Launch events for The Dowry Blade


The Dowry Blade bookmark cropPublication day for The Dowry Blade approaches, and pre-publication copies are already available from Arachne Press’ web shop, where there is also a special offer of £25 (free postage in the UK) for combining TDB with Mosaic of Air (normal combined price £27.98) for the first 20 people to get there.

I have 4 launch events lined up (it is a BIG book, it needs several events).

If anyone has further suggestions or indeed offers as to other places to read, get in touch. Will consider anywhere within easy reach of London, plus near Sheffield, Bath, Durham and Newark where friends and family might be prevailed upon for a bed for the night.

Follow the links for full details, and I hope to see you for at least one!

The Dowry Blade Launch, Lewisham Library Wednesday 24th February 6.30-8pm.

The Dowry Blade Launch, Clapham Books Thursday 25th February 7.30-9pm.

The Dowry Blade Launch, The Beckenham Bookshop Thursday 3rd March 7-8.30

Readings from The Dowry Blade, Cherry Potts and The Don’t Touch Garden, Kate Foley; Gay’s the Word Thursday 24th March 7-8.30

The Dowry Blade, live and in the flesh


Dowry blade arrives

There is nothing to beat a pile of new books, except a pile of new books that you wrote yourself. And this is a big pile, of big books! The Dowry Blade is big! It weighs 620 grams. I hadn’t really thought through the amount of space a 400 page book printed in Royal format takes in bulk. This is just the 100 copies to supply events in places that aren’t bookshops, copies for reviewers and the copyright libraries. Buy one before I have to build an extension!

Julian is delighted at the number of new boxes to play in, and also thinks you should buy a copy so that they empty quickly.

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Support Julian’s plans for a small city of boxes to disport himself within by buying a copy direct from Arachne Press, or at one of the launch events (that’s the ‘live and in the flesh’ thing) – Lewisham Library on 24th February at 6:30, or Clapham Books on 25th February at 7.30.

More events to follow in March, in discussions with three more venues.

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 26th February


Mary TayorLet’s light the candles on the cake for

Mary Taylor 1817-1893

Mary and her  sister, Martha, went to  school at Roe Head, Mirfield, where in 1831 Mary met Ellen Nussey and Charlotte Brontë and they became great friends. Mary and Charlotte both stayed in each others homes regularly. Charlotte used the Taylor family as the model for the Yorke family in her novel Shirley, describing them as ‘peculiar, racy, vigorous; of good blood and strong brain; turbulent somewhat in the pride of their strength, and intractable in the force of their native powers’.

Mary seems to have been an independent, blunt, hard-headed, clear thinking person, and very much Charlotte’s intellectual equal. However, financial difficulties meant that Mary put her energy into working, and developed a very clear understanding of the importance of work to any woman, regardless of financial need, something that she and Charlotte did not quite agree on.

Charlotte wrote of Mary that she had

more energy and power in her nature than any ten men.

When her father died, Mary considered  emigrating to New Zealand, and told Charlotte that ‘she cannot and will not be a governess, a teacher, a milliner, a bonnet-maker nor housemaid’.despite this plan, she in fact travelled Europe,  studying music, languages, and teaching. In 1845 she left for New Zealand. Charlotte described her going as

To me it is something as if a great planet fell out of the sky.

They never saw each other again, although they corresponded until Charlotte’s death.

Mary  built a house which she let out, and taught piano. Charlotte was anxious about Mary’s financial situation and sent her £10, which Mary used to buy a cow. She bought other cattle with money from her brothers, and started writing, although nothing seems to have been published until many years later.

In  1849 Mary was joined by her cousin Ellen Taylor and together they built a house and opened a draper’s shop.  Mary, by all accounts, loved everything about keeping shop, from the manual labour to the financial independence.

Ellen wrote to Charlotte in 1850:

Mary and I are settled together now. I cant do without Mary and she couldn’t get on by herself

Ellen  died of tuberculosis in 1851. Mary threw her energies into the shop and it was a great success, until trade fell off in 1858 at which point Mary decided to return to Yorkshire.

Between 1865 and 1870 she published a series of feminist articles in the Victoria Magazine,  In 1870 the articles were collected and published  as a book, The first duty of women.

The first duty – is for every woman to protect herself from the danger of being forced to marry.

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 25th February


theodoraNo birthday alloted today, so a random choice:

Theodora Bosanquet OBE 1881-1961 (no idea what day she was born, history and the internet refuses to relate)

Now. Theodora is best known for being Henry James’ secretary. Not a good start, but remarkable that anyone could get known for being anyone’s secretary really. James described her as boyish.

Apart from typing up James’ manuscripts Theodora also published a memoir Henry James at Work and studies on Harriet Martineau and Paul Valéry.

Theodora later became Executive Secretary of the International Federation of University Women and was a committed feminist. From 1935 she was literary editor and then director of feminist journal Time and Tide, mouthpiece of the women’s movement in the UK from the 1920’s, which published just about anyone worth thinking about in that milieu; which is a lot more interesting in my opinion!

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 2nd February


I’ve not been able to find anyone with the 2nd of February as their birthday but I have two for tomorrow,  so let’s celebrate

Elizabeth Blackwell,

3 February 1821 – 31 May 1910

the first woman to be awarded a degree in medicine in the USA.
Blackwell was actually British, born in Bristol; when she was eleven the family moved to the USA. It was a large female dominated family, they shared their house with numerous maiden aunts. Elizabeth had  four sisters and none of them married. Elizabeth found courtship silly, and hated the idea of subjugating herself to a man through marriage. Possibly the family’s strong abolitionist leanings had some influence in this. Elizabeth’s determination to be independent led to her looking for a career, and medicine became her choice after a friend died of a long and painful illness. She  managed to get accepted onto the medical degree course at Geneva by fluke, and seems to have been an asset to the place.  She lost the chance to ever be a surgeon after contracting a disease from a patient that left her blind in one eye. She travelled to and fro between Europe and the US pursuing her medical studies before eventually setting up a women’s medical centre with her sister Emily and Sophia Jex Blake. They were all strong personalities and – perhaps inevitably – fell out, which led to Elizabeth moving to  London where she set up another Women’s medical centre. While still in New York, Elizabeth adopted Kitty Barry, who was a sort of daughter-come-servant. Kitty lived with Elizabeth until the latter’s death, and moved in with the Blackwell family sometime after, taking the family name. Kitty called Elizabeth her ‘true love’ and asked for her ashes to be buried with her. Elizabeth met Barbara Bodichon, Florence Nightingale and lots of other interesting women who will feature in this project (be patient! I can’t help which day they were born on!) some of whom she mentored in their medical careers, some of whom became life long friends.

So do I think Elizabeth Blackwell was one of us? Possibly. She kept interesting company, and she really wasn’t interested in men; at the very least she was a fellow traveller. That’s good enough for me.

It is not easy to be a pioneer – but oh, it is fascinating! I would not trade one moment, even the worst moment, for all the riches in the world.

If society will not admit of woman’s free development, then society must be remodeled.

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 13th January


Today’s birthday girl is the ‘Last of the Red Hot Mamas’ – Sophie Tucker 1884-1966

A Vaudeville and Broadway star of her time, who started out (not her idea) blacked up, Sophie ‘came out’ as a nice jewish girl when her makeup box was stolen on the way to a gig. The audience was delighted and so was she.

Sophie sang joyfully about being a fat girl who loved to be loved, not taking nonsense from men, and was raunchy, outrageous and fun. She had quite a voice too, landing a $1000 recording deal with Edison.

Any party Sophie was invited to would need to have cocktails I suspect. I have a cocktail shaker somewhere – haven’t used it since… well, a loooong time. I can do a G&T by eye, who needs a shaker? Come on over Sophie, let’s let our back hair down and have a good laugh.

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 12th January


No famous birthday today, but three for tomorrow so let’s celebrate Carolyn Gold Heilbrun (aka Amanda Cross) January 13, 1926 – October 9, 2003 a day early. She’d probably quite like getting in early, she never was one for conventions. Described as the Mother of feminist academia (personally not sure I’d want to be described as the mother of anything much, but there you go!), she was a scholar who wrote extensively about Virginia Woolf, and wrote detective novels featuring a female academic under the name Amanda Cross.

Although married, she was unsentimental about her children, refused to take on the role of unpaid carer for her grandchildren, and bought a separate house so that she could get away from the domestic role when she felt the need to sit by the fire and think unencumbered.  She was much given to acting on principle and being practical about things, which included ending her own life when she felt it was time.

In later years she disliked social gatherings prefering to meet friends one to one, so she wouldn’t accept the invitation to a party – perhaps we’d have to arrange to meet on a park bench, with a flask of something warming and a really good ginger biscuit.

So Carolyn is another of those admirable women I’m not sure I’d actually get on with, so let’s celebrate another birthday: today is my friend Penny’s birthday. Penny is the owner of Lavender Lifestyles, a website that provides an outlet for lesbian artists and craftswomen to sell their work – an excellent place to find a birthday present for the lesbian in your life! She also taught me computer skills a very long time ago, which led to me writing Mosaic of Air, so thanks, Penny, and Happy Birthday!