Archive for category The Garretts and their Circle

Suffrage Stories: Portcullis House, Millicent Fawcett And The 19th-c Suffrage Movement

mgf-display-2

Those of you who might happen to be passing through the Atrium of Parliament’s Portcullis House between now and early November can view a compact display that I have curated there. The subject is Millicent Garrett Fawcett and the Early Women’s Suffrage Movement: 1867-1897.

There is also an online version of the exhibition – which you can view here.

mgf-display-1

 

, , ,

Leave a comment

Suffrage Stories: Fawcett Society Wreath-Laying Service for Millicent Garrett Fawcett, St George’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey, 2 July 2016

Each year on 2 July the Fawcett Society holds a short service and lays a red, white, and green wreath in remembrance of Millicent Fawcett in St George’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey.

For it is in this small chapel, which now also holds the Coronation Chair, that the joint memorial to Henry and Millicent Fawcett is sited.

It was originally erected in 1887 in memory of Henry Fawcett, who had died in 1884, and was the work of the sculptor Alfred Gilbert. Ironically Gilbert’s daughter, Caprina Fahey, was later a very active member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, rather than of Mrs Fawcett’s National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. For after Millicent Fawcett’s death a commemoration of her life and work was in 1932 added to her husband’s memorial – in the shape of two roundels, one of which contains the insignia of the NUWSS.

Fawcett Memorial in St George's Chapel, Westminster Abbey

Fawcett Memorial in St George’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey

This year I was honoured to have been asked to speak a few words about Millicent Fawcett during the Service – and below is the text of my address.

Westminster Abbey service

I imagine I’ve been asked to give the address today because over the last 20 years I’ve researched and written about the various enterprises and campaigns that Millicent Fawcett – and her immediate circle – conducted through the second half of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th. But I first made direct physical contact – as it were – with Millicent Fawcett some years before I began my research –back  in the mid-1980s – when, as a book dealer – because I sell books about women as well as write them, I braved the closing-down sale of a Bloomsbury bookshop. I say ‘braved’ because it was owned by an elderly irascible gentlemen who barked at any potential customer ‘what do you want’? Well the joy of such bookshops is that you don’t know what you want until you find it – so after one such encounter I’d never been back. But closing down was different and customers were given the run of the shop.

Down in the cellar I found the floor covered with a heap of books – splayed open, piled on top of each other – and – serendipity – when I picked out one I found it to be a short popular biography of Henry Fawcett –not, actually, very interesting in itself – but – and my heart leapt – with Millicent Fawcett’s bookplate pasted inside the front cover. I believe this book had lain in the bookshop ever since Philippa Fawcett finally gave up the family home at 2 Gower Street to move to a more manageable flat just before the Second World War. It is only too likely that books surplus to her requirements had been sent to this nearby bookseller. There seemed a very thin veil separating me from the past when I held that book in my hand.

MGF bookplate

So this bookplate is the first of four images I want to recreate for you this evening. It probably dates from the 1880s – it has very much the flavour of the Aesthetic movement. Millicent’s full name – Millicent Garrett Fawcett – takes centre place. To the right is a woman in a loose fitting gown, with bare feet, head turned towards the rising sun. To the left rises a lily, so much of its period, and beneath the name are scattered books and an inkwell and quill pen. The caption is ‘Truth is the Light’.

‘Light’ – the image of the rising sun, of hope, of the New Dawn – was one that permeated all the campaigns for women’s rights – not just for the vote – but for emancipation in all spheres of life. ‘Truth’ was the leitmotif running through Millicent Fawcett’s life. In an article her cousin Edmund Garrett, a boy she had helped bring up after the early death of his parents, wrote: ‘More even than by her writings or her speeches, she has helped the cause by her influence, her tone, her personality. The impression which she has made upon public men who have come in contact with her has been, perhaps, her most valuable service to it. The one thing that she cannot be doing with is doubleness. Anything the least ‘shady’ in quite small matters of money or of conduct damns a man at once.’ Edmund Garrett goes on to mention the Ibsen-esque quality of Millicent’s novel Janet Doncaster which, as well as giving a delightful portrait of a thinly-disguised Aldeburgh, does, I think, reveal more of her character than she disclosed in her autobiography. It is well worth a read.

So – Millicent Fawcett was guided by her principles. These at times, especially in attempts to effect an equal moral standard between men and women, could put her at odds with other campaigners, even members of her family. For instance, she and her sister Elizabeth held opposite views as to whether the Contagious Diseases Acts should be repealed – Millicent for and Elizabeth against.

Millicent Fawcett - woman of principle

Millicent Fawcett – woman of principle

But strong principles – an adherence to Truth –and being true to oneself – don’t necessarily make for any easy life. My second image recreates a scene that is not one you’ll find in either Millicent’s autobiography or in Ray Strachey’s fond biography – it is very trivial, but I think, revealing. One summer afternoon Millicent was taking tea in Lady Maude Parry’s garden in Rustington in Sussex. Lady Maude was the wife of Hubert Parry, whose music has, of course, echoed so often within this Abbey –and it was Hubert, rather than his wife, who was a close friend of Agnes Garrett and Millicent Fawcett. Indeed he’d built a house in Rustington to be close to one that Agnes Garrett had rented there for years.

Anyway, as they were taking tea Lady Maude was stung by a wasp and that evening confided to her diary that Millicent hadn’t been very sympathetic – penning the immortal phrase ‘There’s something hard about the Garretts’. Perhaps I’m perverse but I like that comment. I think it is true – the Garretts were hard – in that they had enjoyed a robust upbringing – encouraged to think for themselves and be self-reliant – Lady Maude was very much more conventional – and although Lady Maude may have meant the comment pejoratively – we shouldn’t take it as such.  In her biography Ray Strachey felt compelled to dispute the notion that Millicent was ‘compounded only of “thrift, industry and self-control without any of the gentler virtues”’, stressing that it was Millicent’s great ability for practical friendship that made her such a popular and effective leader. She didn’t wear her heart on her sleeve, she didn’t waste time on emoting; she did things. I’m sure Millicent would have ensured that Maude was treated with a blue bag or whatever was the current remedy for a wasp sting, but wouldn’t have seen it as an occasion for high drama. As Edmund Garrettt wrote ‘She is, above everything, ‘sensible’. She never stickles for unessentials’.  The success of a principled, disciplined woman such as Millicent Fawcett was due to her ability to focus on what was important, dismissing the setbacks – the wasp stings –that punctuated all the various campaigns with which she was associated during a career of over 60 years.

Millicent Fawcett - NUWSS president

Millicent Fawcett – NUWSS president

Above all Millicent Fawcett was – in her conduct of the constitutional suffrage campaign – calm and diplomatic. As Ray Strachey wrote, ‘Her task was to provide convenient ladders down which opponents might climb, and to help them to save their faces while they changed their minds.’ It was this skill that finally allowed women over 30 to be given the vote in 1918. Although Millicent Fawcett recognised that this age discrimination was quite logically indefensible she knew that once they’d won this measure – full equality would follow. By letting anti-suffrage MPs appear to have retained some control, she had at last manoeuvred women onto the electoral register. As she said, ‘We should greatly prefer an imperfect scheme that can pass, to the most perfect scheme in the world that could not pass.

The third image takes us into Millicent’s home, 2 Gower Street. From standing in that Bloomsbury bookshop basement, holding a book that had once been on a shelf in the house, fast forward about 30 years to 2014 when I spent some happy hours with a colleague inside the house as we tried to work out how it was used when Millicent, her daughter Philippa, and her sister Agnes lived there. Agnes and her cousin Rhoda had taken on the lease in 1875 –running their pioneering interior design business from the house –Rhoda had died in 1882 and Millicent and Philippa had moved there after the death of Henry Fawcett in 1884. So Garretts had lived in 2 Gower Street for roughly 65 years. We know that Millicent conducted her campaigns from the first floor drawing room – which runs across the front overlooking Gower Street – sitting under a lovely ceiling, painted by Rhoda and Agnes – pale green, pink and yellow prettiness – featuring hummingbirds and swags and flowers, with portraits of four great artists in the corners. Do look up and give her a thought if you go past. The National Portrait Gallery holds a photograph of Millicent (see here) working at her desk in that room in 1910.

The desk, a tall bureau, is tucked into the alcove to the side of the fireplace and Millicent is sitting there working through a pile of letters, looking up for a moment to turn to the photographer. This domestic scene was the power house that fuelled the 20th-century constitutional suffrage campaign. In addition – from that desk Millicent Fawcett involved herself in a wide range of disparate, though interconnected campaigns – for instance, the international women’s suffrage campaign, the campaigns for opening up university education to women, for raising the age of consent, for opening up horticulture as an employment for women, for criminalising incest, for providing homes for middle-class working women,  and even for offering a new German ‘open-air treatment’ to men and women suffering from TB. This last was prompted by the fate of her cousin Edmund who had contracted the disease – but rather than wringing her hands Millicent, with her friend Dr Jane Walker, just went ahead and built a sanatorium in Suffolk where the new treatment might be carried out.

A corner of the former East Anglian Sanatorium

A corner of the former East Anglian Sanatorium

Sitting at that desk Millicent is neat in a tailored costume, but my last image is of her standing in the St John’s Wood studio of a very well-known photographer – Lena Connell – dressed for a more formal portrait. She is posing, but, as ever, conveys an air of subtle reticence. I think we can be pretty certain she didn’t make her appointment with Lena Connell because she wanted more photographs for her own album – but, rather, was prepared to endure the process for the sake of the Cause. For, thanks to a lucky discovery a few weeks ago – in a locked drawer in a Fawcett Society desk – we are now able to deconstruct that photograph and realise that she is presenting herself as the president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

MGF wearing pendantFor on her breast she is wearing a beautiful pendant given to her by the NUWSS in 1913. Presumably after Millicent’s death Philippa Fawcett had returned the pendant to the London Society for Women’s Service, the precursor of the Fawcett Society, and as time went by its existence and meaning had been forgotten.  But that photograph speaks to us now – for engraved on the reverse of the pendant are the words that sum up the values that her co-workers appreciated in Millicent Fawcett  – ‘Steadfastness and Courage’.

Brooch presented by the NUWSS to Millicent Fawcett in 1913 (image courtesy of the Fawcett Society)

Pendant presented by the NUWSS to Millicent Fawcett in 1913 (image courtesy of the Fawcett Society)

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.

2 Comments

The Garretts And Their Circle/Suffrage Stories: Millicent Fawcett And Salisbury

When we booked to stay for a few days at a Landmark Trust apartment (see here) at the top of a venerable building in The Close in Salisbury I was relishing a brief immersion in the world of Trollope and had entirely forgotten that even here I would be treading on the heels, as I do in London, of one of my heroines – Millicent Garrett Fawcett.

But I soon remembered that at the end of 2013 (a lot has happened in between) I had travelled down to Salisbury to give a talk on the Garretts to the Salisbury Local History Group. I had come and gone in the dark and had seen nothing of Salisbury. But now, in February 2016, armed with my research for that talk, I was able to follow a brief Garrett/Fawcett trail around the city.

27 The Close, Salisbury

27 The Close, Salisbury

For this is the house in which 23-year-old Millicent Fawcett was staying on the night of 2 April 1871. The census records her here, together with her husband, Henry, his sister, Sarah Maria, and her parents-in-law, William and Mary Fawcett. The household was supported by one 16-year-old housemaid. William Fawcett is described as ‘J.P. and Alderman’ and Henry as ‘Professor of Political Economy’; the women have no occupation. Millicent and Henry’s daughter, Philippa, who would have been nearly three years old, is not visiting her grandparents on this occasion. She had been left at home in London in the care of three servants.

Nor, ten years later, did she join her parents when, on 3 April 1881, Millicent and Henry are once again paying a visit to Salisbury and staying in this house with his parents. Philippa, now a 12-year-old schoolgirl, is back home at 51 The Lawn, Vauxhall. Henry is now ‘Postmaster General and MP’, Millicent is ‘Authoress’ and the elderly Fawcetts now have two servants.

Saisbury CathedralThese sightings on the census forms demonstrate that Millicent was no stranger to Salisbury and its Cathedral. The Close is a quiet world, dominated by the soaring building at its centre  – a building that would all too soon have a poignant association for her. For Henry did not live to feature in another census, dying in 1884.

Fawcett cathedral memorials

Here is the memorial tablet placed on the interior Cathedral wall, together with one to his sister, with whom Millicent was always on friendly terms.

William Fawcett

Henry’s parents did not long outlive him.

Fawcett statue

Besides his tablet inside the Cathedral Henry was given a very much more prominent memorial – a statue in Salisbury’s Market Place. It so happened that his back was at the centre of my view as I ate a celebratory meal at a restaurant in Ox Row overlooking the Market Place – clearly I am fated never to be far from the world of the Garretts. Rather oddly, however, Henry Fawcett is positioned on the edge of the large open space and appears to be addressing a crowd waiting at the bus stop outside Debenhams. One might have imagined that he could have been placed facing the other way, into the Market Place where crowds might have gathered to listen to him. But I did note that the elucidatory plaque at the foot of the statue (which is also written in Braille) does include mention of his wife, Millicent, as leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

HEnry Fawcett plaque

Another Garrett associate – the sculptor Ellen Rope – has a work in Salisbury Cathedral – although you’d be hard pressed to find it if you didn’t know it was there.

Moberley memorial

Here it is. Although they knew nothing of it by name, the Cathedral staff have access to a list of the building’s memorials and were very helpful in taking me to find it. The rectangular plaque is the work of Ellen Rope and is dedicated to the memory of Mrs Moberly, wife of George Moberly, bishop of Salisbury. As you see, it is hidden behind a cupboard (in the Vestry). I wonder if there are pieces by any other woman sculptor in the Cathedral? Is it just fate that it is a woman’s work that is hidden in this way?

You might also be interested in reading my book – Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle – for details see here.

Enterprising Women 1

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere 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.

, , , , , ,

2 Comments

The Garretts And Their Circle: A Talk At The Royal Society of Medicine To Celebrate The 150th Anniversary of Elizabeth Garrett’s Qualification As A Doctor

On 28 September 1865 Elizabeth Garrett succeded in qualifying as a doctor and as such is hailed as the first woman in Britain to do so. That is, she was first woman qua woman (ie not, as Miranda Barry, in the guise of a man) and she was the first woman to gain British medical qualifications (ie not, as her mentor Elizabeth Blackwell, by qualifying in the US).

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson when young

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson when young

To celebrate this auspicious event I was asked, along with Professor Neil McIntyre, to gave a talk at the Royal Society of Medicine. That there is still a great deal of interest in Elizabeth Garrett and her fellow pioneers was evident as we surveyed the packed house.

The video of my talk, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and her Hospital, is now available to view here. Professor McIntyre’s talk, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and her Medical Schools, can be viewed here.

For those interested in learning more about Elizabeth Garrett’s medical career do visit the ‘Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery at the UNISON Centre – for more details see here.

The main gallery

The main gallery

You might also be interested in reading my book – Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle – for details see here.

Enterprising Women 1

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere 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.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Suffrage Stories/The Garretts And Their Circle: The ‘Ascent Of Woman’ and Millicent Fawcett

In four programmes shown on BBC 2 Dr Amanda Foreman has roamed the globe and travelled through the millenia to uncover stories of women who have made and changed human history from 10,000 BC to the present day.

You can – for a short time – view all four programmes on the BBC iPlayer – click here.

ifawcet001p1Episode 4 – ‘Revolution’ – includes a section in which I talk to Amanda about Millicent Fawcett – highlighting her work as a champion of women’s education.

The filming was done in my drawing room – and it was an interesting and enjoyable way to spend a morning – talking about such an agreeable subject with someone so passionate and knowledgeable. Especially so as barely a month previously I had been lying on an operating theatre table. It was good to get back to ‘work’.

For much more about Millicent Fawcett – and all the other Garretts – see Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere 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

, ,

Leave a comment

Caroline Crommelin and Florence Goring Thomas: 19thc Interior Decorators: Who Were They?

Caroline Anna de Cherois Crommelin (c 1854-1910) was born in Co Down, Ireland, one of the many children of Samuel  de la Cherois Crommelin of  Carrowdore Castle.

Carrowdore Castle

Carrowdore Castle

Although of gentle birth, the family had little money. Political unrest in Ulster forced a move to England and after their father’s death in 1885 Caroline Crommelin and her sisters found it necessary to work to support themselves.

May Crommelin

May Crommelin

Caroline’s elder sister, May, became a novelist and enjoyed a measure of popular success. In 1903 another sister, Constance, married John Masefield (who was very much her junior).

In 1886 another of the sisters, Florence, married a solicitor, Rhys Goring Thomas, and in the late 1880s with Caroline, who seems to have been the driving force, embarked on a career as a ‘lady decorator’. The pair were able to travel easily along the path blazed for them a decade earlier by Rhoda and Agnes Garrett.

Unlike the Garretts, Caroline and Florence do not appear to have had any specific training, although years later Caroline wrote that an apprenticeship was essential. Rather, they relied on what was assumed to be a natural taste absorbed from their early surroundings. In a later interview Caroline described how their father had given the two of them a room in Carrowdore Castle to do with as they wished and from painting and papering this room they had learned their trade. Whereas Rhoda and Agnes Garrett were happy to deal with drains and internal structures, I doubt that such practicalities fell within the Crommelin sisters’ remit.

It was ‘beautifying’ that was the word most often used to describe Caroline Crommelin’s work. An article by Mary Frances Billington in The Woman’s World, 1890, describes how in 1888 Caroline Crommelin  set up a depot at 12 Buckingham Palace Road for the ‘sale of distressed Irish ladies’ work’ and then ‘saw a wider market as a house-decorator, so she wrote ‘Art at Home’ on her door-plate, took into partnership her sister, Mrs Goring Thomas..and boldly set forth to hunt for old oak, rare Chippendale, beautiful Sheraton and Louis Seize furniture’. She attended auctions in all parts of the country and, in case there was any doubt as to the propriety of this involvement with trade, reported that she had no difficulty doing business with dealers, meeting only with civility.

Noting the popularity of old, carved oak, the sisters’ bought old plain oak pieces and then had them carved by their own craftsmen. There was always a stock of such pieces in their showroom.

The ‘Arts at Home Premises’ were opened in Victoria Street, London, in early 1891. I think their house was at 167a Victoria Street – certainly by 1898 this was Caroline Crommelin’s work premises, but it’s possible that in the late 1880s she was working from 143 Victoria Street. Of the ‘Arts at Home’ premises The Sheffield Telegraph (9 March 1891) described how’charmingly arranged rooms, stored with delightful old oak, Sheraton, and Chippendale furniture, quaint brass ornaments, old silver, beautiful tapestries, and old china were crowded all afternoon with the many friends of the clever hostesses.’..The oak room featured a delightful ‘cosy corner’ in dark oak with blue china arranged on the top ledge against the pink walls. May Billington’s article includes a line-drawing of a corner of the ‘Arts at Home’ showroom.

In its 23 November 1895 issue the York Herald commented of Caroline Crommelin that  ‘Her house in Victoria St is conspicuous to the passer by for the pretty arrangement of its curtains, and inside the artistic element is even more apparent. Miss Crommelin has been very successful as a house beautifier and her opinion has been much sought after and esteemed by those who like the home to be dainty and harmonious.’

In 1891 the sisters also displayed their wares at the Women’s Handicrafts Exhibition at Westminster Town Hall. The Manchester Times singled them (‘two of our cleverest art decorators’) out for praise.  ‘These ladies have shown that… old oak furniture need not be gloomy and dusty and that new furniture may be made to look as good as old, even if the old be Chippendale or Sheraton, Queen Anne or Dutch marqueterie.’

One of Caroline Crommelin’s first ‘beautifying’ commissions was carried out for Lord and Lady Dufferin on the British Embassy in Rome in 1890/1891. The Manchester Guardian (8 Oct 1889) reported that she redecorated the entire embassy. Doubtless this plum commission was not unconnected to the fact that the Dufferin estate in Co Down was a mere 10 miles from Carrowdore Castle; the families were presumably known to each other. Rather more surprising is the claim made in an interview with her in the Women’s Penny Paper, 23 Nov 1889,  that she had ‘supplied nearly all the furniture to Lord Cholmondeley’s old place at Houton [sic].  Houghton Hall was let to tenants during the 19th century so, perhaps, there is a kernel of truth buried in this statement – but I don’t think we need go looking at Houghton as it is today for evidence of Caroline Crommelin’s involvement in its decoration.

In interviews Caroline Crommelin also made clear that she  ‘undertakes, when required, to furnish  a whole or any part of a house, either going with the customer to different firms or selecting for them’ and ‘does not confine herself to decorative work alone, and will put up blinds or attend to the whitewashing of a ceiling with the most professional alacrity’.

Both Caroline and Florence were supporters of the campaign to give the vote to women householders and were keen to see women’s advancements in the professions – particularly as architects.

In 1895 Caroline Crommelin married Robert Barton Shaw, nephew of a former Recorder of Dublin, who in the 1901 census return is described as an estate agent. I wonder if his wife helped in ‘beautifying’ houses he had for sale? In 1901 they were living at 50 Morpeth Mansions, Morpeth Terrace. Caroline in this census return is described as an ’employer’. Florence lived close by -in 1891 at 3 Morpeth Terrace. However hers was to be a short-lived career – she died in 1895, aged only 37, a few months before her sister’s marriage. In the 1889 Penny Paper interview Florence was quoted as saying ‘I believe everybody is happier for working. It carries  one into a new life, and one does not have time to think of being ill’. In the light of her early death this has a certain poignancy, suggesting she may have had a chronic illness to overcome.

Caroline carried on the business on her own and in 1903 teamed up with her sister, May, to write a chapter on ‘Furniture and Decoration’ in Some Arts and Crafts (ed Ethel Mckenna), published in The Woman’s Library series by Chapman & Hall. In this they ran through the various periods of furniture and room design but did not bother to disguise their support for one style in particular. ‘Anyone of artistic feeling is sensible of a singular sense of well-being on entering a genuine Queen Anne sitting-room. If analysed, the sensation will be found to arise from an instantaneous inner perception that all is in just proportion. The height and size of the room obey accurate laws. Its ceiling is relieved by geometrical designs. The walls are half-wainscoted; the polished floor shows up the tapestry-like carpet in the centre. The ornaments of furniture and general decoration are neither profuse, grotesque, nor severe. In all, the fatal “too much” is avoided.’

Caroline Crommelin (or, rather, Mrs Barton Shaw)  died at 18 Albion Place, Ramsgate on 1 February 1910.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere 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.

, , , ,

Leave a comment

Suffrage Stories: The 1866 Petition: The Aldeburgh Connection

In a previous post I recorded something of how the 1866 women’s suffrage petition came into being. Comprising 1499 names, it was presented to John Stuart Mill, MP for Westminster, by Emily Davies and Elizabeth Garrett.

Names on the printed form of the petition are listed in alphabetical order, usually accompanied by some form of geographical address. Reading through it one notes that, while some towns have mustered only one or two signatures, others have attracted many more.

That a clutch of signatories to the petition lived in Aldeburgh, a small coastal town (1991 inhabitants in 1871) in Suffolk, had everything to do with the fact that Elizabeth Garrett LSA was one of the principal organizers of the petition. Aldeburgh was home to her family, her father, Newson Garrett, a driving force in its development. 

Elizabeth Garrett c 1866 (courtesy of Wellcome Images)

Elizabeth Garrett c 1866 (courtesy of Wellcome Images)

Just a few months earlier Elizabeth Garrett had qualified as a doctor, the first woman to do so in Britain, and signed from her London home, 20 Upper Berkeley Street, the premises of her nascent practice and the headquarters of the petition committee. She ensured that the women of Aldeburgh, her home town, were canvassed.  It is likely that it was her younger sisters, Agnes and Millicent, both too young to sign, who took petition forms round to their neighbours.

Aldeburgh Town StepsI have extracted the Aldeburgh names from the petition and below give such details as can now be gleaned of these women, none of whom, as far as I can tell, ever again took part in any political protest.

BEGBIE, MRS HAMILTON

Anna Eliza Begbie (courtesy of Ancestry.co.uk website)

Anna Eliza Begbie (courtesy of Ancestry.co.uk website)

She was Anna Eliza Begbie, née Swiney (1839-1915). She married Mars Hamilton Begbie in Cheltenham in 1858; despite his warlike name he had been ordained. By 1866 they were living in Aldeburgh where, according to the Cambridge Alumni List he was headmaster from 1865 to 1869 of ‘Aldborough School’ – a grammar school. They lived at Crespigny House, a late-18th-century mansion.

Although Anna Eliza Begbie doesn’t appear to have taken any further part in the suffrage campaign, it was surely a subject of discussion among her extended family after her brother, John, married in 1871. His wife, [Rosa] Frances Swiney, who lived in Cheltenham, was an influential campaigner for suffrage – and for Theosophy – in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

CRESY, MRS THEODORE GRANT [or Cressy]

She was born Hannah Jane Spencer (1837 -1896) in Wrotham, Kent. She married Theodore Grant Cresy, a surgeon, in 1859 and by the time she signed the petition was the mother of 4 sons; another was born four months later. The family lived in Aldeburgh from 1860 – 1868. During their time in Aldeburgh (1860-1868) the family lived at The Uplands, the house that had been the Garretts’ first home after they returned from London when Elizabeth was a young girl.

Uplands House, which carries two blue plaques - one for Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and the other for Millicent Fawcett. One plaque can just be glimpsed in the photo

Uplands House, which carries two blue plaques – one for Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and the other for Millicent Fawcett. One plaque can just be glimpsed in the photo

Hannah Cresy’s mother-in-law, Eliza Cresy [or Cressy], who lived at Riverhead in Kent, and her sister-in-law, Mary Cresy, who lived in Norwood, also signed the petition, suggesting that the organizers had asked for names of family members likely to be sympathetic to the petition.

CULVER, MRS HENRY

Probably a misreading of ‘Mrs Henry Calver’. She was Mary Anne (1819-?). who lived with her husband, a plumber, painter and glazier master, in the High Street.

DANCE, MARGARET

Something of a mystery – I can’t find any trace of a Margaret Dance, whether in Aldeburgh or elsewhere. However the signature may have been that of Mary E Dance, daughter of James Dance, Aldeburgh’s parish clerk. It is entirely possible that her signature was mis-transcribed as ‘Margaret’ and she would have been just old enough to sign.

DOWLER, MRS H.T.

There is, however, no doubt about this signatory. She was Frances Harriett Emma Dowler (1812-1899), wife of Henry Turner Dowler, who for 35 years was Aldeburgh’s vicar.  The couple had married in 1838. In her autobiography Millicent Fawcett describes how Newson Garrett  frequently engaged in very public quarrels with Dowler who besides being vicar was also the town bailiff and a capital burgess. On these occasions Garrett would insist that his family attended church services at the dissenting chapel rather than at Dowler’s church. Relations with Mrs Dowler were unaffected by these rows.

In May 1867 the Rev Dowler performed the wedding service at marriage of Millicent Garrett and Henry Fawcett.

GARRARD, MRS WILLIAM

She was Mary Anne (née Knights) (1819-1870), wife of William Garrard, brewer, maltster and secretary to the Aldeburgh gas company – one of Newson Garrett’s pet projects. In the 1840s William Garrard had been known as ‘the Ipswich Chartist’ and was one of the founders of the Ipswich Working Men’s Association. In the 1860s the couple lived on Church Hill in Aldeburgh.

GARRETT, MRS NEWSON

Louisa and Newson Garrett in old age

Louisa and Newson Garrett in old age

She was Louisa Garrett (nee Dunnell) ( 1814-1903), wife to Newson Garrett and mother to Louisa (later Smith), Elizabeth (later Garrett Anderson), Newson, Edmund, Alice (later Cowell), Agnes, Millicent (later Fawcett), Samuel, Josephine (later Salmon), and George (another son died in infancy). Although Louisa Garrett was of a far more conservative temperament than her husband she was always supportive of her daughters’ enterprises. She had initially opposed Elizabeth’s desire to become a doctor but, having come round to the idea, was the weekly recipient of letters telling of, at first, the difficulties encountered and later of the success in the medical world achieved as her daughter developed her practice and set up her hospital. Louisa would have signed the petition in the family home, Alde House.

 GARRETT, MRS E.  Snape Bridge

She was Gertrude Mary Littlewood (c1840-1924) who had married Elizabeth Garrett’s brother, Edmund, in 1862. Unlike his brother, Samuel, Edmund Garrett was not supportive of women’s advancement. In fact he opposed the suggestion that his sister Alice might work in the family business’s counting house. Edmund Garrett and his wife were then living in a house built by Newson Garret next to his maltings at Snape. At the moment (May 2015) it’s for sale – see here for details.

 GARRETT, MRS N.D. Calcutta

She was Kate Bruff, who in 1860 had married Elizabeth’s brother, Newson. He was the black sheep of the Garrett family – at this time he was serving with the army in India – a man whose enterprises (unlike those of his sisters) always went awry.  Kate’s father, Peter Bruff, was a civil engineer who was involved in several of Newson Garrett (senior)’s plans for improving Aldeburgh. Newson (junior’s) sisters were always rather sorry for Kate.

Despite being so close to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Millicent Fawcett, none of this  clutch of Aldeburgh-based Garrett women took any further part in the suffrage campaign.

GREEN, HARRIET

She was probably Harriet Green (b 1824) a widow living at Beach Cottage.  She is listed in the 1869 Aldeburgh trade directory as being a lodging house keeper.

HAWKESWORTH, MRS WALTER

She was Florence, the daughter of the Rev Dowler, who in 1865 had married John Walter Hawkesworth.

HELE, MRS FENWICK

She was Harriet Shute (1838-1907) who had married Nicholas Fenwick Hele in 1859. She gave birth to her third daughter, Ida, a couple of months after signing the petition. Her husband was a surgeon and the author of Notes and Jottings About Aldeburgh,  In 1866 the family lived in Aldeburgh’s High Street. Harriet continued to live in the town after her husband’s death in 1892 – but died in 1907 at St Johns, Newfoundland.

HUNT, MRS

She could have been either Harriet Hunt (1806- 1884), wife of William Hunt, or Cecilia Hunt (1824- 1868), wife of Edward Hunt. Both men were boat builders. Perhaps the younger woman is the more likely candidate.

JAMES, MRS RHODES

She was Caroline James, a widow by the time she signed the petition. She lived with several servants in a large late-18th-century house in Victoria Road – Wyndham House. She was the grandmother of M.R. James, the author of many Suffolk-based ghost stories.

KERSEY, SARAH, ELIZABETH AND MARIA

Sarah Kersey (1811-1886) in 1865 had a lodging house in the High Street. Maria and Elizabeth were her younger sisters. All three were unmarried.

MANNALL, SARAH

Sarah Mannall (1797-1869) was the wife of John Mannall. He had run the Crown and Castle Hotel in Orford for many years before eventually handing it over to his daughter and son-in-law

MARTIN, MRS

Crag Path, Aldeburgh. Brudenell Terrace, the row of tall houses on left, were built by Newson Garrett . Their red-brick gloom has now been transformed by pastel paints

Crag Path, Aldeburgh. Brudenell Terrace, the row of tall houses on left, were built by Newson Garrett . Their red-brick gloom has now been transformed by pastel paints

She was probably Mrs Mary Anne Martin, who in 1865 ran a ladies’ school in a house in Brudenell Terrace.

THELLUSSON, MRS

She was Henrietta Vernon-Wentworth who in 1859 had married Arthur Bethell Thellusson. She died in 1873 – on the same day as one of her young daughters. She had seven children and by the time she signed the petition she had already lost two infant daughters and was to lose another three months before her own death. The family lived at Thellusson Lodge. I seem to remember that Millicent Fawcett described the Thellussons as the ‘aristocracy of Aldeburgh’; for the local canvassers for the petition it must have been something of a coup to have Henrietta Thellusson’s signature on the petition.

WOODWARD, SUSANNAH

Alas, I can find no clue at all  as to who this final Aldeburgh signatory to the petition could have been.

After having made this initial bid for emancipation it doesn’t appear that the women of Aldeburgh could be tempted to join the suffrage campaign that followed. During the remainder of the 19th century there is no record of a suffrage meeting being held in the town – described by one contemporary Suffolk author as lying in this ‘quiet, grave, sleepy, Conservative region’. 

You can read much more about Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Millicent Fawcett in Elizabeth Crawford, Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circlepublished by Francis Boutle.

Elizabeth Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a regional survey, published by Routledge, surveys the entire suffrage campaign in Suffolk – and in the rest of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

 

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere 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.

, , ,

Leave a comment