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.
, 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
‘the drawing up of battle lines in relation to the construction of a new, post-war womanhood, setting the stage for the [sensational] trials’ of socially and sexually transgressive women that were to follow in the 1920s (Bland, 2013: 9). With the partial enfranchisement of women in February 1918, the qualification of women as parliamentary candidates in November 1918 and the swearing-in of the first female jurors in July 1920, the political, social and legal landscape for all British women changed significantly at the end of the war. However, Allan was not just a
girls enjoy freedom of movement, emancipation from parental control, and autonomy in the management of their affairs’; they were ‘conditioned by independence, self-determination and immunity from cramping restrictions imposed by former social conventions’. She also, like our Poor Clare earlier, linked the present with the past by contrasting pre-war from post-war womanhood in order to argue the grille’s functionality was redundant: ‘Fifty years ago it was unthinkable for a girl who valued her good name to remain for long periods in male company unchaperoned.’ She
post-war womanhood. In Promise of a Dream she drew upon Simone de Beauvoir’s term dépayser (to change scenery or disorientate) to describe her own adolescent reading experience. As a girl, de Beauvoir had read books much in the same fashion as Rowbotham and Gilda: to transport herself away from her surroundings and to transform herself. Subcultures promised ‘extreme inner experiences’.31 Carrying such hopes, Rowbotham shared something in common with young men she would meet around the VSC network who had sought the same ‘profound disorientation’ from ‘the petty
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