Me & Mary Eleanor: #untitled10 (part 8)

In true freelance artist style I have been thwarted from my plans by a minging cold, high winds, and crap sunshine. Autumn is en route!

I have booked my trip to Kew gardens to photograph 17th century plants, and I’m waiting for a good sunny day to go to Gibside. My journey of finding out about the life of Mary Eleanor is nearing an end.

Whilst her life was marred by years of intense domestic violence, her strength and resiliency in her escape led to the first divorce directly because of abuse.

I read Val Scully’s book which was a great insight. I learned that: The rule of thumb is a very dark and sinister adage that we use today, not really knowing it’s origin.

It’s been a journey of suffrage. At first I tried to imagine a modern snapchat conversation with Mary Eleanor. I think the over use of filters in this social media platform that are kind of aimed at sexualising kids. Would a young Mary Eleanor have used the platform to communicate with her older fiance?

But, the deeper I went into the story the more I found that the oppression of women in Georgian times was so terrifying that I would say it was simply another form of slavery. One sanctioned by the state and society at every level until 1928. (When all adults received the vote, not just the posh ones).

The Bowes Museum has Mary Eleanor’s botany cabinet. Loving plants and botany was in her blood. Even after her escape she tended and loved a garden. She found freedom in her interests, and like a flower she grew in darkness fighting her way to the light. Without heroism like this the suffrage movement may never have begun.

*The rule of thumb is that you can beat your wife with a stick no larger than your thumb.

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