Victorian London - Women - 1880s

Ladies were to be seen dining in restaurants as a matter of course, and nobody thought any the worse of them if they rode in hansom cabs, both things that even a woman of as recent a generation as Mrs. Stevens told me would never have been countenanced or thought of when she became of marriageable age.
    In August 1888 I went to stop with Edward Clodd's family at Aldeburgh. After supper on the evening of my arrival we went for a walk on front, and to my astonishment we passed in the gathering darkness a woman who was actually smoking a cigarette. We could hardly believe our eyes. My word, she did astonished the natives! Even visiting Londoners talked of it for a week. Not that a woman smoking was entirely unknown. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, writing on April 7, 1852, to Miss Mitford, remarks, apropos of George Sand who smoked much, that "a cigarette is really a feminine weapon if properly understood."

Grant Richards, Memories of a Misspent Youth, 1932