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Celebrating over 100 years of saving nature through campaigns

This July, we’re celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the 1921 Plumage (Prohibition) Act and the RSPB’s first successful campaign to save nature.

An image of a woman with a protest banner over the top of a black and white Victorian image of men protesting

Campaigning for nature since 1889

From the fight against feathers in fashion to tackling the nature and climate emergency, here’s a short film to show you how the RSPB has been saving nature for over 100 years.

A black and white photograph of Emily Williamson

Meet the woman who helped save over a million birds

In 1889, sickened by a slaughter of exotic birds for their feathers, Emily Williamson started the Society for the Protection of Birds to campaign for change. Her efforts helped bring about the 1921 Plumage (Prohibition) Act and the founding of a global force to save nature – the RSPB. 


Emily Williamson’s amazing achievement is to be commemorated with a statue at her former home in Fletcher Moss, near Manchester. Choose your favourite from the shortlist from 1st July. 

Two black and white photographs, one featuring the Duchess of Potland, the other featuring Mrs Lemon

A determined team for nature

Others too were determined to protect wild birds from the whims of fashion, and Emily Williamson joined forces with Etta Lemon and Eliza Phillips of the Fur, Fin and Feather Folk of Croydon, and Winifred Cavendish-Bentinck, Duchess of Portland.

 

Together they campaigned tirelessly for change and in July 1921 the Plumage (Prohibition) Act was passed, banning the import of plumage. The campaign to protect wild birds was the first successful campaign by the RSPB and solidified our role as a conservation organisation that works for nature both in the UK and internationally.

Two images of women wearing hats with ornate feathers

Fighting feathers in fashion

From the 1870s to the 1920s the fashion for feathers in ladies’ hats was huge and tragically driving birds such as little egrets, great crested grebes and birds of paradise towards extinction.

 

The campaign against this ‘murderous millinery’ was fought on all fronts. RSPB supporters across the country wrote letters to women wearing feather hats, spoke to the shopkeepers that stocked them, and sought influence with prominent figures from politicians to the royal family.

RSPB staff on Lambeth Bridge showing their support for the time is now rally

Over 100 years of successful campaigning

Campaigning continues to be vital in the fight to save nature. Thanks to you – our members and supporters – land has been saved from harmful development and birds that were close to extinction have been brought back.  


We have seen red kites return to our skies, ospreys breed once more in Britain and white-tailed eagles recolonise parts of Scotland. Little egrets – once hunted for their plumage and pushed to extinction in the UK – now fly free. 

Depiction of the black and white commemorative pin badge

Celebrate with a commemorative pin badge

Get your hands on a limited-edition pin badge. Specially commissioned to celebrate the centenary of the 1921 Plumage (Prohibition) Act, it is a copy of the RSPB’s first ever logo.

How you can help save nature

The campaign to save nature and help wildlife thrive continues. Sadly over 38 million birds have vanished from our skies in just 50 years, and just 5% of UK land is well managed for nature.  


But like our founders before us, we are determined to make a difference. From the colourful puffins along our coast to the humble house sparrows in our towns and cities, nature needs us. Join the call for better protection for wildlife and more space for nature. Together, we can save nature and Revive Our World.