It was not easy to be a sportswoman at the end of the nineteenth century. Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, said in 1896: "No matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks." Women competed in the Olympics for the first time in 1900.
The "white sailor hats" and the "confu- sion between you, your hat, and the ball" in Lady Greville's book may now seem charmingly old-fashioned--until we remember that in 2015, more than a century later, more than 40% of elite sportswomen in Britain were reported to have suffered sexism. Which suddenly makes the bold gentlewomen of 1892 seem far more pioneering...
The books in "Found on the Shelves" have been chosen to give a fascinating insight into the treasures that can be found while browsing in The London Library. Now celebrating its 175th anniversary, with over seventeen miles of shelving and more than a million books, The London Library has become an unrivalled archive of the modes, manners and thoughts of each generation which has helped to form it.
From essays on dieting in the 1860s to instructions for gentlewomen on trout-fishing, from advice on the ill health caused by the "modern" craze of bicycling to travelogues from Norway, they are as readable and relevant today as they were more than a century ago - even if contemporary sportswomen no longer have to "thank Providence and one's tailor for one's knickerbockers"!
Lady Violet Greville (1842-1932) was an author by profession who became, in the 1880s and 1890s, the writer of a ladies column in the Graphic. She joined The London Library on 19th October 1897, giving her occupation as "Lady".
"Forget the Christmas crackers - give everyone one of these beauties." - Ian Sansom, The Guardian