Monday, 31 March 2014

Charlotte Bronte

31 March 1855 was a sad day. The famous writer Charlotte Bronte died. She was only 38. Early death was common in those days, far more common than it is today but its a great shame because if she had lived another 30 years she could have written many more great works of literature. She did show that women could achieve great things even in the 19th century. 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The invention of panties

Roman women sometimes wore panties called subligaculum. However after the fall of Rome women did not usually wear panties until the end of the 18th century. Their only underwear was a long linen garment called a shift, which they wore under their dress.

In modern times women panties were invented again at the very end of the 18th century. (At first they were called drawers). In the 19th century panties came to below the knee.

Today we still say a pair of panties. That is because in the early 19th century women's underwear consisted to two separate legs joined at the waist. They really were a 'pair'.

At first panties were usually very plain but in the late 19th century they were sometimes decorated with lace and bands. In the 1860s some women began to wear colored drawers although white remained very common. In the 19th century panties were usually made of cotton though some women wore wool in the winter.
In the 19th century panties were sometimes called bloomers. A woman named Elizabeth Miller invented loose trousers to be worn by women. After 1849 Amelia Bloomer promoted the idea and they became known as bloomers after her. In time underwear became known as bloomers. The word lingerie is derived from the French word for linen, lin. However in the early 20th century lingerie came to mean pretty underwear. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Battle of Towton

On 29 March 1471 the battle of Towton was fought in England during a civil war. It was the worst battle in English history. Its believed that at least 20,000 men died and perhaps as many as 28,000. That was at a time when the whole population of England was about 2 and a half million. So about 1% of the population of England died in a battle in a single day. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Tudor Furniture

In Tudor Times furniture was more plentiful than in the Middle Ages but it was still basic. In a wealthy home it was usually made of oak and was heavy and massive. Tudor furniture was expected to last for generations. You expected to pass it on to your children and even your grandchildren. Comfortable beds became more and more common in the 16th century. In a middle class Tudor home a mattress was often stuffed with flock (a kind of rough wool).

Chairs were more common than in the Middle Ages but they were still expensive. Even in an upper class home children and servants sat on stools. The poor had to make do with stools and benches.

In the 15th century only a small minority of people could afford glass windows. In the 16th century they became much more common. However they were still expensive. If you moved house you took your glass windows with you! Windows were made of small pieces of glass held together by strips of lead. They were called lattice windows. However the poor still had to make do with strips of linen soaked in linseed oil.  

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Today we still say a pair of  panties. That is because in the early 19th century women's underwear consisted to two separate legs joined at the waist. They really were a 'pair'. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Ivan the Terrible

 In 1565 Ivan the Terrible formed a private army called the Oprichnina. They were completely loyal to him and they killed anyone suspected of being the Czar's enemy. In 1570 The Oprichniks sacked Novgorod because Ivan believed the Novgorodians were collaborating with his enemies the Poles. The Oprichniks massacred the inhabitants, killing thousands. The Metropolitan of Moscow denounced Ivan's cruelty and as a result he was strangled.

Ivan also devised horrific methods of torturing and killing anyone he suspected of being an enemy. Ivan even killed his own son and heir by hitting him with an iron tipped staff. Ivan finally died in 1584. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Victorian Women

Women in Britain gradually gained more rights during the 19th century.
In 1865 Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) became the first British woman doctor. Elizabeth also became the first woman in Britain to become mayor of a town (Aldeburgh) in 1908. The first woman in Britain to qualify as a dentist was Lilian Lindsay in 1895. The first woman to qualify as an architect in Britain was Ethel Charles in 1898.