Graham, Becky (2021) “There was a young woman called Jack” Vera Jack Holme: a case study - Dress, Gender and Sexuality 1900-1920. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was considerable social and political upheaval in Britain. Socialist and feminist movements pushed for radical social change causing industrial and social unrest. Vera Jack Holme, a young adult at this time, lived a dynamic life. She worked variously as a stage actor and singer, a political activist and chauffeur for Emmeline Pankhurst, and an ambulance driver during the First World War. In her personal life, her significant relationships were with women, and she rejected the traditional path to marriage and a life of restricted domesticity.

This case study examines Vera Jack’s dress and identity viewed through the themes of everyday dress, theatre costume and uniform. Through the evidence of Vera Jack Holme’s archive, this research explores her relationship to gendered dress and considers questions of lesbian representation. It situates Vera Jack within the complex culture of Edwardian theatre, by analysing the images of cross-dressed roles she played and by exploring gender representation of the time. Finally, it examines the role of uniforms in British society and considers Vera Jack Holme’s uniformed presentation within the organisations of the First World War and the suffrage movement.

In doing so, this research offers a new examination of dress as experienced by individual women and challenges the dominant narratives of women’s dress history which by focussing on elite fashions, give the impression of a homogenous experience of dress throughout society. This research goes some way to counter this bias by offering a nuanced view of dress as a reflection of the lived experience of Vera Jack Holme. Crucially, it contributes to histories of sexual identity by highlighting often overlooked lives and the varied expressions of gender in the early twentieth century, as seen through the prism of dress and sartorial expression.

Graham THESIS.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (5MB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email