I'm just a working gal. I can't afford a vacation so I write because writing takes me to different places.

The coronation of King Charles III on May 6th, 2023, marking a new era in the UK, coincides with another important event over a century ago. On May 6th, 1910, King Edward VII died, technically ending the Edwardian era and marking a start of a new one. In King Edward VII’s coronation in 1901, Queen Alexandra’s crown was adorned with the Koh-i-noor diamond—today, a controversial gem considered by some as symbolizing colonialism and imperialism, and which Queen Consort Camilla avoided to wear in her coronation. Interestingly, like today, the sentiments of anti-imperialism, albeit in no reference to the gem, had also echoed throughout the Edwardian era.

Although King Edward VII died in 1910, historians use the term Edwardian era to include the years onto the beginning of the First World War. Because the era was just before the Great War, some romanticize it as a golden age of a laid-back life with nostalgic summer garden parties. This created a misconceived image of a less turbulent era, while in fact it was a time of the upsurge of labor rights and suffrage.

Because the era was just before the Great War, some romanticize it as a golden age of a laid-back life with nostalgic summer garden parties.

Angels and Labors

The Industrial Revolution and urbanization during the Victorian era brought the prosperous middle class into the Edwardian era. However, class divisions (although less stringent) and wage gaps from the previous era were much intact in the new era, as was the gender ideology. It was considered inappropriate for upper- and middle-class women to work. However, advances in technologies, such as in transportation and communications, had opened more doors to Edwardian women who had to work for a living.

Thus, working class and lower middle-class women continued to play an important economic role for the country. According to the statistics of Edwardian times, one of every ten women were in paid employment. Women worked as teachers, clerks, and physicians’ assistants. With advances in photography, some well-to-do women as well worked as models. However, most working women were from poor households, who toiled in gender-segregated and low-paying jobs, and struggled in bad labor conditions, barely surviving; many also worked as domestic workers.

Women march with their symbol of freedom, the bicycle (

Like the Victorian era, the ideal middle-class woman was the “angel in the house” with servants. The typical middle-class household would have at least one live-in domestic worker, typically a woman. Interestingly, due to the middle-class lifestyle and the rise in consumerism, middle-class families even during this period were already reducing the number of children they’d like to have. Abortion (which was illegal) was the birth control method widely used.

Nevertheless, some changes late in the Victorian period provided impetus for Edwardian women’s advancement. One example is how Victorian women were able to defy society’s mores and gravity by learning to ride the bicycle. This made mobility less of an issue for most Edwardian women, especially as bicycles had become affordable to the masses. The bike was revolutionary in the sense that it gave women the freedom of movement and changed restrictive fashion. The split skirt which flows open during riding allowed Edwardian women to pedal with ease. The vehicle became a symbol of women’s liberation.

Against the backdrop of British leisure, however, was rising suffrage and labor activism ...

Suffrage and Labor

Against the backdrop of British leisure, however, was rising suffrage and labor activism, which was the momentum of the Edwardian era. The suffragette movement grew stronger and louder, despite protesters being arrested and forced fed in jail if they went on hunger strikes. Socialist thoughts began to flourish and labor strikes peaked. Between 1900 and 1911, the percentage of the working-class population involved in strikes increased more than three times.

Suffragettes were also involved in labor activism. In 1903, suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and others established the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). The suffragette movement raised women workers’ issues, spurred rallies, and push for unionizing. Although not always on the same page with the suffragettes, women workers also advocated for suffrage, such as members of the Federation of Women Workers.

Pankhurst being arrested (

In fact, in this era, there were issues raised that working women still face today. The welfare of working mothers as well as nurseries and childcare for all working women were issues already being raised at this time, particularly by suffragette and socialist, Ada Nield Chew. However, not surprisingly, the campaign did not gain much traction.

Domestic labor issues also did not find wide support due to conflict of interest between poor and wealthier women. The Domestic Workers’ Union (DWU) was established in 1909 and it campaigned for a 10-hour workday and for household work to be treated like industrial labor.

The Paradox

Moreover, anti-imperialists sentiments echoed through the era similar to today. Breaking away from Victorian values, Edwardian literature grew critical of imperialism, colonialism, and the class system.

Actually, anti-imperialist sentiments in Britain had begun in the late 19th century, but the controversial Second Boer War (1899–1902) had generated an increasingly critical view from radical liberals and socialists. In addition, the exploitation, abuse, and death occurring in indentured labor of the Indian people shipped to British colonies also sparked criticism towards the Empire until the practice finally ended in 1917.

Workers’ strikes continued throughout the era as the working class became increasingly dissatisfied with labor conditions. Between 1911 and 1914, there were over 3000 workers’ strikes; hence the period is known as “the Great Labor Unrest”. It was during this period, in 1906, that the Independent Labour Party (founded in 1893) established the Labour Representation Committee, which was then named the Labour Party.

Ready for the garden party, girls? (

During the war, suffragists took a break to focus on their support of the country. Women worked in replacement of men to support the war effort and supposedly for this contribution, they were awarded the right to vote, albeit not universal suffrage, in 1918. However, the war had destroyed an era.

Coined the Golden Age of British life, the Edwardian era was nonetheless a hotbed for turbulence as different groups struggled against inequalities. In short, the era was a paradox of social unrest and summer garden parties.

-Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl- (2023)

#Edwardian #suffrage #labormovement #Britain #history #gender

Top image: Portrait of socialites Violet Morene and Yvonne Fitzroy modelling for Bassano, circa 1910 (

Check out my other blog, Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl for topics on gender and history.


Edgerton, David (2020) 'Britain's Persistent Racism Cannot Simply Be Explained by Its Imperial History.’ The Guardian. (accessed 20 May 2023).

Gershon, Livia (2021) ‘Who Does the Drudge Work? Answers from Edwardian Britain.’ JSTOR Daily. (accessed 20 May 2023).

Harvey, Ian (2017) ‘The Most Beautiful Women of the Edwardian Era.’ thevintagenews. (accessed 7 May 2023).

HistoryExtra (2023) Edwardian Women: Their Lives, Rights & Fashion. (accessed 20 May 2023).

Intriguing History (2015) Women's Roles in Edwardian Era of British History. (accessed 21 May 2023).

Manners, William (2015) ‘The Secret History of 19th Century Cyclists.’ The Guardian. (accessed 7 May 2023).

Stephenson, Andrew (2013) ‘Introduction: Edwardian Art and Its Legacies.’ In Visual Culture in Britain Vol. 14, No. 1. Taylor & Francis. (accessed 18 May 2023).

Thorpe, J.R. (2017) ‘The Feminist History of Bicycles.’ Bustle. (accessed 30 April 2023).

Victorian Era (2022) Features of Edwardian Era Literature. (accessed 20 May 2023).

Wikipedia (2023) Indian Indenture System. (accessed 20 May 2023).

Wikipedia (2023) Great Unrest. (accessed 20 May 2023).

Early in the morning of the special day, the noise and bustle of families getting ready echo through the open windows of the building. Quickly, Antonietta pours the coffee already waiting on the stove, brings the filled cup to the table—between the uniforms she had just ironed—to add some sugar. Now with cup, saucer, and teaspoon in her left hand and uniforms draping on the arm, she walks to each bed to wake the kids one by one. While taking small sips of coffee from the spoon, she hands each child their uniform. Finally reaching the last bed—the sixth and biggest—she wakes her husband and hands him the coffee. The rounds are not over yet. Next to Papa, buried under the covers, is their youngest!

This is the special day, all of Rome are getting ready for the parade. Not Antonietta, however, even though she is a big supporter of Il Duce. Her wifely duties do not allow her the luxury to spend a whole day out of the house, unlike women who have domestic helpers. Antonietta will miss the historical moment Il Duce welcomes German fascist leader, Adolf Hitler, on his seven-day visit to Italy.

Hitler’s visit to Italy on May 3rd, 1938 was a significant moment in the history of fascism. Despite the fanfare, Mussolini or Il Duce, as he was called, did not agree to a military alliance with Germany. Nonetheless, after this visit, Mussolini began introducing laws which marginalized Italy’s Jewish people.

Having stayed home, on that special day Antonietta experienced a life changing moment. Whilst trying to catch her escaped bird, it was when she by chance met her neighbor, Gabriele, who lived across her apartment building. The bird had flown near Gabriele’s window while he was at his desk, contemplating suicide. After an exchange of visits on that day, she learned that Gabriele was a radio broadcaster who was fired and will be deported to Sardinia. His crime: being gay. Unlikely as it may seem, the two instantly connected. They both learned of each other’s life and their different views of the government, and as the story unfolds, the odd couple fell in love.

This is the storyline of the critically acclaimed Italian film A Special Day, directed by Ettore Scola and produced by Carlo Ponti. Released in May 1977, starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, the film received many awards, including the César Award, Golden Globe Film, and Nastro d'Argento, in addition to two Academy Award nominations. Interestingly, Mussolini’s granddaughter, Alessandra Mussolini was cast in the film.

Through the events of one day, the film gives a daunting picture of life under fascism. The omnipresence of the ruler in daily life is interwoven into the narrative and through the background sound of the parade taking place.

The story revolves around Antonietta (Sophia Loren), a low-educated, lower middle-class housewife. She is the image of the ideal Italian woman under fascism—an admirer of Il Duce, a devoted housewife and mother; a devotion extended to the state. “I have six children”, Antonietta said as she introduced herself to Gabriele (Marcello Mastroianni). “By the seventh, they will give you a bonus.”

The government gave prizes and compensations to encourage women to bear many children with the aim of increasing the Italian population and army reserve. Single men, like Gabriele, in contrast, were taxed.

Antonietta’s husband (John Vernon) is the typical Italian fascist male of the time—the breadwinner and savior who treats his wife like an inferior being and has affairs with other women. Nevertheless, like the beloved Italian woman of the time, her family and the kitchen are the center of Antonietta’s life. From the kitchen table she would gaze out the window while pouring the remains from other cups into her cup—never really having her own cup (or life), except during Gabriele’s visit. Il Duce is present in family life through his picture that overlooks the kitchen. How the occupants are able to see each other through the windows is an extension of state surveillance.

“You forgot to take this,” said Gabriele, who suddenly appeared at Antonietta’s door, holding The Three Musketeers, the book which he had recommended earlier to Antonietta. He ended up coming inside and grinding coffee beans (and spilling some on the floor) for the cup of coffee Antonietta had offered. Then came a knock on the door. The caretaker (Françoise Berd) had come to warn Antonietta about Gabriele, who she knew was visiting Antonietta.

However, Antonietta was smitten by Gabriele, a liberal, antifascist, and gay radio broadcaster on the verge of suicide.

However, Antonietta was smitten by Gabriele, a liberal, antifascist, and gay radio broadcaster on the verge of suicide. How they made love, considering Gabriele’s sexual orientation, is open to interpretation—except for the conclusion that Antonietta had changed him. In fact, it was Antonietta who was changed by this encounter as she now sees fascism in a different light.

The film, however, did not fully capture the public life of Italian women under fascism. Although confined to domesticity, thousands to millions of women were enrolled in government-created women’s organizations.

In line with the state’s gender ideology, many women’s organizations focus on maternal health issues and care for newborns. However, these organizations were not merely a campaign to mobilize female supporters. They served an important purpose in reducing Italy’s high infant mortality rate, which was at 106.2 deaths for every 1,000 lives in 1938—the highest in Europe. Mussolini believed that a rapid increase in the Italian population could be achieved by banning contraception, illegalizing abortion, and establishing mass women’s organizations, where women worked to assist other women to improve hygiene, health, and nutrition.

From this view, fascist policies which excluded women did not completely isolate women from society.

From this view, fascist policies which excluded women did not completely isolate women from society. Women, in fact, had an important social role within the fascist framework, whilst any role was absent in the previous liberal state. Although these organizations controlled and limited women’s role as reproductive machines, in their own way, they empowered women. It was the first time any assistance of the kind, which improved women’s knowledge and skills about health and maternity, included women of all levels of the society. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of these organizations is debatable and despite a nationwide propaganda to promote the nobleness of motherhood, the population did not significantly increase and many women continued to work because of necessity.

All in all, A Special Day depicts how fascism penetrated into the private sphere, controlled and oppressed the individual, as reflected in the lives of Antonietta and Gabriele. She was treated as the chattel in the battle for population; he, the male degenerate.

In the evening of the special day, the authorities came for Gabriele. While gathering his things, he accidentally found a few coffee beans in the pocket of his suit. Slightly bewildered, he took a quick glance across the window. Minutes later, from her window, Antonietta watched as Gabriele leaves in the night escorted by two men. She was reading aloud the first few pages of The Three Musketeers—the political tale he left her with.

-Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl- (2023)

#films #cinema #Italy #fascism #history #gender

Images: Cult Film trailers:

If you are interested in how population polices affect women, read: Only Women Breed: Population Policies and Gender


Cavendish, Richard (2008) ‘Hitler and Mussolini Meet in Rome.’ Historytoday (Accessed 22 January 2023).

Monti, Jennifer Linda (2011) The Contrasting Image of Italian Women under Fascism in the 1930’s. Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 714. (Accessed 26 December 2022).

A painting can give you a captivating glimpse of the past and narrate the history of a people. This is exactly what the work of Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) presents to the world. Through his trademark paintings of middle-class Dutch women in an interior setting—with subtle details of tiles, decoration, furniture, musical instruments, dress, jewelry, and hair style—Vermeer provides a window to the prosperous life of the Dutch Golden Age.

The Dutch Golden Age spanned from 1588 to 1672, when the Dutch Empire was at its peak in science, the arts, the military, and trade, and was experiencing a cultural boom in the seventeenth century. Through the ships of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Dutch West India Company (WIC), the empire ruled the sea, gaining colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. With these conquests, back home, the Dutch middle-class flourished.

The lifestyle of the affluent Dutch middle-class as seen in Vermeer’s paintings was made possible through no other than the exploitation, marginalization, and enslavement of the indigenous people in the colonies. The Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), dubbed “the pearl of the East”, was an important colony for the Dutch empire as it secures the empire’s power over the spice trade.

Jayakarta (now Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia), a strategic harbor city, was burned down and conquered under the command of VOC official, Jan Pieterszoon Coen, in 1619. Coen rebuild the city on its ruins to become VOC’s new administrative base, which was subsequently renamed Batavia, after the Dutch’s mystical ancestors. Following the establishment of Batavia, to secure VOC’s monopoly of the spice trade, Coen seized Banda Island—formerly the sole producer of nutmeg. The Banda Massacre is inseparable from Coen’s legacy, where under his command, 14,000 local inhabitants were killed and over 1,000 enslaved, mainly sent to Batavia.

“By the last decades of the Dutch Golden Age, slaves of ethnic diversity comprised half of the Batavia population.”

Slave labor was an important commodity in the Dutch colonial empire. The function of the VOC administrative city of Batavia relied heavily on slaves acquired from various parts of the Dutch East Indies. By the last decades of the Dutch Golden Age, slaves of ethnic diversity comprised half of the Batavia population. Slaves lived in atrocious conditions but were fragmented as an oppressed group, mainly because they identified themselves by their ethnicity and not their oppression.

To strengthen Dutch political and economic domination, social relations were regulated, including race and gender relations. The city of Batavia was not only developed to replicate Amsterdam, but most importantly, it was designed to support racial segregation. The European colonizers mainly lived in the center of the city, others from non-European countries, such as the Chinese, Arabs, and Indians, lived closer to the center.

The indigenous people, many who were slaves brought in from across the archipelago, were concentrated further to the margins of the city, with some exceptions, particularly for those who worked in the household. This led to the practice of concubinage—the bondage of indigenous women—by VOC officers. Under cohabitation, these women (later referred to as nyai) worked to provide domestic and sexual services in the home of the VOC men living in Batavia as well as other foreign men.

For women enslaved in domestic settings, the labor offered an opportunity for vertical mobility, as they were often provided with clothing, money, and jewelry. However, they faced the double stigma of race and gender. The slave women under concubinage and their children were looked down by the local people. Children from these relationships were also not legally recognized by their father and the colonial state.

Furthermore, Coen was disgusted by the practice of interracial sexual relationships. In fact, Coen had attempted to curb, albeit unsuccessfully, the practice of concubinage by prohibiting it.

Coen may have not been too successful in regulating the sex life of his officers, but he was certainly successful in expanding the Dutch Empire, making him a hero of the Dutch Golden Age, at least until recent reflection. Once a hero, now he is considered a villain by some; part of the legacy of a celebrated era now condemned by many.

The Dutch Golden Age was made possible through economic exploitation, slavery, political oppression, and racial and sexual subjugation. This fact is of course not visible in the Dutch paintings of the era, such as the work of Vermeer, which depicted the lifestyle of a privileged few who were able to thrive through the atrocities against the colonized. Thus, to accurately describe this reality, some Dutch historians now refer to the era as simply, “the seventeenth century.”

-Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl- (2022)

#history #Netherlands #Indonesia #Batavia #colonialism



Fraga, Kaleena (2022) The Story of Batavia, The Indonesian City Violently Colonized by the Dutch. All That's Interesting. (Accessed 28 August 2022).

Ganbold, Nicole (2021) ‘Dutch Golden Age Explained.’ DailyArt Magazine. (Accessed 23 August 2022).

Kehoe, Marsely L. (2015) ‘Dutch Batavia: Exposing the Hierarchy of the Dutch Colonial City.’ Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Arts. (Accessed 28 August 2022).

Republika (2016) ‘Kisah Nyai dan Pergundikan di Batavia.’ Bagian 2 Republika (Accessed 28 August 2022).

VOI (2022) 'Today’s History, May 28, 1619: Jan Pieterszoon Coen Conquered Jayakarta with Additional War Fleet from Maluku.' Voice of Indonesia. (Accessed 28 August 2022).

Wikipedia (2022) Batavia, Dutch East Indies.,_Dutch_East_Indies (Accessed 23 August 2022).

Wikipedia (2022) Dutch Golden Age. (Accessed 23 August 2022).


Picture 1: A Lady Seated at a Virginal, 1672 by Johannes Vermeer (Wikimedia Commons) Picture 2: The Love Letter, 1669-1670 by Johannes Vermeer (Wikimedia Commons)

To this day, the torso of a female corpse lies somewhere in a German hospital, identity unconfirmed. Or perhaps it has been buried in a location undisclosed by German authorities. The headless and limbless corpse was found in the basement of Charité Hospital, Berlin in 2007 by forensic medicine head, Dr. Michael Tsokos. This was the beginning of the task to uncover the truth surrounding the death of 20th century socialist martyr, Rosa Luxemburg.

Dr. Rosa Luxemburg (born March 5, 1871) was a revolutionary socialist, a prolific writer, and political theoretician considered to be one of the key historical figures of the Left. Her activism began in her native Poland where she was forced to leave in 1889 to avoid authorities and move to Switzerland. After studying in Zurich University, she was one of the first women in the world to have a doctorate in economics. Luxemburg moved to Germany 1897 to join the socialist movement, where she obtained German citizenship.

In Germany in 1915, with German socialist, Karl Liebknecht, Luxemburg co-founded the anti-war Spartacus League (Spartakusbund). This caused them both to spend most of World War I imprisoned for opposing the war and Germany’s involvement in it. Luxemburg viewed that war and nationalism will destroy the international workers’ solidarity. Luxemburg and Liebknecht continued their opposition after being released in 1918 and subsequently had to go into hiding.

On January 15, 1919, Luxemburg and Liebknecht were found and arrested by members of the Freikorp, a right-wing paramilitary group. It was on this night that they were both murdered separately. It is believed that Liebknecht was shot from the back in Tiergarten park. He was buried in Friedrichsfelde cemetery. There were eyewitness accounts of Luxemburg being hit by a rifle butt on the head and shoulders, however, Luxemburg’s whereabouts were unknown until a few months later, when a body of a woman was found afloat along Berlin’s Landwehr Canal. It was officially identified as Rosa Luxemburg and then buried next to Liebknecht.

The discovery of an embalmed female torso in the Berlin hospital in 2007, almost 90 years after Luxemburg’s death, reignited the mystery surrounding her murder. After studying the corpse, Dr. Tsokos had reasons to believe that it could be Luxemburg, particularly because the hips showed signs of osteoarthritis which matched Luxemburg’s condition when she died. Luxemburg’s legs were of differing length causing her to walk with a limp.

As with the autopsy conducted of the body pulled out from the canal, it did not show this particular sign of hip damage and the rifle butt blows said to have been inflicted upon Luxemburg. These inconsistencies suggest that those who carried out the original autopsy in 1919 were pressured to confirm that it was Luxemburg’s body. Then, who was the woman found in the canal and buried next to Liebknecht? The initial grave was vandalized by the Nazis in 1935 and the remains were never recovered.

These circumstances led Dr. Tsokos to conduct a series of investigation to obtain Luxemburg’s DNA in order to confirm the identification of the mystery corpse. He began his investigation by trying to obtain saliva samples which in turn led him to trace Luxemburg’s ex-lovers.

Polish politician, Leo Jogiches—Luxemburg's former lover—was murdered for investigating her death. Luxemburg's love letters to Jogiches—who once threatened to kill her if she took another lover—are now part of a collection of Rosa's letters published in 2011. Initially, Dr. Tsokos tried to obtain these love letters to retrieve any traces of Luxemburg’s saliva that might remain on the back of the postage stamps but was unsuccessful.

Further search led Dr. Tsokos to another of Luxemburg’s ex-lover—physician, social economist, and political activist, Kostja Zetkin. Zetkin who was much younger than Luxemburg was the son of her best friend, Clara Zetkin—pioneer of International Women's Day. Unfortunately, it was not possible for Kostja Zetkin 's descendants, who are now living in the United States, to find anything that used to belong to Luxemburg that Zetkin had kept.

Dr. Tsokos even tried to obtain strands of Luxemburg’s hair kept by another former lover, German lawyer, Paul Levi. However, this too led to no avail.

The search was then directed toward Luxemburg’s surviving relatives. Finally, a DNA sample was obtained from Luxemburg’s great-niece from her brother’s side. Unfortunately, test results from the male relative line have only 40% to 60% certainty. This is the anticlimax in the story of the murder of the socialist hero, a murder ordered by Captain Waldemar Pabst. The corpse is now with the German government who had said that they will do further testing, but no announcement has since been made. Still, every year in January, Luxemburg’s admirers hold a march to the Friedrichsfelde cemetery to commemorate the death of the revolutionary icon.

-Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl- (2022)

#RosaLuxemburg #socialism #Germany #history


Coast Reporter (2017) ‘A headless corpse in Berlin and its Sunshine Coast connection.’ [24 May 2018].

Connolly, Kate (2009) ‘The hunt for Rosa Luxemburg.’ The Guardian. [28 May 2018]. (2022) Rosa Luxemburg: radical revolutionary. [1 May 2022].

Gietinger, Klaus (2020) ‘The Man Who Murdered Rosa Luxemburg.’ Jacobinmag. [16 January 2020].

Jagarnath, Vashna (2017) ‘Rosa Luxemburg: freedom only for the members of one party isn't freedom at all.’ The Conversation. [20 May 2018].

Kauffmann, Audrey (2010) ‘Murder mystery over “Rosa the Red”’ [16 May 2018].

Spiegel Online (2009) ‘Berlin Authorities Seize Corpse for Pre-Burial Autopsy.’ [29 May 2018].

Starke, Helmut Dietmar (2020) ‘Rosa Luxemburg: Life, Revolutionary Activities, Works, & Facts.’ Encyclopedia Britannica. [17 May 2020].

Witt, Emily (2011) ‘The Mystery of Rosa Luxemburg’s Corpse.’ Observer [20 May 2018].

Wroe, David (2009) ‘Rosa Luxemburg murder case reopened.’ [18 May 2018].


Speeding down the road on her pale blue Triumph 21, Jane turns and stops to join the other bikers at the side of the road. Mick, her boyfriend, is waiting for her. They are part of the Rockers, one of Britain’s youth subculture of the 1960s. They are all going to Clacton to spend Easter weekend at the seaside. It turned out to be a day they would never forget.

Fifty-six years later, Jane recalls what had happened that Easter weekend in 1964. “By the time we arrived at the seaside, Mods had crowded the beach.”

This was the beginning of the infamous ‘Battle of Pier Gap’. The clash between two youth groups, the Rockers and the Mods, would make history on this beach. By the end of the day at Clacton, arrests were made on both sides.

Mary, who was also present at Clacton that day, left the scene on her Vespa after her fellow Mods, boyfriend Jimmy and cousin John, had been arrested. The next morning, she woke up to a media frenzy which shook the country. The papers reported about a youth gang fight on the beach, describing it as the moral decadence of Britain’s future generation. Mary realized that the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

The overwhelming press coverage had turned the Rockers and the Mods into the image of Britain’s ruthless teens. As Mary remembers it, “Some of the things that the papers said happened were true, but most weren’t.”

The Mods were a new breed of British youngsters that emerged after the Rockers during the 1960s. They ditched the loud motorbike, heavy leather jacket, denim, and boots—the ‘50s-rooted culture that the Rockers worshipped—for scooters and continental style attire. Mods danced in R&B and Jazz clubs, while Rockers listened to American ‘50s Rock and Roll. They may have not liked each other, but any clashes were, as Jane described, “harmless compared to England’s backstreet gang fights.”

The series of ‘60’s seaside battles (in Margate, Brighton, Hastings, Bournemouth, and Clacton) were isolated events, each causing minor damage. The media turned the events into something more perhaps because they needed “news” to write about after Britain had rose from its war-torn state. For Jane, this did the damage. She resented the fact that, “[their] Rebellion against the system was shifted to a gang war problem.”

Nevertheless, aside from the intention of creating a media sensation, the papers may have been expressing, albeit in a rather exaggerated manner, what at that time appeared frightening to the older, wartime generation: A new generation of teens who are independent and have spending power, and with the military draft abolished, have no responsibility to the country.

The Rockers and Mods were working teens, better educated and some were making more money than their parents. They were able to purchase motorbikes and buy better clothes than their parents. When it came to clothes, the Mod had a distinctive taste, but with a philosophy to go with it.

“It was about individuality,” former Mod, Mary explained, “We didn’t want to be part of the masses, we wanted to be a different working class.” For Mary who is a week shy of her 72nd birthday, the Mods were a symbol of rebellion against the old way of doing things.

Unsurprisingly, the industries welcomed the consumerism of the new generation. The Rockers’ love for big motorbikes resulted in the boom of Britain’s motorcycle industry and the Mods’ love for clothes benefited the fashion industry. Wide media coverage took the Mod look from the streets to the stores. But by this time, for the original Mods, this meant the end of it.

The media and the industries undeniably contributed to the fall of the Rockers and the Mods ‘60s subcultures. “We started from the streets, Mods were underground. It was about freedom. When everybody started dressing the way we did, it was over for me,” Mary, explained. She couldn’t have said it any better.

-Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl- (2022)


Mary and Jane are loosely based on real people; Mick, Jimmy, and John are fictitious.

This article has been published on and in 2020.

You might be interested to read about Britpop:

Or read Who Were the Mods?:

#rockers #mods #history #fashion #UK #popculture

The nineteenth to twentieth century in western Europe was a period when the intellectual community and the cultural and art movements flourished. Austria, particularly Vienna, and the Weimar Republic, particularly Berlin, were the centers of these cultural movements where the salon and coffeehouse culture grew. During this period, women enjoyed inclusion in some areas of the public sphere, while economic and political discrimination prevails. The wars, power struggles, and economic and political instabilities all played a role in women’s changing position in society at the onset of fascism.

Vienna, the multicultural city of immigrants in the 19th century, was famous for its European salon culture. Conceived by the middle and upper classes, the salons provided the medium for intellectual discussion and critical thinking. Moreover, the salons provided a space for the integration of the Jewish immigrants into society's elites. The salon culture was also a means of acculturation and emancipation for Jewish women. In Vienna and Berlin, many of these salons were hosted by educated Jewish women. The salon culture, however, was soon replaced by the more accessible and popular coffeehouse culture.

In 19th century Vienna and Berlin, coffeehouses became a meeting place for people from diverse backgrounds, including the less wealthy, and served as a place for intellectuals to exchange ideas and hold discussions. The coffeehouse culture was closely associated with the Jewish intellectual and artistic community. However, coffeehouses excluded women, supporting the conservative gender ideology of the time.

The coffeehouses grew to become an important part of Viennese multicultural urban life. Viennese coffeehouses gave birth to a new generation of movements, such as the Young Vienna modernist literary movement which was spearheaded by male Jewish intellectuals. Vienna’s intellectual community thrived to influence ideas which developed throughout Europe.

Nonetheless the inevitable was to come. The influx of immigrants crowded the city and affected the workforce, turning Vienna into a breeding ground for conservatism, nationalism, and anti-Semitism. In the last decade of the century up to 1914—known as the “Fin-de-Siècle” or turn of the century—the coffeehouse culture faced the challenge of rising anti-Semitism, while the salons continued to decline due to prevalent misogyny and antifeminism.

The golden age of liberalism ended in 1895 when conservative powers took over. This was followed by a weakening middle class and the quite death of the salons. The coffeehouse intellectuals who played an important role in the advancement of liberalism were fighting a losing battle.

Politics took another turn after the First World War. A strong labor and feminist movement grew out of the postwar crisis in Vienna and had set the motion for radical changes in policies which favored the working class, including the women. “Red Vienna”, home to migrant laborers from across the empire, became the haven for workers’ power.

Unsuspectedly too, the Great War was like a blessing in disguise for the women of the Weimar Republic (Germany in 1918–1933). Before the war, Germany was a constitutional monarchy with a parliament elected by adult males. After the war, with the removal of the Kaiser, Germany became a republic with representative democracy. Women were given political and economic rights. Besides gaining the right to vote, women were also granted equality in marriage and the professions.

The new independent woman of the Weimar Republic was coined the “New Woman” and she became the icon of the republic’s golden liberal era and the face of popular media. After women had a taste of economic independence when working during wartime to replace men, many continued to work and enjoyed an active social life. Women were able to do what was unthinkable just a few years before: enjoy the single life, smoke, drink, drive a car, and dance in jazz clubs. The coffeehouses were no longer a male domain as it were before the war; women were free to roam the coffeehouses unchaperoned. In Berlin, the center of Weimar culture, well-known Jewish women writers and artists were regulars at coffeehouses, such as the Romanisch Café.

However, unlike the image of the New Woman and its café lifestyle—which was sexualized and exploited by the media—in reality, women continued to face economic and political discrimination under Weimar liberalism. After supporting the workforce in wartime, the majority of working women became menial workers with the re-employment of men and then used as cheap labor. Meanwhile, in politics, women only had access to areas related to the home and family, such as health, education, and religion.

So, when politics took a different turn and the Nazis came to power—they, although rather ironically, had the blessings of the Weimar women. War reparations, hyperinflation, the collapse of the economy in 1923, and the Depression that followed had the republic on its knees. The economic crisis and a weakened government paved the way for the fascist party, which many, including the Weimar women, saw as offering the only hope for rebuilding the country. With no real political role to play, Weimar women leaders looked to Hitler to secure their political positions and thus gave their support to the Nazi party. Unfortunately, this was poor judgement.

Weimar’s fall in 1933 was followed by Red Vienna succumbing to the economic and political pressure of the conservative federal state in 1934. The end of the Weimar Republic and the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938 saw an exodus of the Jewish population which had played an important role in the development of both countries. Subsequently, women were reduced to their reproductive role under fascist ideology. The crises and weakened regimes provided fascism with the means to rise to power by convincing many that it will transcend liberalism, democracy, and socialism.

-Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl- (2022)

#Vienna #Austria #Weimar #Germany #war #salonculture #coffeehouseculture #women #gender #fascism #politics #history

I have written about the above topics before, if you're interested read:

More about Vienna and its coffeehouse culture:

More about the Weimar New Woman:


BBC Bitesize (2022) The Growth of Democracy in Germany, 1890-1929. (Accessed 29 January 2022).

Buzynski, Isabella and Kai Mishuris (2014) ‘Jewish Café Culture in Berlin.’ ArcGIS StoryMaps (Accessed 29 January 2022).

Galerie St. Etienne (2006) More Than Coffee was Served, Café Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Weimar Germany. (Accessed 30 January 2022).

Mann, Michael (2004) 'The Rise and Fall of Fascism.' UCLA Book Reviews. (Accessed 30 January 2022). (2017) Splendor and Misery in the Weimar Republic. (Accessed 30 January 2022).

Wilhelmy-Dollinger, Petra (1999) ‘Berlin Salons: Late Eighteenth to Early Twentieth Century.’ Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. Jewish Women's Archive. (Accessed 30 January 2022).

“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.” That is one of the most famous lines from Hollywood’s classic, The Graduate (1967). Through Benjamin’s (Dustin Hoffman) relationship with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft)—a young fresh graduate with a bored middle-aged, middle-class housewife turned seductress—the movie tells a story of a noteworthy period in American history.

Following the postwar economic boom and increase in population, in the 1950s young middle-class couples moved from the overcrowded cities to new housing areas in the suburbs. These homes, equipped with new efficient home appliances, particularly in their kitchen design, were dubbed the “typical American house”. In 1959, Nixon once tried to enlighten Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev about the dishwashers directly installed in these houses. Nixon claims, “In America, we like to make life easier for women.”

It was during this Cold War period that the ideal white middle-class American family consisting of children, a male breadwinner and housewife was part of a political propaganda. In the US Cold War propaganda abroad, gender ideology played an important role to establish capitalism’s success over communism through the image of the Western middle-class, breadwinner-housewife nuclear family.

In fact, in the 1950s, the term middle-class Americans was more of a political term rather than an economic term, as political scholars have pointed out. The term was used to refer to an American identity associated with a set of values, a specific lifestyle, taste, and culture. This was marked by the rise of a consumer culture and a culture of conformity. It was against this setting that counterculture movements began to emerge.

The counterculture movements criticized the establishment, class divisions, education, gender norms, as well as the family and marriage institutions. The movements' dissatisfaction with American society is reflected in The Graduate through Ben’s journey to leave his dull privileged-life and break free from society’s conventions.

The story line reflected the hypocrisy of the privileged life in the comfortable suburban homes, which confined women to domesticity. In her research published in her book The Feminine Mystique (1963), Betty Friedan revealed that behind the doors of many seemingly happy suburban homes, lived an unhappy educated housewife who was discontent with domestic life. As much as the counterculture movements, such as the Beat and hippie movements, appear to offer a kind of sexual revolution—women—as disclosed in Beat women’s memoirs, remained as sexual objects and domestic creatures.

It was not only traditional values that encouraged women to primary be domestic beings, but it was also the politics of the day. For example, political issues surrounding childcare in the US had a significant contribution to the domesticity of women. During the Second World War, women were mobilized to work due to the urgent need of fulfilling war production. To encourage and enable women to join the workforce, the government provided quality federal-funded daycare. When the war ended and women were expected to return home to make way for male employment, the daycare initiative ended, despite considerable opposition from many women.

When the need for federal-funded collective childcare was raised again in the 1960s and ‘70s, it continued to face objection, in part, because the Cold War foes use such a system, so it was deemed incompatible with American values. Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971 arguing that it would “commit the vast moral authority of the National Government to the side of communal approaches to child rearing over against the family-centered approach.” Thus, childcare was and is still treated as an issue for individual families—particularly the women—to cope with, rather than an economic investment that will empower women and their families. Not surprisingly, to date, the US has no adequate childcare infrastructure intact, a problem which has been further exacerbated by the pandemic.

However, as with the politics of the Cold War era, male-dominated countercultures which emerged at the time too did not want to deal with any issues that might disrupt the gender power structure too much at their inconvenience. In terms of gender equality, changes were slow. As we see, after Mrs. Robinson’s liaison with Ben, she comes back to the comfort of her suburban home, behind the doors of the domesticity that define her.

-Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl- (2021)

#ColdWar #counterculture #US #childcare #WorldWar2 #gender #history #writing

More on The Graduate More on US wartime childcare More on countercultures

Sources Dratch, Howard (1974). The Politics of Child Care in the 1940s. Science & Society, 38(2): 167–204. [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Friedan, Betty (1973) ‘Up from the Kitchen Floor.’ NY Times. [Accessed August 22, 2020].

Krasner, Barbara (2014) ‘The Nuclear Family and Cold War Culture of the 1950s.’ Academia. [Accessed December 21, 2019].

Maragou, Helena (2015) Lawrence R. Samuel, The American Middle Class: A Cultural History. Review [Accessed 14 November 2021].

Punch, David A. (2018) The Graduate: Symbolism in Film. [Accessed 21 November 2021].

The Kitchen Debate-transcript 24 July 959 Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev U.S. Embassy, Moscow, Soviet Union. [Accessed August 16, 2020].

“Calling to arms all men from 21 to 55 years old, Italy can mobilize 8,000,000 men, and adding young men of 18, 19, and 20 years more than 9,000,000 ….”

The nation’s leader, Benito Mussolini—or better known as II Duce to his people—did not fail to cast a spell on the cheering crowd on the 30th of March 1938. His speech continued to spark the crowd as he shouted,

“This shows how ridiculous are the polemics of certain circles beyond the Alps according to which the African war, the formation of two army corps in Libya and the participation of volunteers in the Spanish war have weakened us.

On the contrary, all that strengthened us …”

In fascist Italy, the modern Italian man is what makes up the nation—he is the nation, the nation is him. War was no longer seen as misery, but an honor. It was a time of great hope and pride as II Duce attempted to revive the glory of the Roman Empire. The men were the soldiers; the women were mothers who earned medals for supplying the nation with its soldiers and workers.

The fascist regime promoted espresso to the workers. In the morning, workers line up against the counters of espresso bars, sipping their cups only for minutes, before dashing off to work for the nation. The new steam espresso machine makes coffee fast like a speeding steam train, but just cool enough to immediately drink. In only seconds the espresso will flow smoothly from the machine like a long mouse tail into the small cups, an analogy with the steam trains, which in a split second, will arrive at the stations as scheduled. Even though the promptness of the trains was false, both the train and the espresso machine served as Mussolini’s propaganda to demonstrate the technological advancement, industrialization, and modernization of what was once a war-torn Italy.

The nation was trying to rise from its knees by the lift of a strongman as the memory of the First World War had slowly dwindled but not forgotten. For Mussolini, founder of Italy’s National Fascist Party—the Italian espresso was the nation’s drink, that of a modern Italy. For the nation’s strongman, it was political as much as cultural.

Looking back, who would have thought that the strongman, who vowed to lift Italy from the trenches, would be executed in humiliation as he was by the people of his country? On April 28, 1945, Mussolini was captured while trying to flee with his mistress.

The empire Mussolini aspired to build did not, by far, have the military skills of the Romans. The dictator who was responsible for the war losses and death of his people had left his wife of three decades and their children to escape and save himself.

Even more humiliating was what happened after his death. On April 29th, 1945, the bodies of II Duce and his mistress, Clara Petacci, and three supporters who were executed along with them, were hanged upside down at the town square of Milan to satisfy the angry mob. This event is what is best remembered of the strongman who fell from grace.

Nonetheless, the Italian espresso and the coffee bars that Mussolini used in his fascist propaganda were quickly disassociated with the strongman. The Italian espresso culture lived on to be celebrated around the world.

-Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl- (2021)

#fascism #WorldWar1 #WorldWar2 #Italy #Espresso #history

Note: Mussolini’s speech is quoted from:

I first wrote this piece as a historical fiction short story, although it may have not turned out too well. In case you are interested, you can read it here: The Strongman's Espresso

The moral devastation experienced by the US after the Great War led the country to the quest of achieving a new stability. This was sought through regaining economic strength and retaining traditional values. It was during this aftermath that many American modernist writers, in search of a safe haven, emigrated to Europe. Many settled in Paris, finding the freedom that could release them from the disillusionment caused by the war.

For many years Paris was home to American modernist writers, poets, and artists during an era of postwar recovery and prefascist political power. These writers were then known as “the Lost Generation”—those who due to the war had lost their faith in the government, God, and the American dream.

Even with the economic and social independence that American women gained in the roaring '20s, the literary and art scene still offered less freedom to women. This led many American female writers and artists to join the emigration to France in the 1920s and '30s. Among these women were Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Solita Solano, and Thelma Wood, just to name a few. However, “the Lost Generation”, a term first coined by Stein, remained associated mainly with male writers, such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald—the major heroes of this generation.

In the 1920s and 30s, Paris had inspired women modernist writers and artists as the city gave them freedom to live an alternative lifestyle to that of the conservative postwar American society. These Parisian women, who led the unmarried, bohemian, and bisexual lifestyle, were later dubbed the “Left Bank women writers”, as they famously resided in this part of Paris. Their work and lifestyle quickly became a subculture within the male dominated literary and art community of American modernists.

The Left Bank women writers were less acknowledged in modernist literature than their male peers. They were eventually recognized but labeled as “women writers” or “lesbian writers”. Some writers find this separate category of recognition as derogatory. Barnes, who is well-known for her classic novel, Nightwood (1936) which was influenced by her relationship with Wood, once said, “I hate women writers!” and wanted to disassociate her work from this label. The category had emerged owing to the absence of white heterosexual male bias (albeit still predominantly white) in the works of Left Bank women writers. Despite this, arguably, the category may have kept the work of Left Bank women writers at the margins of the modernist literary movement.

The male comrades of the Lost Generation emerged from a state of cultural changes and turbulent times. Even though breaking with traditional literary conventions, they were often criticized for preserving a predominantly masculine culture; thus, contributing to modernism’s marginalization of women.

Photo: Solita Solano and Djuna Barnes in a Paris cafe around 1922 (Maurice Brange)

-Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl- (2021)

#literature #Worldwar1 #womenwriters #lostgeneration #history #US #Paris #gender

If you are interested in this topic, you might like to read: Unsung Women Writers of the Postwar Era

It took an incompetent ruler, a foreign queen, a mystical healer, and a starving nation to bring the fall of a three-hundred-year empire. The last Czar, Nicholas II, with his wife, Alexandra, and their children—Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei—were executed in July 1918.

The Russian power couple, Nicholas II and Alexandra, were one of the very few royals who married because of love. One historian described them as the only royal couple of their time to have shared a bed. Along with their five children, they were also one of the most photographed and filmed royals. Not only did they hire someone specifically for this purpose, but photography was a favorite pass time of the Czar’s. Some of the pictures, which are still available today, were taken by the last Czar of Russia himself.

The starvation of the masses and the devastation of wars lost led to a series of events that pivotally contributed to the fall of the Russian empire. One which always sparked interest was the event that began the Romanov’s special relationship with the Serbian peasant and mystical traditional healer turned holy man, Grigori Rasputin. It all started one night when the Czar’s only son, Alexei, suffering from hemophilia finally stopped bleeding after a visit from Rasputin. Politics in early modern Russia would never be the same again. Rasputin instantly became the Czar’s and especially the Czarina’s confidant; not only on issues which concerned their son’s health but also on how to run the country.

The peasant man was fortunate to have landed on the doorsteps of the royal palace, which in turn, helped him climb the social ladder and into the beds of women of the Russian elite circle. Rasputin—who believed that to achieve a higher spiritual level, one must sin—was legendary for his notorious sex life and exceptional sexual appetite.

Rasputin’s reputation with elite Russian women and his closeness with the Czar’s family led to speculations about Czarina Alexandra’s relationship with Rasputin. Rumors were fueled by the leak of affectionate letters she had written to him. The Czarina certainly held Rasputin close to her heart, but never between her legs, as historians have assured us. However, much like what happened to Marie Antoinette, the alleged sexual relationship was used against the foreign German-born and English-raised Czarina who was also the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, to justify the people’s discontent with their rulers and the nobles’ hatred of Rasputin.

It is somewhat hard to tell fact from myth when it concerns Rasputin as there is so much legend surrounding the man. Such an example is the legend surrounding his assassination in 1916 by the Russian nobles. The strong mystical man allegedly did not succumb to the poison in his wine, so the assassinators had to shoot him until he finally collapsed and died. In real life, the autopsy revealed he was not poisoned.

A year later, the Czar and his family were under Bolshevik house arrest and moved to different places until the fateful night of their execution on July 17, 1918, inside the basement of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. There are many accounts of the life they lived during the time of their house arrest, including those revealed from the girls’ journals and letters, as well as from witnesses. In the earlier time of the family’s house arrest, the young male guards and the Romanov girls in fact were in friendly terms with each other. Maria, the Czar’s third daughter, was said to have had a thing with one of the boys. The boy who had a crush on Maria gave her a cake on her 19th birthday. He was removed and allegedly the other guards were immediately replaced by hardline Bolshevik guards.

The story of the Romanovs tends to end with the climax of their execution, the infamous execution that went all wrong. To the surprise of the firing squad, the children did not die of the shots fired at their bodies. Thus, other violent methods were employed, turning the execution into a blood bath.

Only later when disposing the bodies, the men understood why the children survived the initial shots. Jewels were sewn into their undergarments. Journals left by the children revealed that the girls had done this with aim of saving the Romanov’s jewels, but unintentionally the jewels had shielded them from the Bolsheviks’ bullets.

Actually, the execution was followed by another scenario gone wrong: the Bolshevik’s ill-prepared attempt to dispose of the bodies. The executors were drunk and brought only one shovel (yes, one!), and their truck broke down. Sounds like a joke, but nonetheless, a fact which is part of a history that wouldn’t be revealed until decades later.

-Some Thoughts from the Cappuccino Girl- (2021)

#Romanovs #Russia #history

I've also written a post on the Romanovs on Blogspot: