Suffrage Stories: The Hodgson Sisters And Their Suffrage Souvenirs

My new catalogue – No 198 – will contain a large collection of suffrage ephemera kept all their lives by three sisters, Edith Lizzie (1881-1958), Florence Emily (1882-1967), and Grace Margaret (1887-1966) Hodgson.

Women of the Hodgson family. With mother, Jemima, in the centre it is thought that Grace is on her right, with Mabel back left, next to Florence and with Edith on the right (Photocourtesy of Mabel’s descendants)

They were the daughters of Edward Hodgson (1857-1919) who was, successively, a linen draper, by 1901 a dairy manager and in 1911 was a ‘dairyman, unemployed’. The 1901 census found Florence, who is described as a ‘telegraphist’ (she worked for the Post Office), staying as a boarder, with a fourth sister, Mabel, at the Sunday School Union Home of Rest in Wykeham Road, Hastings. This would suggest that these sisters, at least, had possibly been teachers at Sunday School. Edith and Grace were back home with their parents, living at 31 Lawford Road, Kentish Town – Grace was a schoolgirl and Edith was working as a pupil teacher.

When the next census was taken, in 1911, Grace, who is now a teacher working for the LCC, and Mabel, a telegraphist, were at home with their parents at 39 Estelle Road, Gospel Oak, Hampstead – but there is no trace of Edith and Florence. There are two ‘Census Resistance’ badges in the collection – perhaps once owned by Edith and Florence. By now they, together with Grace, had been active for some time in the Women’s Freedom League and, as they can be found nowhere else on the census, it is to be presumed that they were following the call to boycott. For by this time all the sisters, except Mabel (who married in 1914), were active members of the Women’s Freedom League. It is likely – because there are items of WSPU ephemera in the collection – that they had originally joined the WSPU, but had then moved over to the WFL.

The collection also contains two very rare badges referring to the right of the subject to petition the King. These are associated with the WFL picket of the House of Commons organised by the WFL between July and October 1909. A postcard to ‘Miss Hodgson’ from Mrs Bettina Borrmann Wells, who organised the picket, makes clear that Edith, at least, took part in the picket.

The collection contains many other badges, as well as sashes worn by the sisters, ribbons that may have been worn as neckties, a miniature WFL pennant representing Holloway Prison, and a home-made ‘dolly bag’ – a green drawstring bag with gold carrying straps, on the front of which is sewn a WFL cloth shield badge. It is very unusual to find items of suffrage dress that have a clear provenance. The sisters’ intense interest in suffrage personalities is demonstrated in the large number of real photographic portrait postcards that they bought – and kept. These include members of the WSPU as well as of the WFL.

The sisters continued supporting the WFL with financial donations until at least 1932.  They continued to live together for the rest of their lives – latterly at 39 Laurier Road, Dartmouth Park, NW5. Family memory has it that the sisters had one each of the house’s three floors.

The sisters were obviously keen to see something of the world – and in 1930 all three travelled to Tangier and two years later Edith and Grace visited Japan. They probably had other adventures – but these are the only ones that survive in the records.

As with the Stevenson Sisters, about whom I wrote about last week, no family memory remained of the involvement of Edith, Florence and Grace in the suffrage movement – nor, indeed, anything else of their lives – the fate, as I’ve mentioned before, of the maiden aunt. It is only since one of Mabel’s descendants took the Collection to an auction house that something of their story  has slowly been revealed.

If you would like to receive a copy of the catalogue containing the Hodgson Collection, email me elizabeth.crawford2017@outlook.com

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.
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