Alembic Blog

"Discrétion Absolue" - An Art Nouveau Contraceptives Catalogue

Happy Valentine's Day! I looked through our stock for anatomical hearts to share, but realised I had something even better, a French Art Nouveau contraceptives catalogue

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An Early Female Aviator's 1935 Christmas Card

It's Christmas card time, but we're guessing that very few of you have made cards as cool as this one sent by the Bowmans, a family of early aviators, in 1935.

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An Introduction to the Arts & Sciences Owned by Three 18th & 19th Century Women

This illustration of the solar system is from the second edition of Richard Turner's An Easy Introduction to the Arts and Sciences, published in 1787. Our copy is particularly special, as it contains the ownership signatures of three different women —"Margarate [sic] Haymes", "Mary Ann White", and "Mary Hantt" — making it an excellent example of changes in middle and upper class British women's education during the Georgian Era.

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A Wheel Within a Wheel: Bicycles & Women's Rights

As specialist in science and technology I'm not interested in discoveries and inventions only for their own sake, but also for how they affect people's everyday lives, sometimes in unexpected ways. A wonderful example is the adoption of the bicycle by late-19th century women as both a practical tool and a symbol of freedom. In A Wheel Within A Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle (1895), the American suffragist leader Frances Willard describes her attempts to master this new technology, as well her belief that the bicycle will transform women's lives and their fight for equal rights.

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How Men (and Women) Fly: Gertrude Bacon & Early Aviation

'Have you ever seen a man fly?' A few years ago this question was too ridiculous to be worth answering seriously. A very few years hence it will be equally pointless. As well ask, 'Have you ever seen a man drive a motor-car, or ride a bicycle, or push a wheelbarrow?'

 So wrote the inimitable Gertrude Bacon, the first Englishwoman to fly in a plane, in the opening lines of How Men Fly, a significant early work on aviation.

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A Quaker Education Part 2: Priscilla Wakefield's Introduction to Botany

Last week I wrote about a fascinating mathematics textbook "for the use of young ladies" by a Quaker education reformer, and how members of that religious community played an outsized role in the push for women's education and civil rights. Today I catalogued another book written, with young women in mind, by a Quaker activist: An Introduction to Botany in a Series of Familiar Letters, by Priscilla Wakefield.

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A Quaker Education: William Gawthrop's Arithmetic for Young Ladies

Some of my favourite books to have in the shop are the ones that combine my interests in science and women's history, and today I had the pleasure of cataloguing a rare and delightful book on mathematics for "the use of young ladies". The Scholar's Introduction to Arithmetic; Designed for the Use of Young Ladies and the Junior Classes in Boys' Schools was published by William Gawthrop in Liverpool, probably in the 1820s or early 1830s (an owner's signature in this copy is dated 1832). It speaks to us not only about mathematics teaching in early-19th century Britain, but also about the history of women's education and the role that the Quaker religious community played in its advancement.

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Photo Album & Scrapbook by an American Woman in Occupied Japan

My favourite finds as a bookseller are often journals, commonplace books, and scrapbooks that offer a window onto the past as it was experienced by ordinary people. One of our most recent acquisitions of this type is a remarkable photo album and scrapbook compiled in Occupied Japan by Marguerite Barker (below), an American employee of the Far East Asian Services during and after the Second World War. 

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January 03, 2015

20th century › women's history ›


The Salamander: Zelda Fitzgerald & The Invention of the Flapper

The tremendous roaring of the 1920s had long faded to a murmur when a woman, not yet old but no longer a luminous celebrity, looked back from a room in a mental hospital and wrote, “I believed I was a Salamander and it seems that I am nothing but an impediment”.

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