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Posted in Kate Frye's Diary on January 22, 2015
Kate, who had just celebrated her 23rd birthday, is living with her family in middle-class comfort at 25 Arundel Gardens, north Kensington.
Tuesday January 22nd 1901
The Queen is Dead. We heard the paper boys in the street about nine o’clock. As I write the bells are tolling. The earth will be a very black place for a few weeks. I am about to undress for bed but stopped to write these few lines first.
Wednesday January 23rd 1901
I looked out a black coat and skirt of Agnes’ to send to Abbie [an impoverished cousin] as I know she has not black at all – and of course could not buy any, poor girl – and one would feel it so much now.
Stella [an older, glamorous, friend, reported that at Whiteleys] the people were standing 8 and 10 deep at the glove counter waiting to be served [with black gloves].
What a blessing we all have a few black garments – it would be a terrible rush to get any made. Last night I took some coloured ribbon from an otherwise all black hat & pinned in a black feather I had by me –so with my black coat and skirt and a black silk front to a blouse I was quite alright.
It seemed a funny sort of day – between a bank holiday and a Sunday. [Went with Stella to tea at the Empress Club – new premises] which really are magnificent – a most gorgeous place. [For more about the Empress Club see here.]
[Afterwards they walked along Bond Street and Oxford Street to Marble Arch tube station] I never saw such a sight as the shop windows – everything black in them – even the fancy shops and as for the Drapers it looks too awful. Everyone is dressed in mourning – men with the deepest of hat bands etc – not a piece of colour anywhere – and of course black shutters to all the shops. [A fancy dress party that Kate had been so looking forward to – she had her Nell Gwynn costume ready – was cancelled.] Our future is a blank. All theatres still shut.
Tuesday January 29th 1901
They were selling little crape rosettes in the streets – as they sell red, white and blue ones on festive occasions – they looked very horrid.
For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here.
Posted in Suffrage Stories on January 20, 2015
In the Introduction to my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide I wrote:
‘Although women may be “hidden from history” they are not, on the whole, hidden from the Registrar of Births, Marriages, and Deaths nor from the Principal Registry of the Family Division (in England and Wales) or the General Register Office in Scotland.’
However there is no getting away from the fact that, despite one’s best efforts, there are some women who resist all attempts at discovery. One such is the rather mysterious ‘Mrs Alice Green’ who we come across in the intertwined stories of Emily Wilding Davison and Kitty Marion.
For instance, in The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison (p 131-32) Liz Stanley and Ann Morley tell us that for some months in 1913 Emily Davison was staying with Mrs Green at 133 Clapham Road. We assume that it was from here that on 4 June she set out for the WSPU office and then the Derby. They also note The Suffragette (13 June 1913) as mentioning that a Mrs Green was at Emily’s bedside in the Epsom Cottage Hospital. However, although Stanley and Morley do so much to reveal other branches of Emily’s friendship network they pass Mrs Green by without comment.
And I’m not surprised – because ‘Mrs Alice Green’ is more resistant than most to the historian’s intrusive gaze. But, lifting the dusty Victorian curtain, the earliest sighting I have of her is at the Dover Register Office on 11 June 1898 where, as ‘Alice Kellie’, spinster, 26 years old, she married Edward Basil Green. The couple each gave their address as 4 Eastbrook Place, Dover.
But who was ‘Alice Kellie’? From searching through all the resources of Ancestry and FindmyPast I could find no suitable candidate and was sufficiently intrigued to order a copy of the marriage certificate in the hope it might offer a clue. Well, the only extra information it gave me about ‘Alice Kellie’ was that she was the daughter of ‘James Kellie (deceased), boot (or book?) dealer’. That actually didn’t get me any further because I couldn’t find a trace in any census of a suitable James Kellie. Whose to know if Registrars are given the true facts? I can find sufficient evidence in my own family history to know that they often are not.
On the other hand I had no difficulty in uncovering the background of the bridegroom. Edward Basil Green had been born in 1873 in Folkestone, the youngest son of Samuel Richard Green ( 1837-1882), a mechanical engineer, and the grandson of Edward Green, a Yorkshire ironmaster and founder of E. Green and Son. At the time of the marriage he would have been 25 years old – yet the certificate has his age as 27. The bride’s age is given as 26. If the bridgroom felt compelled to add a couple of years could this mean that the bride was perhaps rather older. Who’s to know!
What the marriage certificate did tell me was that no member from either family was there to witness the marriage. The certificate is signed by the wife of the Registrar and by either the wife or the daughter (they both had the same name) of the tobacconist whose shop was next to the Register Office. This lack of family support may be explained by the next sighting I have of the happy couple – as they became parents of a son (Edward Basil Green) on 27 August 1898. It looks as though Alice Kellie was about seven months pregnant when she married Edward Green.
And that is the last I time I catch sight of Alice Green before she appears 15 years or so later as a friend and supporter of Emily Wilding Davison. I cannot see that either she or her husband were on the electoral roll as inhabitants of 133 Clapham Road and, indeed, cannot spot them in London until they appear on the 1921 electoral roll (with their son) living at Powis Terrace in north Kensington. From 1930 until 1939 Alice and Basil (as her husband was known) continued to live in this area – now at 13 Colville Mansions.
In the meantime Mrs Green, as well as supporting Emily Davison, had also helped Kitty Marion, being one of three (Dr Violet Jones and Mary Leigh were the others) who took her to Paris on 31 May 1914 to show Christabel Pankhurst the result of the treatment that she had suffered in prison. As Kitty Marion was on the run at the time as a ‘mouse’, Alice Green was taking something of a risk in accompanying her.
In 1915 Mrs Alice Green was secretary of the Emily Davison Club that Mary Leigh had formed to perpetuate their friend’s memory. In October 1915 Mrs Green was one of those who contributed towards Kitty Marion’s fare to the US – the party to bid her farewell was held at the Emily Davison Club. Meetings of the Club were held in 144 High Holborn, which housed the offices of the Women’s Freedom League and the WFL’s Minerva Cafe. Over a period of years, from the 1920s until at least 1938, the Greens were also, with others, such as Charlotte Despard, Elizabeth Knight, Octavia Lewin, leaseholders of 144 High Holborn.
From her involvement with the suffrage movement I get the impression that Mrs Green was reasonably well off, although I cannot discover how her husband was employed. The family does not appear in the 1911 census – presumably they followed the WFL/WSPU boycott. As a mechanical engineer did he, perhaps, work for the family firm?
Any difficulties there may have been over the shotgun wedding had long since been forgotten. In 1923 Edward Basil Green was left £10,000 in the will of his uncle, Sir Edward Green, and many years later his son was the executor of the will of one of his Green aunts.
It’s not only Alice Green’s birth that is obscure, but, very surprisingly, I cannot even discover when she died. Her husband was living at Minehead when he died in 1958 – but probate was granted to a solicitor (and not, rather surprisingly, to his son) and I haven’t gone so far as to investigate his will.
The career of Alice and Basil Green’s son is rather easier to follow – he became chairman of Doulton, retiring in 1963. I wonder if his descendants have any information about ‘Mrs Alice Green’ – or are aware of the part she played in supporting two of the most militant of the suffragettes?
Posted in Collecting Suffrage on January 16, 2015
In over 30 years spent hunting for and selling objects related to the women’s suffrage campaign, this little box is the only example I have ever found of ‘Votes for Women’ Hooks and Eyes. Although I had it photographed in black and white back in the 1990s, the box in reality is tricked out in the WSPU colours of purple, white and green.
The manufacturer registering ‘Votes for Women’ as its trademark was not the only maker of hooks and eyes to discern a market for its goods among the supporters of the suffrage cause. Votes for Women (eg issue for 23 April 1909, p 26) carried advertisements for ‘Smart’s invisible hooks and eyes ‘ which were the’ patented invention and property of two members and supporters of the Women’s Social and Political Union.’
These items might well have been found amongst the stock of the suffrage shops opened by the various suffrage societies.
As well as being campaigners, the majority of suffragettes and suffragists were, of necessity, also needlewomen. So here was an opportunity to back the Cause while sewing fastenings onto their skirt plackets or bodices.
Posted in Mariana Starke on January 12, 2015
At the end of my last ‘Mariana Starke’ post I left Mariana, her mother, father and her sister, Louisa, in the winter of 1791 journeying south through Europe. On 3 December Mrs Crespigny, Mariana’s friend and patron, noted in her diary that she had received letters from Lyons; from the context I presume these were from the Starke party.
We next glimpse the Starke family at Nice on 18 April 1792 – at Louisa’s deathbed. She was just 20 years old.
Mariana and her parents, presumably still accompanied by Mrs Crespigny’s servant, ‘Scott’, then left Nice in May in order to travel north to Geneva. It is this journey that Mariana describes in ‘Letter 1′ of Letters from Italy, the work that eventually developed into Information and directions for travellers on the continent, the guide to European travel for which she became famous.
Mariana’s magnum opus has a complicated publishing history, each stage in its development reflecting the changing ability and inclination of the British (and, indeed, American) public to travel and consume culture during the period 1792-1838 as Europe swung between war and peace.
The first edition of the work that eventually developed into Information and directions for travellers on the continent was published in December 1799 (with 1800 publication date on title page) by ‘R. Phillips of 71 St Paul’s Churchyard’ and was entitled:
Letters from Italy, between the years 1792 and 1798, containing a view of the revolutions in that country, from the capture of Nice by the French republic to the expulsion of Pius VI from the ecclesiastical state: Likewise pointing out the matchless works of art which still embellish Pisa, Florence, Siena, Rome, Naples, Bologna, Venice etc. With instructions for the use of invalids and families who may not choose to incur the expence attendant upon travelling with a courier. It was printed by T. Gillet, Salisbury Square, Fleet Street, for R. Phillips, no 71, St Paul’s Church-yard, in 1800.
The two-volume work followed in the epistolary tradition well established by male – and a few female – travel writers but, as you will see from the lengthy, explanatory title, included not only comment on the current state of affairs but detailed information on all the art and antiquities that the author considered should be viewed by the tourist, together with exhaustive recommendations – and warnings – covering all practical details of routes, inns, shopping, laundering, eating etc in order to make the journey – particularly if taken for reasons of health – as comfortable and economical as possible.
Mariana’s publisher, ‘R. Phillips’, was Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840) considered by his contemporaries an eccentric and a radical and, even more preposterously, renowned as a vegetarian. Five years later Phillips published William Hayley’s Ballads, illustrated by William Blake. It may be that Phillips was already in Hayley’s circle in 1798/1799 when Mariana would have been looking for a publisher. The firms of J. Walter and Debrett, with whom she had previously done business, had either not been approached or had rejected this new venture.
I have no idea if, when she set off with her family in the autumn of 1791, Mariana thought that she would publish, in any form, reports of her travels. With her mother, she was the sole survivor of the party and did not, I think, return to England until 1798. However, at some point during those seven years the idea of turning her experience into a publication must have occurred to her, for in the ‘Advertisement’ to the second edition (1815) she notes that ‘The first Edition of this Work was written abroad, where the Author had so many domestic duties to fulfil, that she could only find leisure sufficient to draw up a hasty statement of facts…’. For during those sometimes harrowing years it was Mariana to whom responsibilities as both nurse and journey planner fell – but it’s clear that, nevertheless, she did keep notes that could be worked up into a book.
We can follow a variety of clues in order to spy on Mariana as she travelled. For instance, we know that, having journeyed north to Geneva in May 1792 the Starkes returned quickly to Nice, arriving on 22 September, when they learned of the impending war between Sardinia and France. By the 27th the French fleet was off Nice. In her Letters Mariana describes how ‘I immediately went to the quay, with an intention of hiring an English merchantman (our nation being at peace with France), and getting my family and friends embarked before the city was bombarded, a circumstance which we hourly expected to take place; but no English vessel could I find ready for sea…’ After a great deal of anxiety the Starkes were eventually able to escape by sea. Having been ‘advised to make as little parade as possible on our way to the port, my family went two and two by different paths, while I, being obliged to stay to the last, walked down, dressed as a servant, passing all the French posts without the smallest molestation…‘ With her love of theatricals, I can imagine that Mariana rather revelled in playing this part.
The Starkes reached Genoa on 14 October 1792, went from there by sea to Leghorn (Livorno) and then on to Pisa. There they encountered, among other English visitors, Lady Spencer (mother of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire), to whom, in 1811, Mariana dedicated the first poem in her slim volume, The Beauties of Carlo-Maria Maggi Paraphrased.
In April and May 1793 the Starkes were in Rome, meeting there with the family of John Flaxman, the sculptor. If the Starkes had not previously been known to the Flaxmans – the latter having been in Italy since 1787 – during the course of the next couple of years a firm friendship was cemented.
The Starkes returned to Pisa where they spent the winter of 1793/4 and it was there that Richard Starke died, aged 74, on 5 March 1794. He was buried on 9 March at Livorno. [For a very interesting article about Richard Starke’s grave see here.]
We know that some days later, on 21 March, Mariana was visiting her friend Lady Bolingbroke who was also in Pisa. [I can’t at the moment check the reference but believe it comes from the Journal of Sarah Bentham, held in the Colchester Papers at the National Archives.] Lady Bolingbroke was born Charlotte Collins, daughter of the Rev Thomas Collins, who had been tutor to Viscount Bolingbroke. A friend of the novelist Charlotte Smith, Lady Bolingbroke had translated some of Smith’s poems into Italian and presumably shared a similar literary friendship with Mariana. Poor Lady Bolingbroke certainly needed to think beautiful thoughts in order to take her mind off the scandal that had enveloped her marriage (for gossipy details see here). Previous sightings of Mariana and Lady Bolingbroke together had been made in Pisa by American-born Count Rumford in late 1793.
Mariana and her mother remained in Pisa before moving on to Florence, where we shall renew our acquaintance with them in the summer of 1794.
After an engagement of eleven years Kate Frye and John Collins are at last about to be married – in All Saint’s Church, Hove. No wedding photographs were taken so we have to imagine Kate in her ‘best black frock – new boots, my silk hat which is quite pretty – squirrel coat and muff. Agnes’ present [a gold watch and bracelet] has blue stones in it and I borrowed a handkerchief from Mother. I was wearing a mixture of old and new.’ John, of course, wore his officer’s uniform.
The moment of departure arrived, the hiatus between the old life and the new.
My Wedding Day and my Birthday. 37.
‘Just after 12.30 Mother, Agnes and I left in the taxi for All Saints Church, Hove. We walked up the Church – Mother and I together and she and Agnes went into a seat. Then I saw John coming from the Vestry. I was only conscious that he looked alright and not nervous. I spoke very, very slowly I noticed, as if I were weighing every word – and I said “obey” most deliberately and carefully. I would have rather had it left out altogether but had come to the conclusion that if I had the Church of England marriage service at all there wasn’t much more objection to that one word than to much of the other. That I still object fundamentally to unequal vows is one thing very sure, but it has been so restful not to have to go and argue with the Vicar beforehand, which I meant to do and should have done if I had not been so tied to the house. He would not have altered it I am sure and it would have spoilt all the joy of the good feeling. It probably sounds lazy. One ought to battle for one’s conviction.’
There was no father figure to give Kate away, no best man to support John and no bridesmaids. It was as simple a wedding as could be. Perhaps one All Saints regular might have slipped in a pew, but otherwise Mother and Agnes were the only witnesses. Did Kate have any moment of regret that hers was not a grand wedding? She had witnessed so many over the years as Gilbey, Blyth and Gold brides, bedecked with satin and lace and trailing bridesmaids, were supported up the aisle by their prosperous fathers. She had inspected mountainous displays of presents, listened to the congratulatory speeches and seen the happy couples depart on honeymoon visits to the Italian Lakes, or Paris, or Switzerland or Rome. But, if there was ever a twinge of disappointment, Kate did not confide it to her diary. She thoroughly enjoyed herself, taking pleasure from everything the day had to offer.
‘Brighton was all en fête as the King and Queen had come to visit the wounded – and as chance would have it when we were turning off the front we saw a little group of people and finding the King was expected we waited for about ten minutes. Then past they came, the King quite deliberately turning to John and returning his salute. It was exciting and on my Wedding day too. I wanted to stop them and tell them all about it.’
Returning to Portland Road from All Saints, which Kate described as ‘such a gorgeous Church – like a small cathedral’, Mr and Mrs John Collins walked up the short tiled path and into number 58. The winter sun shone through the decorative door panels of art-nouveau stained glass as married life at long last began. ‘I just took off my hat and coat and John came upstairs. And John kept kissing me and I said “someone’s coming” in the old way, forgetting it wouldn’t matter.’ For tea ‘we had a wee cake covered with white sugar and I cut it with John’s sword’ and then it was off to Brighton station ‘to catch the 4.40 train. It proved slow – but it didn’t seem to matter – we just sat and hugged each other – Government compels us now-a-days to travel with the blinds down so it was alright.’
From Victoria they took a motor taxi to the Great Central Hotel at Marylebone Station, where they had decided to spend their wedding night. ‘I suggested we had better not pay too much, but it was really rather nice on our arrival not to be consulted and just taken to the first floor – Room No 123. I suggested to John – my husband – that he could go on down while I changed but he flatly refused so he sat and watched me do my hair and then did my dress up for me.
We went straight into dinner about 8.15 and had nine rather bad courses. Very few people there and the room gradually emptied till we were the last. I was hungry and ate quite a lot. Then we strolled round the palm court where a band was playing but we didn’t seem to want people so we went in the drawing- room.
Then we both said we were tired so I said I thought I had better go to bed – it was then 10. John said he would come, but I told him not for twenty minutes. He didn’t like it but gave in and I went and got the key and went up alone. I was so excited – who isn’t at such a moment?
I undressed all backwards and was only just done when John arrived. Ours was a gorgeous room, the bed in an alcove. We had meant to have a fire, it would have been nice, but really the room was so warm we didn’t need it. I laughed at first. Later I shed a tear or two and John would turn up the light to look at me. Then he saw my tears and wept himself. We did try to go to sleep, but I don’t think John had more than two hours and I had considerably less. But we were very, very happy.’
The Hotel Great Central is still there – now the Landmark Hotel. In 1919 Kate was to renew her acquaintance with it in very different circumstances when it had been turned into a hospital for officers and John was admitted as a patient, seriously ill with Spanish Flu.
[Incidentally – very incidentally – it was on the site of the Hotel Grand Central that in the 1870s and 1880s Elizabeth Garrett Anderson ran her first ‘New Hospital for Women’. It was because the houses in which the hospital operated were due to be demolished to make way for the new station and hotel that she was forced to look elsewhere – eventually selecting the Euston Road site on which to build what became the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital – see Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery.]
Kate’s wedding day was re-enacted in episode 2 of ITV’s The Great War: The People’s Story (shown on 17 August 2014) – in which Romola Garai plays Kate and Tom Turner plays John.
For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here.
It is sited in Christchurch Gardens, a paved turning running from Victoria Street, Westminster, towards Caxton Hall and was commissioned by the Suffragette Fellowship to commemorate ‘ the courage and perseverance of all those men and women who in the long struggle for votes for women selflessly braved derision, opposition and ostracism, many enduring physical violence and suffering.’ The Memorial was unveiled in 1970, on 14 July, Emmeline Pankhurst’s official birthday .
I find it interesting that it took nearly 60 years from the time that the WSPU had, to all intents and purposes, disbanded for the survivors to commemorate with a piece of public art (rather than a plaque, of which there are several related to the suffrage movement) any others than the Pankhursts (that is, Emmeline and Christabel).
I am not aware of any documentation associated with the decision to commission Lorne McKean and Edwin Russell, the young (husband and wife) couple who designed the memorial, although I have noticed that in most citations it is Russell alone who is usually named as its sculptor. I have been in touch with Lorne McKean (Edwin Russell died in 2013) and she comments:
‘Edwin (my husband) and I worked on many of our sculptures together. Usually one of us took the leadership on a particular sculpture and in the case of the Suffragette memorial this was Edwin. I do recall that the actual idea that developed from just the idea of a shape more like a memorial grave stone to the S shaped scroll that you now see developed organically between us. We have always been really bad at signing things as it always seems to us the least relevant part of the work. But have grown to appreciate that it is interesting to others’.
I like the hint that the scroll design may have evolved from first equating ‘memorial’ with ‘gravestone’.
However, the only other primary evidence I can show you of the event – and the thinking behind it -comes from the pages of the 1971 edition of Calling All Women, the Suffragette Fellowship Newsletter.
And yet…and yet….While the inside pages of the 1971 edition of Calling All Women were given over to reports of the unveiling of this new memorial – one intended to commemorate the involvement of all suffragettes – what was the image chosen for the cover? Yes, of course, Mrs Pankhurst. Once again, the power of her image – set so splendidly against the Palace of Westminster – had trumped that of the newcomer.
It is as though, even at this late stage in the history of the suffragette movement, there was a force at work intent on proving that maxim put forward by Thomas Carlyle (incidentally one of Mrs Pankhurst’s favourite writers – and she wasn’t a great reader) that ‘the history of the world is but the biography of great men’ or, of course, women. This is not a sentiment that appeals to me and may explain why I have devoted so many years to uncovering the lives of those suffrage campaigners who were by no means great. It is just these women – and men – that the Suffragette Fellowship Memorial is there to commemorate.
So -pay a visit to Christchurch Gardens, think of your favourite non-famous suffragette – and contemplate.
See also this Parliament and Women in the 20th Century blog post.
Kate is spending Christmas with her mother and sister in digs at 58 Portland Road, Hove. This is their first Christmas since the death of Kate’s father, Frederick Frye, and very different from the glorious festivities that they enjoyed in the days of wealth and plenty. John Collins, Kate’s fiancé, is in the Army, stationed at Shoeburyness. They are to be married at All Saints Hove on 9 January 1915. Miss Green, who lives in Warwick Avenue, London, and is very well-off, is a very keen and active supporter of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage.
Friday December 25th 1914 – Christmas Day
Called at 7 – and off to All Saints Hove for Communion at 8. Such a gorgeous Church – like a small Cathedral – I am glad its a nice Church.
Back again and Mother and I had breakfast together – then leaving dear love [Kate’s little dog – aka ‘Mickie’] for Miss Miles to look after the 3 of us to morning service. Agnes came back for Mickie and Mother and I went on the Parade and met Agnes coming back. In at 1.20 to a Christmas Dinner of hot Roast Beef and a weird pudding pretending to be a Christmas Plum.
The meal was brought to a sudden close by my opening one of the parcels which had arrived in the morning by post. I didn’t know the writing but it was a registered parcel and I found a pair of silver Table Napkin rings from Miss Green for a wedding present. We had so laughed about wedding presents of such a nature that we roared with laughter and I went on reading her letter aloud and then as it was so sad burst into tears. She had once been going to be married on the 4th January but her man had died. Really it was most pathetic. So then we quieted down and sat over the fire and read our letters etc. Nothing from John – when last I heard he was preparing for a Christmas present from the Germans. Dover has already had one – a bomb dropped from an Aeroplane but it fell into a garden and did no damage.
We had a quiet day and my cold came on with great violence and I felt very tired and seedy altogether and not at all Christmassy. I have had £10 from Aunt Agnes [Gilbey] for a wedding present and £7 from Constance [her cousin, daughter of Aunt Agnes] for Christmas and wedding. Mother has given me 5 shillings and Mickie a sponge bag and Agnes a little Jewel Box. Last year this time our Christmas was over – John was on the point of departure. I wonder how Daddie is enjoying his Christmas – I hope his is a peaceful one.
For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here. I rather think you might find it an enthralling Christmas read.