5 episodes

Naomi Clifford and Lena Augustinson unlock women's stories. Just trying to even things up a little bit. You will have heard of some of the women but mostly not...

The Door History Podcast The Door History Podcast

    • History

Naomi Clifford and Lena Augustinson unlock women's stories. Just trying to even things up a little bit. You will have heard of some of the women but mostly not...

    The Daredevil Divas of Flight & Emma Cons, Pioneering Social Reformer

    The Daredevil Divas of Flight & Emma Cons, Pioneering Social Reformer

    Naomi Clifford talks to Sharon Wright about Letitia Sage, one of the women in her book Balloonomania Belles; and at Morley College, she and librarian Elaine Andrews discuss the impact of the pioneering social reformer and champion of adult education Emma Cons.

    Those Magnificent Women in Their Flying Machines

    Women were in the vanguard of the ‘Balloonomania’ craze that took hold in the 18th and 19th centuries and swept across Europe – and then the world.

    More than a century before the first aeroplane, women were heading for the heavens in contraptions that could bring death or glory and all too often, both.

    For 125 years these female pioneers of flight – actresses, writers, heiresses, scientists, explorers, showgirls and suffragettes – enjoyed a series of comic, tragic and heroic adventures. Author Sharon Wright steps through the door to tell us about Letitia Sage, whose story is just one she relates vividly in Balloonomania Belles.

    Balloonomania Belles: Daredevil Divas Who First Took to the SkySharon WrightPen and Sword (2018)

    Image: John Francis Rigaud (1785), Captain Vincenzo Lunardi with his Assistant George Biggin, and Mrs. Letitia Anne Sage, in a Balloon. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

    Emma Cons, social reformer and pioneering educator

    Naomi Clifford talked to Elaine Andrews, librarian and ‘unofficial archivist’ at Morley College in south London, about Emma Cons, the extraordinary pioneer of adult education.

    Emma Cons (1838-1912), who would later be celebrated as the first female alderman of the London County Council, set about transforming the Royal Victoria Theatre in Waterloo (now known as the Old Vic) into the Royal Victoria Coffee and Music Hall, a place of entertainment “purged of innuendo”.

    Events included temperance group meetings, performances, and the Penny Lectures, out of which the demand for more structured courses and classes emerged. The activities drew philanthropic support which ultimately led to the creation of Morley Memorial College in 1889. The college’s first home was in the backstage areas of the Old Vic.

    With many thanks for the support of Morley Radio, whose facilities were used to record this section.

    Image: Emma Cons by Laura Symes, detail of a memorial wall at Morley College; courtesy of London School of Mosaic.

    • 28 min
    The Businesswomen of 18th-Century London

    The Businesswomen of 18th-Century London

    Naomi Clifford and London walking guide Jonnie Fielding aka Bowl of Chalk visit an outdoor exhibition of the forgotten businesswomen of 18th-century Cheapside in the City of London. 

    Many women worked in luxury manufacturing and sales in the Cheapside area (between St Paul’s and the Royal Exchange) making clothing, jewellery, prints, fans, trunks and furniture; they also ran some of the businesses. These women, all of whom were members of London’s livery companies, employed thousands more.

    Some of these elite employers, for example, fanmaker Esther Sleepe and milliners the Hogarth sisters, produced highly ornamental trade cards to advertise their business. These represent only a fraction of all the business women trading over the 18th century. Others we know of through their printed products, for example, merchant Eleanor Coade through an insurance policy.

    Erratum: The business making Coade stone is in Wiltshire, not in Hampshire.

    The exhibition finished on 19 October 2019 but lives on as a virtual show.

    With thanks and appreciation to Dr. Amy Erickson, whose research and efforts have led to the opening up of this wonderful resource. 

    • 23 min
    Maria Branwell, Mother of the Brontës & A Poem by Sarah Fyge Egerton, 17th-Century Feminist

    Maria Branwell, Mother of the Brontës & A Poem by Sarah Fyge Egerton, 17th-Century Feminist

    In this episode, Roli Okorodudu reads The Emulation, a poem by 17th-century poet Sarah Fyge Egerton about the oppression of women by men, and Naomi Clifford interviews Sharon Wright about the life of Maria Branwell, the mother of the Brontë sisters, who died of cancer in her 30s.

    Sarah Fyge Egerton: The Emulation

    Roli Okorodudu reads The Emulation by the feminist poet Sarah Fyge Egerton (c.1670–1723), published in Poems on Several Occasions (1703).

    Image: Minerva and the Muses (1788). Francesco Bartolozzi RA, (1728–1815) after Giovanni Battista Cipriani RA, (1727–1785). Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

    The Emulation by Sarah Fyge Egerton

    Say, Tyrant Custom, why must we obey The impositions of thy haughty Sway; From the first dawn of Life, unto the Grave, Poor Womankind’s in every State, a Slave. The Nurse, the Mistress, Parent and the Swain, For Love she must, there’s none escape that Pain; Then comes the last, the fatal Slavery, The Husband with insulting Tyranny Can have ill Manners justify’d by Law; For Men all join to keep the Wife in awe. Moses who first our Freedom did rebuke, Was Marry’d when he writ the Pentateuch; They’re Wise to keep us Slaves, for well they know, If we were loose, we soon should make them so. We yield like vanquish’d Kings whom Fetters bind, When chance of War is to Usurpers kind; Submit in Form; but they’d our Thoughts control, And lay restraints on the impassive Soul: They fear we should excel their sluggish parts, Should we attempt the Sciences and Arts;

    Pretend they were design’d for them alone,So keep us Fools to raise their own Renown; Thus Priests of old their Grandeur to maintain, Cry’d vulgar Eyes would sacred Laws Profane. So kept the Mysteries behind a Screen, There Homage and the Name were lost had they been seen: But in this blessed Age, such Freedom’s given, That every Man explains the Will of Heaven; And shall we Women now sit tamely by, Make no excursions in Philosophy, Or grace our Thoughts in tuneful Poetry? We will our Rights in Learning’s World maintain, Wit’s Empire, now, shall know a Female Reign, Come all ye Fair, the great Attempt improve, Divinely imitate the Realms above: There’s ten celestial Females govern Wit, And but two Gods that dare pretend to it; And shall these finite Males reverse their Rules, No, we’ll be Wits, and then Men must be Fools.

    Maria Branwell Brontë (1783–1821)

    The chances of Cornish gentlewoman Maria Branwell even meeting the poor Irish curate Patrick Brontë in Regency England, let alone falling passionately in love, were remote. Yet Maria and Patrick did meet, making a life together as devoted lovers and doting parents in the heartland of the industrial revolution. An unlikely romance and novel wedding were soon followed by the birth of six children. It is time to bring her out of the shadows, along with her overlooked contribution to the Brontë genius.

    Discover what books and magazines Maria read and how young Charlotte used them to entertain her school friends, the extraordinary ‘triple wedding’ coordinated between Yorkshire and Cornwall, and the tragedy of Maria’s early death.

    Journalist, playwright and author Sharon Wright was born in Bradford and lives in London. Her first book was Balloonomania Belles.

    You can contact Sharon Wright through her website a href="https://s...

    • 23 min
    Why Lie? The Antics of Teenagers Elizabeth Canning and Princess Caraboo

    Why Lie? The Antics of Teenagers Elizabeth Canning and Princess Caraboo

    Naomi Clifford, in conversation, with Lena Augustinson opens the door on a couple of teenagers who had an interesting relationship with the truth. Why did Elizabeth Canning and ‘Princess Caraboo’ feel so compelled to tell stories about themselves that were not true? Why did people feel so strongly about their lies?

    Elizabeth Canning

    Elizabeth Canning, 17, went missing on New Year’s Day 1753 and turned up a month later claiming to have been kidnapped, kept in a hayloft and starved. Two women were tried for the crime at the Old Bailey and found guilty. She kept changing her story of what had happened to her. Henry Fielding, the novelist and magistrate, supported her but Sir Crisp Gasgoyne, the most senior of the judges at the trial, was unconvinced and launched an independent inquiry. The case split London and a ‘pamphlet war’ ensued. By mid-1753 it was clear that the women were innocent and Canning was lying. The King pardoned Squires but Wells had already been punished (she was branded on the thumb). Canning was found guilty of “wilful and corrupt perjury”, sentenced to a month’s imprisonment and seven years transportation to America.

    Princess Caraboo

    In April 1817, a mysterious young woman turned up in a distressed condition in the village of Almondsbury in Gloucestershire and was taken in by the local magistrate and his wife. She convinced her hosts she was Princess Caraboo from “Javasu.” In reality she was Mary Willcocks, the daughter of a poor cobbler from Witheridge in Devon. Caraboo delighted her hosts with her eccentric behaviour: she fenced beautifully, was a good shot with a home-made bow and arrow, swam naked in the lake and prayed to “Allah Tallah.” She was undone when she was recognised by a Bristol lodging-house keeper who had read her description in the Bristol Journal. In June 1817 she was quietly hustled off to America in the care of three strictly religious ladies.

    Note: Try to spot the ‘deliberate’ error in the episode! Answers on a postcard…

    • 28 min
    A Stitch in Time: Women, Needlework and Art & Nellie Roberts, Orchid Painter

    A Stitch in Time: Women, Needlework and Art & Nellie Roberts, Orchid Painter

    In this episode, Naomi Clifford talks to Diane Goldie about making wearable art, and looks back at the work of two women who used stitchery to make art. Plus, a visit to an exhibition of Nellie Roberts’ watercolours of orchids.

    Diane Goldie

    So-called ‘high’ art – painting, sculpture – has been dominated by men, some of whom have pointed to women’s absence in these lofty places as evidence of their lack of ‘genius’. When women turn to other media, wax, wool, shells and so on, this is denigrated as mere craft. It’s an old argument, and it’s still going on.

    During the conversation Naomi talks about two very different women artists of the Georgian era, Mary Delany (1700–1788) and Mary Linwood (1755–1845). You can find out more about the lives of these women at Naomi’s website.

    Diane’s wearable artworks can be found at dianegoldieartist.com.

    Image: Diane Goldie wearing one of her works.

    Nellie Roberts

    Artist Nellie Roberts (1872–1959) was the self-taught daughter of a clock repairer from Brixton, south London. Her 4,500 paintings, created during a 56-year career painting watercolour representations of award-winning plants for the Orchid Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society, were and are still highly prized in the field.

    At a time when hundreds of awards were given annually, Nellie’s paintings provided a permanent record and helped reduce controversy created by the early duplication of names for the man-made hybrids. Her award paintings are held in the RHS Lindley Library and remain an invaluable resource for the Orchid Committee.

    An exhibition of her work held in September 2019, in the street in Brixton, south London, close to where she lived, informed a new and appreciative audience to her work.

    Naomi talks to Naomi talks to current orchid painter to the committee Deborah Lambkin and Tracey Gregory, who organised the exhibition, about this remarkable and little-known woman.

    Contact Tracey Gregory via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

    • 38 min

Customer Reviews

HistoryLoverLondon ,

A classy, polished podcast for history lovers.

The Door stands out from many podcasts I have tried and abandoned because host Naomi Clifford is both lucid and informed. She is not afraid to edit to keep things pithy. There is no rambling or banal time-filling, just fascinating and intelligent conversation with fellow enthusiastic historians. The topics are diverse, with The Door already tackling a promising range of stories that illuminate the underated - or downright forgotten - women we really need to know about. Naomi has a lovely, melodious voice too, which is a plus. It's a class act and I love it.

adam___rojo ,

My new favourite!

Each episode is about an aspect of women’s history that I’d never explored before, which Naomi and Lena talk about in a lively, interesting way. They also interview experts, and ask all the questions you want answers. I’m hooked! Can’t wait for more episodes!

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