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Speaker: Karen Bowman Karen is the author of “Essex  Boys” and “Essex Girls” novels.

Our speaker, Karen Bowman, brought along some unusual guests with her on Saturday. They dominated the room, beautifully attired in the fashions appropriate to their time in history. The 'guests' were mannequins that Karen uses to display the clothes worn by women from the middle ages, through Tudor, Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods. The costumes were very eye-catching and Karen herself wore a magnificent Tudor outfit but the aim of her talk was not only to provide us with a stunning visual spectacle but to inform us about the social implications that these outfits had on their wearers.

Karen had enjoyed writing from childhood and recalls gaining a brownie badge for her early efforts. She helped form a sub-group of writers called, The Seven Pens who wrote for charity and produced four books. She had a spell as a photographer's helper that resulted in her writing an article for Essex Life but her passion is history. Her latest books entitled, Essex Girls and Essex Boys, focus on the characters born in or associated with the county and also examine how the effects of access to education, marriage, traditional male and female roles and the church, impacted on the lives of men and women. Karen explained how the restricted lives of women were also reflected in and contributed to by the fashions of the time. Lifting her skirts she revealed layers of petticoats, bustles stuffed with straw and laced corsets. Depending upon the period, women were encouraged to narrow their waists to dangerous degrees and emphasise their hips or rears with ridiculous accessories such as the huge hoops worn beneath crinolines. These days, of course, we have a far more relaxed approach to dress, or have we? What about the high heeled shoes that make us women totter, narrow skirts that limit our movement and that unforgiving, body hugging invention, lycra?

Karen was an extremely well prepared and interesting speaker and she was asked many questions after the break about her fascinating study. One member proudly announced that he too had once donned period costume, and appeared as an extra in the TV series, Downton Abbey!

Julie Gowers

Karen Bowman, Author

"Karen has brought to life dozens of Essex women's lives from the past. Some of them are immortals, such as Queen Boudicea, whose statue stands outside the Houses of Parliament, the embodiment of the English fighting spirit. Others, such as the radical firebrand leader Anne Carter, executed for leading a Maldon riot in protest against poverty, were quite forgotten. Now, rediscovered by Karen, these extraordinary womenfolk finally get the credit they deserve." Tom King, Echo Newspapers

"It was perhaps inevitable that 'Essex Boys' would follow 'Essex Girls', it's been like that since time immemorial. The Normans liked to hunt in Essex and so did the Tudors, like Henry VII and Henry VIII, who also included a number of 'Essex Girls' in his 'sport'. Queen Victoria's lusty son Albert, who later became King Edward VII, pursued his Essex hunt at Easton Lodge for neigh on ten years.

This new book by Karen Bowman is a cornucopia of Essex talent, achievement, daring and criminality, including heroes like Byrhtnoth, high on courage but perhaps low on wisdom?” Robert Hallmann - Author

October 3rd 2015

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Click on the above illustrations to read more on Amazon.