Suffrage Stories: The Women’s Tax Resistance League And The Sad End Of Mrs Kineton Parkes

98 St Martin's Lane, home of the Women's Tax Resistance League

98 St Martin’s Lane, home of the Women’s Tax Resistance League

Flat 10, Talbot House, 98 St Martin’s Lane, on the borders of Covent Garden, was from 1910 the office of the Women’s Tax Resistance League and the home of Mrs Margaret Kineton Parkes (1865-1920), its indefatigable secretary. In 1889  she had married William Kineton Parkes, novelist, art historian and librarian to the Nicholson Institute in Leek, Staffordshire, built as a memorial to Richard Cobden. The couple had two sons, Gabriel and Maxwell, but by 1909, when Margaret Kineton Parkes moved to London, they appear to have separated.

TRL Talbot House 98 st Martin's Lane


Needless to say Mrs Kineton Parkes was not at home on the night of 2 April 1911 when the census was taken. The Women’s Tax Resistance League had been one of the societies that strongly supported the WFL/WSPU call to boycott the census and she doubtless spent the night at the Aldwych Skating Rink and the Gardenia Restaurant. Her son, Maxwell, was enumerated at the Letchworth home of Clara Lee of Norton Way, Letchworth, who was herself a census evader. Gabriel Parkes spent census night in Wandsworth at the home of a fellow agricultural student.

I suspect that Mrs Kineton Parkes was dependent on her work for the Women’s Tax Resistance League for her income. She certainly sent out frequent letters to other societies, advertising her services as a lecturer. For further information see my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide (entries under ‘Parkes, Mrs Margaret Kineton’ and’Tax Resistance League’).

Women's Tax Resistance League badge

Women’s Tax Resistance League badge

In February 1914 Maxwell Parkes set sail for Wellington, New Zealand, his occupation described on the passenger list as ‘Farming’, although he was later, in various documents, described as ‘traveller’ (as in ‘commercial traveller’) and as ‘photographer’.

In August 1914, with suffrage campaigning put aside for the duration of the war, Mrs Kineton Parkes became financial secretary to the newly founded Women’s Emergency Corps. In March 1915 she was given a cheque as a testimonial for her work for the Women’s Tax Resistance League. This was presented at a ceremony held at the home of  Miss Gertrude Eaton, who had been an active tax resister and the chairman of the meeting was Mrs Cecil Chapman, president of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage.

On 2 November 1917 another meeting was held by member of the Tax Resistance League at Gertrude Eaton’s home, this time to wish Margaret Kineton Parkes ‘heartiest good wishes for health, happiness and prosperity’ prior to her departure on 16 November for New Zealand, travelling out to stay with her son Maxwell near Dunedin. She left with the society the text of a history of the Tax Resistance League, which was I think published as a pamphlet in 1919.

During 1918 and 1919 Margaret Kineton Parkes travelled the length and breadth of New Zealand, lecturing on women’s war work, on the struggle for the vote in Britain, and advocating a total prohibition on the sale of alcohol in NZ. See here for her views on the latter as reported in the Wairarapa Daily Times, 8 August 1919.  You can read here her comments on the passing of theUK  Representation People Bill, as expressed to the reporter from the Otago Times, 15 February 1918.

Mrs Kineton Parkes was still lecturing at the end of November 1919 and her death on 13 May 1920 was described as ‘sudden’.

Seacliff Mental Institution, Dunedin, New Zealand

Seacliff Mental Hospital, Dunedin, New Zealand

In fact she died in the Seacliff Mental Hospital, some miles outside Dunedin, the institution in which the writer Janet Frame was many years later to be a patient. Mrs Kineton Parkes was only 55 years old; an inquest was held and the coroner’s report gave the cause of her death as ‘exhaustion from acute delirious mania’. A sad end.






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