Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in Britain and the United States

Paul Laity writes:

In 1889 Helena Born and Miriam Daniell, two socialists in their late twenties, left their family homes (and Daniell’s husband) in Bristol’s middle-class suburbs and moved to the slums. New converts to a ‘simple life’, they tinted the walls of their small house, waxed the uncarpeted floors and improvised furniture, hoping to set an aesthetic example to their neighbours. The drawing-room gatherings and expensive clothes of their former lives now seemed ‘as dross’. On a January morning the following year Born wrote to her cousin that she had ‘made the floor of my room shine with extra brightness’ using ‘beeswax, turps and elbow-grease’. She was excitedly preparing for a visit from the poet, philosopher and ‘saint in sandals’, Edward Carpenter.

(LRB 30 March 2017)

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