I’d like to talk about Mary Edwards Walker. She just did so many amazing things. It’s quite widely recognised now, but she was a suffragette, she was an abolitionist, she was a feminist, she was a surgeon — and for a woman to be a doctor in that time was unheard of. She was the first woman to work in the army. She was a surgeon during the civil war, in America. She received a medal of honour for her bravery. In fact she was the first woman, the only woman ever, to receive the medal of honour. And she wore it every day. I find her most remarkable because, whilst achieving all of this, she completely disregarded the gender norms for that era. She refused to wear the typical attire that women wore, because she found it too constricting, and unhealthy — to wear the corsets. So she wore whatever she wanted, even though she got a lot of stigma for it, and still managed to achieve all these amazing things. One of my favourite quotes from her was that ‘I’m not wearing men’s clothes, I’m wearing my clothes.’
Women had way more obstacles back then. Women really didn’t have the freedom to express themselves the way that they wanted. If they didn’t want to marry, it was very difficult, especially if you came from a family that didn’t have money. If you were white and privileged, you stood a better chance of living your dreams — like, Virginia Woolfe, for example. If I was born into the family I am in back then, I wouldn’t have had any options. I don’t come from a privileged family, I wouldn’t have been able to dress like a boy, I wouldn’t have been able to have relationships with women. I would probably have had to marry a man.