Archive for category 1911 Census
TO BE PUBLISHED ON 6 MARCH 2014
As readers of this blog will know, since 2009 I have been involved in research on the suffrage boycott of the 1911 census. With Dr Jill Liddington, I worked to uncover the women who followed the call to boycott the census. We studied the circumstances of those who did – and those who did not – refuse to complete the census form and produced, first, a paper for the Women’s History Network Conference, held in Oxford in September 2009, and then an article ,‘Women do not count, neither shall they be counted’: Suffrage, Citizenship and the Battle for the 1911 Census‘ published in the History Workshop Journal in 2011.
It was intended to develop this research into a book, but I decided to pursue other projects – such as the setting up of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery and writing Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary – as well, of course, as running my bookselling business,’ Woman and Her Sphere’ – while Jill turned the census research into Vanishing for the Vote.
I continued, however, to be very interested in uncovering 1911 census boycotters – and wondering about their lives – and, at odd moments, wrote up my discoveries for the Woman and Her Sphere blog – and gave a paper, ‘No Vote No Census’ ,at the National Archives Conference on the 1911 census, held in the autumn of 2011. You can listen to it here.
Jill later asked me to help compile the extensive Gazetteer of Suffragettes/Suffragists that constitutes the end section of Vanishing for the Vote. This is based on the original research we carried out, supplemented by details of many additional boycotters that prolonged acquaintance with the digitized census has now uncovered.
I am sure that all who are interested in the Edwardian suffrage campaign will be delighted to read Vanishing for the Vote – which takes us right into the lives of the women – and their families – who were prepared to defy the census enumerator in order to highlight their lack of citizenship.
Vanishing for the vote recounts what happened on one night, Sunday 2 April, 1911, when the Liberal government demanded every household comply with its census requirements. Suffragette organisations urged women, all still voteless, to boycott this census.
Many did. Some wrote ‘Votes for Women’ boldly across their schedules. Others hid in darkened houses or, in the case of Emily Wilding Davison, in a cupboard within the Houses of Parliament.
Yet many did not. Even some suffragettes who might be expected to boycott decided to comply – and completed a perfectly accurate schedule. Why?
Vanishing for the vote explores the ‘battle for the census’ arguments that raged across Edwardian England in spring 1911. It investigates why some committed campaigners decided against civil disobedience tactics, instead opting to provide the government with accurate data for its health and welfare reforms.
This book plunges the reader into the turbulent world of Edwardian politics, so vividly recorded on census night 1911. Based on a wealth of brand-new documentary evidence, it offers compelling reading for history scholars and general readers alike.
Sumptuously produced, with 50 illustrations and an invaluable Gazetteer of suffrage campaigners.
To be published by Manchester University Press:
Rather belatedly you might think, I’ve just realised that the British Museum holds a hunger-strike medal. It, together with a Holloway brooch (which rather oddly is the main image used to illustrate the item online), was awarded to ‘Joan Cather’. Her’s was not a name I recognised from previous suffrage research, so I immediately set about finding out something about her.
The first trace I came across for a woman of that name were a few entries on the London Electoral Register in the 1920s and ’30s. Thus, I discovered that a Joan Cather had been living in London, at 23 Upper Montagu Street, sharing the house with John Leonard Cather. Rather oddly, apart from her death in 1967, this Joan Cather hadn’t left any other trace.
So I turned to John Leonard Cather – looking first at his entry on the 1911 census. And, lo and behold, on his census form he had written ‘Conscientious scruples prevent me from rendering a return of the female occupants of this house for the purpose of assisting statistical tables which will be used as the basis for further vexatious legislation affecting women, & in which they have no voice. Should the Conciliation Committee bill be passed into law this session the additional details will be forthcoming.’
A note has been added ‘Two Females inserted in Summary Books by the Registrar being the probable number.’ One of these would doubtless have been his wife, Joan, and the other a female servant.
Clearly I had the right Cathers.
At this time they were living at ‘Red Cottage, Cavendish Road, Redhill’ and John Cather gave his occupation as ‘Motor Body Builder. Lieut Royal Navy (Retired)’. He had married Joan Waller (1882-1967) in 1908 and was clearly fully supportive of her involvement in the suffrage cause. Indeed, when the militant ‘Men’s Society for Women’s Rights’ was formed in 1912,’ Lieutenant Cather’, as he clearly liked to be known, was its honorary secretary. Ge was also by 1914 (and probably earlier) chairman of the Finance Committee of the Church League for Women’s Suffrage.
Joan Cather’s Hunger-strike Medal gives the date of the imprisonment that related to her hunger-strike as 4 March 1912 – which would indicate that she had taken part in that month’s WSPU window-smashing campaign. However, despite trawling through the relevant issues of Votes for Women, I haven’t yet managed to find a report of the damage she caused to merit this custodial sentence. Nor does her name appear on the Roll of Honour compiled by Suffragette Fellowship c 1960. It is possible that she was using an alias when she was sentenced. It would seem that the British Museum acquired the medal and brooch in 1975, seven years after the death of Joan Cather, but I’m not sure if it was given to the Museum by a family member or whether it was purchased. Perhaps I shall find out!
As I have explained in previous posts, the militant suffrage societies, the Women’s Freedom League and the Women’s Social and Political Union, laid plans to boycott the 1911 census. They urged individual supporters to either refuse to complete their census form or to evade the enumerator by absenting themselves from home on census night. In order to provide shelter for such evaders some women offered ‘open house’ for Census Night.
One such woman was a Liverpool woman, Mrs Florence Hall, who, as Votes for Women reported in its 31 March 1911 issue, ‘would be opening her house – Glenamour, The Park, Waterloo, to Census Resisters’.
And that is what she did. The head of the household, Joseph Albert Hall, was at home on Census Night but took part in the boycott, giving no details of his family and leaving the form unsigned.
The census form for ‘Glenamour’ was completed by the Enumerator who noted those present that night as: Joseph Albert Hall, 50 and his wife Florence N Hall, 45, and a daughter, also Florence N. Hall, 14, together with 2 anonymous men and 9 anonymous women.
Florence Hall had written across the Census Form:
‘No Vote No Census. House full of evading & resisting suffragettes & male supporters of whom I decline to make any return or give any particulars’
The house, which still carries the name ‘Glenamour’ (now 65 Park Road, Waterloo) was – and is – a large, semi-detached house . On the Form the Enumerator set the number of s rooms (for the purpose of the Census) at 10 (unsurpisingly, it is now divided into flats).
The boycott of the census was by no means the only active contribution that Joseph and Florence Hall made to the ‘Votes for Women’ campaign – I think we can take it as read that they were members of the Tax Resistance League.
The Women’s Freedom League paper, The Vote, reported in its 9 November 1912 issue, that:
‘The goods of Mr. J.A. Hall, of “Glenamour,” on October 31, Waterloo-park, Lancashire, were sold for the second time the first time had been in 1911] against distraint consequent on his refusal to pay income-tax on house property belonging to his wife. The goods were bought in by a friend for the amount of the tax and expenses.
Mrs. Hall, who attended the sale in the unavoidable absence of her husband, explained — by the courtesy of the auctioneer — to the large company of sympathisers present that this action was taken as the most practical and emphatic protest possible against the stupid and unjust action of the Revenue authorities who, despite the fact of the Married Woman’s Property Act under which she herself is liable for her own debts, had forced the issue under the Income Tax Act of 1842. This Act, whilst making the husband liable for the payment of any tax on his wife’s own income, leaves him absolutely without any power to obtain from her any information with regard to her income if she declines to disclose it.
Mrs. Hall emphasised the absurdity and unfairness of such an enactment, and said it was a matter for considerable surprise that, quite apart from the merits of the woman’s question, men had not bestirred themselves to force the Government to remedy this utterly impossible state of things and make women, if they could, pay this or any other tax whilst withholding from them the Parliamentary vote.’
It hasn’t been easy to find out much more about the Halls. I think Florence’s maiden name was ‘Nightingale’ – it’s rather startling just how many female ‘Nightingale’ children around the time of her birth – 1868 – were still being named for the heroine of the Crimea. Joseph Hall was born in Liverpool, the son of a cooper, and seems to have worked in export sales. The couple had been over to the US for some time at the end of the 19th century, returning in 1898. By that time they had one daughter (who may have been the one given the name ‘Florence’ on the census form, but whose real name was ‘Marjorie’). In 1901 the Halls were living in Leytonstone, now with a new-born son, Harold, who may have been one of the anonymous males enumerated ten years later in ‘Glenamour’.
The Halls returned to the US in October 1913, but must have returned to Britain because I next come across them in 1921, travelling over to Los Angeles with Harold, who is now an engineer. By 1927 the Halls have quit these shores for good and are permanent residents in the US, living in Glen Avenue, Port Chester, Westchester Co, New York – which Street View shows me looks rather agreeable.
To listen to a talk I gave on the suffragette boycott at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census click here
As I have explained in previous posts, the militant suffrage societies, the Women’s Freedom League and the Women’s Social and Political Union, laid plans to boycott the 1911 census. They urged individual supporters to either refuse to complete their census form or to evade the enumerator by absenting themselves from home on census night.
In order to provide shelter for would-be evaders some local branches of the societies organised ‘events’ – either in houses taken specially for the occasion or in the branch office.
In Votes for Women, 24 March 1911, under the heading: ‘Some Country Arrangements’, the Leicester WSPU branch revealed their plan. ‘An all-night party is being arranged. Apply for all arrangements to Miss Dorothy Pethick, 14 Bowling Green Street, Leicester.
Dorothy Pethick, then the WSPU organizer in Leicester, was the sister of Mrs Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, one of the WSPU leaders. Kate Frye was to encounter her two years later, while campaigning at the Reading by-election in October 1913 and described her (see Campaigning for the Vote ) as ‘very like her sister, Mrs P Lawrence and is very nice. Most compassionate’ – ‘She went off dressed up to the nines to sell Votes [for Women].
Dorothy Pethick did, indeed, organise an all-night party and I’ve recently managed to uncover the census form that George Cooper, the local Registrar, completed for: ’14 Bowling Green Street Leicester – Suffragettes Office.’
He described how:
‘Suffragettes – about 20 – varying in age from 17 to 50. Most of these were people of no occupation – a doctor’s wife and daughter were amongst them.’
He appears to have taken matters further than any other Registrar and had spent some time inspecting:
‘Women’s Suffrage Society Report and Balance Sheet dated Wed 15 March 1911’
to come to the conclusion that:
‘Number of members in Leicester and Leicestershire 264
Number residing in sub district of south Leicester 93
Number accounted for on schedules 72
estimated number not enumerated 21
of which 13 females spent the night at 14 Bowling Green Lane
There were 33 females in and out of this building during the night.’
That is the most thorough contemporary assessment by a Registrar of a local WSPU census boycott that I’ve yet seen. He appears to have taken the trouble to check the names of those listed in the WSPU Report against the names of those who had completed census forms.
The ‘doctor’s wife and daughter’ mentioned by the Registrar will be Mrs Alice Pemberton Peake, wife of William Pemberton Peake, ‘medical practitioner’, who lived at 21 Oxford Street, Leicester. On census night he was at home with his daughter, Lily (aged 19) and son, Charles (aged 14) and one servant. He described himself as ‘married’, but of his wife and second daughter, Helena (aged 17), there is no trace. On 21 March Mrs Pemberton Peake had taken the chair at a WSPU meeting in Leicester.
Alice Hawkins was another WSPU member absent from home on census night – she’d doubtless joined the party at 14 Bowling Green Lane. Another WSPU member, Evelyn Carryer, had written ‘No Vote No Census’ across her form and gave no other details – other than writing ‘unenfranchised’ in the Disability Column – but it isn’t clear from this whether she had actually absented herself as well as making this written protest. More research might, by a process of elimination, build up a picture of the others of the 13 census evaders who spent the night at 14 Bowling Green Street on the night of 2 April 1911. The picture will, however, always be hazy. One hundred years later it is well nigh impossible to place an evader with total certainty in any particular place. Although the boycott had little effect on national statistics, it certainly was successful in hiding from history the determined evader.
To listen to a talk I gave on the suffragette boycott at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census click here
‘NO VOTE NO CENSUS Posterity will know how to judge the Government if it persists in bringing about the falsification of national statistics instead of acting on its own principles and making itself truly representational of the people.’ Mary Phillips
This is the statement that Mary Phillips, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) organizer, wrote across the census form issued for 68 Manningham Lane, Bradford – the WSPU’s office.
The Enumerator noted in his Census Summary Book that 68 Manningham Lane was ‘a Lock Up Shop no sleeping accommodation’. Nothwithstanding, he recorded that Mary Phillips and 9 other females – suffragettes – had spent the night there – but that he was unable to obtain any information about them.
Mary Phillips had advertised in Votes for Women (31 March) the ‘At Home’ for Census Night – from 11pm on 2 April to noon on Monday 3 April – and I wonder if she was rather disappointed that she was supported by only 9 others. For what it is worth, there is no mention at all in the following week’s issue of the meeting planned for Wednesday 4 April in which members were to tell of ‘Where I spent Census Night’. Had Bradford, perhaps, not been that enthusiastic?
To listen to a talk I gave on the suffragette boycott at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census click here
It was in a hall associated with the crazy folly that was Jezreel’s Tower that a band of Gillingham suffragettes amused themselves on the night of 2 April 1911 as they sought to evade the census enumerator.
The protest was arranged by Laura Ainsworth (for whose biographical details see her entry in my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide), who had a couple of months earlier taken up her post as WSPU organizer in North Kent, charged with starting a campaign to cover Maidstone, Chatham, Gravesend and Sittingbourne. For a photo of Laura Ainsworth click here
Not long after her arrival the WSPU revealed that it planned to call on its members to boycott the national census – the point being that for this census the government had constructed a new set of questions directly relating to women’s fertility, with the intention of using the resulting statistics as a basis for future legislation. Suffragettes argued that the government could hardly expect them to co-operate when, without a parliamentary vote, they would have no control over any new laws affecting their work and welfare.
Laura Ainsworth called on the women of North Kent to join in this boycott, on 24 March announcing in Votes for Women that in order to provide a place for women to shelter so as to be absent from their own homes on the night of 2 April – and thereby not be counted by the enumerator there – ‘A public hall has been taken and a social evening is being arranged. The hall will be open at 11.30 pm. Refreshments are being provided.’
The ‘public hall’ that was rented was the Dancing Academy run by 31-year-old Mrs Alice Ada Worrall in Jezreel Hall, Canterbury Street, Gillingham. Mrs Worrall and her husband, William, an engine fitter and nominal principal of the Dancing Academy, were safely at home (71 Duncan Road, Gillingham) with their three children on census night. Presumably they were not active WSPU supporters, merely happy to take an evening’s rent for their premises.
I’m sure a local Gillingham historian will be able to correct me if I’m wrong, but I assume that there was a hall – Jezreel’s Hall – within this block associated with the Tower and that was where the Dancing Academy was sited. I’ve come as near as I can to getting the information correct because (thanks to my new zippy computer and the complicated dance between two websites – Ancestry.com and Findmypast.com) I have at last uncovered the census form that was completed by the enumerator that night.
The address on the form is ‘Dancing Academy, Jezreel’s Hall, Canterbury Street. Gillingham’. The ‘Head of House’ is ‘Mr Worrall’.
The form is unsigned, presumably completed by the Registrar, who notes ‘Party of Suffragettes assembled in Dancing Academy – 40 in number 1 male and 39 females’.
The suffragettes may have intended for their boycott to escape totally the notice of the census authorities – even though we can be sure the latter were studying the pages of Votes for Women and would have known that something was planned in the area. However, as the Chatham, Rochester and Gillingham News reported on 8 April, the exuberance of the party caused so much noise that the police came to investigate. They then alerted the enumerator who was able to record the numbers present. It was the knowledge that such a form did exist that has been so tantalizing. Even though the Gillingham boycotters were not very successful in eluding the enumerator they have certainly foxed for a good long time this 1911 census detective.
You can read here a piece that BBC Kent put up on its website on the 100th anniversary of the census boycott back in 2011 and here a post written by a Chatham Grammar School for Girls pupil after a visit to the Medway Archives. To listen to a talk I gave on the suffragette boycott at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census click here
Suffragette evaders of the 1911 census can be very difficult to uncover – that, of course, was their intention. It is well nigh impossible to identify individual evaders who, with their companions, took part in one of the organised mass evasions. However it is particularly tantalising when the organisers of a mass evasion publicised its whereabouts in the suffrage press and yet proof of the protest in the form of a group census form cannot be found. We can be sure that the authorities were studying Votes for Women and knew exactly where such gathering would take place.
One such is the mass evasion that took place in Birmingham. The WSPU organizers there, Dorothy Evans (for her biographical details see my Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide) and Gladys Hazel (1880-1959, who had been a teacher at King Edward’s School, Handsworth, and was later to be a suffrage organizer in Bristol) entered fully into the spirit of the census boycott. By 17 March (as quoted in Votes for Women of that date) they were planning all-night entertainment -‘ a meeting, speeches, dancing and probably a play. There will be chalking parties at 6, baths at 7 and a second breakfast at 8. Evaders of the Census who attend these parties have been asked to apply for forms in order to return them with ‘No Vote No Census’ written across them.’
The following week Votes for Women divulged further information – Resisters were to assemble at the office at 11pm for the entertainments, the baths were to be had at Kent Street and the 8am breakfast at Lyons in New Street.
With all this information available, how was it that I couldn’t find a census form for the office – 97 John Bright Street – where the all-night meeting was to take place? Well, whether it’s due to my speedy new computer – or the experience that has accrued from four years of searching the census websites – I have just discovered the relevant document.
There it is: The cover reads:Name of Head of Family etc: Suffragists. Address: WSPU Committee Rooms, 97 John Bright St.
The form shows that of the 130 Suffragists who spent the night there 120 were female and 10 were male. The Superintendent Registrar wrote on the form ‘This schedule is filled in as per instructions received from General Office April 8th 1911’
Moreover I have also uncovered the individual census forms for Dorothy Evans and Gladys Hazel, left for them at their lodgings, 34 Harold Rd Edgbaston. They filled them out identically, quoting the rubric – ‘Votes for Women’ ‘No Vote No Census’ and the enumerator wrote on each – ‘Housekeeper informs me that Miss Evans (Miss Hazel) did not sleep at no 34 Harold Road on Sunday’.
At the terrace house – still there and still available to let – though the agents now aim for students as tenants rather than suffragettes – the women shared three rooms between them – while the landlord, Thomas Wilkes, his wife (presumably the housekeeper mentioned by the enumerator) and nephew had the run of the remaining six.
If only a fraction of the 130 Birmingham evaders filled in their census forms, as did Dorothy Evans and Gladys Evans, they should be somewhere on the census websites – if only we could track them down. However, without a name or an address, this is difficult – although not impossible. Perhaps those who took part in Fight for the Right – the short film about the Birmingham suffragettes – will be inspired to uncover these hidden suffragettes.
There is no end to the interesting family histories one unearths while digging into the suffrage boycott of the 1911 census.
I recorded in the Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide that in 1913 a certain ‘H.M. T Lehmann’ was the honorary secretary (pro tem) of the Bristol branch of the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement and that his address was ‘Rock Mount, Shirehampton’. As a child I lived in Bristol very close to Shirehampton, so this address stayed with me and I thought that when I had an idle moment I would investigate this 3-initialled man about whom I knew nothing.
When I came to look at the census return for ‘Rock Mount’ I was very interested to discover that, although there was no mention on the form of ‘H.M.T’ Lehmann – the householder, Caroline Edith Lehmann, was a census boycotter. She wrote firmly across the form: ‘Being an unrepresented ratepayer I refuse to give any information respecting myself or my household for the benefit of an Un-Liberal government. C.E. Lehmann. ‘ But who were Caroline Edith and H.M. T. Lehmann? There names, as far as I know, appear nowhere else in suffrage history.
Well, it took some untangling – but here goes.
Caroline Edith Mayne was born in 1859 in Kidderminster, daughter of a former captain in the 10th Dragoons In 1883 she married John Harold Watson, a minor Kidderminster industrialist, with whom she had 2 daughters, Hilda and Joyce. Ten years later, in 1893, Watson filed a petition for divorce against her, citing a Weston-super-Mare pharmacist, Henry Ruck. The petition goes into considerable detail, describing adultery committed in 1888 and 1893 – and presumably at times in between – at various addresses -in Weston Super-Mare, particularly at 5 Royal Crescent where Caroline Watson was staying. The decree nisi was given in 1895. Ruck’s wife divorced him for desertion in 1895. While the Watson divorce case was being heard Caroline was only allowed access to her children once a week – at her mother’s Kidderminster house. It is clear that her husband was trying to prevent her having any access at all and after the divorce the two daughters remained in Kidderminster with their father. I wonder how often they saw their mother in later life? Neither married.
In November 1897 in London – at 41 Burlington Road, Paddington – Caroline gave birth to a son – Heinz Maurice Talbot Lehmann. On his birth certificate his father is given as Ernst Lehmann, journalist, and his mother as Caroline Edith Lehmann, late Watson, formerly Mayne. The couple had been married in April 1896 in London – with Caroline’s name given as ‘Edith Lillie Watson’.
Four years later, when the 1901 census was taken, mother and son, who was now known as ‘Henry’ rather than ‘Heinz’, were living at Ramsbury Road, St Albans. Caroline Lehmann is described as married, but there is no trace on the census of Ernst Lehmann either here or elsewhere in England. The fact that his son’s name has been anglicized may indicate that by now Ernst was removed from the household. I think that, as Ernest Lewis, he died in Kensington in 1927.
At some point between 1901 and 1911 mother and son moved to Shirehampton, on the outskirts of Bristol, to a house in Station Road that went under the name, variously, of ‘Rockmount’ or ‘Rock Mount’. In 1911 the census enumerator was informed that Henry Lehmann was a pupil at Clifton College. Caroline was to remain living in Shirehampton for the rest of her long life. Her later address was Talbot Cottage, 27 Grove Leaze.
Caroline Lehmann’s interesting marital history and the separation from her two daughters may well have coloured her views on ‘votes for women’. How could they not? Had she encouraged her son to take up the position as ‘hon sec pro tem’ of Bristol’s Men Political Union? He was barely 16 in 1913 but, from what I have learned of his subsequent career, would certainly have been ‘up’ for anything that might set him in opposition to the establishment.
Henry Lehmann joined the army in October 1914. His military record states that he was 19 but he was, of course, actually only 17. I wonder if he consulted his mother before taking this step? I rather doubt it. On 17 December 1915, at the grand old age of 18 and 1 month, Henry Lehmann, now a 2nd lieutenant in the 3rd Essex Regiment, gained his Aero Club Aviator’s certificate. He qualified while flying a Maurice Farman biplane. His address at this time was 192 Redland Road, Bristol. The Royal Aero Club album containing his 1915 photograph can be accessed by subscribers to Ancestry.com. While serving with the Royal Flying Corps, he was awarded the Military Cross.
In 1917 Henry married and with his wife, Joyce, had two daughters – Yvonne and [Bridget] Margaret. The couple divorced in 1925, with Joyce being given custody of children. Matters had obviously become rather desperate as Joyce forewent maintenance on condition that Henry had no communication with her.
In January 1928 Joyce Lehmann was living in Malvern with her younger daughter, working as secretary to Malvern Ladies’ College, having left the elder daughter, Yvonne, in Shirehampton in the care of her mother-in-law, with whom she clearly had a rapport despite the divorce. Henry Lehmann arrived one day at the school and, posing as a ‘Major Brown’ asked to see Mrs Lehmann. Despite this trick, Joyce Lehmann felt compelled to agree to her ex-husband’s request to take their daughter for a walk. She was clearly fearful that he would cause a scene and jeopardise her position at the school.
Henry did not return young Margaret at the due time and Joyce Lehmann was forced to institute court proceedings. After an Interpol search Margaret was discovered two weeks later, enrolled in a boarding school at Lille, and returned to her mother.
Henry Lehmann had an exotic post-First World War flying career, on occasion wing-walking with a flying circus and working as an advisor the the Chinese Nationalist air force. The latter position resulted in questions being asked in the House of Commons.
Clearly a man of parts, in 1940, while based in Sydney, Australia, Henry designed and built a sailing yacht, the Escapee, which, classed as a ‘tall ship’, is still sailing in the 21st century.
Lehmann later emigrated to Canada, flying with the Canadian Royal Air Force and as a commercial pilot – and died in 1956, the same year as his mother.
Anyway, all this is what comes of wondering who was the ‘hon sec pro tem’ of the Bristol branch of the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement. Alas, I was unable to discover any images that I could use to enliven the story – but perhaps readers may consider it quite lively enough without.
When researching the suffragette boycott of the 1911 census it is no surprise to find individuals in households – or, in the case of all-female households, all the members – refusing to give information to the enumerator.
Moreover one can discover instances of mass- evasion, such as those in Manchester and Portsmouth, which were instigated by the local WSPU organiser. It is, however, more unusual to find that an entire institution has absented itself from the census – but that is what happened in the case of the Anstey College of Physical Education. The College occupied a large house on the long Chester Road in Edrington, on the outskirts of Birmingham. All the Chester Road houses were then unnumberd, each having its own name – such as ‘Davos, ‘Glen Mor’ or ‘Westbourne’ – and it has taken some determined hunting but I have now managed to locate the census form issued to the College’s Principal, Rhoda Anstey. She gave no answers to the government’s questions but wrote across the form:
No Vote No Census! I protest against the injustice done to women rate-payers by the continued refusal of the government to give them the vote, and hereby refuse to fill in the census forms for my household.’ Rhoda Anstey, Principal of Anstey College. Note ‘If the Conciliation Bill passes the 3rd Reading on 5 May I undertake to give the information desired.’
On the form the Registrar noted in red ink that: ‘From the information obtained from several sources it is estimated that on the night of April 2nd 40 females slept on the premises and this number has been enumerated. ‘
Rhoda Anstey, theosophist, vegetarian and tax resister, had taken a contingent of her students to London on 19 June 1910 to take part in the grand procession organised by the WSPU in London and for the next few years actively supported the WSPU, advertising regularly in Votes for Women. Some of the College’s former students are likely to have been members of the Gymnastic Teachers’ Suffrage Society which had been founded in 1908. I presume that the 40 females enumerated on the night of 2 April included students at the College; I wonder if Miss Anstey enquired as to whether or not they wished to be enumerated?
For further information about Rhoda Anstey and her College click here.
WALKS/Suffrage Stories: The Suffragette 1911 Census Boycott: Where and What Was the Aldwych Skating Rink?
Roller skating was one of Edwardian Britain’s ‘crazes’ – to be enjoyed, as this comic card shows us, by all the family. One could, of course, as I did as a child in the 1950s, roller skate in the streets, but in the years before the First World War entrepreneurs hoping to cash in on the craze ventured to erect roller skating rinks in towns the length and breadth of Britain.
While I am sure that many individual suffragettes and suffragists enjoyed a spin around their local rink, there was one episode of suffragette history that centred on a specific London roller skating rink. For on census night 1911 – 2 April – it was at the Aldwych Skating Rink that the militant suffrage societies – the Women’s Social and Political Union and the Women’s Freedom League, together with related societies such as the Tax Resistance League – urged their supporters to muster. Here, out of their homes, they would escape detailed enumeration.
When interviewed in the 1970s by Sir Brian Harrison (Women’s Library 8 SUF/B/024), Marie Lawson, an important figure in the Women’s Freedom League, remembered that ‘We formed immediately a census resistance group – women who said ‘we don’t count; we won’t be counted’ – that they would stay out somehow – out of a house or roof during the period when you had to be recorded. Our group took the Aldwych skating rink for the night – we hired it. Nobody was supposed to be sleeping there. We had roller skates and we spent the night on roller skates and there was no-one to declare us and when we went away in the morning we were very weary, very tired with our roller skating but we felt we had done the government out of so many names on the census resistance. It wasn’t very useful really but it was something to do. We used to grab at every little thing, you know, that we could make a protest about. It was advertising really.’
So it was that, after a late-evening rally in Trafalgar Square, the suffragettes promenaded down the Strand to the Aldwych where it was estimated by the Census Office that 500 women and 70 men gathered at the Skating Rink. Although the numbers were recorded, the identity of most of that 570 is lost – only those whose names are mentioned in the Votes for Women report (7 April 1911) can be placed there with certainty. These included Mrs Pankhurst, Ethel Smyth and, among members of the Actresses’ Franchise League who provided the entertainment, Decima Moore and her sister, Ada, Adeline Bourne, Winifred Mayo, Inez Bensusan, Rosa Leo, Sidney Keith, Miss Laing and Natalia de Meix. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence was also there. She certainly did her bit to disrupt the census, being enumerated in three separate places- once in her Clement’s Inn flat, once in her Surrey country cottage and, again, here at the Aldwych. By way of contrast, no trace of a census paper for Christabel Pankhurst has been found – but she was there in the Skating Rink, bringing the entertainments to a rousing conclusion at 3.30 am.
Here is Decima Moore photographed that night inside the Skating Rink. I am pretty certain that she is captured doing her party piece -Laurence Housman’s ‘Women This and Women That’. In the photograph we can see, behind the audience and the NWSPU ‘No Vote No Census’ banner, the walls of the skating rink – rather bare as one might expect. ‘What kind of structure was it?’, I wondered and, moreover, ‘where was it?’ ‘Aldwych’ was a rather vague address.
I discovered that the Aldwych Skating Rink was first listed in the rate books in 1911, provisionally numbered 10 Aldwych. The Kingsway/Aldwych area that to us today looks so solidly Edwardian was, in 1911, still in a state of flux.
Kingsway had been driven through – it was formally opened in 1905 – and the curve of the Aldwych formed, but it was not until well into the 1920s that all the plots were sold and developed. Thus, from the rate book, I could see that no 10 Aldwych was surrounded by vacant lots enclosed in advertising hoardings, the hoarding company paying a rent for their advertisements.
But I was still unclear as to precisely where no 10 was. However, the rate book came to the rescue, recording that on one side of no 10 the lot was owned by the London County Council and was ‘used for advertising station on frontage line from Houghton Street to roller skating rink. On its other side –provisionally numbered no 8 – was an advertising station north-east on the frontage line east of the roller skating rink. So this seemed to establish that the skating rink was on the north-east curve of Aldwych, to the east of Houghton Street. Clement’s Inn, the WSPU headquarters, virtually abutted the rear of the plot. What more suitable venue to book for such an evening than this, probably the nearest large hall?
The owner of the skating rink was Edward Johnson Wilson who had formed his company, ‘Rinkeries’, in 1909. In 1911 the company also ran ‘ideal skating palaces’ on the Holloway Road, as well as in Exeter, Plymouth and St Leonards. Like many other roller-skating rink companies, whose liquidations, as recorded in the London Gazette, are a sad testament to so many lost hopes, ‘Rinkeries’ does not appear to have been very successful; Edward Wilson was doubtless glad of the windfall of a night’s rent from the WSPU.
But I still did not know what the skating rink looked like. It is difficult now to conjure up the appearance of that Aldwych curve before the arrival of the imperial solidity of the buildings we see today. From looking at contemporary photographs of Kingsway, dominated by empty plots and high advertising hoardings, I could imagine that the area must have felt strange and impermanent. The old higgledy-piggledy rookery streets around Holywell Street and Houghton Street – that many of the suffragettes would have remembered – had been swept away, but the new order had not yet arrived. In this aerial photograph, probably taken c 1918 after the completion of Australia House (in the centre foreground), the Aldwych Skating Rink would have been – and perhaps still was – one of the low buildings in the bottom right of the picture.
But in 1911 the southern side of the road had not been developed at all. With few buildings to throw out light, the area was doubtless rather dark. What kind of building was it that the suffragettes waited outside that night – surrounded by, in effect, a building site – while posses of hooligans attempted to storm the rink’s doors?
I have not been able to locate a photograph, but, as luck would have it, I found the answer in the ‘Rinkeries’ file in the National Archives – its presence there a consequence of the company’s eventual liquidation. There, as a heading to ‘Rinkeries’ notepaper, was an engraving of the Aldwych Skating Rink. I could now see that it comprised four linked, gabled structures –chalet-type – single storey. The effect, for all the panache of many flying union flags, was somewhat temporary – as it was no doubt in reality. What a contrast to its successors.
During the First World War the Aldwych Skating Rink was used as a clearing house for Belgian refugees. This watercolour, in the Imperial War Museum collection, shows the building after it was hit in a Zeppelin raid on 13 October 1915. The church in the background is St Clement Danes. The Rink must have been swept away by the end of the war, to make way for the monumental buildings that still occupy the central section of that Aldwych curve. It takes an effort to reimagine its former appearance – but to do so helps us to enter the 1911 worldview of the census evaders.
As I have already described here, one of the most inclusive acts of civic resistance undertaken by the militant suffrage societies was the boycott of the 1911 census. The argument was that, if the government was not prepared to grant them full rights of citizenship, women would not fulfill the duties of a citizen. On the night of the census – 2 April – those who obeyed the call either went to considerable lengths to evade the enumerator – or, like ‘Madame Mantalini’, refused to supply the required details on their census paper.
There are many stories to be told, but one of the more flamboyant adventures was that of Arthur Marshall, the WSPU’s solicitor, who with his wife, Kitty and nine other rented from a Paddington firm, Rickards, what were described as ‘smart Pullman caravans’. The caravans, horsedrawn, of course -were then driven
in the dark from Paddington and into and round Trafalgar Square, where the main suffragette protest was taking place – and then down Whitehall and out to the west, eventually coming to a halt on Putney Common.
As the journalist Henry Nevinson, writing in the suffragette newspaper, Votes for Women, wrote, ‘I had noticed three gypsy caravans….they were driven by women, who whispered me the names of woodland regions not very far off in Surrey. Whether statistics will add them to Surrey’s glorious army of vagrants I don’t know, but they vanished silently down the road, past the decorated windows of the Home Office and the Local Government Board.’ The last office was singled out for mention because it was the LGB – under its minister, John Burns – that was charged with organising the census.
Once they had arrived at Putney Common, not exactly deepest Surrey, the women – and Arthur Marshall – all appeared to have had a jolly dinner and reported that they had refused all information to the police who turned up to take their particulars. In the morning they decorated their caravans with placards saying – ‘If we don’t count we shall not be counted.’ and, thus adorned, travelled back into London.
Although this excursion doubtless attracted publicity, the police knew quite well who the leaders of that ‘suffragette party’, as they described it, were – and the Marshalls’ details were duly entered on a census form. The other nine women did, however, manage to remain anonymous.
It may be that Henry Nevinson was embroidering reality a little – and that it was not the women themselves who were driving the caravans – because a week or so later three men – presumably Rickards drivers – were charged with driving the caravans unlawfully on the turf of Putney Common. This was one of the very few prosecutions brought that related to the census boycott; women who had evaded or resisted were not charged, the government realising there was little to be gained by giving the protest the oxygen of publicity. However, the local Putney magistrate clearly thought the case a nonsense and it was dismissed with the defendants merely having to pay 2s in costs. And the image painted by Nevinson of the caravans with their bohemian crew remains in the memory.
Since 2009, when details of the 1911 census were released, I have (with, for a time, Dr Jill Liddington) been investigating how the women of the country responded to the call issued by the more militant suffrage societies to boycott the census. In the process I have discovered women of a suffrage inclination of whom, until now, suffrage history has known nothing.
One of these was a ‘Miss S. Marsden’, whose census form was delivered to her at 69 Church Street, Kensington, and who refused the enumerator any details about herself. However, Miss Marsden did not leave the form blank, writing on it one of the longest statements that I have so far encountered. Although the right edge of the census form is badly damaged, creating gaps in her comments, I think we can get the gist.
‘I, Mdme Mantalini, a municipal voter and tax payer, refuse to fill in this census paper, as I have no intention of furnishing this government with information and thereby helping them to legislate for women without obtaining their consent or first consulting them in the [missing words] effective way possible & extending the franchise to duly qualified women. As a responsible, law-abiding citizen I have conducted my business for sixteen years; as an employer of labour I have [contributed?] to the wealth of the state and in return I have been taxed for the upkeep of no 10 Downing Street. No 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the prime minister, but converted by his wife into a show-room for a French [dress maker?] (free of all duty and taxation) to exhibit his Paris models and take orders from them to be executed in Paris. I [missing words] with very few exceptions the dressmaking establishments in England are all owned by women, & only women & [missing words] workers. It therefore comes to this, that the only way open to us to protest at ‘our trade’ being ruined in [missing words] our taxes, is to drive home to the government by every method available that women are determined [missing words – perhaps ‘not to be governed’] without their consent.’
Would that not whet any researcher’s appetite? Who was Miss Marsden/Mdme Mantalini? What had Margot Asquith been up to?
In fact the second question was the easier to answer. An inspection of The Times archive revealed that in May 1909 Margot Asquith had been called to task by drapers’ associations from around the country for inviting the Parisian designer Paul Poiret to show dresses in 10 Downing Street.
Poiret then was the epitome of chic – designing dresses that relied on draping, rather than tailoring – so much easier to wear – and promoting hobble skirts, harem pants and kimono coats – designs such as these.
In response to a letter of complaint from an MP, Mrs Asquith explained, ‘I received in my private rooms at tea from 20 to 25 of my personal friends and a well-known French costumier, whose models can be bought in any London shop, brought some specimens for the inspection of myself and my guests. It was a purely personal occasion.’ In fact, such was the rumpus, that henceforward Margot Asquith was obliged to patronize British costumiers, such as Lucile although probably not, I fear, Madame Mantalini.
I thought at first that when Miss Marsden referred to herself on the census paper as ‘Mdme Mantalini’ it was merely as short-hand to describe her position as a dressmaker – that being the name of the dressmaking establishment at which, in Nicholas Nickleby, Kate Nickleby is apprenticed. But, consulting my 1908 London street directory, I found that the shop at 69 Church Street (which is still there) was, indeed, that of ‘Mrs Sybil Mantalini’. It was then only a short step to establish that Mrs Mantalini was, in fact, Miss Sybil Marsden, who was on the London Electoral Register by dint of her occupation of those premises, and the question of’ ‘Who was Miss S. Marsden?’ was solved.
But now I was hooked. Who was Miss Sybil Marsden? Why was she such an outspoken dressmaker?
I discovered that she had 9 siblings and in 1911 was living at the family home, 82 RedcliffeGardens in South Kensington, with her mother and one unmarried sister. Her father, Algernon Moses Marsden, had been a fine art dealer but, by 1901, had been declared bankrupt several times. His background was most interesting; he had declined to enter the family’s successful clothing business, clearly preferring the more elevated association with ‘art’.
Marsden was by all accounts – mainly in the bankruptcy reports – an engaging fellow – as is evident in the portrait of him by James Tissot, painted in 1877, when Sybil was four-years-old. At that time Marsden was Tissot’s dealer, but gambling and high-living proved his downfall. It would appear that after his final bankruptcy in 1901 he removed himself to New York, where he died in 1920. I can now see that the choice of the name ‘Madame Mantalini’ may have been even more to the point than I first thought. In Nicholas Nickleby it is Mr Mantalini’s extravagance that resulted in the bankruptcy of his wife’s business – an awful warning to Sybil Marsden. No wonder Algernon’s daughter had little faith in the ability of men to manage her affairs.
The cinéaste members of my family play the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game (whereby any named film actor has to be connected with fellow-actor KB by links covering no more than 6 films). I am hopeless at that – but think I might be a contender in Six Degrees of Garrett. This particular case is easy: Sybil Marsden, Algernon Marsden, James Tissot, J.M. Brydon, Agnes and Rhoda Garrett. As I discuss in Enterprising Women: the Garrets and their circle, the two young women were undergoing their architectural training with Brydon in 1873, at a time when he was working on the design of a new studio for Tissot, attached to the artist’s St John’s Wood house. Did they go on a site visit? Had they perhaps even seen in the flesh, as it were, the tiger skin and the fashionable blue vase, that serve to emphasise Algenon Marsden’s exoticism and good taste.