Siân Evans is an author, journalist, commentator, speaker, publicist and film consultant specialising in social history.
She is the author of a plethora of popular social histories, including Mrs Ronnie: the Society Hostess Who Collected Kings; The Manor Reborn (tied in to a major four-part BBC1 TV series); Life Below Stairs in the Victorian and Edwardian Country House; Ghosts: Mysterious Tales from the National Trust; seven National Trust Guidebooks between 2008 and 2014 and Queen Bees, a book examining the role of six influential interwar society hostesses.
Siân regularly writes for the Daily Mail, Daily Express, BBC Antiques Roadshow magazine, Coast magazine, and the National Trust members’ magazine.
She works as a freelance consultant to the National Trust film office and is an experienced public speaker.
Maiden Voyages is a celebration of transatlantic tales, both life-affirming and cautionary, exploring how women’s lives were transformed by their journeys between Europe and North America during the first half of the twentieth century. Whether they were travelling for leisure or pleasure, by virtue of their celebrity or to preserve their anonymity, their individual stories provide fascinating and informative narratives, largely untold till now.
The book addresses how transatlantic travel and the opportunities it provided changed many aspects of women’s lives. The ocean liners were financed, engineered and built by men, but they were designed and marketed to appeal particularly to women, who were believed to be instinctively the more cautious and safety-conscious sex, especially after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Intercontinental travel was often a transformational process for women of all classes, whether escaping to a new life, eluding the past, taking a gamble on the future, or as a practical and convivial way of earning an independent living and seeing something of the world. Maiden Voyages considers the widely disparate reasons for travel: from working women who made their lives and careers at sea, to those who used the voyage as a stepping stone on their individual journeys.
Anecdotal in tone and chronological in approach, Maiden Voyages covers the period from 1912 to the 1950s, with the main emphasis on the 1920s and 1930s – the ‘Golden Age’ of travel between the wars.
In the aristocratic circles of early 20th-century London the company was as starched as the tablecloths. But a revolution was on the horizon – in the form of six remarkable society hostesses who would change the political, social and cultural landscape of Britain forever.
Some of these Queen Bees, like Lady Sybil Colefax, were born into high society. Others, like Edinburgh-born Mrs Ronnie Greville, clambered their way to the top by any means necessary. Lady Nancy Astor and Lady Edith Londonderry were political animals, becoming the first woman MP ever elected and the head of the Women’s Legion, respectively. Lady Emerald Cunard, meanwhile, cultivated artists and royals, playing a pivotal role in Edward VIII’s relationship with Wallis Simpson and igniting a scandal that would shake Britain. And American Laura Corrigan just liked a damned good party – the more extravagant, the better.
In an age when the place of women was uncertain, becoming a hostess was not a chore, but a career choice, and they presided over London from their dining tables and salons, charming, scheming, and mingling their way through two world wars, the Great Depression, an abdication, a coronation and an upheaval in class structures that would bring their world to its knees. With a glittering cast of players from Mosleys to Mitfords, from millionaires to maharajahs, from film stars to royalty, Queen Bees is the witty, warm and fascinating story of six women whose influence can still be felt today.
‘This book dances in and out of its subject to the sound of plate-smashing, cut-glass gossip, ukuleles, Beecham’s orchestra, jazz bands, Nazi anthems and bombs. “I’ve been to a marvellous party,” wrote Noel Coward. Thanks to Queen Bees, we can feel as though we were there too.’
‘Evans’ pacy account of these intrepid social lion-hunters sparkles’
— Mail on Sunday
‘Delightful…crammed with fascinating anecdotes’
‘An irresistible and witty account of six extraordinary women who bucked the system to become society hostesses in the years between the two world wars’
— Woman & Home
‘A compelling portrait of six inspiring women.’
— The Lady
— Sunday Express
— Country Life
‘Group biography is a difficult trick to pull off, but Evans is deft with her inter-weaving of narrative and history’
— Sunday Times