Women's History Stories
The Door History Podcast The Door Podcast
Women's History Stories
Susanna Meredith, the convict laundry and washing for love
Lena Augustinson talks to Naomi Clifford about her research into the work of Mrs Meredith, a pioneer in the rehabilitation of women convicts, and about how criminal women were viewed in the 19th century.
Listen to the episode on trailblazing maternity doctor Annie McCall, who is mentioned in this podcast about Mrs Meredith.
You can read about the life of Mrs Meredith in Out of the Shadows: Essays on 18th and 19th Century Women, published by Caret Press.
Louise Michel: A Political Firebrand Visits London
Lena Augustinson talks to Naomi Clifford about the affection Louise Michel, a veteran of the Paris Commune, held for London, and the significance of her tour of Lambeth Workhouse at the invitation of one of the Poor Law Guardians.
Louise Michel, photographed by Eugène Appert in Chantiers Prison, Versailles in 1871. Courtesy Musées Carnavalet, Paris
Louise Michel, feminist, anarchist, poet, ex-convict, playwright and journalist, survived the bloody end of the 1871 Paris Commune and subsequent exile to New Caledonia. She loved London and visited several times. But why was she invited in 1883 to give her opinion on the Lambeth Workhouse?
Featured image: ‘La Barricade’, from Les Communeux, 1871: Types, caractères, costumes (1880), illustrated by Bertall (1820-1882). Paris: E. Plon (Paris). Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie, 4-OA-128 (D). Women of the Commune were depicted as angry, ugly, working-class arsonists who deliberately destroyed Paris with fire at the fall of the Commune
June Spencer: A Volunteer Ambulance Driver in Wartime Chelsea
Fenella Gatehouse tells Lena Augustinson and Naomi Clifford about her mother June Spencer, a driver for the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service in Chelsea during the Second World War and the subject of Naomi’s book Under Fire.
June Spencer by Tom Dugdale (1942). © June Buchanan estate.
June Spencer was a debutante, dressmaker and artist with a vibrant and busy social life. She attended many serious bomb incidents. Her diaries, which contains some vivid descriptions of the destruction, is also a valuable source of information about daily life in the Blitz. June was extremely well-connected, and knew novelists Patrick O’Brian and Mary Wesley, poet, sailor and MP A.P. Herbert, artists Tom Dugdale and Augustus John. She lived at 97 Lindsey House on Cheyne Walk, then owned by Richard Stewart-Jones, the antiquarian who was the driving force behind the reconstruction of Chelsea Old Church after it was destroyed by bombing in April 1941.
London Auxiliary Ambulance Service crew at Station 22 in Danvers Street, Chelsea. By kind permission of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Archive.
June Spencer’s wartime diary is the subject of Naomi’s latest book Under Fire, published by Caret Press, available to order through bookshops and from Amazon. Ebooks and Kindle are also available.
A Respectable Living in South London
Local historian Tracey Gregory is in conversation with Lena Augustinson and Naomi Clifford about the options open to women earning their own living in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in south London.
Loughborough Hotel and adjacent shops. Courtesy of Tracey Gregory
Tracey Gregory is the driving force behind Loughborough Road Histories, a collection of microhistories of the shops, pubs and people who have lived and worked in a small complex of streets near Brixton in London SW9 over the past 180 years.
The Laundry Shop, Walter Sickert (1885). Photographed at ‘Sickert’, Tate Britain 2022.
Meet Emma Armstrong, who ran a laundry service, Emma Jenkins, stationer, and Eliza Dale, bootshop manager, numerous boarding-house keepers, music teachers and artists, and Nellie Roberts, orchid painter, who featured in another of our episodes.
Home page featured image: Wellcome Images – Sunlight: in sympathy (Sunlight Soap is in sympathy with the joys of women). Lever Brothers Ltd. Lever Brothers Ltd. Date[between 1890 and 1899?]
Annie McCall – Maternity Trailblazer
Naomi Clifford and Lena Augustinson look at the work of Dr Annie McCall, who was dedicated to improving the care of women and their babies. Including an interview with Susan Bewley, emeritus professor of obstetrics at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, who talks about this remarkable woman and her achievements.
“Nothing but the best was good enough for the women who came to her for help and guidance, and she spared neither herself nor those who worked with her in her insistence on SERVICE as the unvarying watchword.”
Born 23 September 1859 at Whalley Range, Manchester, Annie McCall was the middle of five children. Annie’s father died of TB when she was four and a younger brother had spinal TB. Her mother wanted her children to have an extended education, and moved with all them to Göttingen in Germany, leaving her three daughters there. When Annie returned to England she went to Cheltenham Ladies College, after which she started her medical education, beginning in Paris, followed by four years at the London School of Medicine and further training in Dublin and Switzerland.
McCall immediately entered the world of community medicine working with the poor in south London. She started a school of midwifery in her home and in 1889 set up the Clapham Maternity Hospital nearby. She enforced the highest standards of hygiene and medical care which resulted in very low maternity death rates among women. Only women staff and students were admitted, to enable women to obtain training. Dr McCall retired from the hospital in 1941. The centre was used as an NHS maternity hospital until 1970.
Images: A. McCall by Deneulain. Wellcome Collection.
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.
Am very much enjoying this podcast. Naomi, please keep making these! Such a lot of fascinating information revealed in a very pleasant chatty way. I feel as though I’m there with you. I’m very interested in your work revealing stories of women who could otherwise be lost to history. This is something I like to do so you do inspire me.
Cosy and erudite
My current binge listen. Cosy and erudite in equal measure, covering all manner of historical intrigue from a woman’s perspective
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.