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Kitty Fisher (Hardback)

The First Female Celebrity

Military > Biographies P&S History > By Century > 18th Century P&S History > Social History Women of History

By Joanne Major
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399006972
Published: 11th November 2022



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‘Lucy Locket lost her pocket,

Kitty Fisher found it,

not a penny was there in it,

only ribbon round it.’

Generations of children have grown up knowing Kitty Fisher from the nursery rhyme, but who was she? Remembered as an eighteenth-century ‘celebrated’ courtesan and style icon, it is surprising to learn that Kitty’s career in the upper echelons of London’s sex industry was brief. For someone of her profession, Kitty had one great flaw: she fell in love too easily.

Kitty Fisher managed her public relations and controlled her image with care. In a time when women’s choices were limited, she navigated her way to fame and fortune. Hers was a life filled equally with happiness and tragedy, one which left such an impact that the fascinating Kitty Fisher’s name still resonates today. She was the Georgian era’s most famous – and infamous – celebrity.

This is more than just a biography of Kitty Fisher’s short, scandalous and action-packed life. It is also a social history of the period looking not just at Kitty but also the women who were her contemporaries, as well as the men who were drawn to their sides… and into their beds. In this meticulously researched, lively and enjoyable book we discover the real woman at the heart of Kitty Fisher’s enduring myth and legend.

Article: Was Kitty Fisher our first female celebrity?

Somerset Life

I would recommend this book to anybody who is interested in learning more about women’s history during this period.

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Instagram - @historywithmegs

I highly recommend anyone picking up this book - you will not be sorry for it.

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Instagram - @historicallywoman

I found this biography very inspiring as a woman and hope that you would like to read it as well!!

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Instagram - @bookcoffeetravel

I learnt so much about both Kitty and the courtesan life, all set in a Georgian background, it was truly an eye opener.

Read the Review on [link=https://www.instagram.com/p/CrRGJodI6Cv/] Instagram [link]

Instagram - @wanderingsiobhan

Overall, a great and well-researched book that is perfect for any lover of women’s history.

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Instagram - @tattooedliteraryresearcher

Highly recommended for those interested in the hidden lives of women in history.

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Instagram - @brownflopsy

I rate this book 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Instagram - @bookshelf_wonders

Kitty’s fascinating life has been put on record, along with her final years and tragic, early death. After reading the book I literally love her.

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Instagram - @lovebritishhistorypics

Major has created a lively, easily digestible study of this remarkable woman’s short life and I urge anyone interested in women’s and Georgian history to pick this one up.

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Instagram - @quills_and_typewriters

I feel kitty’s story is a tale that needs to be known and I really hope that this book gets the attention it deserves and that everyone knows the tale of Catherine Maria Fischer.

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Instagram - @thelittlelibraryshelf

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Interesting and easy to read. This book tells the story of Kitty Fisher, one of the many courtesans who illuminated Georgian England.

NetGalley, Caroline Palmer

An interesting read looking at the influence and some could say the start of what a celebrity culture could bring albeit a Georgian one. The book follows the story of Kitty Fisher, a celebrity made famous at the time, this book which also featured other women at the time is a fascinating look not only of women in society back then but also at the social history of the time, a time that was dominated by men, and women stayed indoors. A fascinating read.

Read the Full Review Here

The History Fella

As featured in the article: 'The first female celebrity'

Kent Life

Review as featured in

The Bath Magazine

As featured in

Malvern Gazette

As featured in

Evesham Journal

As featured in article

Worcester News

An enjoyable read. For fans of the Bridgerton series and the gossip column of Lady Whistledown this book gives an insight into the real impact of the media and the gossip columns of the Georgian era. This book tells the story behind Kitty Fisher's rise to fame or even infamy in Georgian London and gives an insight into the lives and social standing of women during the period. This is a social commentary into the choices faced by women in an unforgiving society. It is an interesting account of an individuals life and of the love and loss encountered by the young Kitty Fisher.

NetGalley, Marian Morgan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If Major's book, Kitty Fisher: The First Female Celebrity was turned into a reality television series
depicting the lascivious 18th century -- and if time travel could be achieved -- Kitty Fisher would have a hit show called, "Keeping up with Kitty." It would include an extended cast of rival courtesans and other infamous women on Harris's famous list of loose and exciting women about London. Video clips of Kitty's horsing accident in the Mall would have broken the internet, shut TikTok down, gone viral.

The World of Kitty Fisher and women like her, courtesans of Britain's aristocrats and wealthy merchants, with its alcoholic rivers of champagne and deep, rich wine, gluttonous helpings of animal roasts, buckets of gravies, mountains of puddings, and voluptuous flesh in resplendent velvets and silks far outshines the grotesque excesses of our modern times. The ratings of Housewives of Who-Cares-Where and the Bros of Spoilt-Rich-Baby-Daddies would pale to a grey in comparison to a show about Kitty Fisher and her world.

But alas! No such reality shows exists and time travel is still science fiction. Major's book, Kitty Fisher: The First Female Celebrity, however, does give us a tantalizing glimpse into what might appear on the screen. In nine short chapters -- this history book is succinct at 145 pages (minus notes, index, and bibliography) -- Major gives the reader a fleshy, tangible sense of the English sex-fueled 18th Century. The first few chapters give us an overview of Kitty Fisher's world and her personal history. These chapters also chronicle Fisher's rise to fame and the path to her profession. Chapter 4 focuses on one of the most enduring events of her career, her horse accident and discusses the effect of publicity on her life and career. Chapter 5 gives the reader a closer view into the business aspects of courtesan-ship. In a way, we can see clear connections between the influencers of today and the women of this world. The modes in which women like Kitty Fisher monetized themselves is the subject of chapters four and fives. Chapters 6 and 7 examine how Kitty and other courtesans or kept women segued into comfortable and profitable existences for the long term. Marriage, servitude, and dismissal were all possible endings to these women's careers; how did women establish security for themselves? The final two chapters discuss what happened after Kitty Fisher left the stage (and this world) and how she became imbued with a legendary status. Kitty Fisher follows the physical lifetime and historical trajectory of the eponymous subject.

While Kitty Fisher is the central heroine of this prosopography, it includes the tales of many other women with the same vocation and the men who served them, worshipped them, paid for them, kept them, maligned them and took advantage of them. Kitty Fisher allows the reader to envision the full landscape of sex work in this era, from those -- like Fisher -- who proved the exception, to those who proved the rule and have fallen into anonymity.

Their histories and careers, whether illustrious or tragic, forgettable or infamous, reveal an aspect of historical womanhood that is rarely illuminated. The women of Kitty Fisher are far from piteous. Major reveals to us how human they could be, as emotional, youthful, desirous beings. She also shows us how ruthless and powerful they were. These women were not the mere playthings of men, they were businesswomen, shrewd, and canny, educated and intelligent, cognizant of their own agency and unafraid to use it. Of course, patriarchy and its constraints on women were tight around these women, but they learnt how to use the tools and avenues open to them to their own ends. Two of Kitty Fisher's rivals rose above the others of their profession to marry into the aristocracy.

The book also shows the reader the less glamorous outcomes. Some women died in penury, in debt, in the most awful circumstances. Many women faded away into nothingness, used and abused, broken. In this the book is well-balanced, giving the reader a wide view of the landscape.

As Kitty Fisher is a historical biography written for a general audience and not an academic one, it provides little perspective on the wider social, political, imperial, and economic matters of the era. It does not delve into historiography. This is a public-facing cultural history and is more narrowly focused on the individuals and the immediate milieu of their world. The effect makes for pleasurable reading; Kitty Fisher is very accessible in terms of language and prose, their (hi)stories unfold without requiring the reader to have much pre-existing historical knowledge. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

NetGalley, JoAnn LoSavio

Kitty’s life as a courtesan was a precarious one and, as all celebrities, her fame and power were fleeting. This is a well-researched look at life as a courtesan and in the public eye and might be best read by someone who has a little familiarity with the Georgian era. This makes me want to read this author’s other works about this time period.

NetGalley, Heather Moll

This account of perhaps one of the first people who was famous for being famous is a fascinating one. More than a biographical piece, it offers a detailed social history of the time. It highlights the limited options which women had and eloquently describes the impact which the class system had on their lives. A very interesting book which is balanced, well written and clearly well researched.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

About Joanne Major

Joanne Major, author and historian, is fascinated by the eighteenth century and in exploring the hitherto undiscovered women’s history of the period. She holds a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Lincoln and is returning to study for an MA. Joanne lives in Lincolnshire, with her family and dogs, spending most days with one foot in the present and one in the past.

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