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The Woman Who Saved The Birds

Introducing Etta Lemon – the passionate and pioneering conservationist who built the early RSPB. Militant from the start, Etta called out the fashion for 'murderous millinery' as a church-going girl in the 1880s. Her 50-year campaign against the plumage trade saved countless bird species from extinction. Yet she has not been remembered by history.


First published in 2018 as Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women's Fight for Change, this book shines a light on the interlinked (and often fractious) movements for women's rights and animal rights. Today, the need for an eco activist role model is arguably more urgent, and Etta has taken her rightful place centre stage. This is her moment.

Praise for 'Etta Lemon: The Woman Who Saved The Birds'

'Etta Lemon is one of the great heroines of British nature conservation. Her long and doughty campaign against ‘murderous millinery’ led to the founding of the Royal Society For the Protection of Birds and saved millions of birds'

Constance Craig-Smith, The Daily Mail

'Boase has done a superb job of linking her personalities, and painting vivid pictures of their life struggles and fighting techniques. This book is an unputdownable account of a forgotten campaign, and of a group of women who have been hidden from history for too long'

Catherine Horwood, Women's History Review

'The story of the RSPB is just one of many layers in Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather. Boase skilfully interweaves the fate of the South American macaw, the huia bird of the New Zealand, the African marabou stork, the snowy egret and the Indian green parrot with the story of women’s suffrage. The relationship between the two campaigning groups is profoundly interesting – their similarities, their differences and the public reception of their spirited attempts to bring change'

Constance Watson, The Oldie

'Brilliantly conceived. For although neither of Boase’s convention-shucking heroines had a jot of sympathy with the other’s cause, the consequences of their campaigns for progress dovetailed in a dazzling arc'

Helen Brown, The Daily Telegraph

'A fascinating and much neglected subject, brilliantly explored. The characters on both sides come vividly to life, and what Boase uncovers through her research into working conditions in the fashion trade is truly shocking'

Professor John Carey

‘A resolutely feminist work of scholarship, recovering numerous women often overlooked by more conventional suffrage narratives'

Helen Saunders, Times Literary Supplement

'A vividly written, deeply researched, surprising book… Fascinating untold stories – a feather in the cap of this journalist author'

Rose Shepherd, Saga magazine

'A provocative and illuminating read… by turns fascinating and horrifying'

Philippa Stockley, Country Life

'Full of fascinating historical detail and colourful characters. A great story of pioneering conservation, beautifully told'

Kate Humble

‘Beautifully written, well researched and absolutely fascinating’

Sir Tony Robinson

'Enthralling. In the centenary year of the Representation of People Act, this book reminds us that women fought other campaigns too'

Dr Simon Wills, Who Do You Think You Are

'Shocking, frequently funny and full of unexpected information' 

Henrietta Garnett, Literary Review


'Riveting, dextrously told, vividly imagined, shrewdly analysed. Tessa Boase has worked a little bit of magic here in bringing these [women] to life, and championing the cause of the unsung'

Conor Jameson, British Birds

'Truly eye-opening. Boase presents us a great gift in this book; the opportunity for correction to a host of historical oversights, misunderstandings, and in the case of Etta Lemon, seemingly intentional erasures – we would be wrong not to accept it with gratitude'

Johannes E. Riutta, The Well-Read Naturalist

'Fascinating and fast-moving. I enjoyed it very much and learned a lot. A challenging read for men, or at least this man, but I’m pretty sure that reading this book did me a lot of good'

Mark Avery, Standing Up For Nature BOOK OF THE YEAR 2018

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