A Marylebone Miscellany
A while ago i made up a walking tour of london,( future blog coming soon!) to see all of the statues of women, for a very good friend of mine’s birthday. She is a fabulous feminist as well, so i knew this was a good present for her (and i could have fun too!) As i'm sure most of you are aware there are not a lot of statues of women in london:
Of the 828 statues it recorded, 174 of them were female - around one in five.
But that doesn't tell the whole story.
Looking just at named women rather than nameless female figures whittles the figure down to 80.
In contrast, out of 534 statues of men, 422 of them are named.
(Source BBC article - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43884726 )
So we managed to do the tour in a few hours, I researched each woman and made my friend a book with all of my research in it as her keepsake present. We both had such a good time we decided we should try and do more Feminist related things. A few months later the Museum of London had an exhibition about the Suffragettes, being as its the year some women ( White women over 30 who owned property) got the vote, whilst looking in the gift shop (it would be rude not to) we came across the most perfect book “ Women's London, a tour guide to great lives” by Rachel Kolsky, along with a suffragette tree decoration that also had be to bought!! We decided to do one of the tours and quickly managed to find a date when we were both free.
The first walk we did was the Marylebone Miscellany, a tour around the most famous medical area of london, focusing on Harley Street. What this tour has shown us is that there are so many parts of london we havent explored, we realised we go to where we know but fail to wander, so if anything these tours will make us see more of where we both live.
This was a short walk, only 50 minutes or so, and typically after all of the glorious weather we had this was the day it rained, all day! Good for the flowers but annoying when you are trying to do a tour, and the book got wet as well, much to both of our despair. We both ended the tour feeling abit hard done by, we didn't feel like we had learnt alot, im not sure if this was just due to the length or whether we ended on a bit of a duff note, it had also started absolutely chucking it down, which didn't help. We walked up and around Harley street, past the BBC head office, up and down Wigmore street and finished along Marylebone High street.
We walked past the Establishment for Gentlewomen during temporary illness, this was a place for women who has limited means but weren't paupers, to go and get medical help. Florence Nightingale was asked to be the Lady Superintendent in 1853, the establishment moved in 1909 and following Florence’s death was renamed The Florence Nightingale hospital for Gentlewomen.
The BBC has gone through a lot of turbulence with regards to equal pay recently and still has a lot of questions to answer, however it does have a lot of “firsts” in its history as well. The first BBC Cashier and General office managers were both women (hardly surprising) Florence Milnes established the BBC LIbrary and ran it for 30 years. Hilda Matheson established A Week in Westminster, which is still running today. In 1929 Mary Adams became the first female TV producer and in 1937 Doris Arnold became the first Radio DJ. In 1938 a mere 6% of senior roles were held by women in the 1970’s, in 2017 42% of senior roles were held by women, this in comparison to a lot of companies is actually pretty good, still not 50% but heading in the right direction
After the BBC we headed back into the medical profession, walking past The association of Anaesthetists, and onto the Royal institute for British Architects (RIBA); the first woman to be admitted into RIBA was Ethel Charles in 1898, RIBA was founded in 1834. Since 2009 RIBA has had two consecutive Women presidents, Ruth Reed and then Angela Brady. We then went past the second home of The establishment for gentlewomen during temporary illness (not the snappiest of place names!) and walked past a society osteopaths home, a man called Stephen ward, not sure why, there's an odd story about Russian naval attaches and some sort of affair! Apparently it was a society scandal. We took some pictures of me in front of garage doors as the colours went well and it had stopped raining abit! I love Mews, i've always wanted to live along one, i'm not sure why i just love the word Mews! We then probably did the strangest thing, we went into the British Dental Association, my friend made the comment, i wonder how many women the receptionists have seen coming in here on a women’s walk of london! I can hazard a guess at not many! We were there to see Lilian Lindsey who was Britain's first female dentist when she qualified in Edinburgh in 1892.
We then went all retro and saw the family home of Jane Asher! I remember her from Cookery books my parents have, lovely bit of 80’s cake decorating, always a treat! This is where the tour got away from us, we ended up seeing a lot of homes where people used to live, there are only so many houses you can look at to be honest. We then found ourselves outside a chocolatiers, where we stayed, as why not! And did the rest of the tour by reading the book. It wasn't a great ending to an otherwise interesting tour, not saying the women we read about were not interesting it just could have finished on a slightly better note.
So all in all we finished on a bit of a low note, in heavy rain, hungry and having stood outside several houses for about 20 minutes. At the end i couldn't remember a lot of the tour, having re-read the tour now i have picked up on a few more facts that are interesting, all in all not a great start but still an enjoyable way to spend some time with a very good friend, we then went off for a late lunch and some prosecco, of course! Deciding on the next tour i think we will embark on “Caring, Campaigning, Brilliant, Bohemian: Bloomsbury Women” Sneaking a peak it seems really interesting and depending on how work is i may do some research prior to it so we can pad out the book a little bit.
All in all i recommend the book at this point, i think it's an excellent start to tours of London, seeing parts and places that are off the beaten track and don't centre around men as most of the famous landmarks do. It is really easy to use and has been set out so you cant get lost. The information within the book self references as well so i can see it being very easy to have a whole day tour as you delve into areas you didn't think you would be interested in. Anything that makes you look up once in a while is marvelous!