Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Suffragette: Movies and Militants

I was terrified, sitting in that cinema, as the adverts rolled. The film had been promised to us for so long, and now, here I was, Votes for Women badge glinted on my lapel, waiting for Suffragette to begin.
  Why was I so terrified? Because I didn’t know how they were going to get it right. This was the portrayal of a formidable, inspiring group of women, whose cause was just and true yet whose actions are those of controversy and dispute.  The film focuses on the militancy of the suffragettes, and I just didn’t know how they would make it work.
  I never questioned the actions of my heroes, but something that happened to me on the first night of fresher’s week, five years ago, made me sit down and had a long, hard think. I was 18; young, painfully shy, and dressed in odd, charity shop garments. The first night out- a bar crawl organised by our halls of residence, was themed Heroes and Villains. Now reader, I could write a whole other blog post on the utter discomfort I felt at dressing up as Cat Woman or Wonder Woman; but I won’t. I decided to be myself- to start as I meant to carry on. Dressed in my sturdy lace up boots and a high necked blouse with a cameo brooch on the collar, I flung my sash around me with pride, and marched down the streets of Bristol drinking WKDs.
  I cannot remember which fellow first year said it to me- their face is lost in a sea of new names and nights out- but I remember the words clearly.

  ‘Are you supposed to be a hero or a villain?’
I blinked. ‘A hero, obviously.’
‘But the suffragettes were bad, weren’t they? They hurt people and smashed stuff. They were terrorists.’

It was the first time I ever thought about it- and after watching Suffragette, the question came before me again. I didn’t want to sit through a film that portrayed these women as terrorists, vandals, and nuisances. Indeed, a national newspaper reported of the film that the women in it were terrorists and, to paraphrase: ‘Should have listened to the good men around them’, accusing the women in the film of ruining their lives over the need to cause chaos.
   Thankfully, Suffragette does not encourage this idea of the suffragette movement. The militancy of the suffragettes, who did indeed employ arson and vandalism, is shown with a brutal honesty. It doesn’t glorify these actions, but it does demonstrate the desperation and the lengths that the WSPU went to in order to get their voices heard. The acts were not mindless. Though extreme, they were the actions of people who were not free. I think the reason people condone the militant acts of the suffragettes is because the face of the movement- Emmeline Pankhurst- is perceived as an upper middle class conservative who already had already made an impact on the government and on the country. I think it is easy to wonder why she encouraged her devoted followers to employ this sort of behaviour, when she had already made herself and the cause heard everywhere.
  However, it is important to remember that not all suffragettes were Emmeline, Sylvia, or Christabel Pankhurst- those names we hear repeatedly when we think of the term ‘suffragette’. The film teaches us an important lesson in this- those women lower down in the class system did not have a voice- essentially, they were not free. The film is a moving portrayal of the working class women who joined the fight- though the protagonist, Maud Watts, is fictional, she represented the hoards of women who came out to fight for their equality and for their vote, and were not remembered in the same way that the famous Pankhurst women were. These were the women who sacrificed everything for the cause. 
The collection of Suffragette material at the People’s History Museum is another reminder of this. The suffragette Hannah Mitchell, whose kitchen is replicated in our galleries, is a true example of how working class women gave up their entire lives for the struggle.
Hannah, who eventually became a Councillor in Manchester, did not have the same social freedom as the higher class suffragettes. In her autobiography, she describes her arrest in 1906, and her subsequent release. She wrote: ‘I was not pleased to find my husband outside. He knew we did not wish for our fines to be paid...’ Though many men supported the campaign, the place of the working class woman was in the home- cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children- they refused to allow their wives to fight for their cause in jail, for they were lost without them at home.
 These militant acts portrayed in the film and in the museum demonstrate the true struggle these women faced- not merely the right to have a go, and to cross a piece of paper, but the right to own their own lives, their own choices, and their own future.
 So- to the fresher so long ago who challenged me. They are heroes. They always will be heroes. They were not mindless militants but women chained to the fate of the men in their lives, women who needed to escape. These women cleared the way for me to vote, to learn, and to flourish.
  So thanks Meryl, Carey, Anne-Marie, and Helena. Thank you Abi Morgan. You did the best job in celebrating this movement.
 But most of all, thank you to all the women who lived and died for this most worthy cause.

Shout, shout, up with your song!
Cry with the wind for the dawn is breaking,
March! March! Swing you along,
Wide blows our banner and hope is waking.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Across the Pennines: Chapter II

Yet another train journey across to North Yorkshire, though this time there was no warming summer sunshine, no pretty fifties dresses, and no Bank holiday strolls.
Turns out, North Yorkshire is just as stunning in the Autumn.  A watery sun painted itself across a crisp, blue sky, marked with hundreds of falling flame coloured leaves.  
Our trip took us to Fountains Abbey, using our National Trust cards of course, and took us on a riveting exploration of the ruins of the monastery. It is the most beautiful, relaxing place. The staff were particularly lovely and the grounds offered a range of interesting things to see, from the folly to the many water features.
Helen particularly enjoyed Anne Boleyn''s seat- the perfect view of the Abbey- though Anne never visited the Abbey, the seat is named after a statue of her on the grounds. It truly brings to mind the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII,  his desire to marry Anne being one of the catalysts, and as you look over at the ruins, Anne's presence is a cold reminder of why it lies in ruins.

The perfect Autumn weekend.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

An Ode to the Weasleys

You may have noticed that we are proud redheads. It is impossible not to notice that we are also identical twins. What you probably don't know is that we are the bothersome middle children, and born in the month of April. All of these are traits shared by Fred and George Weasley.

You can imagine how it felt reading that fateful chapter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (SPOILER) I STILL HAVEN'T FORGIVEN YOU, JO. WHY, FRED, WHY?!

Our house always felt a bit like The Burrow. My mother is the epitome of Mrs Weasley, forever trying to looking after everyone, not a woman to be trifled with. There's always something going on, always two or three extra guests hanging around, always, always cake. We might as well hang a banner across the front door saying 'Strangers, WELCOME. (You will be fed.)' It was always wonderful to see this kind of family at the heart of the books. How warm, how caring, how kind they were, and how this made them so much better off than anyone else; the Weasley family contributed so much to the essence of the series.

 We actually got to be the Weasleys last weekend. For our younger sister Jenny's (very much the Ginny of the family) 18th birthday, and to celebrate her heading off to university, the three of us, and our older sister (the 'Bill' if you like...she'll hate me for this...stop me now), took ourselves off to Watford, for the Harry Potter Studio Tour.

It was incredible. One of our favourite bits was getting to nosy inside The Burrow. And Helen and I, much to our sensible and lovely sisters' embarrassment, got to unleash our inner, geeky, Weasley twin selves. Flying car, Weasley Wizard Wheeze's, geeky purchases from the gift shop...check, check, check.

Thank you to our sisters for putting up with us, and for such a nice day.

And thank you J.K Rowling, who created characters two ginger troublesome twins could relate to, who made us laugh and made it okay to stand out like (two) sore thumb(s). It was okay to not be perfect, to be a bit mischievous. To make people laugh, but to also get told off, to be different. It was okay to be part of a big, mad family, because the Weasleys made it so.

Please enjoy some photos as a tribute to our favourite twins, and our favourite fictional family.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

A Veritable Catch Up- Where Have We Been?

  One of my favourite things to do is sitting down and blogging, but alas, it’s been too long. The Vintage Twins have divided and conquered recently, with travels to London, Devon, Cornwall, the Peaks, and Yorkshire- rattling train journeys filled with books and music, and endless gazing out of windows. The weeks have passed by just as quickly; how is it I find myself just a few weeks off blackberry picking season? Can it be a year since our last semi-disastrous jam making adventure?
   Hm. Must be. So, this free, lazy Saturday afternoon, I am curled cross-legged in my living room, and the sun is streaming in. Stanley the tabby has convenient sat by my head and blocked the sunlight from my screen. Silently, this is his way of telling me to get on with it and write. There’s a large vase of lilies in front of the fireplace, that’s filling the room with scent. It’s the perfect sitting to talk about the recent goings on in our nostalgic lives.

Capturing Salford
  We went rambling around a local country park in Salford last weekend. Salford isn’t associated with the country side- it’s industrial and gritty, but in a completely lovable and wonderfully historical kind of way. Salford shaped us- like us, it combines old with new, history with the future, new stories and old stories. The blackberries we pick for jam making grow a short walk away from the industrial park round the corner from us, and the country park is full of power lines, but that doesn’t stop it from being stunning- it adds something new to it. Everybody is fond of where they come from- Salford is rich in history, culture, and nostalgia, it’s hard not to feel immensely proud of it. These photos are just a taste of the other side of Salford- the side filled with wild flowers, nature treks and beautiful sunsets!

Books and Flowers
    It’s an old love, a lost love. But recently, on a trip to the hidden beaches of Cornwall, my love was rekindled. A reunion with the glorious amalgamation of tumbling cliff sides and overgrown hedgerows, roaring tides and soft sandy beaches, all surrounded by masses and masses of wild flowers gave me a hit of nostalgia. Everywhere I looked, I saw scenes from one of our favourite childhood reads- The Flower Fairy books, by Mary Ciecly Barker. The strangest thing- when I returned home, Catherine presented me with a present, completely out of the blue and a strange coincidence- A Flower Fairies Treasury! It was such a delightful coincidence. Barker was inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites, and it’s so apparent in the rich colours and drawings- I feel you can almost smell the flowers and hear the songs when flicking through the pages. Some of my favourites are the Cornflower Fairy and the Bluebell fairy, but the Queen of the Meadow is definitely right at the top.

NW to SW
  We both went to University down in the South West of England- Helen to Bristol and Catherine to Exeter- so it holds a special enchantment over us. We were both lucky to get down there on holidays throughout July. Catherine’s adventures took her from roaming the National Art Gallery in London (head to toe in Cath Kidston no less), to taking a very early train down to our old haunt, Topsham. Catherine and Matthew stayed in the beautiful Globe Inn, walked the Goat Walk in the mornings and took tea at our very own Topsham Lock Cottage, where we spent some glorious summers waitressing, baking, and running around like two Enid Blyton escapees. The photos say it all- Catherine’s return was very much welcomed, especially with Mike the ferryman! The star event of the holiday was Catherine’s adored friend’s wedding- a beautiful, fun filled affair, with lots of joy. Catherine of course wore a wonderfully vintage inspired dress. If you haven’t visited the Lindy Bop website, I implore you to GO- Catherine looked smashing in this Hummingbird patterned fifties inspired dress.
   Helen’s trip took her to the coast of Cornwall near Looe, where her and her friends took on the roles of the Famous Five and adventured all week! Swimming, skimboarding, and climbing through caves and coves and down cliff sides- it was gloriously sunny week and fun, laughter and backgammon. Yep, Helen is good at backgammon now. A perfect rainy day past time. One of the many highlights of the trip was a trip into Looe, a sweet seaside town. The Kitchenside Bakery was the most accommodating, nostalgic, and loveliest café, where we sampled an incredible afternoon tea surrounded by beautiful décor – the most amazing wall decorated by very real looking wallpapered bookshelves! 

Perfect Peaks

 One of our bezzie mates Steph was back in the glorious North this weekend, so we spent Saturday and Sunday in the peaceful peaks of Broadbottom and Glossop. The highlights were not only some amazing food at Chez Steph, but a great late night walk (repeated in the morning to actually see the view), and a visit to the Lymefield Garden Centre and Farm Shop, which was glorious- I had the best piece of Lemon Meringue Pie ever! 

So there you have it- a pretty great excuse as to why we've been so quiet, don't you think? We'll be back with some National Trust goodness and more nostalgic writings soon. 

                                                                 H & C x 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.

“Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.” 

Mary, Mary. 
   She was quite contrary. To her contemporaries, her thoughts, her actions, her words were shocking, were vulgar, were distasteful. 
   Which obviously makes her another part of the Vintage Twins Heroine Series. 

Mary Wollstonecraft was born in 1729. She died aged 38, after the birth of her most famous child, the incredibly talented Mary Shelley. In her short life, Mary Wollstonecraft was dynamically controversial, unorthodox, dramatic, and sorrowful. 
But I don't think it's worth talking about her personal life, aside from this one statement: Mary Wollstonecraft was unshaken. She didn't care about what people said, what people wrote, or how horrific people may assume her ideas to be. Instead she FOUGHT
 A Vindication on the Rights of Woman is generally recognised as one of the first pieces of feminist philosophy, making Wollstonecraft fondly named as the first feminist. Wollstonecraft argued that women were not naturally unequal to men; that the difference in education allowed men to be raised above women. 
Wollstonecraft hated the idea of women being raised to be whimsical, and to rely on their beauty to progress and achieve: 
“My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.” 
Personally, I love this- I think it's still a valuable lesson to learn today. That's what is so amazing about A Vindication on the Rights of Woman. I read it, realising how much of it I take for granted today- going to school. Identifying as a geek. Using knowledge. Being buried in books- in proper books. Mary Wollstonecraft kickstarted the route to getting us these things. We have a lot to thank Mary for- for teaching us to stand up and be a bonkers is the best thing to do. To love our education- to cherish it, to savour it. To not rely on men identifying the pretty, the not so pretty, and ranking us thus. NOT OKAY.
 Working at the People's History Museum, I'm surrounded by ideas worth fighting for. But this portrait of Mary really stand out. She's still so relevant today- hence why the awesome graffiti artist Stewy (who also did a cracking design of the Bronte sisters!) recently immortalised her on the side of her old home at Newington Heath- AND at the People's History Museum. 
Portrait of Mary in the galleries of the People's History Museum, Manchester

(c) Stewy

We recently supported the #GetMary campaign, which aims to get Mary Wollstonecraft sponsored by the general public to become a Radical Hero. All donations go to upkeep of the museum's collections and galleries.
   It is more important than ever to keep the stories of people like Mary Wollstonecraft alive. I leave you with this: 
'Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtous, as men become more so; for the improvement must be mutual, or the injustice which one half of the human race are obliged to submit to, retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of men will be worm-eaten by the insect whom he keeps under his feet.'
We at Vintage Twins HQ implore you to have a look at the #GetMary campaign. Full of passion, spirit and fight. Just like Mary. 

We'll back soon with the start of the Vintage Twins Book Club! 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Reader, I loved them: A trip to Haworth

Photo from the Bronte Parsonage Museum website

Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Strange, dusty forenames combined with a rather simple surname, that wouldn't mean anything to us today. Which, well, is a testament to what the writers behind these names achieved. There are very literally three great women behind these names- Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. 
    I do not doubt that everybody knows exactly who these sisters are, and the great pieces of literature that they between them achieved. Amongst their many books, poems, essays and publications come the most famous pieces- Charlotte's Jane Eyre, Emily's Wuthering Heights, and Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. 
  The sisters lived with their father in the Parsonage at Haworth, Yorkshire, up on the moors in a small town. It was far from idyllic. The death rate was abnormally high; the graveyard that the parsonage overlooked was overflowing with flat gravestones and the social class was low. It is easy to imagine them, wandering through the small corridors of the parsonage, looking out onto the gloomy moors, past the graves, and thinking up the stories that would one day end up on my bookshelves.
  The Reverend Patrick Brontë outlived all of his children. Emily and Branwell died within weeks of each other at the young ages of 30 and 31; Anne died the following May, and Charlotte, tragically, only a year into her marriage and pregnant, at the age of 38.
  In their short lives, these women created pieces of fiction that shocked and enthralled their contempories, with honest, violent, dark and passionate scenes; with women becoming heroines through their own acts of courage, and strength. 
     Jane Eyre changed my life, Wuthering Heights changed my heart, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall changed my head. I'm confident that there are many woman, and folk alike reading this who are strongly agreeing out loud, in between swigs of tea (Readers, I imagine you all drink tea whilst reading our blog). I mean...JANE EYRE. She's sassy, right? But she's resilient. She's stalwart. Nothing flutters about Jane Eyre- no pale hand flies to the forehead. She goes through agony but comes out, strong, alone. Like she says- oh, there are so many lines from this book I could quote, lines I have muttered to myself, brows furrowed when I need to believe it-
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” 
“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” 

       Wuthering Heights taught me another great lesson. From Jane, I knew that to be independent, to be strong, to be equal to another was important. Wuthering Heights taught me to love- love with passion, with strength, and without fear. Obviously, it didn't turn out great for Cathy and Heathcliff. But every turn of the page, the idea grew in my mind- to be loved like that. To love in such a way! How Emily put herself in the place of the two lovers, how she wrote their agony, their power, their hold over each makes me wonder. It is both terrible and great.
   The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was the most recent of the trio that I read, and I cannot advise people more to read it, to read it and to be amazed at how powerful the feminist messages are, how tragic the severe lack of women's rights were, and how brave Anne was to tackle them at a time when they were not to be tackled. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall avoids the wild darkness of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Anne, I would argue, is the most intellectual of the three- her pen seems steadier, more eloquent, and, in a way, bolder in what she addresses. 
 Ok- the reviews are over.
Sorry! I get carried away when talking about the Brontës. Anyway, the whole point of the blog is...I went to their old home in Haworth! 

 This was my view from the top of the main street. Catherine, the Vintage Twins resident photographing wizard, didn't accompany on this trip, so we didn't get many photos, and photography is banned within the Parsonage itself. 

   The first thing we did on arrival was head to the Parsonage Museum. I got attacked by a cat on the walk up there, as I lingered by the graveyard, taking in my first glimpse of the house. Inside, I got momentarily distracted by the lure of the shop, before heading inside. If you remember our blog on Elizabeth Gaskell's House, you'll remember how we adored how they had recreated Gaskell's world, even down to the wallpaper that covered the walls. The Parsonage museum did exactly the same- there were moments when I was so engrossed with the house, the objects, the room in which all their books were written (a diagram from Emily's journal tells us this!) and the sofa on which Emily died, I half expected to turn a corner and seen a sister there, or to feel the brush of a petticoat as I swept past one on the stairs. My poor boyfriend had to put up with me constantly delighting over every object, reading every letter twice, and doubling back through displays to check I hadn't missed anything. 
The museum assistants brought everything to life, and I learnt more about my heroines than I ever have before. From toy soldier battles, to little books, to language lessons, love lessons, paintings, poems, privileges, sermons, sewing, travels, teachings, handmade bonnets, perfectly preserved petticoats...Reader, I fell in love. 
   What I loved so much is that...well, it all happened in that house. They left, but they came back. They lived a little, but where they truly lived was in their own wild creativities, within their close companionship...and they created something lasting.

 Please visit
to find out more about the Parsonage Museum...and the wonderful Bronte Society!