Two lovely happy moments to celebrate this week.
Firstly dovegreyreader scribbles quietly and in a grown-up way (after some fairly riotous parties in the toddler years) has passed its seventh birthday...can you believe that??
But our real and more serious purpose today, and in recognition of the fact that it is also International Women's Day, must be to celebrate the digital publication by Victorian Secrets of Helen Rappaport's wonderful book No Place for Ladies, long out of print. In honour of the occasion I have been down to the basement and dusted off my blog post on the book dated March 20th 2007 and if you want to buy a Kindle copy you can do so here.
The EPUB edition is available here and will also be for sale through the Apple Store, Barnes and Noble, Diesel, Kobo, etc.
If a book can help me chip into a new seam of reading then it's worth its weight in gold and No Place For Ladies by Helen Rappaport has done exactly that. I've hit motherlode with this one and am now a mine of information on all things interesting about the Crimean War.
I can bore the muffatees off anyone so here's a selection of my Crimean Cameos pronounced over kitchen table coffee at the weekend..
"Did you know that Queen Victoria asked Lord Rokeby to take a break from military duties and go out and pick her a nosegay of flowers in the Crimea and he did? It was sent back to England and is preserved at Windsor Castle to this very day"
"Do you know one nurse assisted at 56 amputations in 30 hours...or was it 30 in 56?"
"Do you know Prince Albert designed the Victoria Cross and they are all made from the metal of the guns?"
"Everyone knows that and they're running out"
"So where were the guns captured then?" Silence..."Ah see, Sebastopol"
"Do you know the soldiers dug up Crimean snowdrop bulbs and sent them home?"
I won't tell you anymore but rest assured there is plenty more in this extremely readable account of the role of the women at the Front, a book that you desperately want to talk about afterwards, especially if like me you have a bit of a gap in your Crimean War knowledge.
Florence Nightingale was busy trying to keep order and discipline in the nursing world, Mary Seacole was out there as the hostess with the mostest providing food and supplies as well as her vast array of very effective alternative remedies.Wherever there was a need Mary Seacole seemed to be the one to anticipate and fulfill it, red tape was there to be ignored. Meanwhile the army wives, who were allowed to travel in small numbers with each regiment, seemed to struggle to find a role for themselves beyond attempting to care for their husbands, living in utter squalor and poverty as it became clear the army could barely look after itself, let alone its women.
Whenever I lay hands on a book like this I turn first to the bibliography to see what else might be worth reading. Helen Rappaport's research is formidable and there is a wealth of other reading to choose from and one book in particular that I certainly want to read. It's the day to day events that are so fascinating and if it hadn't been for Mrs Fanny Duberley's diary I suspect a great deal of this would have remained a mystery. Fanny was the army wife with a difference, more about her soon.
Helen Rappaport left this lovely comment on that blog post...
I'm so glad you enjoyed the book Lynne. For me as a social historian it was a joy digging out the small but forgotten anecdotes about the war - such as the knitting instructions for mittens published in the Patriotic Journal, or seeing the nosegay of Crimean flowers so lovingly preserved in the queen's album at Windsor, or the descriptions of Queen Victoria's solicitous sending of false teeth and prosthetic limbs to the wounded whom she visited. There was one aspect of the war I never quite found a way of working into the story though - and that was one or two Crimean 'romances', including the racy story of an English officer's wife who disappeared one day and weeks later was spotted shacked up with a French officer over in the French camp. So many wonderful stories that give a much more rounded view of ordinary people enduring a totally senseless war that take the story beyond all the tedious military strategy and the fighting. I really didn't want to get to the end of it! And still feel bereft ... but then, I have about six great big fat files full of research on Mary Seacole .... there's a lot more to her story yet to be told.