Maria Fitzherbert – Brighton’s Almost Queen


A few posts ago I bemoaned the lack of blue plaques for historical women in Brighton (less than a quarter of the city’s blue plaques commemorate women) One woman who does have a plaque, however, outside St John the Baptist’s Church in Brighton’s Kemp Town, is Maria Fitzherbert (1756 – 1837), pictured here by Sir Joshua Reynolds.  Maria is remembered as George IV’s ‘secret wife’, ‘illegal wife’ or even – and this is very, very wrong – ‘mistress’.  Has history been kind to Mrs Fitzherbert?  After all, she’s not really remembered much for qualities or achievements of her own, but simply as a woman who earned her place in the historical hall of fame for capturing the eye of an important man.  But Maria Fitzherbert, already twice widowed when she met George, the Prince of Wales, six years her junior in 1784, must have had something a bit different about her.  In a large cast of mistresses, flirtations, dalliances, and infatuations, Maria’s is the name the Prince uttered under his breath when marrying his detested wife, Caroline of Brunswick.  Maria is the person in whose favour he changed his will upon the birth of his daughter, Charlotte, and Maria’s miniature portrait is the one that was buried with him upon his death.  The fickle, restless Prince seems to have been at his best, most generous, kind and well behaved when around Maria.  Not only lover, secret wife and spouse, it was almost as if she was his good conscience, a sort of living reminder of all the things he could be if only he tried, the key to access his better self.

When Viva Brighton magazine asked me whether they could interview me about Maria Fitzherbert earlier this year for their February issue I started thinking more about what sort of person she was and the nature of the mysterious hold she had over this powerful man.  This is a slightly abridged version of the article from Viva Brighton by Steve Ramsey (March 2015) Image below Maria Fitzherbert after Richard Cosway, 1792.

“He lied to her and cheated on her and was sometimes cruel. He dumped her twice for other women. He was not above using suicide threats to win her, or to win her back. He coaxed her into a secret wedding, then humiliated her by getting a friend to publicly deny it had happened. He repeated the humiliation by marrying again, as if she had merely been his mistress. Yet she was clearly the love of his life, and he risked the throne to be with her. And she seems to have loved him too. It was, as one book on Mrs Fitzherbert points out, ‘a very strange love story’.
“He was brought up strictly, with a relentless and harsh education regime that included being flogged if he made mistakes in Latin grammar,” Royal Pavilion guide Louise Peskett says. “That’s what his father thought would make his sons into good upstanding men. But, if we look at his upbringing through 21st-century eyes, we could see him as an abused child who had a very remote relationship with his parents.
“And, sure enough, he became a person who couldn’t control his impulses very well, who developed problems with addiction. These days, it would be ringing alarm bells; we’d say ‘that’s a person with problems’.”
Prince George was reckless with money, impulsive, melodramatic, and sometimes selfish. But he was also intelligent, witty, charming and sociable. Tall and handsome in his youth, he had a series of lovers, all of whom were content to be mistresses. Maria Fitzherbert wasn’t.
She was six years older than him, a convent-educated Catholic who’d been widowed twice before they met. She liked dancing and music, and had a ‘lively’ sense of humour, biographer James Munson notes, but was also a ‘woman of considerable pride,’ who cared strongly about propriety and respectability. It was marriage or nothing.
By law, no-one married to a Catholic could succeed to the throne, and Prince George was first in line. This should have put him off, but, after they met in March 1784, he began a reckless and relentless courtship. She planned to go to Europe to avoid his attentions; when he heard this, he ‘stabbed himself and made out that it was a suicide attempt,’ biographer Saul David notes.
She went to Europe anyway. George ‘cried by the hour,’ according to a contemporary account, ‘rolling on the floor, striking his forehead, tearing his hair, falling into hysterics…’ He wrote her frequent, passionate letters, sometimes threatening suicide. She resisted for more than a year.
I’d have thought if you fake suicide and batter someone with letters and send messengers all over Europe for them…” Peskett says, “and they don’t respond, you’d think, after a couple of months, he would have thought ‘oh, ok then, never mind’. She must have really meant a lot to him.
“I’m sure she genuinely did like him, but her feet were on the ground. She was older and more practical, she could see the bigger picture and the problems it could cause, and put her good sense before her heart.”
Nonetheless, they married in December 1785 in secret. Their relationship status became a popular subject of gossip. The prince manipulated his friend, the MP Charles Fox, to deny the marriage in parliament; George then went to Mrs Fitzherbert and claimed to be astonished at what Fox had said. A witness claimed: ‘Maria turned very pale, and made no reply.’ She refused to see George for some time, which made him so distressed that his health suffered.
After she took him back, they went to Brighton for the summer of 1786, where they were ‘a picture of romantic contentment,’ according to a magazine called Royal Romances. ‘In those brief but happy months, the prince appeared to be a reformed character. He drank only moderately, gambled hardly at all, and entertained quietly.’
In the next few years, they spent a lot of time together in Brighton. “It was one of the places they escaped to,” Peskett says, “where they could have a taste of domestic bliss, and enjoy each other’s company like an ordinary married couple.”marine pav
(Image above of the Marine Pavilion, the predecessor of Brighton’s Royal Pavilion built by Henry Holland in 1786 where Maria and the Prince spent their time in Brighton).

However, things were going less well by late 1793, Saul David notes. She had ‘long disapproved of his dissolute lifestyle and disreputable friends’. He was so extravagant that she ‘often had to lend him money’. By 1794 the brilliant and ruthless Lady Jersey had elbowed her way into the Prince’s affections. As his mistress, she set about poisoning his mind about Maria, convincing him ‘that his unpopularity with the people was due to Mrs Fitzherbert and her religion,’ biographer Valerie Irvine writes. ‘She also told him that Maria had been heard to say she was only interested in his rank, not in his person.’ In June 1794, the prince dumped his wife by letter.
By this point, George’s debts were enormous, and ‘in return for financial help, the king insisted that he should marry a Protestant princess,’ the Dictionary of British History notes. So, in 1795, he wed his cousin Caroline of Brunswick, who he loathed at first sight. They separated the following year.
After another series of ‘increasingly desperate’ overtures, Mrs Fitzherbert took him back around 1800, Saul David notes. She had been looking after a child called Minney Seymour, and “it sounds like they had a few happy years, playing parents with this little girl,” Peskett says. The Prince was certainly very fond of her.”
When Minney’s parents died, there was a custody battle between her family and Mrs Fitzherbert, who was devoted to the child. Minney’s relatives Lord and Lady Hertford helped Maria; they became the child’s legal guardians, and let Mrs Fitzherbert keep her.
Maria was very grateful, but then Lady Hertford became the Prince’s latest mistress, and “used her influence on George to widen the gap between them,” Peskett says. “After this latest set-back their relationship sort of limped on, but without the passion of previously.”
To keep her own affair secret, Lady Hertford forced Mrs Fitzherbert to play the dutiful wife at social events, threatening to take Minney away if she didn’t. Maria told the prince his latest fling had ‘quite destroyed the entire comfort and happiness of both our lives’.
The final breakup came in June 1811, a few months after George had been made Prince Regent. Having been invited to a fete at George’s London residence, Mrs Fitzherbert was told she wouldn’t be seated near the Prince. “That’s how he let it be known to her that she was dispensed with,” Peskett says.
“This followed the pattern of their first break-up, when after responding to a letter that began ‘My dearest Love’, requesting her presence in London, Maria dutifully turned up only to be given another letter announcing that he didn’t want to see her again. It makes you wonder how confused he was in his own mind about it, and how easy he was to sway.
“He was very mercurial and led by his heart… Whereas she seems to have been quite calm and had her with both feet on the ground,” Peskett says. “I think she was a kind of safe harbour for the tumultuous waves of his personality, as it were. George’s mother, during one of their ruptures, even wrote to her and asked her to make it up with him, because his behaviour was so bad without her as a steadying influence.
“I think she was very strong and stoic. But how must she have felt? To be rejected for other women, and the blowing-hot-and-cold in their relationship. And, from the time he lied to her about Fox’s statement having nothing to do with him, she must have known that she couldn’t really trust him, despite these violent protestations of love. That must have really been difficult. But, of course, she would have been aware what was at stake for him, what he was risking… So that helps us to understand his point of view as well.”
After 1811, they wrote to each other ‘occasionally, but their letters were confined to practical matters, usually money,’ according to Royal Romances. She Maria lived mainly in Brighton from about 1815, and if she met the King there, they would ‘exchange frosty glances’. It’s frequently said that the people of Brighton were very fond of Maria, and this has been suggested as one reason that George’s later trips to Brighton were mostly spent in seclusion in the Pavilion.
Before George died, in 1830, he ensured that he would be buried with a locket containing a picture of her. When told of this gesture, Maria was seen to be crying.
viva feb

After the interview I started to think how Maria Fitzherbert’s life could almost be the template of a Hollywood rom-com or a work of romantic fiction.  Lone woman with sad past wooed by roguish but attractive alpha male who promises her the world.  Then, when alpha male lets her down, refuses to crumble, creating instead a better life for herself built on strong principles, strength of character and the fact that she’s made a lot of friends and gained respect along the way.  Lives happily ever after.  When George IV died in 1830, Maria had already created a supportive bubble of family and extended family, based largely on her two adopted daughters.  Perhaps there’s some kind of justice that, years after the death of her secret royal husband, Maria still enjoyed the Royal Pavilion as a guest of William IV and Queen Adelaide.

19 St Josephs

St John the Baptist’s Church, Bristol Road, Brighton.  Resting place of Maria Fitzherbert.

19a St Josephs


An Afternoon with the ‘Gentlemen in Khaki’


Some days I really love my job.

My mission on Saturday 13th September: take the 15th Ludhiana Sikh regiment on a tour of the Royal Pavilion. It wasn’t supposed to work out like that. I’d been hired to be Brighton Museum’s French speaking meet and greet for its War Stories Open Day, a real pic n mix of an event where visitors could research their First World War ancestors, listen to poetry and prose inspired by the conflict, hear wartime songs, rub shoulders with costumed characters, have a suffragette explain to you just why women should be given the vote, get close to military uniforms and kit, and generally find out more about how the years 1914 – 18 were experienced by the people of Brighton. With the hordes of French visitors conspicuous by their absence, however, and my paper Tricolor quickly wilting, it was decided to find a better use of my time. And what better use… The gentlemen in question, although looking as if they’d just stepped out of a time machine from 1914, were from the National Army Museum, part of a living history project in conjunction with the Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail called ‘War and Sikhs: Road to the Trenches’ ‘ . Made up of volunteers and staff from the National Army Museum, its aim is to ‘bring the Sikh military story to life’ by recreating a formation of soldiers from the 15th Ludhiana Sikh Regiment as they would have appeared on the battlefields of the First World War. This contemporary postcard shows them arriving in France… 128752

(Note the caption in French and English… ‘Gentlemen of India, marching to chasten German hooligans’.)  I’ve mentioned on this blog before that 1.3 million Indians fought in the First World War, 20% of them Sikh. The Brighton connection, of course, is that the Royal Pavilion Estate, as well as other premises in the city, became military hospitals for the wounded. Here’s a picture from the Royal Pavilion and Museum’s tumblr ‘A War Story A Day from Brighton Museums’ of our ‘soldiers’ being greeted by the Mayor in the Dome… tumblr_nbuguftfdO1trdkk1o1_1280

As I crossed the gardens from the Museum to the Royal Pavilion with the ‘gentlemen in khaki’ as the local newspapers were fond of calling them, I felt more like a celebrity minder. Camera phones clicked, flashbulbs popped, heads turned and jaws dropped as we made our inevitably slow progress across the few metres of path. It’s not every day, after all, that you see a regiment of Indian soldiers in full battle dress among the buskers, EFL students and sunbathers who throng this part of town on a sunny afternoon. ‘Uncanny’ was how I’d describe giving a guided tour to these very special visitors. For years I’ve done talks and tours about the use of the Royal Pavilion as a military hospital and I’ve spent hours poring over old black and white photos of Indian patients recovering in the gardens, sitting in beds in the Banqueting Room, posing in regimented lines on the lawns. To suddenly have these photos come to life, the characters from them slipping out of the frames and walking around, asking questions and patiently listening to me tell them about George IV and how many crystals are in the Banqueting Room chandelier, was one of the oddest experiences of my working life. (‘Uncanny’ is probably the word they’d use for my guiding style too… Lots of ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ as I tried to remember whether I’d fallen down some kind of rabbit hole, Alice in Wonderland-style, and been transported back one hundred years.) The spell was only broken when in the Music Room we happened upon a bride and groom posing for wedding photos and one of the ‘soldiers’ cheekily observed what a great photo-bombing opportunity we had. (We didn’t. Although the bride and groom didn’t look as if they’d have minded if we had). After having a look round the ground floor and sharing some of the inevitable Royal Pavilion wow moments, we went upstairs to spend some time in the Indian Military Hospital exhibition gallery where we all stood watching the crackly and silent 1915 film footage of George V and Queen Mary presenting medals to some of the injured soldiers in August of that year, one of them being Sebadar Mir Das, awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage at the second Battle of Ypres. We made the discovery that the displayed souvenir book produced by the military authorities in 1914/15 for the patients featured a soldier from none other than the 15th Ludhiana Sikh regiment on the cover.

. souvenir

For one of the volunteers, Kuljit Singh Sahota, bringing this part of the past to life had a particularly personal significance. His great great grandfather was Manta Singh, a member of the (real) 15th Ludhiana Sikhs, who was fatally injured while wheeling a fellow soldier to safety in a wheelbarrow during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, and whose story is featured in the Museum’s current War Stories exhibition. Read more about Manta Singh here  Then it was outside once more for interviews, photos and filming. Celebrity minding time again. The people of Brighton, not known for their shyness, quickly mobilised around us. ‘Who are you?’ ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Wow, they look fierce! I wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of them.’ Hands were shaken, backs patted, and selfies with an Indian soldier became the hottest ticket in town. Ahem.

Brighton_and_Hove-20140913-00221 (2)

‘This might take some time,’ I thought as a coachload of Italian teenagers passing through the gardens suddenly congregated around us and a man with green hair and a Sex Pistols T-shirt took it upon himself to start relating the story of the Royal Pavilion’s past as a military hospital to passers by, soon ending up with a crowd around him. ‘What’s going on?’ some French tourists (arriving late for my meet and greet, no doubt) were heard to ask. ‘It’s sort of street theatre and public lecture all at the same time,’ someone suggested. I couldn’t help noticing that some of the people who were asking questions and chatting to us were definitely not going or coming back from the Museum’s War Stories Open Day. What a great example of how props, costumes and living history can reach out to the places museum exhibitions can’t. Impromptu Q and A sessions abounded. One of the things that I found out about was the point of ‘putees’, i.e. the thin strips of cloth worn tightly around the lower leg, like these… puttees

When tied with sufficient tightness, they strengthened the leg and helped support the considerable weight of the equipment that had to be carried. And no, contrary to appearances, they don’t get soggy in the rain. Made of very finely knitted wool, they protected the lower leg from moisture, would dry easily, and stopped boots disappearing into mud.  As the afternoon drew to a close and evening fell, it was time for some last photos on the east lawns in front of the building before the party finished their day at the Chattri (the site on the South Downs where the Hindu and Sikh soldiers who lost their lives in the Brighton hospitals were cremated, now marked by a white marble memorial,) As the sun went down and a hazy sepia tinted light fell, the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs lined up for a very formal, straight-backed, military portrait. It was easy, again, to forget we were in the twenty-first century …Until a local man, caught napping in the grass in front of them suddenly woke up. ‘Oops, sorry, do you want me to move, mate?’ ‘That’s OK, one of the Indian soldiers called across. ‘We can photoshop you out.’ I learnt a lot that day, not least about how far costumes, props and simply getting out and about and talking to people can make history approachable and user-friendly. Thanks to the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs for their company and sharing their knowledge, as well as for providing possibly the most surreal moments of my career. (And working in museums, there’s a lot of competition for those.) I will be leading guided First World War estate tours across the Royal Pavilion Estate – and probably won’t be able to stop myself from talking about this – on October 18th, November 8th and December 27th starting at 10.30. I’ll be joined in guiding duties by my colleague, Paula Wrightson, and one of the Dome’s brilliant event managers who will take us behind the scenes in the Dome and Corn Exchange to explore further how these buildings were used during the war. For information, 03000 290900.

Thanks for bearing with me with this post and its lack of historical Brighton women, by the way.   Many, many more of our fantastic local women to follow shortly…

World War One – Where were the women?


Brighton was an important town during WW1. Within weeks of war being declared in 1914, the town had made a sober transformation. Out were the ice-cream stands and the renditions of ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’ and in was a new very straight faced Brighton as it slipped into its new identity as one of the most important hospital centres in Britain. With its position on the coast, it was inevitable that, when space to care for the wounded ran out on the Western Front and the decision was made to ship the injured back to Blighty, Brighton would be an obvious choice. Not so obvious perhaps, the decision to change the former Prince Regent’s Pleasure Palace, The Royal Pavilion, as well as the 1,500 seat Dome concert hall and Corn Exchange into hospitals. But that’s what happened. In fact, the Royal Pavilion Estate became a 700+ bed, state of the art military hospital complex. (BHASVIC, Brighton General Hospital and several private residences also did their bit.) In a piece of thinking that today sounds like an episode of ‘Mind Your Language’ or ‘It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum’ (for any readers under 40, these are 1970s ‘comedies’ that relied heavily on racial and national stereotypes), it was decided to make these buildings, built in an Indian style, into hospitals for, yes, you’ve got it, Indian soldiers. This knowledge isn’t as common as it should be but 1.3 million Indians fought alongside Britain during WW1. During the early months of the war Indians made up 20% of allied forces. To be fair, the Royal Pavilion Estate functioned as well as could be expected as an Indian hospital. There were 9 separate kitchens to cater for the caste and religion driven dietary requirements, separate latrines, taps, bathing areas, facilities for worship, and carefully thought-out programmes of entertainment that included magic lantern shows, organ recitals, sports, games and trips to London. I love this picture, showing a party of Indian soldiers in a charabanc next to the statue of Queen Victoria in Hove.
indian soldiers
A colleague told me just the other day that they were going to Portslade. I would love to know what they were going to do there.
Between November 1914 and early February 1916, then, when the Indian divisions were redeployed to the Middle East, over 4,000 soldiers had received the attention of ‘Dr Brighton’. Local people didn’t see as much of their Indian visitors as they would have liked. A high fence was erected around the perimeter of the estate and any interaction with the patients was tightly controlled. The best anyone could hope for was to take a ride on one of the double-decker trams that ploughed the Old Steine outside and try to peer over the side. This picture shows the Banqueting Room converted into a hospital ward.
Note the presence here of a female nurse. Not a frequent sight. At the start of the hospital operation there were 27 women nurses, all from the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service, the nursing branch of the British Army. The ‘QAIMNS’ offered women the chance to take an active part at the sharp end of the war effort. They worked in France, the Middle East and in hospitals at home, on hospital ships, trains and in ramshackle field hospitals in disused convents, breweries and churches close to the battlefield. The nurses would have run similar risks of bombardment and injury to the men, as well as insanitary living conditions and the stress of being away from loved ones. But the requirements were steep. Not just any girl with a yearning to help and dreams of becoming the next Florence Nightingale could apply. Only unmarried women aged 25-35, who were well-educated and ‘of good social standing’ i.e. no working class women, thank you very much, were welcomed in their ranks. (They later relented and allowed married women to apply) The 27 QAIMNS nurses in the Royal Pavilion military hospital weren’t allowed to do any actual nursing. As the War Office was keen to avoid pushing any cultural boundaries, the women were not permitted to perform any hands-on care to the male patients as such a thing would have been beyond the pale in India. With the country being a ripe recruiting ground for further soldiers, no one wanted to rock any boats. The QAIMNS were therefore referred to as ‘supervising sisters’ and spent their time in a largely unseen supervisory role or training male ward orderlies. In May 1915 the word came from the War Office to retire all female nurses from Indian hospitals with immediate effect, no explanation given. Maybe a picture of a female nurse posing with an Indian patient that found its way into the Daily Mail in May 1915 had something to do with it. From February 1916 when the Indian army was redeployed, the Royal Pavilion Estate remained a medical facility but this time for British soldiers who had lost limbs. Less a hospital more a sort of holding post for the men as they waited referral to the Queen Alexandra hospital in Roehampton for the fitting of prosthetic limbs, the ‘Pavilion Hospital for Limbless Men’ offered pioneering and forward thinking rehab treatment, that focused less on what they couldn’t do and more on what they could. The Queen Mary’s workshops were set up in the Pavilion Gardens under the motto ‘Hope enters all who enter here’ to teach the men skills that would help them to get a job in civilian life. There were sports days, confidence boosting trips, an activity laden timetable and a magazine, ‘Pavilion Blues’ written and published by the men. Kevin Bacon, Brighton Museum’s digital development officer sums up the ethos nicely in a recent interview with The Independent. “The Pavilion Hospital for Limbless Men was more than a facility for treating wounds; it built new lives for its patients. Some of the patients had joined the Army as unskilled men, but through losing an arm or a leg and being treated at the hospital, they emerged from the war with a trade. That commitment… would not have been considered before the First World War, and it’s a sign of the changing social contract at that time. …It anticipates some of the thinking behind the creation of the welfare state…’
Here is a picture of the workshops where men could learn skills such as motor engineering, typing and shoe-making.
qm workshop
The other day while leading a tour around the estate that explored the role it played in WW1, a family showed me a picture of their relative, Daisy Simmonds, who is second from the left on the second row from the bottom.
Daisy worked as a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment), a voluntary organisation of over 74,000 people, two-thirds women, who provided nursing services and worked as cooks, ambulance drivers, and took on other hands-on duties in military hospitals throughout the war. ( is a good place to find out more). As a VAD Daisy worked at the Royal Pavilion hospital while also, apparently, maintaining a side career as a dancer at the Brighton Hippodrome. Thanks to the Dracott family for allowing me to show this photo here.
The ‘Pavilion Blues’ magazine (all available to download from give a fascinating glimpse into everyday life in the Royal Pavilion Hospital for Limbless Men.
Jokes, poetry, stories, reports on the regular sports days and hat trimming competitions (there was a lot to trim on a 1916 hat) accounts of tea parties in local benefactors’ gardens, visits by the local music hall stars of the day (including rising star Charlie Chaplin) and drawings give a glimpse of the doughty spirit that seems to have prevailed. Women, a hidden presence in the Indian hospital, now seem to be everywhere, from the ‘young ladies’ who ran the canteen and are always being praised for their gentleness and charm to the matrons. This is ‘The Matron’.
One ‘Miss Caruthers’, who, we’re told, ‘is a descendent of Scotsmen’, but born ‘on the English side of the border within sight of the beautiful Cumbrian lakes and mountains’. Miss Caruthers, a member of QAIMNS, spent her career in hospitals in Huddersfield, various London hospitals, Netley and Dartford before arriving in Brighton where, according to ‘Pavilion Blues’, ‘she is now devoting herself, making it home from home for us’.
Another figure worthy of a whole page profile is ‘Mrs William Taylor’, who was in charge of the hospital post office. For any readers familiar with the Royal Pavilion, this was a small room immediately to the left of the King’s Apartments on the ground floor, in front of today’s buggy park and now obscured by a display cabinet. Not only was it a post office but a small cafe serving shrimp and watercress sandwiches, books, scones and tea.
Mrs Taylor of Brunswick Square seems to have been another redoubtable presence, being the head of a club for laundry girls, working as a visitor for the Hove Relief of Distress Committee, the Prince of Wales’ Fund and being a ‘Woman Patrol’. These were volunteer policewomen who acted as aides to the established police. Without the powers of arrest they took on a more peace keeping role, patrolling local parks, public spaces and trying to nip would-be anti-social behaviour in the bud. Somehow, Mrs Taylor, described unsurprisingly as ‘a valuable organiser’ found the time to run the post office that, in the pre-texting and emailing world, must have been a lifeline to the injured men. ‘The efficient working of our post-office reflects the greatest credit on her and her able and zealous colleagues – to whom the boys are most grateful’, ‘Pavilion Blues’ says.
In Brighton, like most other towns, women were a rapidly growing presence in the working landscape. At the start of the war the number of British women in employment was almost three and a quarter millions. This had increased to almost 5 million by January 1918. Women could be seen engaged in agricultural work, transport and manufacturing. There are some wonderful pictures of women tram conductors and munitions workers in ‘Brighton in the Great war’ by Douglas D’Enno that can be browsed in the exhibition War Stories in Brighton Museum. This exhibition features the experience of several women and I will be telling some of their stories soon.