Category Archives: Metaphors

Women in Chains – Suffragette Jewellery; A Steampunk Feminist Perspective

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Suffragette Chain Link Jewellery at its finest, as it also incorporates the three colours of the Suffragette Movement: Green, White and Violet (Give Women Votes).

It is a well known fact that suffragettes were targeted by their governments as troublemakers, and often spent time in jail, and they were subjected to some awful treatment. They were meant to be humiliated and silenced by this strategy. Instead, suffragettes saw jail time as a victory, that they were considered dangerous enough to incarcerate.

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Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter, Christabel, while in jail.

In previous blog articles, I have mentioned suffragette jewellery. Some people argue that the suffragettes were vocal, and would never stoop to subterfuge by wearing symbolic jewellery. I have to agree with this viewpoint. I believe suffragette jewellery was worn with pride, to support the cause, and I believe some suffragette jewellery supports this hypothesis: the Holloway Prison Pin, Chain Link Jewellery, and Edith Garrud’s Boadicea Brooch.

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The Holloway Prison Pin, also known as the Holloway Brooch.

The Holloway Prison Pin  – designed by Sylvia Pankhurst, one of the daughters of Emmeline Pankhurst – was presented to members of the Women’s Social and Political Union who had suffered imprisonment. The first presentation of the brooches took place at a mass demonstration organised by the WSPU on the 29th of April, 1909. The broad arrow – the symbol of the convict – was enamelled in purple, white and green, the colours of the suffragette movement. Some of the brooches were marked with dates of imprisonment. The brooch was first mentioned in Votes for Women, the WSPU newspaper, in the issue published on the 16th of April, 1909, where it was described as ‘the Victoria Cross of the Union’.

The Jail Pin

Jail Door Pin

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The Hunger Strike Medal

After the Holloway Prison pin, the suffragettes were inspired to issue pins and medals for other indignities suffered by the women when they were imprisoned for wanting equal rights. To my mind, it is the Hunger Strike Medal that represents the greatest sacrifices made by those imprisoned; hunger strikers were often force fed. Some of the women were also sent to mental asylums, because being vocal about wanting the vote is a sure sign of madness.

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Image from the textbook – Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia: An Illustrated History Study

Chain brooches didn’t just symbolise imprisonment. It also stood for the chains that held the women back in society. The chains that held them back from education and legal rights, as well as the right to vote. Mind you, the government was happy to tax women, but not so thrilled to give them a voice in parliament.

Chain brooches came in many shapes and forms. Some were more decorative than others, but even the most simple chain brooch was layered with meaning.

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Of course, the suffragette movement was big on pins and brooches. They could be sold to raise funds, worn to show support, or awarded for outstanding sacrifices. It is a form of wearing your heart on your sleeve.

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Edith Garrud’s Boudica brooch was also described as the Suffragette’s Victoria Cross.

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A Woman in Chains

Chains are often part of a Steampunk cosplay outfit. Never was there a better reason to wear them than to celebrate the Suffragettes.

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Filed under Fashion, History, Jewellery, Metaphors, Steampunk, Steampunk Feminist, Suffragettes, Suffragists, Symbology, Uncategorized, Victorian-era Fashion

Hand-in-hand; Victorian-era Hand Jewellery

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Turquoise and diamonds in the form of two hands clasping, circa 1835

 

In the Victorian era, jewellery was worn not just for ornamentation, it was often worn because it meant something to both the wearer and/or the people who saw her wearing the piece. Hands were a popular symbol. They could be clasped in love or friendship, or clasping items with their own symbology.

The ring below is an early Victorian-era  Betrothal Ring, circa 1840. The Clasped Hands, which have a male and female cuff, open to reveal a gold heart on the central band. An Early Victorian Gold Clasped Hands Betrothal Ring. The Clasped Hands, which have a male and female cuff, open to reveal a Gold Heart on the central band. Circa 1840.jpg

Flowers had a whole range of meanings, depending on the the types of flowers.

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Ivory hand clasping roses – symbols of love – and forget-me-nots.

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Ivory earrings clasping roses and forget-me-nots.

Snakes represented eternal love or wisdom.

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Coral and gold pin

A hand grasping a rod was seeking guidance or comfort in time of need.

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Mourning jewellery often depicted crossed hands, hands in prayer, or hands clasped ‘across the divide between life and death’.

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Victorian-era Whitby jet brooch depicting crossed hands.

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Gold and hair mourning jewellery

 

A hand clasping a key was clasping the key to a lover’s hear.

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This hand is clasping a key to a watch and was most likely worn as a watch fob. Note the use of tinted gold for the decoration.

 

Pointing hands were charms of protection.

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It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this sort of jewellery could be used to intensify characterisation, or even become part of a plot point!

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Filed under Fashion, History, Jewellery, Metaphors, Mourning, Steampunk, Symbology, Uncategorized, Victorian-era Fashion

Female-only Idioms; a Steampunk Feminist Perspective

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Image of the Bionic Unicorn

There are certain sayings and phrases in English that refer purely to women. The ones I am going to discuss today are “She’s the cat’s mother”, “A woman’s place is in the home”, “A Scarlet Woman”,”A woman’s work is never done”, and “Don’t teach your grandma to suck eggs”. I have picked these because there is no equivalent sayings that refer to men. These are not the only examples, I could have included “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” or “the little woman”, but those I picked cover the most common discourses that entagle women in their daily lives.

She’s the cat’s mother: 

I’ve never heard anyone correct someone using ‘he’ by saying ‘He’s the cat’s father’. For some reason, women are held to a higher standard of grammatical English than men. Women aren’t supposed to swear; our language is meant to be lady-like. This is reflected in sayings like this, with the underlying discourse that women are more polite and speak correctly – this was pointed out in Robin Lakoff’s Language and Woman’s Place. Reading this book was a revelation to me, particularly as I was only just learning how gendered English was as a language.

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A woman’s place is in the home:

Aspects of form, topic, content, and use
of spoken language have been identified as
sex associated. – Adelaide Haas

I am imagining a lot of people frowning at their computer screens as they read that idiom. Until recently, that was the argument everyone used when women tried to enter the public sphere. It was the greatest argument used against the suffragists and suffragettes in the Victorian era. You don’t hear of where a man’s place is supposed to be; but the inference is the woman should be cooking him dinner and caring for his house & children. A woman is NOT a refrigerator, and a wife is not another item of white goods.

suffragette-madonna

Because, you know, a father spending time with his infant is a terrible thing. Only a mother can supply the right sort of care. This is insulting to both the mother and the father, when you think about it.

A Scarlet Woman: 

This is the old double standard; a man who plays the field is sewing his wild oats, whereas a young woman doing the same thing is a slut. This is an underlying assumption built into the very foundations of our language. Ponder the difference between the concepts of a male ‘pro’ and a female ‘pro’, or a ‘master’ and a ‘mistress’. That status of women in our culture is reflected in our language. We need to start redefining these terms to take away the negative implications. Women can be assertive without being aggressive, and talk loudly without being shrill.

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A Swedish holocaust survivor attacking a neo-Nazi!

A Woman’s Work is Never Done:

This saying is actually part of a couplet: A man he works from sun to sun (sunrise to sunset), but a woman’s work is never done. This saying originated in the days when women were unable to go out into the workforce in the public area, and were basically unpaid slaves. This perception of unending tasks was because of nature of the unpaid labour done by a wife and mother, which involved caring and feeding for the said ‘man’ and their mutual children, as well as cleaning the house and doing the laundry (and possibly caring for the garden as well). If the woman had actually been paid for this work, no one would have been able to afford her salary.

Now that women can go out to work, the burden of domestic labour still falls on the shoulder of women. This happens even if both partners work full time.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/mar/10/housework-gender-equality-women

It is frustrating that our language and culture still encapsulates this discourse. Who does the Christmas shopping in your house, as an example?

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Hah! You never hear about henpecked wives.

Don’t Teach Your Grandma to Suck Eggs: 

For those who haven’t come across this say, it means that inexperienced people should try not to give advice to experts in their fields. However, the depreciating humour in this idiom never pokes fun at Grandpa. And sucking eggs sounds disgusting.

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“So a girl is damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. If she refuses to talk like a lady, she is ridiculed and subjected to criticism as unfeminine; if she does learn, she is ridiculed as unable to think clearly, unable to take part in a serious discussion: in some sense, as less than fully human. These two choices which a woman has — to be less than a woman or less than a person — are highly painful.”
Robin Lakoff, Language and Woman’s Place (1975)

 

 

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Filed under Metaphors, Steampunk Feminist, Steampunk Themes, Steampunk Writer, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Style

Enamoured by Metaphor

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I am about to embark on a new horror story, based around the concept of anatomical models from the 17th and 18th centuries. The original ‘Anatomical Venus’ by Clemente Susini  can still be seen at La Specola museum in Florence. She is known as ‘the Medici Venus’,  and is a life-size wax figure with real human hair, and can be dissected into seven anatomically correct layers. She spawned numerous copies, referred to as Slashed Beauties or Dissected Graces. My favourite is the one pictured above, with her gold crown and serene expression, while her innards lay exploded over her chest and stomach.

These models were both scientific educational tools and works of high art. The artists who produced them were often students of anatomy and witnessed dissections to get the details right; some even had a tiny fetus incorporated into the display. Like Snow White, they were kept in glass coffins.

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After they were discarded by their medical institutes and museums, the anatomical models were often incorporated into the displays of fairground attractions. The languid nudity of the wax figures attracted the voyeurs, while the faux dissections attracted those individuals with morbid curiosity or scientific interests.

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What a range of horrific possibilities for a writer! Who were the original models for each of these wax figures? Were these wax sculptures based on real women, or idealised ones? It isn’t a big jump to seeing an artist murdering a perfect, healthy girl to get  his details right…

The real tantalising detail is knowing the best of these Slashed Beauties could be broken down into seven anatomically correct layers. Not only is the name, Slashed Beauties, just wonderfully creepy, but think of the metaphor created by a woman with so many layers. As Shrek points out,  she has layers “Like an onion!” What is revealed as you peel those layers away?

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Filed under Analogy, Horror genre, Metaphors, Uncategorized, Writing Style

The Mutton versus Lamb Debate: Leg o’Mutton Sleeves from a Steampunk Feminist’s Perspective

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Infanta Eulalia wearing a dress with modified leg o’mutton sleeves.

Now, when I was wee child in the Dark Ages, our Australian butchers carried lamb and mutton.These days, everything ovine is labelled as lamb. And yet we still have beef and veal. And this observation has nothing to do with today’s topic … Leg O’Mutton sleeves.They were given that name because they resembled the shape of a roast leg of mutton or lamb.

Leg o'Mutton sleeves

Puffed sleeves, also known as Gigot sleeves or leg o’mutton sleeves, came into fashion in the 1830s, and were part of the Victorian era fashion spiral until the 1890s. In the  1830s, gigot sleeves did not start where the sleeve and shoulder of the dress met. Instead, gigot sleeves began at the top of the arm, helping to create a fashionable sloped shoulder look. The term ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ is first found in print in the journal of social gossip that Mrs Frances Calvert compiled in 1811. One can’t help but wonder if the term inspired the name of the sleeves.

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In L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, the protagonist Anne longs for sleeve puffs. Her beloved Matthew supplies her with a pretty dress with puffed sleeves for Christmas.

“I don’t see how I’m going to eat breakfast,” said Anne rapturously. “Breakfast seems so commonplace at such an exciting moment. I’d rather feast my eyes on that dress. I’m so glad that puffed sleeves are still fashionable. It did seem to me that I’d never get over it if they went out before I had a dress with them. I’d never have felt quite satisfied, you see. It was lovely of Mrs. Lynde to give me the ribbon too. I feel that I ought to be a very good girl indeed. It’s at times like this I’m sorry I’m not a model little girl; and I always resolve that I will be in future. But somehow it’s hard to carry out your resolutions when irresistible temptations come. Still, I really will make an extra effort after this.”

From the middles of the 1890s until the middle of the 1900s,  leg o’mutton sleeves were again highly fashionable. However, they now started at the shoulder seam proper. They were the equivalent of the 1980’s, redefining the silhouette with broader shoulders and imparting a more ‘athletic’ look for women.

Leg o'mutton

This style reflected the change in both dress reforms and in women’s social status.The Gibson Girl  – who was a popular emblem of femininity in America during the late Victorian era and the Edwardian era – epitomised these new, more athletic shaped women. A Gibson Girl could be found cycling or playing tennis, often exercised, and was emancipated to the extent that she could enter the workplace.

That crushed sleeve is giving the game away. Mustn’t be wearing sleeve plumpers.

As well as sleeve puffs, the truly fashionable would have had to have worn sleeve plumpers or puff-stuffers. The excessively voluminous sleeves  would require a pair of extra support underwear, worn to help hold out the sleeves. Women could also use a stiff or starched lining on the inside of the sleeves to help pump up the volume.

As a writer, I find the idea of using lamb/mutton metaphors, with the leg o’mutton sleeves as the signifier, quite tempting. I didn’t even realise that leg o’mutton sleeves needed their own undergarments until I started researching them. The possibility of hiding something important in the puffs intrigues me.

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Filed under Fashion, Metaphors, Steampunk Aesthetic, Steampunk Feminist, Uncategorized, Victorian-era Fashion

The Medicinal Origins of the Gin and Tonic

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The classic gin and tonic was invented in the tropics, during the Victorian era of Colonialism. Gin is a spirit which derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries, and was probably first invented for use as a herbal medicine. Tonic water is a carbonated water in which quinine has been dissolved and was originally used as a prophylactic against malaria. Quinine is bitter; it is what gives the pleasant bite to a bitter lemon cordial or soft drink. So all the ingredients of a gin and tonic had their origins in the medicinal pharmacy.

The cocktail was introduced by the army of the British East India Company in India. In India and other tropical regions, malaria was a persistent problem. In the 1700s it was discovered that quinine could be used to prevent and treat the disease, although the bitter taste was unpleasant. British officers in India in the early 19th century took to adding a mixture of water, sugar, lime and gin to the quinine in order to make the drink more palatable. Soldiers in India were already given a gin ration, and the sweet concoction made sense. Since it is no longer used as an antimalarial, tonic water today contains much less quinine, is usually sweetened, and is consequently much less bitter.

Excerpt from Wikipedia

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Victorian Era Cold Cream; a Steampunk Feminist Perspective

WHEN a pot of cold cream to Eliza you send,

You with words to this purpose your present commend;
Whoe’er with this cream shall her countenance smear,
All redness and roughness will strait disappear,
And the skin to a wonder be charmingly clear;
If pimples arise, this will take them away;
If the small-pox should mark you, those marks will decay;
If wrinkled through age, or bad dawbing the face is,
‘Twill be smooth in a trice, as the best Venice glass is;
All this, and much more (could I spare time to write it,
Or my pen go as fast, as your lips would indite it)
You affirm of your cream: and I would not abuse it,

But pray tell me one thing—Do you yourself use it?

— Dr. Russell, circa 1814, To A Lady: in imitation of the thirtieth Epigram of the fifth Book of Martial

Cold Cream
Cold cream is most likely the first manufactured cosmetic, and was invented by the Roman physician Galen around 150AD. He mixed rosewater into molten beeswax and olive oil to make a creamy, buttery emulsion. The ‘cold’ refers to the cooling sensation that occurs when it was rubbed on the skin. It has remained a popular until this day; I use a form of cold cream night and morning as I suffer from dry skin. (You might say I’m a fan of Galen.) Cold cream is a water in oil concoction rather than the oil in water of vanishing cream, named because it seems to disappear when applied on skin.

cold-cream-jar

The Victorian women used cold cream, even though the use of make-up was considered ‘common’. Compared to some of the beautifying substances used, like arsenic and lead, cold cream actually did soften the skin and help prevent wrinkles, without killing you. The delicacy on a lady’s complexion was important.

otto-of-rose Cold Cream

Do you think that is meant to be attar of rose? Though the distillation of rose oil from rose petals by steam creates rose otto.

Cold Cream (Cosmetic Cerate, Pommade en Creme): Take an ounce each of white wax and spermaceti (whale oil), and 1 quarter pint of oil of almonds; melt, pour the mixture into a marble or Wedgewood-ware mortar (or porcelain basin), which has been heated by being immersed, for some time, in boiling water; add, very gradually, 4 fluid ounces of Eau de Rose; and assiduously stir the mixture until an emulsion is formed, and afterwards until the whole is very nearly cold. Lastly, put it into porcelain or earthenware pots for use or sale

Recipe from the Kate Tattersall Adventures website.

As a feminist, I see nothing wrong with a woman using beautifying products. It is a personal choice. In Western Culture of the Victorian era, women were valued more for their looks than their intellects. Cold cream was more important than cool nerves and rationality. So, what about the clever woman who also uses cold cream … should that symbolise cold intellect? But why should logic always be seen as cold, and as emotions as warm? Better yet, a combination of both sounds like the perfect balance, with the heart supporting the brain and vice versa. 

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Filed under Fashion, History, Metaphors, Steampunk, Steampunk Feminist, Steampunk Genre, Uncategorized, Victorian-era Fashion