has a rub my hands with glee. When someone says, no, you won't find anything. There's no photograph. Nothing's known about the early lives. I just think, yes, just leave it to me. Um, but I think that, I think the RSPB has historically found them quite hard to celebrate because they haven't really chimed with what the charity wants to be seemed to be all about. So, you know, there, there always there was referred to as elderly. Well actually at the beginning they were pretty young. Um, um, you know, they're women, they're Christian, they're conservative and they had this absolute single minded focus on the bird hat and you know, the, the RSPB of course evolved into becoming many different things. Um, you know, bird is on the wall or male and it became much more to do with conservation science, um, reserves. And so I, I think they found it sort of hard to reach back to the past and celebrate these women because it just seemed like this kind of weird disconnect to them, whereas it didn't really at all to me somehow. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that makes sense. Um, so I guess in, I mean, in their own time they came up against all sorts of, um, prejudices and um, you know, again, they were seen as not being part of the ornithological community. Cause I suppose they weren't when they, when they started out. Um, what were the sorts of, uh, when, uh, at uh, Emily and Eliza were starting out, what were their, what were they coming up against really that was difficult?

Speaker 3:

Um, gosh, well the fashion industry for a start is, um, was then and is today, you know, it's a juggernaut of what the kind of arbiters of style and taste are wearing that, you know, had to be slavery. She followed by every class of woman and birds and feathers on your hat was where it was at from the early 1880s, right up to the early 1920s at half century. Um, and so heavily promoted by all the fashion magazines, um, by the aristocrats, whoever wanted to copy by the Getty theater actresses. The pinups of the time, you know, those funny little postcards or earlier they were illustrations. Um, it was really hard to escape this, this Vogue. So they were up against that. They were also up against the plumage trade, which I knew nothing about. And this was a highly organized, um, enormous industry run by men.

Speaker 3:

Of course worth at its peak. And I'd say the peak is around 1911, um, the equivalent of what our hair and beauty industry is worth to us today or was worth to us today before the Corona bars. I think you're right, 200 million annually. It is what it was worth. So massive vested interest in stopping these annoying little Christian women banging their drums and talking about murderous military. They were derided as fluffy fanatics, um, feather heads, you know, all sorts of silly things that belittled made to it like silly, silly women harping on. Um, and I think the premise trade, just the way we combat these this lot away, they're, they're not going to trouble us, but they were wrong actually. They did become a real thorn in the side of the plumage industry.

Speaker 2:

I think what's interesting looking back is again, it was this enormous trade and it was very conventional for a women to wear hats with feathers in them and you know, looked upon as a good thing obviously for a long time. And it's, you do end up thinking, well, if you, cause you get major corporations today saying, Oh, we can better way these people that have this issue and, uh, this is not a big thing. These are some lunatics. And then you're now if you saw someone wearing a bird on their head, which some people did, obviously they wore an entire book on their hat, um, you'd be completely outraged. Um, so I guess it's just intriguing that that's, um, yeah, that people can be seen as extremists in their own time, I suppose. And undoubtedly there'll be people in the decades to come that we'll look back on and go, no, maybe they actually, they had a point the same way.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. The anti fair campaign. Um, I always think about greeter timber, the young environmental campaigner who not only looks strikingly like at a, and I believe, well, we know that Gretta is on the autistic spectrum. Aspergers. She says this helps her be really single-minded and to not give a monkey's what people are saying about her, which is, you know, an extraordinary, um, um, protection. Ready. Similarly at 11, um, has her eyes on the end goal. She was by birth skin, her mama, she didn't care what anyone said about her and how easy it's been to derive young Gretta, you know, the likes of Trump, et cetera. And, you know, social media is full of kind of angry middle aged men saying, who is this loser for God's sake, you know, get your haircut or whatever it is. The power of that young woman has been extraordinary. Uh, we never thought we'd see, you know, a global movements sparked by this little kind of weird looking, striking school girl a year ago would be got. So, yeah, never say never. I see.

Speaker 2:

Yes. I'm always amazed at going onto my own Twitter and, and discovering that, um, just the, all the negativity that she, uh, cites it always surprises me. Um, so thinking again about, um, ETR lemon, I guess with someone that you really identified as being the key person, um, or you've already given us a bit of a sense of what she was like. Um, was there anything more to be said about who she was?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Um, it was, it was hard trying to work out. I wanted a heroin. I thought, well, who is the founder? Um, and, and there it's a small group of women really hooped who all worked in tandem with each other. The RSPB has chosen to name check Emily Williamson and did SBRI because she came up with the name of the society for the protection of birds in 1889. And after meanwhile was a member of another group that wonderfully named for Finland for the folk of glorious. Um, and she and ally as Phillips who was, uh, an older, she was the widow of VICA. Eliza was 67, same year, 1889. ETA was 28. And ESSA was very much that the dynamo of this group, she was kind of fervent in her horror about the bird hat and their need for something to do something against it. Her father was head of the evangelization society and ETR had helped him in his work and I think drew a lot of lessons from this about how to grow a society, how to convert souls.

Speaker 3:

You have to reach out to people through pamphlets, through food, speeches, taking your message on the road, having a network throughout Britain, which is exactly how she helped grow the RSPB or the society for the protection of birds as it was. It merged in 1891 with the dead spree group. And wisely they chose to keep the kids. We named the society for the protection of birds and they got the Royal assent in 1904 making it the RSPB. So what was the satellite? She was, I think a rather strange woman, probably very much on the shelf romantically at, uh, in that era when at the very beginning she'd taken to calling out those women who were wearing bird hats in the half neighborhood church in Blackheath, that's very high society church. She went to any woman wearing a bird on her head or feathers, whatever. ESSA would write a very strongly worded letter to them after church again and again.

Speaker 3:

And again. She did this from age about 18 for the next decade. You can imagine how unpopular that must have made her, how amazing not to care. Um, she, she really was a force, um, the word redoubtable cleanse to her I suppose because she's a woman. She married, sorry, she might, Frank lemon, who's the young barrister who drew up their constitution in 1891 when the two societies merged and became one that eyes kind of mattered the legal documents and they became quite a power couple of that day. He was mad at red tail and Reigate 1911 to 13, she was the lady morass. She has her fingers in all sorts of, um, of, of pies, charitable good works that temperance society, the RSP, PCA. But it was the, the birds who remained close to her heart.

Speaker 4:

Okay.

Speaker 3:

And sorry, were you going to ask me a question then? Um, I think she, she got a lot of people's, um, hackles up because she was so outspoken, you know, she was the kind of person who would her rump loudly and lonely if something hadn't gone her way. And there's this lovely anecdote to the, uh, head of the natural history museum. Kay. On a hearing. She was in the building coming to give them a wigging about some bird protection failure. He'd done a stairwell rather than mrs lemon when, when she had the, you know, the window. I love that story. Is there anything you think we can learn about

Speaker 2:

the way that they operated that's particularly applicable today? Um, or was it too long ago to necessarily draw those? Yeah,

Speaker 3:

it's an interesting question. I mean, in many respects, it just seems so long ago that, you know, the polite language, they used the kind of incredibly over wordy letters to the press, their own little magazine called bird notes and news. Its tone is just so Victorian to me now compared to the suffragettes publication, the suffragists suffragettes that just seems so modern in comparison. But I think we can learn from them. Um, what I like about Etta and her cohorts was that they had very much, um, as decentralized model of leadership. So the society was run by its local secretaries and it was key that they signed up as many of these as they could throughout. Not only Britain, but the British empire. And they did, you know, they were outposts in India and Australia. Um, so it was up to the local secretaries who were, I would say 90% women to enlist as many local followers, members as they could.

Speaker 3:

And it branched like a taproot. It just kept, um, branching new local secretaries popping up here and there, you know, no group was too small. So instead of the Pancoast model that with the women's society, uh, don't, what was it worse poo, the women's social and political union very much about her and her daughter, Krista bell being, you know, they called themselves the commanders of the army, they issued instructions. Um, there was, uh, photographs disseminated that were put on sort of alter like mantle pieces around the land. Nothing like that at all. So strengthened numbers and um, I suppose it probably didn't serve them in the end because when you want to celebrate these founders, you know, you think, well, who can I celebrate? Um, I think also women's capacity for networking. We have obviously social media today. Uh, they did it really effectively through tea parties, lectures, magic app, Nanton slideshows, letters to the press.

Speaker 3:

They were really good at networking. And I think also we can learn stoicism, you're in it for the long haul. This is a 30 year campaign interrupted by the great war in the middle, don't give up. And they were so downhearted so often. All these minutes I read from various EGMS when, you know, women's fashion frankly didn't seem to have changed at all. So small lectures and just kind of thickening of skin and keeping on keeping on with that single message. And I think the single message was very important to not to diversify into you try and start a campaign against the caged bird industry, which was also massive for example. Um, they had to keep on with that single message and I think that's as true today as it was then.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I do. I noticed when I was, again rereading the book that at the beginning they're kind of, they had a lot of grievances and master whittle it down to know what apps are you going to go for hats. Um, which is I guess a lot of discipline I suppose to identify that and to keep going with it. Um, over again as you say, such a such a long period.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I mean there weren't sort of dissidence within their ranks, particularly the issue of gain birds, which is in the soup. It's never gone away for, for the RSPB because they have so many upper class members who for whom shooting game birds is a God given. Right. They had one very, very upset local secretary who just kept raising it in AGNs and eventually I think it was silenced because she, they changed the constitution to say, we will take no part in the debate about game bird shooting. And she left. She was no longer on their books the next year. That yeah. Muddled.

Speaker 2:

Um, what can we do now then to sort of recognize these campaigners and is there, I know there's been a little bit of effort to like in Manchester for example, to uh, put a plaque on the, on, on the house and the like, um, I guess it comes down to it's not just van. That's what a lot of founders were. Um, yeah, there's perhaps not enough out there about them. And what can we, what w what can we actually do to make sure that it's,

Speaker 3:

as you've asked this question, because since we last spoke, there's been a rather exciting development. So like, like the RSPB founders, I too have not given up. I've been plugging away and plugging away at the RSPB itself saying, come on. What about it? I've been saying, what about a statue? And, um, finally I had a meeting with Becky spade. There had to be RSPB uh, just before we went into lockdown. It was, I think the week before and I couldn't give him a pot of money and the absolute go ahead to start a statue campaign. And we're going to not going to be at an M and it's going to be Emily Williamson because her house is still standing. It's surrounded by beautiful public park and Fletcher Moss park and did spree. And there is, um, I think, uh, a good, a good case to have a statue of her because we want to make this into a place of pilgrimage.

Speaker 3:

We're going to also use this campaign to think about how we commemorate at 11 two. Um, but because M in his house is still there, we thought, well, why not? And let's, let's use this as a springboard to start a really concerted campaign to celebrate those funders and to make it. And I think education led, you know, how can today's young campaigners learn, um, how, uh, you know, how can they go about starting their own campaigns? It's going to be a very sort of dynamic, vibrant campaign that we're launching it all being well, fingers crossed, it will launch this December and you're the first person to hear this.

Speaker 2:

That's fantastic. Thank you for sharing it with the podcast. That's great. Um, now that's an amazing development and I think, I thought it's worth, I think having a statue recognizing actually in a site that's outside of London is very important as well because, um, someone lives in Brisbane, I think it's just quite often people don't know much about their local history. It's not sort of necessarily, um, as out there as it is in London, that's less easy to learn about. And, um, I know again from your book that, um, that part of Manchester was a springboard for a few other interesting, um, campaigns. So that's, that's really great. Um, no, you must be, Oh, you must be very pleased.

Speaker 3:

Holy shit. So many extraordinary women now in very senior positions at the RSPB who are all totally behind this campaign. They're like, this is the excuse they'd been waiting for to push all sorts of, um, sort of diversity agendas, I suppose, within the conservation world. So it's, I think it's taking a lot of boxes for them and I'm thrilled as,

Speaker 2:

as sort of the issue of the environment kind of goes further and further up the agenda and there are more people campaigning. It sort of, you know, we don't necessarily have people we can look at and be like, Oh, you know, these are the, um, you know, the original people that kind of, you know, in the same way within, in politics and in on the sort of social side, you have your heroes and your protect statues and they're written in history and they've been syllabuses. Um, you know, it's, it's, it kind of makes sense that people like ETA are, are part of that fall for the environmental movement, I guess. And that people who within it now know about them and can learn from them. Um, I think, yeah. Um, I think something that was intriguing was that, uh, it looks as though there was, again this similar, I know he didn't focus on it that much, but there was this other campaign in the States and Boston, which kind of emerged around the same time. Um, was it, I don't know if you can, if it's easy to say whether that, uh, happened by itself or was it kind of partly influenced by the SPB or did it just, yeah. Was it its own thing?

Speaker 3:

I've instinct isn't it? Um, I think they were in part influenced by the RSPB. So this is, um, now, uh, Mina hall and Harriet Hemenway who were cousins in Boston frightfully well to do and yeah, they too. What really alarmed, disconcerted, horrified by the fashion, I think. And it had a particular, um, sort of, uh, emotional pull for them because these were very much American birds, these gorgeous species. Um, the, the snowy Ygritte being amongst them. So this is the Massachusetts Audubon society and they like, uh, British ladies started with the tea party. Um, they didn't make it an all female thing as the RSPB women did initially and they pretty quickly handed over the reigns to the men. But we're very much still involved in the campaigning. We know that they were influenced and encouraged by the RSPB because this crops up. Um, in one of the AGNs it's a topic for discussion and that they'd been sent very encouraging letters and tips and hints on how to grow the society.

Speaker 3:

I mean, I think that they needed those tips and hints that there was a sense of sisterhood and bird protection. It cannot be national, it has to be global, but it's my great, uh, and it was very much on, um, at her and co on their minds that this, this had to be some kind of, it had to be a global campaign. So they networked seriously with other countries and they had a really good thing going with Germany. And then of course along came the war. Suddenly they, they, they couldn't continue this, this, um, corporations collaboration anymore, which was, which was difficult and the press was suddenly full of letters sneering at the German women's tastes for paradise clues and their hats, not as if the British women weren't doing exactly the same. Yeah. So, uh, yeah, the, the American campaign. Yeah. Interesting one happening at this time, slight slightly later again, but mirroring what was going on in Britain,

Speaker 2:

cause I guess North America and

Speaker 3:

Britain were kind of, I guess Britain more an importer and North America place where they were, was the actively hunted there that I suppose that was a nexus, I suppose, along with the rest of the British empire of this, this um, you know, huge trade. Yeah. Yeah. London very much was it London was the epicenter. It was the feather boss, if you like, of the auction world. And Paris was where feathers were prepared. New York lower East side was the other place where they prepared and London's East end. Um, with the three centers of production. But yeah, London was very much an epicenter of the feather trades auction world.

Speaker 2:

And what, what sort of things doing this slightly in reverse I'm afraid, but what sort of things were people buying and wearing? You sort of mentioned that, that your, the paradise plumes. Um,

Speaker 3:

gosh, if it had wings that was being worn and things coming in and out of fashion. Um, at wings, absolutely all the rage for ages, seabirds, whole wing, a hallway, one on either side of your head maybe, um, to make you look as if you're taking flight somehow. And these seabirds, kitty wakes were particularly wanted to have this light, nice Stripe, black Stripe on the feather, Flamborough head in Yorkshire. The hunting parties would go up there and slaughter, I mean thousands of birds and they were horrible, disconcerting stories in the press of, you know, the sea being red with blood and birds having live birds have no wings pulled off. I'm awful. So you have to give you some idea. I mean a typical sale. That's the one, I've got some figures here. 1888, which is the year before the society for the protection of birds began.

Speaker 3:

They both in Croydon and did spree. There was an auction in mincing lane in London that broke all previous records and the lots include things like, um, 1,450 little orcs and great Crested Grebe so that the Greek is a British species or isn't. So they're thrown into one lot. Um, 12,000 hummingbirds, that's one. Not 5,000. Tanagers there's beautiful birds. Definitely not British 6,000 blue creepers. Again, is that, um, I'm not sure. Is that Africa, East Africa? I think. Um, and 1000 woodpeckers doesn't say where they're from. 8,000 parents, you know, they could come from kind of any, any maybe Southern America and we're not, I'm incredibly impressed in precise descriptions and quantity. So all those things would be worn.

Speaker 3:

And then moving forward slightly in time to 1911 in 1908, um, this is a sale in 1908 and we've got crowned pigeons now. I believe they were exterminated by this trade, the crown preaching and different lots. But numbers are 10,700. February the 11th, 1908, that's just one Lord. Um, 7,000 February the 12th, 1907 the previous year. So that's gone up by 3000. So to turn in Pune, pheasants, kingfishers untold numbers of fishes, albatross quills 15,000 albatross quills massive feathers. Yeah. So I mean really the thing with feathers game and British birds very much what was so worn to a reef of Bulfinch is being quite a thing one year. The reef fishes. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

W how would you wear a wreath of bluefish

Speaker 3:

there is rammed the, the crown of your hands together. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Gosh, that's absolutely mad. Um, well yeah. Um, amazing that someone could support it I suppose on their own head.

Speaker 3:

Very light to where I was desperate to pick these hats up. I looked at a lot of them at the VNA where you're not allowed to touch a thing. Um, then I went to the museum Brighton where you are allowed to touch everything, which was great. They were really light, very clever work. The millionaires were doing and they've been preserved incredibly well too.

Speaker 2:

Interesting. Just that the change in attitude to taxidermy in general, like, you know, even if I had a stuffed bird on my desk, I think somewhere, I think a lot of people would feel actively uncomfortable around it. Probably including me,

Speaker 3:

our clinic taxidermy now, isn't it? It's on in the spirit of irony and sort of vintage too, I think.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. This was hung up in pubs and very few places. I think that was the other thing is, is this extraordinary trade supported a business in London, which of course doesn't exist anymore when there's no obvious signs of it and less, I mean, you're probably more aware of it than, than most for most people. And your book kind of goes into that lost world, um, of the people actually making these hats.

Speaker 3:

Yes. Very obsessed by the whole commodity chain as I go. I can't just write about the campaigners that's meaningless in a vacuum. Who worked with the feathers?

Speaker 2:

Well, it's cause so sort of, um, it's so unknown. I mean, I didn't know very much about the tool myself. I think I'm far less well-documented than something like wailing, which I think it does have a bit more sort of research behind it. Um, so,

Speaker 3:

well behind closed doors it was, this was in lots of, it was done in people's homes in horrible little workshops and you can, you can kind of, you can go hunting for it. If you look at these, uh, old Victorian reports from their inspectors of factories and workshops, wrote very detailed reports on what they found at that, looking, looking around or people making all sorts of things from umbrellas to tippets to, you know, watch chains to feather curling.

Speaker 2:

Okay. Um, so do you sort of finish up with what was the, what became of our founders and early campaigners? What was the sort of, um, obviously we know that ultimately the plumage trade came to an end, but what, what became of them in a sense

Speaker 3:

then off sad ending, really particularly fat port for at and them. And because, um, she was the dynamo for, for the half century that, that she basically ran the RSPB. It was her society. But I, I was getting echoes of Maggie catcher actually as I looked at what became of her because she didn't know when to step back, when to let go. She had what we might call today founder's syndrome. She was a real control freak, you know, it was, it was her society and she was very, um, dismayed by the direction that the young men who now filled the inner circle of the RSPB men of science, the direction they wanted to take it in. You know, the ringing of nestlings to see what weapons my great long lens photography was coming in. And we're talking about the thirties. Um, she felt that all that was very intrusive and it should have no, no legitimate part of what the charity was trying to do.

Speaker 3:

And there was a lot of plotting and she was knifed in the back because she would not take a hint. She got this very poignant letter sent just before the country went to war in August, 1939 on her own headed note papers saying her services were no longer required and incredibly, all these letters survive. I found them in the archives hub own bewildered letters. She writes to the Watchers, this is a network of men throughout the British Isles that the on the ground, eyes and ears at the RSPB, making sure nobody's egging, taking nestlings, shooting birds. The her boys, she talks about them, said boys and she would visit them annually. She writes them saying, I don't understand, I mean Neverland, web of intrigue and nobody wants to hear my opinion anymore. And they write back, outraged on her behalf. One of them says that the RSPB is synonymous with the name lemon. It has to be you are the artist, which must have been satisfying in these two recipients.

Speaker 2:

Well that is, that is very sad actually. And I guess go some way to explain I guess to an extent, way a sort of memory was lost a bit, but thankfully being revived. Um, that's great. Um, thank you again so much for, for doing this. Um, and especially during this period of Italy, which is

Speaker 3:

well, it's a good time to be over Skype.

Speaker 2:

Um, no, it's good fun. And, um, yeah, good luck with, uh, with all your other, um, efforts. And, um, hopefully we'll, we'll get to catch up a bit more on, um, on where you get to with the statue and

Speaker 3:

be great to check in on that because the centenary of the plumage act being passed is going to be in 1921 next year, next July. And that day we want to sort of show up in the competition to a handful of sculptors and let them go and create some MCATs so that, that's the timing. That was fantastic. Yes. Look out for that piece. Okay. Okay. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Ashley.

Speaker 1:

[inaudible].