Hester Bly is the culmination of a life-long and never-ending passionate search of the most beautiful travel pieces that gracefully enhance the beauty of every woman and breathe seamlessly in the surroundings of every travel destination.
As a symbol and in celebration of the beauty of strong women and travel, the name Hester Bly combines the names of the first-of-their-kind female explorers and adventurers: “Queen of the Desert”, Lady Hester Stanhope and Nellie Bly.
Both women were history-makers and pioneers of their time and possessed a memorable strong, individual style which is lovingly passed on in every single stitch of a Hester Bly piece.
“It is impossible for you to do it”, was the terrible verdict. “In the first place, you are a woman and would need a protector, and even it if were possible for you to travel alone you would need to carry so much baggage that it would detain you in making rapid changes. Besides you speak nothing but English, so there is no use talking about it; no one but a man can do this”
Founder of Investigative Journalism. Suffragette. Novelist. Around-the-World Record-Holder. Inventor. Charity Worker.
Born Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman in 1864 and known by her journalist pen-name, Nellie Bly, Nellie’s life story is one of firsts.
Nellie Bly is known for shunning the traditional newspaper topics, such as gardening and society, allocated to female journalists at the time and her pioneering investigative journalism. In 1885, at 21 she left for Mexico to spend 6 months reporting the lives and customs of Mexican people, published in “Six Months in Mexico”. She openly criticised the tyranny of the Mexican dictator, Porfirio Diaz, and was forced to flee the country after receiving threats of imprisonment. She then joined Joseph Purlitzer’s New York World publication to investigate reports of brutality at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. Feigning mental illness she experienced the horrific conditions firsthand. Her publication of “Ten Days in a Mad-House” caused a sensation and led to the establishment of new and improved living and treatment conditions in the asylum.
Her next assignment was to test Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days”. With two days notice, she boarded the Augusta Victoria to begin her 40,000+ km journey. Piquing the interest of the New York World readership, a board game was launched to guess how long it would take Nellie. Travelling alone throughout the journey, Nellie’s adventures en route included meeting Jules Verne, visiting a leper colony to investigate conditions and purchasing a monkey. She beat Phileas Fogg by 8 days.
On her return to land, Nellie’s world turned to manufacturing, having married an industrialist and due to his failing health, become the CEO of the Iron Clad Manufacturing Company. Nellie designed and was awarded two US patents and became one of the leading women industrialists in the US. Not forgetting her journalist roots and passion for equality, she wrote articles to support the suffragette movement and covered the Women Suffrage Parade of 1913. In her article, “Suffragists are Men’s Superiors”, she correctly predicted it would be 1920 until women in the US would be given the right to vote.
Hester Bly is honoured to share its name with the iconic Nellie Bly and hopes to capture her original style, passion for travel and new experiences and her humanity.
Lady Hester Stanhope
“I like travelling of all things; it is a constant change of ideas.”
Adventurer. Archeologist. Traveller. Civil War Relief Worker.
Born into the British aristocracy, Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope was the eldest child of the 3rd Earl of Stanhope and Lady Hester Pitt. At 27 years old she moved into Downing Street and became the chief of the household of the British Prime Minister, William Pitt The Younger, her uncle, and swiftly became known for her beauty, organisational ability and intelligence. After the PM’s death and a scandalous romantic disappointment with a much younger man, Hester embarked upon a long sea voyage, where it is noted that Lord Byron dived into the sea to greet her on arrival at Athens. En route to Cairo, their ship was shipwrecked on Rhodes and Hester and her entourage were forced to wear Turkish clothing. Hester refused the female veils and heavy layered items, instead adopting and adapting a Turkish male’s wardrobe of turban, velvet robes and embroidered slippers. Having curated her unique travelling style, charging around on an Arab stallion, she visited much of Greece, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria dressed exotically as a man in pantaloons with a sword and continually refusing to wear female traditional clothes including a veil.
Having learned from fortune tellers that her destiny was to marry a new messiah, she made overtures to Ibn Saud, leader of the First Saudi State and in doing so, was also one of the first Europeans to travel into the deserts of Syria and the Lebanon. With a fierce and dangerous reputation, the Bedouin tribes controlled the deserts and very few people survived their attempts to enter. No white woman had certainly ever seen the ancient city of Palmyra. Doing the unthinkable at the time, abandoning side-saddle, she rode like a man through the desert with her entourage of 22 camels, all carrying her wardrobe, dressed as a Bedouin. Impressed with her fearless charm, strength of character and excellent horsemanship, Emir Mahannah el Fadel received her and she became known as Queen Hester.
Whilst travelling through Syria, Hester came into possession of a medieval manuscript copied from the records of a monastery. The document indicated that there was a great treasure, 3 million gold coins, buried in the 600-year old ruins of a mosque in Ashkelon. Hester travelled to Ashkeon, persuaded the Ottoman authorities to excavate the site. Undertaking the first-ever stratigraphical analysis of an archaeological site before any methods of modern archaeological analyses were known or used, Hester found a huge 7 foot marble statue. Ordering it to be smashed into the sea, Hester proved to the Ottomans that she had undertaken the task to give them treasure and not to steal and pillage and return to London unlike many of her countrymen. Notably, this was the first modern excavation in the history of archaeological exploration of the Holy Land, opening up significant new opportunities for future excavations and tourism.
Hester then settled in a remote monastery in the Lebanon, situated in a good viewing position at the top of a large hill. She was initially welcomed by the last Maronite ruler of the Emirate of Mount Lebanon, Emir Bashir Shihab II, but following civil war in Lebanon, due to her providing help, sanctuary and support to the hundreds of refugees of the Druze clan, they became enemies. However, due to the local people’s love and respect of Hester as their strong and brave protector, she wielded almost absolute authority in the area. Evidence of Hester’s commanding leadership and supremacy was witnessed when Ibrahim Pasha, a member of the Egyptian royal family and leader of an invasion of Syria, sought Hester’s neutrality. She continued to support the local people’s civil war plight personally, with her one-woman relief effort leading to her own financial ruin and eventual bankruptcy. Regardless, Hester, the strong, independent and brave trailblazer, the so-called Florence of Arabia, continued to refute the constraints of Victorian society and stay true to her own sensibility, including wearing a turban until she died.
Hester Bly is honoured to share its name with the unique Lady Hester Stanhope and hopes to capture her individuality, bravery and strength.