Lucy Bland
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The tribulations of Edith Thompson
Sexual incitement as a capital crime
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Edith Thompson in many ways was thought to epitomise the modern woman-cum-flapper. The modern woman-cum-flapper represented both modernity and immorality, engendering deep ambivalence. Such ambivalence was apparent in relation to press reportage of Edith Thompson. By 'immorality' Barrister Curtis-Bennett meant adultery, a 'crime' magnified further by the age difference between the two culprits. Frederick Bywaters was characterised as an innocent young 'boy' led astray by an older, predatory, sexual seductress. Edith's behaviour was deemed triply inappropriate and unacceptable: initiating, adulterous and cross-generational. If part of Edith's vilification involved ambivalence towards her suburban lower-middle classness, another contributor to this vilification, one inherently interlinked, was her love of romantic fiction. But out of wartime, romantic fiction, the main staple of Edith's literary taste, was singled out by the middle-class intelligentsia as especially undesirable. The literature was characterised as 'cheap' in more senses than one: inexpensive to buy, and worthless in its content.

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Modern women on trial

Sexual transgression in the age of the flapper


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