From Crinolines to Cross-Dressing Balls: A Two Year Anniversary Digest

Euphemia White Van Rensselear by George Peter Alexander Healy, 1842.

It’s my blogiversary!  Today, MimiMatthews.com is two years old.  I have no idea what the two year mark of a successful blog looks like, but I feel incredibly fortunate that my site continues to receive such a positive response.  I am especially grateful to all of my wonderful subscribers and to everyone who takes the time to comment on my articles.  Your readership means the world! Continue reading

A Victorian Era Criminal Leads Police on a High Speed Bicycle Chase

Bicycle Detail, Poster of the Société Parisienne, 1895.

Bicycle Detail, Poster of the Société Parisienne, 1895.

In September of 1896, British newspapers reported the remarkable use of a bicycle in a New Jersey murder case.  The case involved two men who had both emigrated to America from London in the early 1890s.  One of these men was a farmer named Mr. Haggett who settled down with his family on a farm near Somerville.  The other man was a fellow named Mr. Clossen who Haggett employed as a farm laborer.  Sometime in 1896, Haggett caught Clossen stealing.  In consequence, he not only fired him from his job, but also refused to pay him the thirty dollars in wages that Clossen believed he was owed. Continue reading

Overzealous Research Lands Cross-Dressing Victorian Writer in the Dock

Stroll in the Park by Aleksander Gierymski, 1891-1893.

Just before midnight on June 25, 1891, a police detective encountered two women strolling arm-in-arm down Regent Street.  One of the women struck him as being rather odd in appearance.  He approached to investigate, but when he attempted to raise the heavy black veil on the lady’s hat, she firmly knocked his hand away.  It was then that the detective realized that the lady was, in fact, a very elderly gentleman in women’s clothes.  He promptly arrested him. Continue reading

Kissed Against Her Will: A Victorian Case of Assault and Abuse of Power

“His Lordship said it was perfectly clear from the evidence that an assault was committed.  If any man kissed a woman against her will it was an assault.”
Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 22 February 1888.

Persuasion by Leonard Campbell Taylor, 19th Century.

Persuasion by Leonard Campbell Taylor, 1914

In February of 1888, Sheffield confectioner Ralph Williamson was charged with the attempted shooting of blacksmith George Bridges, the father of a girl that Williamson had assaulted days earlier.  The girl, named Bertha Bridges, was only fifteen years old.  She worked in Williamson’s confectionery shop in High Street.  It was there that one night, while Miss Bridges remained late to fetch his dinner, Williamson hemmed her into a corner and forcibly kissed her. Continue reading

The Notorious 1880 Police Raid of the Cross-Dressing Ball at Temperance Hall

“…one of the foulest and most disgraceful orgies that ever disgraced any town.”
The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, October 1, 1880.

Illustrated Police News, October 9, 1880.

Illustrated Police News, October 9, 1880.

On September 24, 1880, the Manchester City Police received information that a fancy dress ball scheduled to be held that night at the Temperance Hall in York Street, Hulme, was going to be of an improper character.  According to the September 27, 1880 edition of the London Evening Standard, the hall had been engaged a few days prior by the Association of Pawnbrokers’ Assistants.  However, upon investigation, Detective-Sergeant Jerome Caminada discovered that the association knew nothing of the ball and that “the room had been hired under false pretence.” Continue reading

The 19th Century Confidence Man

A Confidence Trick by J.M. Staniforth, 1898

A Confidence Trick by J.M. Staniforth, 1898.

Though tricksters and con artists have existed throughout history, the 19th century confidence man was a creature that many Victorians considered to be uniquely American.  Not a thief in the traditional sense, he seduced his prey with silky words and fantastical promises until his victims willingly gave him their trust, their money, and, quite literally, their confidence.  This propensity for slick talk and tall tales does tend to put one in mind of a stereotypical American of that era.  But was the 19th century American confidence man more than just a Victorian stereotype? Continue reading

Animal Welfare in the 19th Century: An Earth Day Overview

Una and the Lion by Briton Rivière, 1840-1920.

Una and the Lion by Briton Rivière, 1840-1920.

There was no official Earth Day in the 19th century, but scholars, essayists, and theologians often pondered the solemn duty that man owed to the natural world.  Admittedly, these ponderings were not generally focused on environmental issues such as the effects of greenhouse gases.  Instead, those in the 19th century—and Victorians especially—focused on conservation and man’s treatment of animals. Continue reading

Victorian Cosmetics: Red Lip Rouge and Lip Salve for 19th Century Ladies

A Winter's Walk by James Tissot, 1878.

A Winter’s Walk by James Tissot, 1878.

Attitudes toward cosmetics in the 19th century were notoriously negative.  Queen Victoria herself denounced make-up as being “impolite” and mid-century magazines like the Saturday Evening Review declared that cosmetics were “insincere” and “a form of lying.” (Pallingston, 13) Even more damning, to most Victorians, make-up was considered the province of only two classes of women: actresses and prostitutes. Continue reading

Midwives, Abortion, and the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861

The Convalescence by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, (1829-1893).

The Convalescence by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, (1829-1893).

Under the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861, any pregnant woman who acted with intent to “procure her own miscarriage” was guilty of a felony and could, if convicted, be sentenced to “penal servitude for life.”  This same law that punished women who attempted to rid themselves of an unwanted pregnancy also punished the nurses and midwives who were frequently engaged to assist them.  In most cases, it was impossible to enforce the law.  However, when a woman died as a result of complications following an abortion, the person who had performed the procedure could be charged with murder and even sentenced to death. Continue reading

From Chancery Court to Mansfield Park: A One Year Anniversary Digest

Young Lady in a Boat by James Tissot, 1870.

Young Lady in a Boat by James Tissot, 1870.

Last March, a questionnaire from my literary agent about my social media presence prompted me to finally join Facebook and Twitter.  The very next day on March 23, 2015, I started this blog.  Initially, I wasn’t sure which direction I would go in, however, in real life I’m a crackerjack researcher and—according to my last boss—I write exceptionally compelling briefs.  Since my latest book hadn’t sold yet and I had no blurbs or buy links to post, I decided to focus my skills on the subjects I love best: 19th century Romance, Literature, and History.

Continue reading