Be honest with me.

How many of you have been enraged by cab drivers? How many of you have picked up fights with them, or felt cheated, or wished you could have sought revenge, but never got around it? Let me introduce you to your patron saint, Mrs. Caroline Prodgers.

Caroline was born in 1829, and until her death in 1890, she became famous for her seemingly endless court disputes.

The judges were pleased to see her happy face for the first time in 1871 when her divorce proceedings began. Now, apart from the story that will later unfold, her divorce was a milestone for women’s rights. Not only was she the one to file for it, she was also wealthier than her husband and tried to disinherit him completely. To achieve this, she even went as far as to question the legitimacy of her own children. I don’t know if this counts as winning the case, but she was ordered to pay a spousal support to her former husband (which she didn’t by the way, and was again brought to trial).

Needless to say, this whole proceeding was an instant sensation in London, and Caroline became the equivalent of what we would now call “viral”. Divorce, betrayal, and money, is enough for a sensational read. Caroline became intoxicated with this and nobody knows why. My guess is that she enjoyed the publicity, and she could see something sensual in the courtroom- which must be one of the rarest fetishes out there.

Thus the 19 year reign of terror for the cab drivers began!

Caroline was convinced all cab drivers were overcharging and so she memorized the cab fare schedule. She would then calculate the distance and make the drivers stop before the fare increase, even if the stop was before her destination. She would then pick a fight with the drivers, and when the swearing would start, she would file a lawsuit.

During those 19 years, she took more than 50 drivers to court, won most of them, and according to the legend, one judge who had reached the end of his tether, advised her to finally buy her own carriage!

The drivers couldn’t much more than develop a warning. When she was seen approaching a cab, the driver would shout “Mother Prodgers!”, and all cabs would leave the area. There is also an unproven story, according to which, the drivers used to burn effigies of her during Guy Fawkes night.

So, print her picture, have it in your wallet and may her anger be on your side, when you fight for consumer’s rights!

by Camille Silvy, albumen print, 13 April 1861

First published: 18/10/2016