Women in “rational dress”
After seeing a reference on Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries to the contraceptive diaphragm as designed by Marie Stopes, I realised that I didn’t know much about her and headed off to Wikipedia.
Marie Stopes was rather controversial - she was in favour of birth control as a feminist, but also as a eugenicist. She most believed in birth control to prevent to decline of humanity from over-breeding of the poor.
Even more interesting than Marie is her mother Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, an early feminist. Charlotte campaigned for, among other things, rational dress. Rational dress meant clothes for women that allowed freedom of movement and no medical repercussions - outfits of the time included restrictive corsets that damaged internal organs and heavy skirts that rendered women pretty useless.
Rational dress was resisted by society for tens of years. It only finally took off after women got the vote, in the roaring twenties. A woman wearing bloomers in 1890 might well have despaired that she would ever be accepted as normal. And yet today women take the wearing of jeans and other comfortable clothes for granted.
Counting up the other victories that previously seemed impossible - gay marriage, abortion and a black American president to name a few - perhaps we can take hope when times don’t seem progressive enough. The future is much more likely to resemble an Ursula Le Guin novel, rather than The Handmaid’s Tale.
Zoe is appearing in her one-woman show HOW TO DO ACTING (Properly) at theSpaceUK in August.
Buy Zoe's book An Actor's Life For Me online at Amazon.