Categories: Cat History

Photograph of Frances Simpson, godmother of the cat fancy

Frances Simpson is one of the great triumvirate of the early cat fancy – the time when the breeding and showing of cats started in the world. It happened in the UK. There are three big names of that time, the late 1800s, the other two being Louis Wain and Harrison Weir. Wain is known for his art and Weir as the founder of the cat fancy.

Frances Simpson

Frances Simpson was an elegant, attractive, educated, and industrious lady, the daughter of a vicar. Reading about her on Sarah Hartwell’s messybeast website, I see in her what I consider to be the work ethic of the Victorian era when standards of education appear to have been higher.

She remained unmarried and obviously loved cats. She appears to have found her vocation at the age of 14 when shortly after moving to London with her family she visited the now famous Crystal Palace Cat Show, the world’s first. It must have been amazing because Crystal Palace was an amazing structure.

Frances Simpson

The show made an impression on her and she went on to devote her life to working within the early cat fancy in many roles, the best known of which is as a writer. She was an excellent and prolific writer. Her books are considered to be the best source material concerning the cat fancy of that time. Her best known book is “The Book of the Cat” published in 1903. This book is available online for downloading.

She made a living from writing. She was involved in many charitable causes. She bred Persians and exported them to America. I suppose this must have helped to kick start the American cat fancy. She had good connections with the American cat fancy.

Elizabeth Frances Ann Simpson was born in 1857 at Haughton le-Skerne, Durham.

“She died died on 19th January, 1926, aged 68, at 16 Stafford Terrace, Phillimore Gardens, Kensington (this address is in her final book) leaving £11,000 – a small fortune for a woman earning her own living.” (

Although she is associated with breeding Persians, she was the guardian/caretaker for three Siamese cats. I think in those days Persians, Siamese and British Shorthairs were the leading cat breeds.

If you’d like to read more, the best page on this fine lady is on Sarah’s messybeast website. Click here. It is a comprehensive page. It is interesting to note that Wikipedia don’t have a page on her. Over to you Sarah!

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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