Posts Tagged 1866 women’s suffrage petition
Today – 7 June 2016 – marks the 150th anniversary of the first petition presented in Parliament in support of an attempt to gain for women the parliamentary vote.
I have just attended an event sponsored by the Fawcett Society to celebrate this anniversary – held in the Speaker’s House in Parliament. At this event it was announced that efforts would be made to erect a statue to Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square. See also my post published some time ago – Make Millicent Fawcett Visible – http://wp.me/p2AEiO-qD
Below is a short article I published earlier setting out the facts behind the petition.
This is – I think – the most important document of the women’s suffrage campaign. It was the foundation for all that came after.
Back in the days when the world was young, there was no internet, and antiquarian booksellers – as well as the layman/woman book-buyer – had to search their quarry among the stacks of brick and mortar bookshops, my time, when not engaged in child care, was spent touring London and the market towns of southern England in search of the books and ephemera with which I and my customers might resurrect the women that were famously ‘hidden from history’.
These days have long passed away – now we need only sit at home and search internet book-selling sites, trawling through the print-on-demand dross in the increasingly forlorn hope of finding the odd nugget of treasure. The corollary, of course, is that there are now precious few brick and mortar bookshops selling second-hand/antiquarian books.
In those olden days I even thought it occasionally worthwhile to take a tour down Portobello Road on a Saturday morning, not something I have done for a long time, now that Portobello’s landlords are handing the antiques arcades over to fashion chain stores. But that particular Saturday-morning visit was memorable because it was in a bookselling alcove in the warrens that stretch behind Portobello Road that I came across one of the most interesting finds of my bookselling career – a copy of the pamphlet edition of the 1866 women’s suffrage petition.
The petition itself comprised a long scroll onto which were pasted the signatures of the (circa) 1500 women who, in the spring of 1866, were prepared to put their names to a request (it was certainly not yet a demand) that women who met the requisite property qualifications , as set out in the Reform bill then under discussion, should be able to cast a parliamentary vote alongside men. The petition had been organised by a group of women who formed themselves into a small informal committee – among their number being Barbara Bodichon, Bessie Rayner Parkes, Elizabeth Garrett, and Emily Davies. John Stuart Mill, for whom they had campaigned when he had contested – and won – the Westminster parliamentary seat the previous year, had agreed to present the petition.
Emily Davies was the businesswoman of the group and it was she who decided that the names of those who had signed the petition should be printed in pamphlet form and sent to the weekly papers so that, as she wrote on 18 July 1866 to Helen Taylor (Mill’s step-daughter), ‘ in case they take any notice, they make know what they are commenting on.’ Copies of the petition pamphlet were also sent to members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The copy of ‘my’ 1866 petition pamphlet is, as you see, addressed to Earl Cathcart – the 3rd Earl, Alan Frederick Cathcart. I suspect he was not overly interested in the rights of women.
I did sell the pamphlet almost as soon as I found it but, before parting with it, had the sense to take a photocopy. That sounds nothing extraordinary, but back in those days photocopiers were not the casual desk accessory that they are today and in order to process the petition’s 38 pages I had to visit the machine in the local library. How glad I am that I bothered to do so. For having easy access to those 1499 names allowed me not only to build up the pattern of political and friendship networks supporting the suffrage campaign that lies at the heart of The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide, but also provided a starting-point for researching The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a regional survey, in which the part each region, county and town played in the campaign is detailed.
You can see, if your mind works along the same way as mine, what pleasure can be had in attempting to identify all these women. For instance, on this page – chosen at random:
Mrs Kenrick of 9 Dorset Square in 1873 was a member of the executive committee of the Ladies’ Association for the Education of Women for the Medical Association.
Gertrude King of 18 Carlton Hill East, was a member of the Kensington Society (a group of women who met and corresponded in order to discuss the position and prospects for women) and by 1874 was secretary of the Society for the Employment of Women.
Fanny and Jane King, 9 Eden Grove, Holloway, were the wife and daughter of John King, a pianoforte maker, who was one of the oldest acquaintances of William Lovett, the Chartist leader (one of King’s sons had ‘Lovett’ as a middle name). King was a long-standing member of Lovett’s National Association for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People. Artisan radicals such as the Kings were one of the groups contacted by the organisers of the 1866 women’s suffrage petition.
Isa Craig Knox of 14 Clyde Terrace, New Cross – a close friend of Bessie Rayer Parkes – was assistant secretary of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, a founder of the Kensington Society and a leading member of the Society for the Employment of Women. For more on Isa Craig see her entry in my Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide.
Fanny Aiken Kortright of 21 Eldon Road, Kensington, was a writer of sensational novels. She must quite soon have regretted signing this petition, for in 1869 she printed for private circulation a pamphlet AGAINST the Woman’s Right movement, entitled Pro Aris et Focis, which won the approval of Queen Victoria and the sympathy of the then Prime Minister. Eliza and Harriet were her older sisters. Another, married, sister also signed the petition.
Miss Kunz (Miss Mina Kunz) of 19 Royal Circus, Edinburgh was in 1868 on the executive committee of the Edinburgh Ladies’ Educational Association and by 1874 was a member of the Edinburgh Ladies’ Debating Society.
Philippine Kyllman, Fallowfield, Manchester, was the wife of Max Kyllman, a wealthy young Manchester businessman interested in Co-operative matters. Kyllmann provided capital for a mill established in Manchester by George Holyoake and Edward Owen Greening on a profit-sharing basis – though it quickly failed. For more about Philippine Kyllman see her entry in my Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide.
As for Sarah Kersey of Aldeburgh you can find a little more about her in an earlier post I published about Aldeburgh and the petition.
And for many of the others on these two pages – as on all the others that comprise the petition – something can be discovered about the lives of most of the women who were sufficiently bold as to sign it.
As far as I know the only printed copy of the Petition held in a public collection is that which resides in the Emily Davies Papers in the Girton Archive.
The Parliamentary Archives have now digitised the petion – using my ancient photocopy – see http://www.parliament.uk/documents/parliamentary-archives/1866SuffragePetitionNamesWebJune16.pdf > Many happy hours can now be sent searching to see who the women were who were prepared to put their name to this revolutionay document.
STOP PRESS: THE COPY THAT I SOLD HAS BEEN LENT TO THE ‘ENDLESS ENDEAVOURS’ EXHIBITION SHOWING AT LSE – http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/exhibitions/home.aspx.
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.
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.
I 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
She was probably Mrs Mary Anne Martin, who in 1865 ran a ladies’ school in a house in Brudenell Terrace.
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.
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 circle, published 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.