Friday, May 24, 2013

Old Newpapers - A Trove of Information

With a couple of very busy weeks around, and very little time for writing, let alone blogging, I thought I would repost something from my own blog of a couple months ago (which some of you may have seen). As a writer of historical fiction, I spend a lot of time researching, and newspapers yield some interesting tidbits.

I came across this article in the Queensland Figaro, dated 26th March, 1908, and it fascinated me. I think much of it was tongue in cheek, but I wanted to share a few snippets with you.
Yes ; the World moves. If you, good reader, had lived in the 13th century you would have had no sugar; at the beginning of the 15th you would have had no butter; in the 16th neither potatoes nor (the male reader) tobacco; in the 17th no tea, no coffee, no soap. Bishop Welldow fears — probably justly— that: our ancestors were all dirty. At the beginning of the 18th century there were no lamps and no umbrellas; and the beginning of the 19th century no trains, no watches, no gas, no telegrams, ho chloroform, no ether.
Sir James Y. Simpson, when he introduced the use of chloroform, had to argue with religious opponents, who insisted that to mitigate pain was to fight against the decree of Providence. It is said that in the fight he reminded his opponents that in the record of the earliest (surgical) operation in human history, when God was said to have taken a rib out of Adam's body, He first cast the man into a deep sleep.
I had never considered that there would be religious argument AGAINST pain relief. What food for thought! My eyes have been opened. But I do love Sir James' point about God putting Adam into a deep sleep.
And then there was this about ladies' hats:
It never enters a man's dull head when he reviles a confection that interferes with his view of the stage that an enormous amount of care and skill—even genius—has been expended, not only in the creation and manufacture of the hat, but also on the correct poising and fastening of it on the fair owner's head. 
Have you ever, dull male, seen a lady put on her hat? Have you ever waited minute after minute, quarter after quarter, hour after hour, while a lady side-stepped anxiously in front of a big mirror, taking every point of view, giving this side a tilt and that side a tilt, elevating the back and depressing the front, loosening a knot of hair in the south-east, and bringing reinforcements of curls to support a flying column of plumes in the north-west, inserting a giant pin with extreme care on this side, and another with equal deliberation on that side, leaving her dressing room tranquil to become dissatisfied in the hall, and returning to go through the same evolutions all over again? And then to be expected by a brute of a man to take it off. Why, it requires the self-sacrifice of a martyr.
That is the reason I always admire a lady when she does take her hat off. It is an act of abnegation for the comfort of others, which the mere masculine animal cannot appreciate. He would only begin to realise it if he were forced in the full glare of a theatre to undo the intricate convolutions of a self-made tie.
Yes, what a great defense for the trouble women used to put themselves through (and for those who still do), to look their best for their gentlemen companions. And a great laugh, to boot.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these passages. Are you one of the above said 'martyrs'? Please leave a comment!

Amanda Deed resides in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne where she fills her time with work, raising a family, church activities and writing historical romance novels. Her new novel, Henry's Run, was released on the 1st of April, 2013. For more information, see:


  1. Some fascinating reading, and another avenue of historical research I had not considered. Do you find you old newspapers at the local library?

    It intrigues me that we look back on the things that Christians in previous time periods argued passionately about. We think 'why would they oppose something like pain relief. How silly'. This raises the more disturbing question. In one hundred years time, what issues that are of great importance to us will future Christians laugh about?

    I do feel a little sorry for the guy in the theatre who has shelled out his hard-earned money for a play he can't see. I understand the perspective of the passage though. The lady has gone to so much trouble. Ultimately, it seems very silly that hats would be worn to a theatre in the first place. I guess the real villain of the piece is the social convention of the day.

    1. Hi Adam. You can find thousands of old newspapers at a website called
      Great insights on the pain relief and hat wearing issues. :)

  2. Oh, I love it, Amanda! As a child my mother was given a host of late nineteenth century women's magazines which I was allowed to read at age ten. I used to pore over them for hours. Especially the costumes and elaborate as described above. But we moved and my dear mum who loved all things new threw them away.

    If only she had the forethought to realize their value. I could sure make good use of them today in my historical novels. Hmm, I wonder if that's why I am intrigued with this era.

    1. Oh Rita, what a terrible loss! I feel for you. I love the trove website for scouring old newspapers etc. Have you had a look there?

    2. Thanks for the info, Amanda. I'll look it up ASAP!

  3. Wow! Very interesting Amanda. Thanks for sharing. Lots of things to think about. I for one am glad I live in the 21st century. But it does do us good to look at the past doesn't it?

    Thanks for those interesting snippets from the past! :)

    1. Hi Anusha. It would have been interesting to be involved in the debate about pain relief back then, I think. It's quite surprising what you learn from the past. :)

  4. Fascinating!!Looking forward to see how you weave that into your next book :) xx

  5. Amanda, thanks for the tip about the Trove newspaper site. Have just had a look and have added it to my favourite timewasting sites (in a good way). Cheers, Nola

  6. Those articles are gold, especially the one about the hats!

  7. Wow, you are obviously a deep thinker Amanda,
    I will be brave an attempt to answer your curly question. Matyrism is suggested in the bible as something we must be prepared for “if” asked to denounce Christ (referred to in particular in End Times) So that is what warrants one to be prepared to be Matyrism.

    As for controversial confrontation like disputing fashion edict or anything we oppose, I think about when Jesus said to go get the money from the fish’s mouth to pay for tent taxes even though he shouldn’t pay(Matthew 17:27) He says “lest we offend them.” People are better to speak for what is right without cynicism (to avoid offending others) and especially speak for justice for the oppressed but was sensitive to unnecessary offense. We need to learn to pick our fights. I guess the question still remains: how far do we push a point? That is when we need to trust the leading of the Spirit I would imagine.