Posts Tagged Millicent Fawcett

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

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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.

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Suffrage Stories: Woman’s Hour Discussion: Who Won The Vote For Women – Suffragists or Suffragettes?

Millicent Fawcett c 1912

Millicent Fawcett c 1912

In the week that marked the 150th anniversary of the presentation of the first women’s suffrage petition, Woman’s Hour invited June Purvis and me to ‘debate’ the issue of whether the vote was won by the constitutional Suffragist campaign or by that of the millitant Suffragettes.

I spoke for the Suffragists.

You can listen to the conversation here (at c 28 min).

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Suffrage Stories: ‘Endless Endeavours’: From The 1866 Women’s Suffrage Petition To The Fawcett Society

With Ann Dingsdale and Jane Grant I shall be talking suffrage at LSE today – entry free, unticketed – just come along – see here for details.

EndlessExhibitionWebsite15-0998-Poster-LR-page-001

Last year I was delighted when The Women’s Library@LSE asked if I would help to shape an exhibition planned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the presentation of the first women’s suffrage petition on 7 June 1866. Ever since discovering a printed copy of that petition on a stall in the Portobello Road over 25 years ago I have been very fond of all it represented and of the treasury of names it contains, so it was a particular pleasure to be asked to suggest ways of highlighting its importance.

The LSE team (Indy Bhullar, Heather Dawson, Gillian Murphy and Eleanor Payne) and I had several very enjoyable and productive meetings  during which we selected items to include in the exhibition and brainstormed ideas for the moving background to the main showcase and for wallboards. It is a real pleasure to be able to show items of what we now know to call ‘material culture’ – such as Lydia Becker’s dress and Millicent Fawcett’s gladstone bag – alongside the very letters in which the idea for the petition developed. The personal adds particularity to the political.

 

This is the petition exhibited in 'Endless Endeavours'.

This is the petition exhibited in ‘Endless Endeavours’.

In addition, the descendants of the couple to whom I sold that printed copy of the petition have been kind enough to lend it to the exhibition. It is the only known copy other than that held in Girton Archives. The latter was Emily Davies’ own copy and it was she who had organised its printing. What became of the hundreds of others that Miss Davies arranged to be sent to all newspaper editiors, MPs and members of the House of Lords? Straight into the wastepaper basket I shouldn’t wonder.

 

Two sample pages from the Petition

Two sample pages from the Petition

The LSE designer has done an excellent job of translating our ideas for demonstrating the range both geographically and socially of the women who signed the petition and of giving a clear rendering of the complicated ‘family tree’ of suffrage societies that carried the campaign from 1866 to 1928 and then, in the shape of the Fawcett Society, on into 2016.

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For the ‘1866 petition’ part of the exhibition morphs into a celebration of the Fawcett Society, which traces its foundation back to 1866 and is, therefore, this year celebrating its 150th anniversary.  To mark the occasion Jane Grant has written a history of the Fawcett Society, In the Steps of Exceptional Women – for full details see here.

To accompany ‘Endless Endeavours’ The Women’s Library@LSE has launched a Flickr Album, which includes scans of many of the letters that flew backwards and forwards as the idea for the petition gathered momentum, as well as of the personalities attracted to the campaign and artefacts produced over the years.

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

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

One of the most beautiful of the latter is a brooch that recently surfaced in the Fawcett Society office. It was presented to Millicent Fawcett in 1913 and is rendered in the NUWSS colours of red, white and green. For a lively account of why, where and how the brooch was presented see here. This is a real piece of ‘suffrage jewellery’ – to put all the spurious examples so catalogued by auction houses, Ebay etc in the shade. [For my gripe about the mis-cataloguing of suffragette jewellery see here.]

For full details of the ‘Endless Endeavours’ exhibition see here.

STOP PRESS  7 June 2016 I have just discovered a studio photograph by the celebrated photograper Lena Connell that shows Millicent Fawcett wearing the Fawcett Society ‘brooch’ as a pendant. She was making her ass ociation with the NUWSS visible.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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Mrs Hartley Brown And Miss Townshend -19th-c Interior Decorators: Who Were They?

Travels in S KensingtonIn a chapter on ‘Decorative Art in England (Travels in South Kensington, 1882) Moncure Conway commended Rhoda and Agnes Garrett for their ‘admirable treatment of the new female colleges connected with English Universities’. It has always been a niggle that neither I – or anyone else – as far as I know – has ever been able to find any evidence that the Garretts did work on the interior of any women’s college.

As one member of the Garrett family, Elizabeth, was a close friend and supporter of Emily Davies, founder of Girton, another, Millicent, was a founder of Newnham, and Rhoda and Agnes had received their training in the office of J.M. Brydon, sharing an office with Newnham’s architect, Basil Champneys, it would not have been at all surprising if they had been involved with the interior decoration of one or other of the colleges. But neither in  Garrett family letters nor in the press is there any mention of Rhoda and Agnes working on the interior of Newnham – or of Girton.

Merton Hall, Cambridge. (Photo courtesy of Cambridge 2000)

Merton Hall, Cambridge. (Photo courtesy of Cambridge 2000)

In fact the only mention of work being done by women interior decorators on a Cambridge women’s college relates to furnishings for an early incarnation of Newnham –  when, between October 1871 and 1874,  it was housed in an ancient, rambling house, Merton Hall. The house belonged (and still belongs) to St John’s College, whose Master was very sympathetic to the Lectures for Ladies’ scheme that had been instigated in Cambridge by Millicent Fawcett, Henry Sidgwick and Jemima Anne Clough.

Merton Hall is first mentioned by Moncure Conway in ‘Decorative Art and Architecture in England’, an article published in Harpers New Monthly Magazine, November 1874. In this, after discussing the work of Rhoda and Agnes Garrett, he tells us that Mrs Hartley Brown and Miss Townshend had set up in the same business as the Garretts, in premises at 12 Bulstrode Street. He then goes on to say that ‘These ladies, who have been employed to decorate the new ladies’ College (Merton) at Cambridge, have not only devised new stuffs for chairs, sofas and wall panels, but also for ladies’ dresses.’ The fact that he uses the past tense seems to indicate that the work was already complete.

A further allusion to this partnership is made by Emily Faithfull when discussing new trade opportunities that have been opening for women. In Three Visits to America (1884) she mentions that ‘Mrs Hartley Brown and Miss Townshend, soon after entering into partnership, were appropriately employed in decorating Merton College, and devised with much success some new stuffs for the chairs and sofas for the use of Cambridge girl graduates.’

That seems quite clear: Mrs Hartley Brown and Miss Townshend had been involved with furnishing Merton Hall (later Newnham) and neither Conway or Faithfull, although discussing the Garretts’ work, made any mention of the Garrtts being similarly employed.

However, when Moncure Conway came to publish Travels in South Kensington in 1882 the Garretts were going from strength to strength and, if the silence in the press is anything to go by, Mrs Hartley Brown and Miss Townshend had gone out of business. One construction might be that, while making no mention of the latter two, Conway lauds the success of the Garretts and, carelessly assigns to them the ‘admirable treatment of female Colleges’. It may be that only one firm of female interior decorators worked on the furnishings of a female college – and that was the partnership of Mrs Hartley Brown and Miss Townshend.

But who were Mrs Hartley Brown and Miss Townshend? I have to confess to drawing a blank on Mrs Hartley Brown – but can make an educated guess at the identity of Miss Townshend.

In his Harper’s 1874 article Conway (who, as we see was prone to getting things a bit muddled) mistakenly describes Mrs Hartley Brown as ‘a sister of Chambray Brown, Esq – a very distinguished architect’. In fact what he meant was that ‘Miss Townshend was a sister of Chambray Townshend…’. The latter was indeed an architect, although not even his wife – indeed particularly not his wife – would have called him distinguished. Unfortunately for us Chambray Townshend had eight sisters. And the question is ‘which one went into business as an interior decorator?’

Well three can be discounted, being in 1874 already married. Of the remaining five, very little is known of the lives of three, although Alicia, who didn’t marry until 1880, is known to have studied art at the Slade and is I suppose a possibility. However I suspect that the two strongest candidates of the five are Isabella (1847-1882) and Anne (1842-1929).

Anne certainly seems to have the most productive work record. According to family information she trained as a nurse at London’s Foundling Hospital and was later Matron at the Hospital for Hip Disease in Childhood (Queen’s Square). When and for how long she was engaged in nursing I don’t know. By 1882 she had moved into philanthropic administration and was secretary of the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants (MABYs).

Then in 1888 she became the first secretary of the Ladies’ Residential Chambers Co (the founders of which included Agnes Garrett and Millicent Fawcett) and remained involved with the company until 1910. In 1890, when the company was planning a new set of chambers in York Street, Marylebone, it was Anne Townshend who was deputed to consult with Thackeray Turner, the architect, over the company’s specifications for the new building. However nowhere in the minutes of the Ladies’ Residential Co is there any suggestion that she was ever involved with the interior design of either of the buildings.

Isabella Townshend is the more artistic candidate – and she does have a very clear Cambridge connection- being one of the Girton Pioneers. In 1869 she was one of the first five to join Emily Davies at her new college at Hitchin (it was not yet ‘Girton’). She left without taking a Tripos at Easter 1872. Could she then have gone into the interior decorating business?

In Girton College, Barbara Stephen comments that ‘Miss Townshend was not striking in either appearance or manner‘, while reporting Barbara Bodichon’s opinion that [Isabella’s] ‘interests were wide and her mind original’ Barbara Stephen was too young ever to have met Isabella; perhaps she made her rather harsh judgement on the basis of this photograph she included in her book

girton PioneersHowever, Isabella certainly made a very strong  impression on her fellow Pioneers  – particularly on Emily Gibson. When Isabella left Hitchin in the 1872 without taking a Tripos (perhaps it was this high-handed approach to all that Miss Davies had to offer that attracted Barbara Stephen’s disapproval) Emily followed suit and the following year married Isabella’s brother, Chambray Townshend.

In Some Memories for Her Friends., Emily wrote of Isabella: ‘She was more mature than many of us, and in quite a different stage of development, but the sort of position she held among us, the sort of influence she exercised over me was chiefly due to her having been swept over by a very early wave of that current of aestheticism which was then just beginning to gather force. The sort of doctrine she taught, or rather that she gave living expression to, was, that the most valuable means of culture was to be found in the enjoyment of the beautiful in nature and art, that a beautiful combination  of colours, a delicate bit of decorative work seen and cared for in a reverent and appreciative spirit, could do more for us in the way of training and development than much steady grinding away at mathematics and classics.’

‘She had considerable ability, indeed, many of us gave her credit for a touch of genius, yet she never accomplished much definite work of any kind.’..Isabel took the utmost pains to live from hand to mouth. She would work hard now and again when she felt the subject in hand to be worth working at, but she scorned to tie herself down to do things against inclination for the sake of obtaining some definite mundane good.’

Isabella Townshend, self-portrait, (c) Girton College, University of Cambridge. Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Isabella Townshend, self-portrait, (c) Girton College, University of Cambridge. Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Isabella Townshend was undoubtedly ‘artistic’. Isn’t this a wonderful self-portrait – bequeathed to Girton by Emily Townshend? It wouldn’t at all surprise me if Isabella had not ‘devised new stuff’ for her dress and designed it herself. But did she have the stamina to set up in business?  Emily Gibson mentions that in the period between leaving Cambridge and her marriage to Chambray Townshend, he and Isabella were particularly friendly with Walter and Lucy Crane – so she was certainly moving in art design circles.

There is no doubt that interior decorating ran in the family veins. In his Harper’s article Moncure Conway wrote  ‘I have become convinced by a visit to a beautiful house which Chambrey Townshend arranged at Wimbledon, that there can be nothing so suitable for somewhat dark corridors and staircases as a faint rose tint. In Mr Townshend’s house, however cold and cheerless the day may be, there is always a glow of morning light. This gentleman has shown that a sage-gray paper with simple small squares (such as Messrs Marshall & Morris make) furnishes a good dado to support the light tints upon walls not papered.’

The house may well have been the Townshend family home at 12 Ridgway Place, Wimbledon, where the unmarried sisters lived with their mother.

Unfortunately Chambray Townshend took the same laissez-faire approach to work as did Isabella. Of  him Emily, his wife, later wrote  ‘Chambrey Townshend had little push and no business ability to back up his remarkable artistic abilities.’ After his death she regretted she hadn’t devised some opening for his remarkable talent for house decoration ‘when architectural work was not forthcoming’.

If the interior decoration business was run by Mrs Hartley Brown and Isabella Townshend, it may be that Isabella soon lost interest. In the early 1880s she went to Italy to study painting and died in 1882. The Girton Register has it that she died in Italy, ‘of typhoid fever contracted at Capri’. It may well be that she became ill in Italy, but the Probate Register shows that she died on 20 July 1882 at Ealing and was buried at Perivale on 25 July 1882.

So, although Anne Townsend had the stamina and application to run a business, I’m inclined to think that it was Isabella Townshend who, for a brief period, was in partnership as an interior decorator with Mrs Hartley Brown and who provided the furnishings for Merton Hall, the early incarnation of Newnham.

For more about the interior decoration business run by Rhoda and Agnes Garrett see here.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We know from Harpers that it was one of the sisters of Chambray Coker Townshend.

did merton hall – precursor of Newnham – in 1871? Were in Merton Hall from Oct 1871 to 1874

Emily Gibson and Isabella Townshend left Girton (although it was not yet Girton but was still at Hitchin) in summer 1872. So it’s possible that Isabella did some work of this kind. But would Emily Gibson not have mentioned it? She mentions that after leaving she remained v friendly with Isabella and with her brother Chambray whom she married in 1873. She makes no mention of other Townshend sisters.

Sept 1874 ‘Newcastle Courant’ mentioned that ‘Miss Townshend of Bulstrode st’ was following the same vocation as Miss Agnes and Miss Rhoda Garrett’ – but doesn’t mention Mrs Hartley Brown and goes into no details.

Emily Faithfull, Three Visits to America, ‘Mrs Hartley Brown and Miss Townshend, soon after entering into partnership, were appropriately employed in decorating Merton College, and devised much success some new stuffs for the chairs and sofas for the use of Cambridge girl graduates.
see harpers new monthly mag nov 1874 – business 12 bulstrode st. See Moncure Conway, ‘Decorative Art and Architecture in England’ ’employed to decorate the new ladies’ Colllege (MERTON) at CAMBRIDGE,’ have not only devised new stuffs for chairs, sofas and wall panels, but also for ladies’ dresses..’ But he makes no mention of them in Travels in South Kensington, 1882, while commending the Garretts on ‘..their admirable treatment of the new female colleges connected with the English Universities. It has always been a niggle that I – nor anyone else as far as I know – have never been able to find any evidence that the Garretts did work on the interior of any women’s college. Could it be that Moncure Conway misremembered and assigned the work that had been undertaken by Mrs Hartley Brown and Miss Townshend on Merton (later to be Newnham College) to the Garretts? It seems likely that the Hartley Brown/Townshend partnership was short-lived while the Garretts were going from strength to strength in 1882 when Conway was working up his Harpers article into a book chapter.

Interior decorating in the family – of her husband Emily Gibson wrote ‘Chambrey Townshend had little push and no business ability to back up his remarkable artistic abilities. He was gentle and kind, but lacked her energy and intellectual curiosity..’After his death she regretted she hadn’t devised some opening for his remarkable talent for house decoration when architectural work was not forthcoming.

Moncure Conway wrote  ‘I have become convinced by a visit to a beautiful house which Chambrey Townshend arranged at Wimbledon, that there can be nothing so suitable for somewhat dark corridors and staircases as a faint rose tint. In Mrr Townshend’s house, however cold and cheerless the day may be, there is always a glow of morning light. This gentleman has shown that a sage-gray paper with simple small squares (such as Messrs Marshall & Morris make) furnishes a good dado to support the light tints upon walls not papered.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Suffrage Stories: 100 Years Ago Today – 17 July 1914: The National Portrait Gallery and Thomas Carlyle

One hundred years ago today – on 17 July 1914 – a suffragette, Margaret Gibb, who also went by the name of Ann Hunt, took a cleaver to a portrait of Thomas Carlyle that was hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. See the damaged portrait here.

Margaret Gibb was held by an attendant, charged and, on 21 July, sentenced to six months imprisonment. She was released on 27 July – presumably under the Cat and Mouse Act, having gone on hunger strike. See here for a surveillance picture of Margaret Gibb taken in the exercise yard at Holloway. On 31 August she was spotted again at the Gallery and, although the WSPU had called a halt to its campaign, was refused admission then – and in the future.

One hundred years later the NPG has  mounted al display case exhibition – in Room 31 –  showing something of the effect of WSPU militancy on the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. Margaret Gibb’s story is related and includes a comment to the effect that it was doubted that the picture’s attacker knew that Carlyle was a particular hero of Emmeline Pankhurst – an aperçu I remember making when referring to the damaged portrait in the entry on Emmeline Pankhurst’ in my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide. I’d be rather thrilled if I was the originator of the comment – but I daresay others have thought of it independently. I was particularly struck by two small photographs of Mary Richardson in the display that date from 1918 and show her sitting, delicate and pretty, in a room neatly furnished with flowers and 18th-century furniture. This is an image far removed from the chopper-wielding attacker of the ‘Rokeby Venus’ – (see here for a post on Mary Richardson).

Christabel Pankhurst by Ethel Wright, 1909 (c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Christabel Pankhurst by Ethel Wright, 1909 (c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In the entrance – Room 30 – to the gallery that contains this display case the National Portrait Gallery has now hung the full-length  portrait of Christabel Pankhurst by Ethel Wright – opposite the Brackenbury portrait of her mother – Emmeline Pankhurst.  Christabel’s portrait, in which she is wearing a green dress – apparently a favourite colour – was painted in 1909 and first shown at the WSPU Skating Rink Exhibition. It was bought by Una Duval and remained in her family before being  bequeathed recently to the NPG.

Good as it is to raise the profile of the women’s suffrage campaign – all this attention on the WSPU only highlights for me the lack of attention given to the constitutional campaigners – those who worked for sixty years without wielding cleavers. So let me take the opportunity here of repeating my mantra  – and drawing attention to my post on the subject –  Make Millicent Fawcett Visible.

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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.

 

Kate Frye’s Diary: The Lead-Up To War: 17 July 1914

 

On 7 August 2014 ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette.  Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here.

KateAs a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman.

Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. John has a room along Claverton Street, at number 11.

Friday July 17th 1914

John arrived unexpectedly early, before I was up, but I just let him in to hear the news – he has had a letter from Benson saying he would see him, so was off. I had received a letter from Mr Dingle saying he could not speak – so as soon as I was up I went off to the Men’s League at Westminster and saw someone there who called Mr McKillop in from an office next door, and he like a lamb said he would come to Isleworth in Mr Dingle’s place. I expected to have to rush round London.

So I walked up to the A.A. and found John just having lunch with a very pretty woman and joined them as I wanted to hear what Benson said, but it was a very short interview. John saw me to Charing Cross then went off to a meeting and I came back to Victoria and bought some food then came in and had a rest and fell asleep.

John came in at 5 and we had a meat tea and then off together, Bus to Victoria – train to Hammersmith – train to Isleworth arriving at 7.15 – at the Upper Square. There were hundreds of children ready to greet us, I got a friendly feeling and they were very good but a great nuisance. John went off to find the Lorry as it was not punctual, but he missed it and it arrived alright and I got it fixed up.

By the time the speakers, Miss Dransfield in the Chair, Mrs Merivale Mayer and Mr McKillop and Miss Fraser to help had arrived we were absolutely mobbed – and we got a huge gathering. The first Suffrage meeting of any kind which had been held in Isleworth.

Mrs Mayer as usual was very disagreeable when she arrived, but it was really such a magnificent meeting she was quite pleased at the end, and as usual she spoke splendidly and we quite got the people round.

Having settled up early well came away together – Mr McKillop left us from the train, we parted from Mrs M.M. at Hammersmith and Miss Fraser at Victoria.

John and I were starving and we went into a restaurant at Victoria. John had salmon and cucumber – at 11.15! It was a lovely day.

John Collins was ‘resting’ at the moment – as is clear from the amount of time he was able to devote this month to helping Kate with her suffrage work. He would have been very excited about the prospect of employment in Frank Benson’s Company. The A.A., where Kate surprised him lunching with ‘a very pretty women’, was the Actors’ Association, the club in Covent Garden to which they both belonged.

The Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage to whose office Kate went for help when her speaker had failed was at 136 St Stephen’s House on the Embankment. The massive building was demolished, apparently in the early 1990s. We have already met the obliging Mr McKillop, who had for some years earlier been librarian to the fledgling London School of Economics. Kate had warmed to him after he praised her public speaking.

Upper Square, Isleworth (image courtesy of Hounslow Local studies website)

Well, this must have been the site of Isleworth’s first ‘Votes for Women’ meeting – or, at least, the first of which Kate had heard tell. Presumably during her canvassing she had met with plenty of local people who would have given her this kind of information. By ‘fixing up’ the Lorry Kate meant that she decorated it with posters – inquisitive children were suffragettes’ constant companions.

Calra Merivale Mayer

You can read about Mrs Merivale Mayer in Campaigning for the Vote – suffice it to say that Kate found her a great trial and, I am sure, knew nothing of her somewhat scandalous history. If she had known she would doubtless have felt vindicated in her dislike for this most difficult of the New Constitutional Society’s speakers. But Kate gave credit where it was due and often commented, as she does here, that despite the ructions she caused Mrs Mayer was an excellent speaker.

 

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