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Sexual transgression in the age of the flapper
Author: Lucy Bland

This book looks at the highly publicised, sensational trials of several young female protagonists in the period 1918-1924. These cases, all presented by the press as morality tales involving drugs, murder, adultery, miscegenation and sexual perversion, are used as a prism through which to identify concerns about modern femininity. The book first examines a libel case, brought by a well-known female dancer against a maverick right-wing MP for the accusation of lesbianism. One aspect of this libel trial involved the drawing up of battle-lines in relation to the construction of a new, post-war womanhood. The book then looks at two inquests and three magistrate-court trials that involved women and drugs; young women in relationships with Chinese men were also effectively in the dock. One way of accessing court proceedings has been via the account of the trial published as part of the Notable British Trial Series. There are no extant trial transcripts. But there are prosecution depositions lodged at the National Archives, much press reportage, and a number of relevant memoirs, all giving a keen sense of the key issues raised by the trial. The book also focuses on an extraordinary divorce case, that of Christabel Russell, involving cross-dressing, claims of a virgin birth, extreme sexual ignorance, and a particular brand of eccentric modern femininity.

Abstract only
Lucy Bland

, whose reports on the trial were fairly extensive, and drawing on various diaries and memoirs, I am able to arrive at a sense of the trial’s impact, and importantly for my project here, the way in which the trial depicted sexually deviant women as potentially treacherous. I suggest that one aspect of this libel trial involved the drawing up of battle-lines in rela-­ tion to the construction of a new, post-war womanhood, setting the stage for the trials that were to follow. Further, in studying press omissions of certain ‘sexual’ terms used in the trial, I am able to

in Modern women on trial
Treachery, patriotism and English womanhood
Lucy Bland

the ideal Englishwoman as constructed by the radical right was conventional and moralising, sexually conformist, the mother of the (English) ‘race’. And with the vote to her name, she was going to make sure every other woman followed suit – or so the likes of Darling and Billing believed, united on this sole point: their view of a restrictive, ideal femininity. Thus one aspect of the cult of the clitoris trial involved the drawing up of battle-lines in relation to the construction of a new, post-war womanhood – a site of dispute and contestation to be considered

in Modern women on trial