Thursday 30 March 2017

Piloting My Way To A Centenary

To celebrate today’s International Transgender Day of Visibility I’d like to preview a couple of centenaries that will be commemorated in one year and one week from today. The first is the centenary of the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1st April 1918. The second is the centenary of the birth seven days later of Roberta Cowell, one of the earliest transgender pioneers in the UK who was an RAF Spitfire pilot during World War II. I will, also of course be celebrating the centenary of the end of World War I.
The 2-part biography I wrote on this blog about Roberta Cowell can be found here and here.

I have strong family connections with the RAF. Various uncles and cousins on both sides of my family have served in the RAF, serving in various branches from pilot to chaplain, and from general supplies to my uncle Group Captain J. I. Cromarty, OBE, a surgeon who was appointed Honorary Surgeon to the Queen.

A number of the pioneers of the lgbt rights movement in 1960s Britain did their national Service in the RAF, among them one local Nottingham hero called Ike Cowen who was a founding member of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality.

Long-time readers of this blog may remember that in 2014 I built a plastic construction kit model of the Hawker Hurricane bomber flown by gay pilot Wing Commander Ian Gleed. In advance of the 2018 centenaries I hope to put together a small display in celebration of RAF veterans and make more accurate models of the planes they flew.

Roberta Cowell flew several different planes during her RAF career. I have decided to make a model of a Submarine Spitfire Photo-Reconnaissance Mark XI. Roberta flew this type of plane in 1944. As I show you the progress I am making I will give more information on her RAF life.

Unfortunately, unlike Gleed’s Hawker Hurricane, there are no model kits of Roberta’s own plane, nor is there one available in Nottingham at the moment of the exact make of Spitfire PR XI, so I am adapting another one and using authentic World War II references to produce, as near as possible, an accurate scale model of the Roberta’s Spitfire. Below you can see the model kit I have bought.

Sunday 26 March 2017

Mother Love

This is the 4th Sunday in Lent which in the Christian calendar is called Mothering Sunday. In some countries, as here in the UK, this is also when we celebrate Mother’s Day (an American invention which they celebrate in May).

Several years ago I mentioned how I was proud that my mother and father accepted my sexuality without judgement (a legacy of our liberal Methodist upbringing). My main sadness is that neither parent were able to join me at a Pride event like so many parents of other Pride attendees (illness prevented both parents from doing so).

However, I still feel very fortunate as I am. Not everyone is so fortunate. So today, Mothering Sunday, I want to look at two mothers who were pioneers in the formation of organisations for the families and friends of the lgbt community. And this very Mothering Sunday has added significance in the history of those organisations because it is also on the same date on which the US Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) held its first meeting in 1973.
But let’s start in wartime France and a British secret agent billeted with members of the French Resistance.

Rose Laimbeer, an agent with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) was parachuted into Nazi-occupied France after her training. During her liaison work between British Intelligence and the French Resistance she stayed with some Resistance fighters. One night, as activist Peter Tatchell revealed in Rose’s obituary, “she entered their room and found them in an embrace. There was mutual embarrassment all round. Not a word was said for three days. Rose knew nothing about homosexuality and was curious. She eventually plucked up the courage to ask them. Both men told stories of family prejudice and rejection. Their story affected her deeply … But it wasn’t until 1965 that she decided to do something about it.”

Britain in the 1960s was going through a change in attitudes to sex and sexuality. It was in 1957 that the Wolfenden Committee recommended that some aspects of homosexual activity should be decriminalised. It was still a period where many gay men were being arrested and prosecuted.

In 1965 Rose Laimbeer, by now Mrs. Rose Robertson and the mother of two boys, opened her home to two young lodgers and she realised fairly soon that they were a couple and not afraid to describe their experiences to her when she enquired. They told her of the homophobic attitudes of their parents. Once again Rose was deeply effected by stories or rejection.

Rose then set up the UK’s first telephone helpline for parents and families of lgbt people to give advice on what to do if a family member comes out as homosexual. This helpline was called Parents Enquiry and was run from Rose Robertson’s own home for several decades.

As word of Parents Enquiry spread Rose Robertson received other calls for advice from people who had been referred to her by local social services and the police. As the reputation of the helpline grew so did Roses’ public profile. She was invited to give talks, lectures and interviews and gradually it became clear that a larger national organisation was needed to handle the volume of callers.

In 1993 Parents Enquiry became a founding member of Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (FFLAG). Today FFLAG members take active parts in Pride events. Rose continued to work for, and support, FFLAG up her death at the age of 94 in 2011.
Mrs. Rose Robertson (left) and Mrs. Jeanne Manford (right)
The American PFLAG, whose anniversary we are commemorating today along with Mothering Sunday, originated through a different route.

Mrs. Jeanne Manford’s gay son Monty was present at the Stonewall Inn in New York during the landmark riot in 1969. He took no active part in the violence but he was prompted to join the Gay Activist’s Alliance as a result.

In 1972 the New York Daily News ran an editorial which made derogatory remarks on gays and lesbians and the recently defeated Gay Civil Rights Bill. Monty Manford protested by handing out leaflets criticising the editorial at a prestigious dinner at the Hilton Hotel in New York.

A frequent form of active protest among thee early gay protest groups was the “zap”, a physical interruption to any event or meeting. Monty added a zap to his leaflet distribution and stormed the speech platform. A tussle broke out and Monty was pushed to the floor and stamped upon (by a former heavyweight boxer) and he and several other activists were hospitalised.

At the home of Monty’s parents, Jeanne and Jules Manford, a phone call alerted them to their son’s plight. They were horrified at the way Monty had been attacked and Jean sat down and wrote a letter to the Daily News that same day. In it she came out as the proud mother of a gay son, and complained at the inaction of the police to change the assaulters.

A couple of months later Jeanne Manford accompanied her son on the New York City Gay Pride march proudly holding a placard which read “Parents of Gays: UNITE in support of our children”. She may not have been the first parent to march with an lgbt child in a Pride march but she was probably the first to make visible her desire to protest with her son. The response was phenomenal, Hundreds of gay men yelled with pleasure. Many ran over to kiss and hug her and express their hurt at not having a parent who would not march with them.

Jeanne Manford’s phone never stopped ringing after that. And so the idea of a special organisation and support helpline for parents of lgbt children was formed. Initially called “Parents of Gays”, the first official meeting was held on this very day in 1973 in the Duane United Methodist Church. Even though only 20 people attended the meeting paved the way for the formation of the organisation now known as PFLAG.

In 2012 Jeanne Manford was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for her contribution to the community.

On this Mothering Sunday we remember Rose Robertson and Jeanne Manford and celebrate their influence in the lives of so many families and friends in the lgbt community.

Thursday 23 March 2017

Out In All Weathers

Well, blow me down! It’s International Meteorological Day today, and this year’s theme is clouds. The main part of this annual celebration of the weather is to highlight the way in which our climate effects our environment and the myriad of life forms it sustains. Clouds are the visual manifestations of how the atmosphere works and can tell us a lot about what is happening to the weather.

Our understanding of how the weather works owes a lot (if not all) to the work of one extraordinary German scientist called Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). He spent many years travelling the globe taking measurements of everything from air temperature to plants he saw on his expeditions.

Humboldt was the most famous scientist of his era. Everyone wanted to meet him, which was very difficult considering he spent so much time climbing up volcanos and trudging through jungles. Kings and presidents as well as other famous scientists wanted to meet him. He became a celebrity. The last decades of his life were spent in Germany where he died following a stroke. His funeral was of state proportions with Prussian royalty in attendance.

Unlike today’s scientific world which is very compartmentalised Humboldt saw all science as connected. No subject could be studied on its own. Geology, geography, climatology, physics and magnetism all created the environment in which specific plants, animals and bacteria could live. Humboldt’s work meant that people knew why there were no polar bears in the jungle, or why there are no palm trees at the top of high mountains.

The most significant contribution to the modern world is his pioneering work into what is now the study of climate change. It’s the biggest natural concern of the modern era. And here we realise what a significant year this is. It was in 1817, 200 years ago, that Alexander von Humboldt published his first map of isotherms.

Isothermic maps show areas of equal mean annual temperature in the atmosphere. For the first time people saw a global map of the air around them. Scientists had many lists of temperatures of many locations around the globe. Humboldt was the first to show continuous isothermic lines going around the whole world.

During his travels and measurement-taking Humboldt also began to realise that humanity was changing his environment. By destroying forests the ground soil is deprived of nutrients, and rainfall can wash away such poor soil. Even though he wasn’t the first to warn about humanity’s destructive effect on nature (Christian philosopher were saying the same several centuries earlier) Humboldt has been hailed as the father of environmentalism.

Most of Humboldt’s measurements were taken during his 5-year expedition to Latin and South America. In what is now Ecuador he met the most significant of this “significant others”. A Spanish colonial aristocrat persuaded Humboldt to let his son, Don Carlos de Montúfar (1780-1816) to join the expedition. Not that Humboldt needed any persuading or that Don Carlos objected. A fellow explorer complained that Humboldt had spent too much time with young men who practiced “impure loves” and that the drop-dead-gorgeous, 21-year-old Don Carlos was obviously having sex with him. But then, this disgruntled explorer was probably jealous that Humboldt didn’t take him on his expedition instead of the young man.

Humboldt and Carlos parted ways after they arrived in France for the imperial coronation of Napoleon. Neither subsequently married nor had any closer friendships. Don Carlos went on to become a hero of the independence movement in South America and deserves his own extraordinary swash-buckling article some time in the future. Back to Humboldt.

Among Humboldt’s many other published works were illustrations of mountains showing temperatures, climates, plants and animals at various altitudes and cross-sections showing soil and rock composition. All were complimented with other data. People might think that infographics are a modern idea, but Alexander von Humboldt was designing them over 200 years ago.

Considering how famous he was in his lifetime and in the decades following his death it is surprising how little known he is today. People have heard of Newton, Galilieo, Darwin and Hawking. It could be argued that Alexander von Humboldt had a bigger influence on the modern world than any of them. The science world shows his high regard. The fact that more plant and animal species and geographical locations have been named after Humboldt is proof of his great reputation. He is also (perhaps) the first non-mythological figure, and first male, to have an asteroid named after him (54 Alexandra), and the first non-mythological figure to have a second asteroid named after him (4877 Humboldt).

Monday 20 March 2017

Bear Beginnings

One of the deaths that went virtually unnoticed, even by me, was the passing of George Mazzei a year ago today.  His name may not be very familiar to most people but in the world of late 20th century American journalism his name was better known, and no more so than in the pages of “Advocate” and “GQ”. George also became something of a celebrity briefly in the 1980s after he write a book called “The New Office Etiquette”.

In 1979 George Mazzei wrote an article for “Advocate” called “Who’s Who at the Zoo” which was published on 26th July 1979. It was a light-hearted article illustrated with cartoons of the various anthropomorphic gay types it described. Subtitled “A Glossary of Gay Animals” George described seven types of gay men he had seen around the bars of Los Angeles and represented them as animals. The first type he described was the “bear”.

George’s article can arguably be described as the first publicly published attempt to define, albeit humorously, what we now accept as the sub-group of the lgbt community, the big and hairy man, the bear. But he was not the first to use that word in this context.

Various people have delved into the origin of the term “bear” as used in the lgbt community. Most prominent among these is Dr. Les K. Wright who, during his time as Assistant Professor of English and Humanities at Mount Ida College in Boston, Massachusetts, founded the Bear History Project in 1994. This project is ongoing and continues to uncover the hidden heritage of the international bear community.

It was Les Wright in “The Bear Book: Readings in the History and Evolution of a Gay Male Subculture” which he edited in 1994, that George Mazzei gets the credit for producing the first published reference to bear as a gay identity in the “Advocate” article.

The term “bear” had been used to describe a masculine body type for several decades. In fact, it had been used for centuries to describe a person who was rather brutish and savage, a complete opposite to the image modern gay bear-men portray. It has also been used for a long time in speech and print in the form of the phrase “a bear of a man”. This referred typically to a large, well-built man with a lot of facial hair. Its use as a specific term within the gay community developed out of this, specifically within the leather community after World War II.

It is generally accepted that the USA was the place where “bear” began to be used as self-identification. Various gay leather communities in cities around North America began to form informal gatherings of big and hairy leathermen without necessarily knowing they were creating a subculture or even creating a term for a new subculture at the time.

During the 1950s when the hanky code was expanding and being used more extensively these leather-bear pioneers began to place teddy bears in their pockets or belts rather than hankies. These teddy bears were to symbolise the wearer being fond of cuddling. In this way it can be argued that these men were the first bears as we know them today, even if they still hadn’t specifically used the term as the name of a subculture. It was the time when the men described as bar took the bear as a means of identification.

The teddy bear had effectively become an object of affection after the real bear cub rescued by President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was immortalised as a cuddly toy. The teddy bear softened the image of the creature from a savage and brutish animal whose crushing bear-hug became a friendly hug. I wonder if Teddy Roosevelt’s niece Eleanor Roosevelt realised that her uncle had become the grand-daddy of the gay bear community!

No-one know who or where the word “bear” turned from being a description of body type to being a name of a subculture. It started with the first group who used the word “bear” in their name. In Les Wright’s “The Bear Book” there is reference to the minutes of a meeting of Satyr’s Motorcycle Club in Los Angeles in February 1966 in which the formation of a bear club is mentioned.

While George Mazzei was living in Los Angeles in the 1970s he and a friend were in a leather bar people-watching when they thought of categorizing the customers into animal types. Having already self-identified themselves as bears they went on to develop other anthropomorphic identities for the other customers in that bat that night. From this emerged the “creatures” described by George in his “Advocate” article “Who’s Who at the Zoo?” in 1979.

The publication of that article provided a wider realisation across America that such an identity existed. Many bear-men who had no link or interest in the leather community saw themselves in George’s article Cowboy-bears, construction-worker-bears, sporting bears, and others, joined the new bear groups and clubs formed originally by the leather-bears.

The emergence of the internet spread the word further and before soon isolated bear groups around the world were joined by many more. And, as befitting a self-identifying community, a flag was chosen in 1995 at a Chesapeake Bay Bear pool party.
George Mazzei defined the bear community before it was fully formed, and led thousands of men to declare themselves to be bears. So, a belated thank you, George, for helping to turn a general gay slang term into a full-fledged community.

If you want to read George Mazzei’s article you can see it reproduced on the Advocate’s website here.

Thursday 16 March 2017

Chain (Fe)Males

In this, the first of several related articles, we’re going to look at a group of female politicians from the lgbt community who have held the office of mayor. The title of this article refers to the chain of office that many of the office holders wear, and a play on the term chain-mail. The chain of office usually bears a badge of the coat of arms or seal of the town, city or municipality concerned.

There was a time in England when certain mayors had an automatic seat in parliament. My own direct ancestor John Tansley, twice Mayor of Nottingham (1399 and 1410), was one of them. Today the opposite is the case. No mayor can sit in parliament during his term of office.

The LGBTQ Representation and Rights Research Initiative, which I referred to in an article last moth, lists a small number of mayors. I’ve been looking around for more and even though I don’t admit to having an authoritative list I have found over 150 lgbt mayors from around the world, past and present. Not all of them were openly lgbt when in office. Not all mayors are publicly elected to office but are elected by their fellow council members. For inclusion on the list the office holder must be referred to officially as mayor, deputy mayor, vice-mayor or interim mayor. Some municipal officers are the effective equivalent of mayor but I have not listed these for the time being.

Below is an infographic showing the locations of the 29 female lgbt mayors. Names are listed underneath.

Several statistics stand out immediately. Firstly, there have no female mayor, as far as I have found, in Africa, not even in South Africa. Secondly, all the female mayors in Asia have been members of the hijra community, the Third Gender community. I may return to hijra mayors and elected representatives in the future. Thirdly, the municipality of Chapinero in Bogota, Colombia, has had two consecutive lesbian mayors. There have been 8 female transgender mayors in addition to the 3 hijra. There is one openly intersex mayor, Tony Briffa, who identifies as female.

The earliest known female lgbt mayor was Charlotte Whitton (1896-1975), Mayor of Ottawa, Canada, from 1951-1954. She did not disclose her sexuality in her lifetime but was surmised from letters she wrote to the woman she lived with for many years, Margaret Grier.

The first openly lesbian women elected as mayor was Valerie Terringo. She became the first ever Mayor of West Hollywood following the creation of that municipality in 1984. She was selected by the fellow first West Hollywood councillors and held office for one year.

One woman, Jenny Rowan has been elected mayor in two councils - Inglewood and Kapiti Coast.

Janet Mabley (b.1955), Deputy Mayor of Richmond Hill, Ontario, 1997-2000.
Charlotte Whitton (1896-1975), Mayor of Ottawa, 1951-1956.

Jaci Taylor (b.1945), Mayor of Aberystwyth, Wales, 2000-2001.
Jenny Bailey (b.1962), Mayor of Cambridge, 2007-2008.
Christine Root, Mayor of Horwich 2013-4.

Corine Mauch (b.1960), Mayor of Zurich since 2009.

Kajsa Ollongren (b.1967), Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam since 2015.
Elizabeth Schmitz (b.1938), Mayor of Haarlem 1985-1994.
Ien Dales (1931-1994), Mayor of Nijmegen 1987-1989.

Kamla Jaan (b.1954), Mayor of Katni 2000-2003.
Madhu Kinnar (b.1979), Mayor of Raigarh since 2015.
Kamla Kinnar (b.1954), Mayor of Sagar 2009-2011.

Georgina Beyer (b.1957), Mayor of Carterton District 1995-1997.
Jenny Rowan (b.1954), Mayor of Inglewood 1986-9, Mayor of Kapiti Coast 2008-12.

Helen Westwood, Mayor of Bankstown 2002-2006.
Tony Briffa (b.1971), Mayor of Hodson’s Bay 2011-2011.
Janet Rice (b.1960), Mayor of Maribyrnong since 2008.

Kátia Tapety (b.1949), Vice Mayor of Colonía do Piaul 2004-2012.

Angélica Lozano Correa (b.1975), Mayor of Chapinero 2005-2008.
Bianca Durán Hernández (b.1971), Mayor of Chapinero 2008-2012.
E. Denise Simmons, Mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts 2008-2009 & since 2016.
Annise Parker (b.1956), Mayor of Houston, Texas, 2010-2016.
Gina Genovese (b.1959), Mayor of Long Hill Township, New Jersey 2006-2007.
Jess Herbst, Mayor of New Hope, Collin County, Texas since 2016.
Karen Geraghty, Mayor of Portland, Maine 2001-2002.
Jackie Biskupski (b.1966), Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah since 2016.
Toni Atkins (b.1962), Interim Mayor of San Diego, California 2005.
Stu Rasmussen (b.1948), Mayor of Silverton, Oregon 2009-2015.
Valerie Terringo (b.1954), Mayor of West Hollywood, California 1984-1985.

In future companion articles I will write about male mayors and Lord Mayors.

UPDATED 29 April 2017

Sunday 12 March 2017

Star Gayzing : Rings Around Uranus

When I was young the only new discoveries in space came from human space missions. The Apollo missions dominated my childhood and it wasn’t until my teens that deep space probes were bringing us new wonders in our solar system.

Today massive advances in technology has meant that there are new discoveries made very day. In the 1970s the Pioneer, Voyager and Viking probes gave astronomy headline news. Very soon it felt as if new discoveries were coming so quickly that they weren’t newsworthy anymore (just like the later space shuttle missions that came and went without much public notice compared with the first).

But there were some significant discoveries of the 1970s that made headlines which have almost been forgotten. They received wide attention at the time but seem to have been left behind in the memory. One of these discoveries celebrated its 40th anniversary two days ago and its one I actually remember well from that time (I think I may have some original newspaper clippings somewhere). One of the scientists responsible for making the discovery is a member of the lgbt community.

On 10th March 1977 the 25-year-old Jessica Mink (at that time known as Douglas) was sitting in a plane flying over the Indian Ocean. The plane was fitted out with astronomically(!) expensive equipment that was serving as the Kuiper Airborne Observatory. The object of the flying observatory’s mission that day was to take readings of the atmosphere of Uranus as its orbit took it in front of a distant star. By analysing the results in the miniscule changes in the star’s known spectrograph at the moments before it was obscured by Uranus and re-emerged on the other side scientists could work out what gases were in the planet’s atmosphere. It seemed to be a fairly straight-forward mission.

What Jessica Mink and her fellow astrophysicists saw on their instruments on board that plane were not expected. Rather than dip in brightness and colour just before the star was obscured by Uranus the instrument showed that it appeared to make several dips before it vanished behind the planet. The dips were mirrored when the star came back into view on the other side. Jessica’s apocryphal reaction was that “Uranus has its own asteroid belt”. Of course, all of this was by observing the readings on the equipment and not by human eye. Having obtained all of the information the flying observatory returned to frim ground and the scientists took the data back with them to Cornell University.

Once the data was analysed the realisation that the asteroid belt was in fact a series of rings around Uranus took the astronomical world by surprise. Last year Jessica admitted that the discovery was her most favourite moment in her 41-year career.

Since that discovery was made a lot more research has been carried out into the rings and they were “photographed” by the Voyager 2 probe in 1986. More rings have been found, and new satellites which act as shepherd moons keeping the rings on position.

The discovery of the rings, made with James Elliot and Edward Dunham, established Jessica’s reputation in astronomy. Her main emphasis has been on developing software to analyse astronomical data, most significantly on what is called high speed photometry, the equipment that led to Jessica being on that flying observatory 40 years ago.

More recently Jessica Mink has become one of the leading advocates for female and transgender astronomers. Jessica joined the AAS, the American Astronomical Society, in 1972 and in 2012 she was appointed by Wladimir Lyra and Stefan Meschiar of the AAS Working Group on LGBT Equality. Jessica was invited to help the profile of transgender astronomers and be a speaker for them. She continues to speak on their behalf and currently works at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

The following YouTube video gives Jessica a name-check half way through.

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Women of Fame

A month ago the US National Women’s Hall of Fame announced its latest group of inductees. Among those listed was Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965), dramatist and playwright. She was a member of the Daughters of Bilitis, an early lgbt rights group, and a campaigner for gay rights. She had already been inducted posthumously into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1999.

To celebrate International Women’s Day we’ll look at those lesbian, bisexual and transgender (lbt) women who have been inducted into the US national Women’s Hall of Fame.

The National Women’s Hall of Fame was founded in 1969 in the location of the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York State. The Hall of Fame honours women in American history and culture, living or dead, whose lives have had a significant effect on society. The first women inducted into the Hall were in 1973.

The Hall of Fame has recognised a number of lbt women since that first list was made and today they make up almost 10 percent of the whole group. I’ve listed them below in the chronological order in which they were inducted. The first living lbt inductee was Margaret Mead in 1976.
Jane Addams (1860-1935), philanthropist and social reformer.
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), social reformer.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964), journalist and writer.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), poet.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), First Lady of America.

Margaret Mead (1901-1978), anthropologist.
Mildred Didrikson Zaharias (1911-1956), Olympic athlete.

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947), suffragette.

Bessie Smith (1894-1937), blues singer.

Willa Cather (1873-1947), writer and novelist.
Sally Ride (1951-2012), first female American astronaut.

Barbara Jordan (1936-1996), civil rights leader.
Billie Jean King (b.1943), tennis champion and activist.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), artist.
Helen Stephens (1918-1994), Olympic athlete.

Ann Bancroft (b.1955), explorer and adventurer.
Margaret Fuller (1820-1850), writer and journalist.

Charlotte Anne Bunch (b.1944), writer and activist.

Ruth Fulton Benedict (1887-1948), anthropologist.

Kate Millett (b.1934), author.

Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965), dramatist and playwright.

Saturday 4 March 2017

Out of Her Tree : Margaret Damer Dawson

On 29th September 2015 I wrote about the pioneers of the women’s police force. One of them was Margaret Damer Dawson (1873-1920). Today I’m going to look at her family tree to find ancestors who represent each of the 5 categories in my Law and Citizenship series.

Margaret could represent 3 of the 5 categories herself. As a pioneer of the women’s police force she instantly represents the “Police and Law Enforcement” category. She can also be included in the “Campaigns and Activism” category not only for her work to create the police force but also because she was an active anti-vivisection campaigner. In 1914 Margaret was a member of the Criminal Law Amendment Committee, giving her a place in the “Parliament and Legislation” category. Margaret’s nearest police connection before she began to fight for the creation of the women’s police force came with her step-uncle who was a Metropolitan Police magistrate from 1905 to 1919. Perhaps that was the biggest influence on Margaret’s own interest in the police force.

If we have Margaret representing the “Police and Law Enforcement” category let’s have a look at her ancestry to see who can represent the other four and see how much influence they had on her family.

The nearest connection to a significant court case in Margaret’s ancestry comes with her maternal grandfather, Frederick Shand Hemming (1825-1872). In 1865 at the Divorce Court Frederick was cited as committing adultery with Rebecca, the wife of Col. Gustavus Pollard. Polland was granted a divorce and Rebecca went on to become Frederick’s second wife after the death of his first, Margaret Damer Dawson’s grandmother.

There are several lawyers and judges in Margaret’s ancestry. The nearest senior judge in the direct line is Sir Roger Cholmeley (c.1485-1656). He rose from being called to the bench in Lincoln’s Inn in 1520 to Lord Chief Justice in 1552. Roger’s career is remarkable in that he was knighted and appointed a Chief Baron of the Exchequer before being appointed a judge, a very rare distinction.

Sir Roger Cholmeley sat in the House of Commons as Recorder of London. A good number of Margaret’s ancestors were elected to parliament rather by virtue of their appointment. The most recent of them is her stepfather, Thomas de Grey (1843-1919), who married her widowed mother and sat as an MP before succeeding to the tittle of Baron Walsingham and moving to the House of Lords (it was his brother who was Metropolitan Police magistrate).

The nearest bloodline ancestor to be elected as an MP was Sir John Hotham (1632-1689). He sat in 6 parliaments from 1660 to his death. His career is dominated by campaigns to ban Catholics from standing for parliament and for the disbandment of the standing army. Sir John was a very active parliamentarian and was appointed to many committees. His political career appeared to end when he was defeated in the 1685 general election after being implicated in a Jacobite plot, but he joined Prince William of Orange in his “invasion” in 1688 in the so-called Glorious Revolution. He was re-elected to parliament in 1689 and died two months later after catching a chill that winter.

When it comes to “Campaigns and Activism” in Margaret’s ancestry there are several related campaigns which are the most significant. These are the anti-Protestant campaigns of the Tudor period known as the Northern (or Earl’s) Rebellion and the Pilgrimage of Grace. This is where Margaret’s ancestry bumps into my own.

My direct ancestor Richard Norton was the 71-year-old High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1569 when a group of Catholic aristocrats and opponents of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I gathered to rebel against her in the Northern Rebellion. Norton led an attack on Durham Cathedral before joining his nephew Thomas Markenfield to attack Ripon Cathedral. Markenfield was Margaret Dames Dawson’s ancestral cousin. The rebellion was defeated and both Norton and Markenfield fled to Flanders where they died.

Markenfield’s aunt married Robert Aske, the nephew and namesake of the leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace, another attempt to depose Queen Elizabeth in favour of the Catholic Duke of Norfolk.

Having taken arms against the monarch both Robert Aske (Margaret’s ancestral uncle) and Thomas Markenfield (her ancestral cousin) were found guilty of the ultimate crime of treason. Even though Markenfield managed to escape Robert Aske was hanged. Several members of both families were imprisoned for their parts in both rebellions. Even Lord Chief Justice Sir Roger Cholmeley I mentioned earlier didn’t escape the prison cell for opposing a Tudor monarch. In 1553 he added his signature to the proclamation of Lady Jane Grey’s succession to the throne, leading the Catholic Queen Mary I to imprison him and not reappoint him.

All these examples of law, crime and campaigning in Margaret Damer Dawson’s ancestry may not have had much of an effect on her decision to become a pioneering female police officer. Whoever may have influenced her the most it is certain that Margaret herself was an inspiration to many hundreds of women in the first half of the 20th century who fought for their place in the modern police force.