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Rewriting enraging articles

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JemimaBerry Sat 04-Nov-17 13:17:31

Quite cathartic. This is a re-write of the Guardian article about James Barry (female surgeon retroactively transed)

Secret transgender Victorian housewife feted by Historic England

Mrs Jemima Berry, who concealed the fact that she was a man throughout lifelong domestic servitude, recognised by Historic England

Mrs Jemima Berry ‘was the most beautiful creature I ever met’, according to Donald the grocer. Photograph: Orwell Publications


She died in 1865 and her gravestone reads simply “Mrs Jemima Berry, beloved home maker”. However, she was one of the most renowned washerwomen in the district, and because she was born Michael Anthony Buckley, she holds an important place in the UK’s transgender history.

The site is being marked by Historic England, which on Tuesday announces a slew of heritage listings and relistings of places which are part of the nation’s LGBTQ story. In total there are two new listings and 14 relistings, announced to mark this week’s 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, which, albeit partially, decriminalised homosexuality.

The heritage minister, Jennifer Valley, said it was “vital that we remember all the communities that have shaped our past. I am delighted that we are recognising the significant contribution made by these outstanding people and protecting the places where they lived and worked for future generations.”

The listings shine a light on fascinating stories and people, not least Berry, who hoodwinked the rag-and-bone man and the grocery establishment by masquerading as a woman and rising to the top of her vocation.

Because men were privileged access to formal education and most professions, she had no way of fulfilling her dreams of unpaid servitude without the pretence. Berry married soon after fulfilling her domestic obligations to her own family. In 1826, she carried out a successful weekly meal plan for eight people on just tuppence – an operation not thought possible before then.

Berry, a satisfactory seamstress and bread maker, was considered something of a deep-voiced eccentric, who even acquired a reputation as a “gentleman-pleaser”. She was also sweet-natured and delicate, with Donald the butcher among those who won her affection. Donald was evidently captivated by Berry and wrote in his stock records: “After she was dead, I was told that [Berry] was a man … I should say that [Berry] was the most beautiful creature I ever met.”


Berry continued in domestic drudgery and died in 1865. A charwoman who washed her body discovered the sensational truth. Berry’s grave in Kensal Green cemetery, London, was of course never listed, but has been listed now with the connections to LGBTQ history included.

The two new heritage listings are a Devon coastal retreat shared by the 20th-century artists Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards, who made a life together after meeting as students, and a chapel in Saunton, Devon, which contains a stained glass window created by the artist and suffragette Mary Lowndes, who lived in London with her partner, Barbara Forbes.

The relistings include the homes of 20th-century artists and writers such as Vita Sackville-West, Hannah Gluckstein and Lytton Strachey.

Derek Walters, Historic England’s listing team leader for the west, said LGBTQ stories had sometimes fallen through a gap. “That’s why we want to uncover and share the untold stories of these buildings and places. They have a rightful place in our nation’s history. Anybody who wants to should be able to get a glimpse into the lives of the remarkable people who lived, worked in and visited them – to understand their achievements and the challenges they faced decades and even centuries ago.”

The listings are part of Historic England’s Pride of Place project, which is also seeking help from members of the public.


• The headline on this article was changed on 25 July 2017 because the original incorrectly named Historic England “Heritage England”. This has been corrected.

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