Nowadays, Pokemon trainers, both male and female, travel on long, arduous journeys and no-one questions whether one gender might be better suited for the task than the other. But it wasn't always like that, for there was a time when training Pokemon was a strictly male preserve. Even after female trainers began to gain League recognition at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th, few considered them capable of becoming Gym Leaders. Even the Gyms at Celadon and Goldenrod - now bastions for females - had male Gym Leaders during this time.
There were even doubts as to whether the fairer sex could battle competently. Papers of the period would argue that, since females were more "sensitive" and less capable of "rational thought" than males, it might have an adverse effect on them if they were called on to battle their Pokemon too often. As a result, many young girls were steered towards what the establishment saw as "ladylike" Pokemon such as Jigglypuff and Eevee, Pokemon that did not require too much skill to train.
But all that was about to change as women and girls, tired of being treated as though they were second best in the world of Pokemon, began to assert the rights which present-day trainers take for granted, the right to train and raise any Pokemon they chose, the right to go out and battle their Pokemon. One such girl was Rose Lewis and this is her story.
Rose was born in 1888, the only girl out of five children born to a merchant from Viridian City and his wife. Throughout her childhood, she watched her brothers get their starter Pokemon and set off on Badge-collecting journeys, journeys that would take them to places she had only read about. More than anything in the world she longed to follow in their footsteps, but her parents simply would not hear of it; the very idea of a girl going on a Pokemon journey offended their sensibilities
"Rose," her mother said when the girl raised the issue while helping with the laundry, "your place is here, helping me and learning how to be a lady."
"I don't see why a lady can't be a Pokemon trainer," objected Rose, who was ten years old at the time. "You and Papa were really pleased when Henry, Paul and Daniel . . ." She was referring to her three oldest brothers. " . . . left on their journeys, so why can't I go, just because I'm a girl?"
"Precisely because you are a girl," her mother said stiffly, smoothing her skirt out as she spoke. "I'm sorry, but no girl in this family has been a Pokemon trainer yet - and there's no way I'm letting you be the first." She pursed her lips, an expression she always adopted when she wanted to make it clear that a matter was closed.
But Rose wasn't about to give up so easily. "Tilly Charlton went last month," she said, looking at her mother out of pleading brown eyes. "Her Mama gave her a Pidgey and she went off to fight the Gym Leaders."
"The Charltons spoil that girl," was the reply as Mrs Lewis busied herself with her dolly pegs in a bid to avoid looking at her daughter. It was true - even Rose had to admit that - the Charltons were the richest family in Viridian City and nothing was too much trouble for their pretty daughter, Tilly. A complete wardrobe made especially for her, a nursery filled the latest toys, being allowed to go on a Pokemon journey. If you cared to name it, there was a good chance that Tilly Charlton had it. "And I suppose she'll be home in tears at the first defeat," Mrs Lewis added.
Rose had no reply to that. She knew her mother could be extremely firm when she wanted to be and made no further arguments. At least not out loud.
Five years passed, during which Rose's older brothers became officially recognised as Pokemon League Champions; Daniel, who was only a year older than she was, went one better and actually reached the coveted status of Pokemon Master. It was also during this time that her youngest brother, Albert, left on his journey and that meant there would soon be four boys in the house bragging about their achievements in the Pokemon League. Sometimes, the thought was more than Rose could stand and she was often tempted to hack off her long auburn locks, dress up in Daniel's clothes and run away from home disguised as a boy. But it wasn't worth the risk; she would never be able to pass herself off as male for the rest of her life.
Besides, her mother had other plans for her, plans she announced shortly after Rose's fifteenth birthday. "My daughter," she said one afternoon while she and Rose were taking a stroll, "it's time you made your own way in the world. I've written to an old friend of mine in Cianwood City and she says she will be more than happy to take you on as her maid. And you never know, but you might find yourself a husband while you're there."
It was what Rose and other girls from her generation had come to expect from life: a little domestic work, marriage, a family. That was it, but Rose's life would soon take a twist that enabled her to strike a blow for females everywhere who wanted to train Pokemon as opposed to raising them as pets. Rose had formed a close bond with her pet Seel and she couldn't help sensing the Pokemon's boredom at having nothing to do except swim up and down her pool all day.
"I know how you feel," she said as she crouched by the pool on the day before she was due to leave for Cianwood, a place about which she knew very little other than that it was somewhere in Johto.
"Seel seel," Seel said sympathetically as she allowed Rose to stroke her under the chin.
"It's just . . . you're a Pokemon, so you should be battling other Pokemon," Rose went on. "Not swimming round your pool all day."
But, for the life of her, she couldn't see how one person could change anything. She lived in a man's world, a world where women still vowed to "love, honour and obey" their husbands, where females had precious little power outside the domestic sphere - and not much within it. All she could look forward to was a stifling half-life.
All too soon, it was the next day and Rose found herself sitting in a railway compartment as a bright red steam train chuffed and whistled its way to Olivine City. From there, she had been told, her employer's housekeeper, a Mrs Marsh, would meet her and the two of them would take the next paddle steamer to Cianwood. Then, she would start a new life across the Olivine Sea, working for people she had never met and only knew via her mother's descriptions. The thought was so hard to bear that she began to examine her Seel's Poke Ball in an attempt to take her mind off the situation.
Suddenly, a man's strident voice yelling the words "Olivine Station!" cut through her thoughts and she looked out of the window to see throngs of people, some of whom were humping trunks around. A quick glance at the hoarding on the wall was all she needed to tell her that this was indeed Olivine City Station and she was on Platform 2.
As she climbed down from the train, thoughts of what Mrs Marsh, the woman she was supposed to meet at the harbour, might be like circulated through her mind. Would she be a kindly soul in a white linen apron who kept a pet Meowth in the kitchen and received regular visits from her grandchildren? Or would she be a stern old battleaxe, a stickler for rules and punctuality, who thought Pokemon were "unhygienic" and certainly wouldn't allow rowdy grandchildren into her domain? If the latter was true, what was she, Rose, going to do about her Seel? "Guess I'll just have to cross that bridge when I come to it," she told herself as she made her way out of the station, her valise in her hand. "Besides, Mother says Cianwood's only just across the water; I should be able to take Seel down to the sea on my days off."
In those days, Olivine City was a rough and rowdy place, very different from Viridian City where Rose had grown up. As she left the station, the first impression she had of the place was that it seemed to be full of sailors, many of whom were heavily tattooed and looked as though they were spoiling for a fight. Perhaps, she thought to herself, it was a good thing she had Seel with her; even though the Pokemon had never actually battled, she should still be able to perform at least some Attacks.
It was as Rose made her way along the harbour, searching for anyone who could possibly be Mrs Marsh, that two sailors began to leer at her. In those days, any female was seen as fair game; men believed they had the God-given right to treat women and girls from outside their immediate family (and even those within it) any way they chose. And this particular pair chose to treat Rose as someone who could provide a little "onshore entertainment".
"Hey! Girl!" one of them, a beefy figure with a thick black beard and a bandanna on his head, shouted. "Come and talk to me an' me mate!"
"What do you want of me?" Rose said coldly, keeping a tight grip on Seel's Poke Ball and grateful she was still some distance from the two men. Her mother had warned her about such men, told her they often hung around here and the best way to handle them was to ignore their ribald comments.
But, if anything, Rose's dismissive words and frosty looks seemed to encourage the pair, both of whom had drunk rather too much rum at a local tavern. "A stubborn one, eh?" the second sailor remarked, showing a gold-edged tooth as he grinned wickedly. "Mebbe we oughta teach 'er a lesson? What d'you think, Seth?"
"Yes, I think we oughta," Seth replied as he pulled a Poke Ball out of his pocket and prepared to activate it. "No-one messes with Seth Pritchard an' gets away with it! Go, Kingler!" As the large crab Pokemon with pincers powerful enough to crush metal burst out of his Ball, Rose acted instinctively. Forgetting that she had never been in a Pokemon battle before, she quickly decided to fight fire with fire - or, rather, water with water - and had her Seel's Poke Ball ready within moments. Seth and his companion seemed to think this was a huge joke.
"Run along, little lady," Seth said in a decidedly patronising tone. "Pokemon battles is men's work." But this statement served to deepen Rose's determination to show these two that a girl could handle Pokemon as well as any male and she swiftly responded by releasing Seel into the water.
"Who told you that?" she demanded as it occurred to her that it was time for someone to make a stand on behalf of all females who wanted to become Pokemon trainers. For far too long, they had been denied full League recognition, excluded from battling at competitive level and even, in some areas, only permitted to keep Pokemon as pets. And Rose Lewis, an ordinary fifteen-year-old girl from Viridian City, was about to turn the tide, to stand up to the male-dominated world she lived in, starting with Seth Pritchard and his crony.
"All right, Seel," Rose said as she tried to recall what Attacks a Seel could use. "Give that Kingler a taste of your Aurora Beam!"
"Kingler, Protect!" Seth countered as Seel sent a beam of rainbow energy in the direction of the Kingler he had raised from a Krabby. In response, Kingler threw up an invisible barrier, protecting himself from being hit by Seel's Aurora Beam.
Rose quickly called on Seel to try a Headbutt. "Seel!" Seel said as she swam at Kingler, ready to ram the crab Pokemon with the small horn on her head. As she watched her Pokemon battling as though she had done so all her life, Rose knew it was time to try and bring about some changes. No matter what others said, females had as much right to be Pokemon trainers as males; just because the "experts" thought girls were incapable of battling their Pokemon did not mean girls shouldn't at least be allowed to try.
But Seth was very much of the old school, a firm believer in the idea that men had dominance over women, and was not about to let a girl and her Seel defeat him. It was time for a concerted effort if he was to salvage any pride. "Use your Guillotine, Kingler!" he ordered as he watched the two Pokemon struggling in the shallows.
Hearing these words, Rose knew she had to act fast to counter the move; her brother, Daniel, had once mentioned battling a Kingler which used Guillotine on his Ariados, defeating the Bug/Poison Pokemon in one move. "Seel, swim away!" she ordered in the seconds before Kingler's crushing pincers snapped shut around Seel's body. But, just as Seel avoided being Guillotined, a voice from nearby made Rose and Seth stop in mid-battle.
Rose turned to see a woman in her late forties dressed in a long blue dress with a cameo brooch at the collar standing a few feet away with a Snubbull at her side. "What are you doing?" the woman asked. "Well brought-up young ladies shouldn't be associating with the likes of him." She nodded towards Seth, who was swearing under his breath, furious at being interrupted in the middle of a Pokemon battle.
"I'm sorry, Ma'am," Rose said as she and Seth recalled their Pokemon. "But he was being disrespectful to me and . . . I don't know what came over me, but I suddenly wanted to prove girls could fight Pokemon battles too."
"There's no need to call me Ma'am. Just Mrs will do," the woman said as she picked up her Snubbull. "Mrs Marsh, to be exact. I was told you would be around here somewhere."
As she looked into Mrs Marsh's eyes, Rose felt an immense feeling of gratitude towards the woman for stepping in when she had. Seel had done all right, but this had been her first battle, whereas Seth's Kingler had obviously battled many times before. Of all the lessons on Pokemon training she had picked up from her brothers' conversations, the most important had been that of relative power, that Pokemon grew stronger as they built up their battle experience. It hadn't mattered to her whether she won or lost her battle with Seth, so long as she could put up a decent fight, but she knew there were limits to how far she could push Seel at present.
"So you've wanted to be a Pokemon trainer for as long as you can remember?" Mrs Marsh asked as she and Rose sat on the deck of the Olivine to Cianwood ferry. Until today, Rose had known little about Cianwood other than that it was across the Olivine Sea, but Mrs Marsh had filled her in on the rest. She said the city was the most westerly point in the Johto region and had, until around thirty years earlier, been part of the neighbouring Shima region. But war had broken out as the people of Johto sought to expand their territory across the Olivine Sea, a war that left many dead and had little impact on Johto's borders; Cianwood City and the surrounding countryside were the only areas in Shima that came under their rule.
"All my life," Rose replied as she pushed thoughts of Johto's history out of her mind long enough to answer. "But my parents wouldn't hear of it. They said my place was in the home, cooking and cleaning, that training Pokemon was not befitting for a lady."
Mrs Marsh nodded, her face furrowed as she recalled how, as a young girl, she too had longed to leave home and go on a Pokemon journey, only to be told that only boys were allowed to do so. "Maybe times are changing," she said with a faint smile traced across her face. "My . . . our employer is of the opinion that our world will one day alter beyond our imaginations, that women will be granted full League privileges." Mrs Marsh patted her Snubbull's head. "But it's up to us to take the first step. If we can gather enough support to make our voices heard, who knows what we can achieve?"
Rose took her Seel's Poke Ball out of her valise and looked down at it. As she did so, she knew in her heart that what Mrs Marsh had said was true. In that instant, the first step towards winning women the right to actually train Pokemon, instead of simply keeping them as pets, was taken.