From prudish Victorians to arrows in the eye – 10 things from history everyone gets wrong

Mythconception #6: The free press was a man’s game

This is not so much a myth as a surprisingly unknown fact.

Ask who created the first daily newspaper . . . and you are likely to draw a blank. It was, in fact, established in 1702 by a woman named Elizabeth Mallet, who assembled and published it at her printing house on Black Horse Alley, near Fleet Bridge in London. In the first edition of what was known as the Daily Courant, Mallet wisely asserted that she would: “Relate only matter of fact; supposing other people to have sense enough to make reflections for themselves.”

Mythconception #7: Women in medicine started with the Lady with the Lamp

For many, the story of women and medical care begins with Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale, who are rightly remembered for their pioneering work in reforming 19th-century nursing. But, as medical practitioners, women have a rich and varied history that stretches much further back than the 1800s – from the groundbreaking medical writings and practices of the 12th-century abbess Hildegard of Bingen and the astonishing career of Dr Laura Bassi, who held the position of professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna in 1732, to the hundreds of everyday medical practitioners conducting blood-letting, prescribing treatments, examining urine and conducting abortions and surgery during the early modern period.

Mythconception #10: The Victorians were prudes

As the historian Fern Riddell notes: “The Victorians were the opposite of prudes, this is the era of women publishing guides to contraception, and a belief that female sexual pleasure was paramount to a healthy and happy relationship. Too often we have only looked at the Victorians through legal, medicinal or scientific attitudes to sex, but every day sexual culture was vastly different.”

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