Margaretta Louisa Lemon

Margaretta Louisa Lemon née Smith also known as Etta Lemon MBE (22 November 1860 – 8 July 1953) was an ornithologist and conservationist, most well known as a founding member of what is now the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Margaretta Louisa Lemon (née Smith)
Margaretta Louisa Lemon died 1953
Born22 November 1860
Died8 July 1953 (aged 92)
Known forFounding member of RSPB

Early Life

Margaretta was born to Captain William Elisha Smith and his wife, Louisa Barclay at Hythe, Kent.

Establishing the 'Fur, Fin and Feather Folk'

Margaretta was inspired by Eliza Brightwen's Wild Nature Won by Kindness (1890) on the killing of egrets for the plume trade. At church she would note women wearing plumes and send them a note on how birds were killed for them. She founded the Fur, Fin and Feather Folk in 1889 Croydon with Mrs Eliza Phillips (1823–1916) and Miss Catherine Hall (1838-1924) who were close neighbours. The organisation had a subscription of two pence and in the first year their membership was nearly 5000. The Fur, Fin and Feather Folk society merged in 1891 with the Society for the Protection of Birds also founded in 1889 by Emily Williamson at Didsbury.

Work at the RSPB

In 1904 the Society for the Protection of Birds was incorporated by royal charter to become the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or RSPB. The constitution for the new merged society was written by a barrister Frank Edward Lemon (c.1859–1935) who served as a legal advisor. Margaretta married Lemon on 25 May 1892 and they lived in Redhill in Surrey. Mrs Lemon conducted the society's daily business as the honorary secretary of the Publishers and Watchers Committees from 1893 to 1904. Her position was taken up by Frank Lemon after 1904. She continued to be the driving force behind the society and her efforts are credited for the success of the society.[1][2] She worked to help the passing of the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act 1921.[3] The bill was introduced in 1908 but not passed until 1921 and then not enforced until 1 April 1922, a culmination of the RSPB's original raison d'être.[4] Mrs Lemon, like many other women of the time, opposed the suffragists because they used plumed hats as part of their identity. She even headed the East Surrey branch of the Anti-Suffrage League. Mrs Lemon was elected to the British Ornithologists' Union but she did not consider herself an ornithologist and looked upon ornithologists as opponents of the RSPB which sought to curb the collection of eggs and the shooting of birds for specimens. When the secretary of the society, Linda Gardiner, retired in 1935, there was a proposal to replace the position with a man, apparently to give the society more acceptability. This idea was opposed by the two women assistant secretaries which included her niece Phyllis Barclay-Smith. Mrs Lemon, who was acting honorary secretary after Frank's death in April 1935 did not support the women assistants plea for gender equality leading to their resignation. She even omitted any mention of their resignation in the society's magazine. Mrs Lemon came under scrutiny in The Field where an editorial in 1936 questioned the Society's inaction on cage birds, its gambling on real estate, the high expenditure, and aged management. This led to the establishment of a six-member committee headed by Julian Huxley of the Zoological Society of London that proposed changes in the management which included fixed terms for elected members. The rules however came into effect only in 1960, well after Mrs Lemon's death at Annandale, Redhill. She was buried at Reigate.[5]

Other works

Margaretta also worked with the Royal Earlswood Institution, the Crescent House Convalescent Home, Brighton and during the First World War she volunteered at the Redhill Clinic for which she was made MBE in 1920.[5]


  1. ^ International Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary to 1950, Catharine M. C. Haines p 174
  2. ^ "Professor Florence S. Boos, Department of English, The University of Iowa" (PDF). 25 March 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  3. ^ Lemon, Margaretta L. (1895). "The Bird of Paradise". Nature. 52 (1339): 197–197. doi:10.1038/052197f0. ISSN 1476-4687.
  4. ^ "RSPB history 1900-1920". Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b Hammond, Nicholas (2004). "Lemon [née Smith], Margaretta Louis (1860–1953)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/53037.

Further reading

  • Boase, Tessa (2018). Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women's Fight for Change. Aurum Press. ISBN 978-1781316542. Mainly a biography of Etta Lemon

External links

Lemon (surname)

People surnamed Lemon:

Arthur Lemon, Wales international rugby player

Bob Lemon (1920–2000), American Major League Baseball pitcher

Sir Charles Lemon (1784–1868), 2nd Baronet, British Member of Parliament

Chet Lemon (born 1955), American Major League Baseball Player

Cleo Lemon (born 1979) NFL free agent quarterback

Don Lemon (born 1966), CNN broadcaster

Dot Lemon (1907–1986), American aviator

George William Lemon (1726–1797), English etymologist

James Lemon (1903–1977), co-owner of the Washington Senators

Jim Lemon (1928–2006), American Major League Baseball player

John Lemon (1754–1814), British Member of Parliament, brother of Sir William Lemon

John Lemon (prospector), 19th-century prospector in Alaska

Keith Lemon, a character played by comedian Leigh Francis

Leslie R. Lemon, American meteorologist

Liz Lemon, character on the situation comedy 30 Rock

Margaretta Louisa Lemon (1860-1953, known as "Etta"), ornithologist and founder member of RSPB

Mark Lemon (1809–1870), editor of the British weekly Punch

Mark Lemon (speedway rider) (born 1973), Australian speedway rider

Meadowlark Lemon (1932–2015), American basketball player and actor

Percy Lemon (1898–1932), British polar explorer

Shawn Lemon (born 1988), American football player

Wayne Lemon, American playwright and screenwriter

Sir William Lemon (1748–1824), 1st Baronet Lemon of Carclew, British Member of Parliament.

Phyllis Barclay-Smith

Ida Phyllis Barclay-Smith (18 May 1902 – 2 January 1980) was a British ornithologist. She was editor of the Avicultural Magazine, and built up the International Council of Bird Preservation. In 1958 she became the first woman to receive an MBE for work in conservation, and was made CBE for 1970.Phyllis was the second of three daughters of Edward Barclay-Smith and his wife Ida Mary. Edward was a professor of anatomy at Cambridge University. She studied at Blackheath high school and King's College, London and joined as an assistant secretary to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in 1924. One of the founders of the RSPB was her aunt Margaretta Louisa Lemon. At the International Ornithological Congress of 1930 she spoke on oil pollution and sea birds. Jean Delacour who was vice-president of the International Council for Bird Preservation was impressed by her organizational efficiency. Phyllis resigned from the RSPB in 1935, partly due to being denied the position of secretary after the retirement of Linda Gardiner, a position for which Robert Preston Donaldson was recruited. Etta Lemon believed that a male secretary was needed for the organization to be viewed more seriously and this enraged the secretaries Phyllis as well as Beatrice Solly. Phyllis then joined the ICBP and worked almost lifelong at the Council, becoming a secretary in 1946 and secretary-general in 1974. During the war years she worked as a secretary to the business manager of the Bristol Aeroplane Factory and from 1943 to 45 she worked in the Ministry of Labour. Her strengths were in building organizations, ensuring communication, collaboration and participation within and across an international network of scientists, civil servants and politicians. She helped in bridging aviculturists and ornithologists, serving as editor of the Avicultural Magazine from 1938. She helped establish the International Wildfowl Research Bureau, and helped in raising awareness on insecticide risks. She also helped in rallying support for the establishment of the Cousin Island reserve in the Seychelles. She died in 1980 at the Whittington Hospital, Islington, London after going into a coma following a severe stroke that she suffered on Christmas Day 1979. She was cremated.Phyllis earned the nickname of the dragon, a name also shared by her aunt Etta Lemon. Among her works were translations of books from French and German. She was made MBE in 1958 for her services to conservation, CBE for 1970, and awarded 'Ridder of the Most Excellent Order of the Golden Ark' by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.

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