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Emma Turner (cover)

Publisher: Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists' Society, Norwich

Publication Year: 2020

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 88

ISBN Number: 9781916253711

Price: £ 9.50

Emma Turner : a life looking at birds

Emma Turner was a pioneer: one of the early bird ringers; one of the early bird photographers; one of the first 15 woman fellows of the Linnean Society (January 1905) and one of the first four female members of the British Ornithologists’ Union (May 1910). All this when women were considered very much to be second class citizens. It is noted in this book however that there is no indication that Emma Turner played any significant part, indeed any part, in the campaign for women’s rights which was going on in the early 20th Century.

It seems that rather little is actually known about her especially the early years. However in 1900 when she was 33 she decided to take up photography and especially of birds. Over the next 20-30 years she lectured widely using her own photographs, spent several weeks in spring and summer for many years on a houseboat on Hickling Broad in Norfolk and a couple of summers living in a small hut looking after the tern colonies on Scolt Head Island off the north Norfolk coast. As a result of these various projects she wrote several books, the most well-known of which are Broadland Birds (published 1924) and Birdwatching on Scolt Head (1928), numerous chapters in other books and articles in such as British Birds and Country Life.

The authors of this short biography have concentrated largely on this period of bird watching and photography and her activities on these subjects. They have managed to find various diaries and notebooks as well as photographic prints and negatives (all now deposited in the BTO archives) and have pieced together what they could on her overall life. The result is a comprehensive summary of her birdwatching activities in a period when natural history was becoming more popular as a field hobby actually looking at and studying birds rather than just shooting them, and very much a period when the whole subject was still heavily dominated by men.

The book includes a comprehensive bibliography and many of her photographs, some published for the first time.

Book reviewed by Peter Lack

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