Introducing Etta Lemon: the pioneering conservationist who built the early RSPB from an all-female Croydon tea party.
As a young Victorian woman, Etta wrote militant letters to church-going ladies wearing feathered hats. As the pugnacious Secretary of the RSPB, she made ornithologists quake in their boots. Etta Lemon ran the long eco-campaign against the feather trade with single-minded tenacity, triumphing with the Plumage Act of 1921. She turned the tide against the insatiable fashion for feathered hats, saving countless species from extinction. She coaxed the world to fall in love with birds.
In her lifetime, Etta was known as 'Mother of the Birds'. Yet her triumphant battle against 'murderous millinery' has been eclipsed by the campaign for women's votes, led by the elegantly plumed Emmeline Pankhurst, who Tessa Boase profiled in her 2018 book Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women's Fight for Change.
This gripping narrative explores two singular heroines and their rival, overlapping campaigns. Moving from the feather workers' slums to high society, from the first female political rally to the triumph of women's suffrage and the Plumage Act of 1921, it celebrates the extraordinary, untold story of Etta Lemon, the woman who saved the birds.
Tessa Boase read English at Oxford, and has worked as a scriptwriter, a voiceover artist and an editor at The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail. As a freelance journalist she has contributed to a wide variety of publications. Her first book, The Housekeeper's Tale, was published by Aurum in 2014. She is married with children and lives between St Leonards on Sea, and Lazio, Italy.
"A great story of pioneering conservation."
– Kate Humble
"Shocking and entertaining. The surprising story of the campaigning women who changed Britain."
– Virginia Nicholson
"A fascinating and moving story, vividly told."
– John Carey
"A fascinating clash of two causes: rights for women and rights for birds to fly free not adorn suffragettes' hats. An illuminating story, provocative, well-researched and brilliantly told."
– Diana Souhami