In Victorian Britain, women had few rights. They were expected to marry and stay at home to raise children. A life of domesticity and church services were all a woman had to look forward to.
But in 1876, when The British Women’s Temperance Association was formed, women began to have a cause to fight for. In a society where you were not even allowed to vote, campaigning against the consumption of alcohol finally gave women something to shout about.
So what did the Temperance Movement do?
Well, they held meetings in an attempt to change licensing laws (at the time there was no age restrictions on alcohol so even small children could be served in pubs) and protested outside pubs and taverns. They also took a pledge to never drink alcohol. Temperance Bars opened across Britain, serving only soft drinks, meaning that women could finally escape the home and treat themselves to a glass of dandelion and burdock or cream soda.
The movement allowed for women to be actively involved in politics without, well, officially being allowed to be involved in politics.
They would have to wait till 1903 for Emmeline Pankhurst to come along but by the time she did, thanks to the Temperance Movement, women already had a voice.
Part of my book is set in the picturesque village of Staithes, in North Yorkshire, and whilst there is plenty written about the filthy city of Victorian London, it seems that rural England has been largely forgotten, despite the impact that the railways and factories had on rural towns.
However, after much searching and a second visit to Staithes I found this book which is a reprint of an *actual diary* of a young lady called Enid, who spent her Summers visiting Staithes and mixing with the artists who would go there to paint the landscape.
It makes fascinating reading and many of the details in Enid’s descriptions the waves outside the Cod and Lobster threatening to sweep children away; Enid’s fascination with the more bohemian residents such as Charlie and Sidney; the constant worry of how your behaviour will affect your reputation within certain social circles.
And the details about Yorkshire itself are wonderful. This is an extract of her writing about a particularly violent thunder storm:
…I could watch, to my full satisfaction how the great ribbons of pink and blue lightening shot across the cliffs, and how the pelting rain came down almost in bucketfuls, ploughing up the sea and covering it with a steaming white and grey mist, and washing the Staith as clean as if it had been mopped with soap and water. Then a strong wind sprang up, all of a sudden, and blew as if it would blow the whole of Staithes into the sea…I stood in the porch and watched it, in spite of mother’s repeated warnings, as I felt absolutely stifled inside.
The diary includes some of Enid’s own sketches as well as handwritten pages from the original text. It gives a great insight into what Staithes was like in 1901.
For those interested, Enid’s diary is available to buy here.
*Note this is an edited post from my earlier blog at awritekerfuffle here.*