Posts Tagged WSPU

Suffrage Stories: The Hodgson Sisters And Their Suffrage Souvenirs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Suffrage Stories: Ella And Geraldine Stevenson, Suffragette Sisters

Place is important to me and sometimes my attention is caught by an incident occurring somewhere I’ve known well. And so it was that four years ago I noticed that a suffragette ‘outrage’ had taken place at the Richmond Post Office. Ella Stevenson, a WSPU member, was charged with placing a packet containing two tubes of phosphorous in the post box attached to the main Richmond Post Office. In my youth I knew this Post Office very well – it is a rather fine building – 70 George Street – but was long ago abandoned by the PO and is currently a branch of Anthropologie. Quite coincidentally, very soon after I had become aware of this incident and had pictured it in my mind, I was asked to value two hunger-strike medals – one awarded to Ella Stevenson and the other to her sister, Geraldine. Other matters have intervened, but now, four years later, here is something of their story.

Ella and Geraldine Stevenson were two daughters in the large family (12 children, I think) of Leader (1826-1907) and Louisa Stevenson (1828-1913). Leader Stevenson, who was an ‘Australia merchant’, was born in London of non-conformist parents, his wife in Tasmania. In the first decade of the 20th century the family was living at 10 Cumberland Road, Kew.

Both Ella [Ellen] (c. 1860-1934] and Geraldine Stevenson (1866-1949) were financial supporters, in a smallish way, of Mrs Pankhurst’s militant suffrage organisation, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and until October 1910 Ella was Literary Secretary of the Richmond and Kew WSPU.

Ella’s first militant action seems to have taken place on 4 December 1909 when, as ‘Ethel Slade’, she was arrested in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, after breaking windows in the local Liberal Club. She had gone north to protest at a meeting held by a government minister, Lewis Harcourt, but had been barred from the theatre where it was being held. She refused to pay a fine and was sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment.  It doesn’t appear that the police had yet discovered her real identity.

The following year, in November 1910, as ‘Ethel Slade’, Ella Stevenson was sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment after taking part in demonstrations surrounding the ‘Black Friday’ riot in Parliament Square.

Neither Ella nor Geraldine Stevenson was at home on census night in April 1911 and we may presume they were following the WSPU boycott call. Later in the year, again as ‘Ethel Slade’ Ella was charged with breaking windows in Parliament Street on 21 November – as part of an organised WSPU demonstration (because the government was proposing to bring in a Manhood Suffrage Bill – excluding women). ‘Ethel Slade’ was sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment.

Now, although I know that Geraldine Stevenson earned a hunger-strike medal, I can find no trace of her among suffragettes arrested by the police nor does her name appear in any news reports. However, when she was breaking windows in Parliament Street ‘Ethel Slade’ was accompanied by a ‘Grace Stuart’, who was, in fact, Geraldine Stevenson, using a pseudonym, but keeping her own initials.

 Both ‘Ethel Slade’ and ‘Grace Stuart’ were released from prison on 12 February 1912. At the ‘Welcome Breakfast’ ‘Ethel Slade’ said it was a great honour for women to go to prison and mentioned that she was going to volunteer for the next deputation.

A few months later, in March 1912, Grace Stuart was sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment after taking part in an organised WSPU window-smashing campaign – and I suspect it was during this term in Holloway that she earned her hunger-strike medal.

On 5 November 1912, as ‘Ethel Slade’, Ella, with another women, broke 9 plate-glass windows in New Bond Street – and was sentenced to 4 months’ imprisonment. They were protesting against the fact that an amendment to the Irish Home Rule bill that would have allowed for a measure of female suffrage was lost. She went on hunger strike, was forcibly fed, and was released after two weeks.

The former Richmond Post Office

On 5 March 1913  Ella Stevenson was sentenced at the Old Bailey to 9 months’ imprisonment for placing a packet containing two glass tubes of phosphorous in the post box attached to the main Richmond Post Office. It had burst into flames. It is more than likely that she had been given the phosphorous by Edwy Clayton, an analytical chemist of ‘Glengariff’, Kew Road, Kew, whose wife was honorary secretary of the Richmond and Kew WSPU. Around the time of Ella’s sentence, Clayton was charged with conspiracy to commit damage (supplying bomb-making information and materials) and sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment. He went on hunger strike, was released under the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act and eluded re-arrest.

When sentencing Ella Stevenson the Recorder said that it was impossible for people to be allowed to go about defying the law because they require some change made in it. Such a condition of affairs would lead to a state of barbarism. Defendant replied that she would go to prison to carry on the fight as she had carried it on outside’.

No women were allowed in court during her trial and Ella specifically asked for a ‘lady reporter’ to be allowed in court and had also asked for her sister [Geraldine?] to be present. But the Recorder was adamant – ‘No women’. There was something of an outcry about the exclusion of women, and the Commissioners of the Central Criminal Court quickly decided that this would not happen in future.

Ella Stevenson went on hunger strike as soon as she got to Holloway and was forcibly fed. Extraordinary vitality is a splendid thing to have outside prison, it is tiresome inside. I am not downhearted she is reported as saying. A report in Votes for Women, 11 April 1913, described how her nostrils were severely injured by forcible feeding and one of her teeth had been knocked out when members of the prison staff were trying to force her mouth open. The Governor reported: ‘the task has been very difficult and disagreeable one owing to her violent resistance; but the medical officer reports that though she exhausts herself by her resistance, there are no serious ill-effects. As to her teeth, the facts are that on one occasion she bit the rubber shield over the doctor’s finger and broke a tooth which was a mere shell owing to decay .Her lip has been sore from an attack of herpes but is now better. These details are distressing and I should be glad to advise a remission of sentence if it were not almost certain that she would on her release commit further offences. I need not say that a strict watch is kept over her condition and every care taken to prevent her injuring herself.’ It is clear, from a letter written to the Home Office by Geraldine Stevenson, that it was one of Ella’s front teeth that was broken – a rather distressing thing to happen to a middle-aged woman in Edwardian Britain

A 17 April 1913 report from Holloway Prison shows that she was given 2.5 pints of  ‘Horlicks, Brand’s Essence, Allenbury’s Milk and egg – fed twice by oesophageal  tube. Violently resistive the whole time.’

Ella was eventually released from prison on 28 April under the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act – the Temporary Discharge of Prisoners Act, one of the first four prisoners released under the Act. She did not return to Holloway on 12 May as required – but was re-arrested on 7 August 1913, while selling The Suffragette in Richmond, and was taken back to Holloway to continue her sentence. Her mother had died at home in Kew just over two weeks earlier – on 19 July 1913.

Ella again went on hunger strike and was released on 14 August under the terms of the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act. While in prison she broke windows and her conduct was deemed ‘Bad’. A Report from the prison’s medical officer (13 August) Medical Officer mentioned that she ‘has forsaken sleep owing to constantly recurring dreams that she has swallowed a drop of water by mistake. Feels extreme satisfaction on finding it is only a dream.’

A ‘Wanted’ Notice for Ella Stevenson appeared in the Supplement to the Police Gazette 2 January 1914. ‘Wanted – for failing to return to Holloway Prison on 22 Aug 1913, as required by the conditions of her discharge under the Prisoners’ Temporary Discharged Act (1913), Ella Stevenson, alias Ethel Slade CRO No S/165568, age refused (about 45), height 5ft 6in; complexion sallow; hair light brown turning grey, and eyes  grey.’

Perhaps as a result of this publicity, on 23 January 1914 Ella Stevenson was re-arrested,  was once again taken to Holloway, where once again she adopted a hunger-and-thirst strike and was released a few days later (under the ‘Cat and Mouse’). She was arrested again on 17 March, released on 19 March, and re-arrested 23 June, and released 27 June. She described this last occasion: I was arrested in Richmond very early on Tuesday morning, June 23. I attempted to strike the man who arrested me, but was taken to Richmond Police Station where I was held until 2 oclock and then taken through the streets of Richmond firmly grasped by two men in uniform. Finding the procession was to be of this very public nature, I decided to make the most of the opportunity to get the people to understand, if possible, what was happening. I resisted the whole way telling the people that I was resisting an iniquitous Act on principle. I gave them as much information as I could in the time, and at the railway station and afterwards in the carriage, when several people got in with us, I was able to appeal to them and reason with them without interruption.The Suffragette, 10 July 1914. Once back in Holloway she again went on a hunger-and-thirst strike, was released on 27 June and does not appear to have been re-arrested before the outbreak of war on 4 August brought the WSPU campaign to an end.

Picturing Ella Stevenson’s activity in George Street and, eventually, that enforced march through Richmond certainly enlivened my rather tedious wait at the bus stop opposite the station as I was on my to the National Archives last week. And, once there, I met her again in files describing her treatment in Holloway and her resistance to it. No real knowledge of the part she and her sister played in the fight for the vote – or, indeed, anything else at all of their lives – has survived within her family. Such is the fate, noted time and time again, of the maiden aunt.

P.S. For a Museum of London surveillance photograph of Ella Stevenson, probably taken when she was in Holloway – see here.  

And, quite coincidentally, the Museum of London was earlier this year given the illuminated scroll awarded to Ella Stevenson by the WSPU after one of her imprisonments. All the pieces of the Stevenson jigsaw are falling into place.

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Suffrage Stories: The Fabian Stained Glass Panel And Its Suffrage Connections

Fabian stained glass panel, by Caroline Townsend, 1911

When I gave a keynote talk  -‘ Surrounded by Suffrage: Situating Shaw, Wells and the LSE in Suffrage Sites’ – at the joint H.G. Wells Society/Shaw Society’/ LSE Language Centre conference at LSE on 23 September 2017 the constraints of time meant that I was unable to include all that I would have liked to have said about this stained glass panel. I am, therefore, taking the opportunity my blog affords of relaying a little more of my research into this most interesting artefact.

The panel may be construed as a political allegory on the early years of the Fabian Society. Its artist was Caroline Townshend (1878-1944).

Received opinion has it that it was Bernard Shaw who designed the panel and I can find no original evidence one way or the other to back or disprove the claim. Received opinion – such as the article about the window on the LSE website – also has it that Caroline Townshend was commissioned to make it by GBS. However, I have discovered an item in the London Daily News, 8 November 1911, that explicitly states ‘The political allegory in stained glass which Miss Caroline Townshend, the well-known artist, has just completed for Mrs G.B. Shaw, conveys a good deal of humour and not a little kindly satire’.

It would hardly be surprising if it were Mrs Charlotte Shaw who had commissioned the work. The artist, Caroline Townshend, was not only a fellow Fabian but her own first cousin. Charlotte’s father, Horace Payne-Townshend, was half-brother to Caroline’s father, Chambrey Corker Townshend. Horace, as the first born, had inherited the greater part of the Townshend estate – allowing his daughters to be brought up in considerable comfort – while the family of Chambrey Townshend were very much less financially secure.

Both these fathers seem to have been rather ineffectual characters, married to very much more assertive wives. However, while Horace’s wife, Charlotte’s mother, was a frivolous termagant, Caroline’s mother, Emily Townshend, was much- admired, intellectually curious, and socially conscious. As Emily Gibson she had been one of the Girton Pioneers – one of the five first students at the college at Hitchen that later became Girton. One of her fellow Pioneers was Isabella Townshend, whose brother, Chambrey,  Emily married in 1873. She had left Hitchin the year before without completing her degree course.

My researches (see here) indicate that Isabella Townshend had left Hitchen at the same time and then set up as an interior decorator with a Mrs Hartley Brown (whom I’ve so far been unable to identify). Emily Faithfull, when discussing new trade opportunities that were opening for women, mentioned in Three Visits to America (1884) 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.’ (‘Merton College’ was an early manifestation of what became Newnham.)

Another of Chambrey Townshend’s sisters, Anne, was involved from 1888, when she was its first secretary, until 1910 with the Ladies’ Residential Chambers Company (the founders of which included Agnes Garrett and Millicent Fawcett – for more on the LRC see here). She had trained as a nurse, been a matron at the Hospital for Hip Disease in Childhood  before by 1882 moving into philanthropic administration as secretary of the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants (MABYs).

These interesting women were  cousins to Charlotte Payne-Townshend, the future Mrs GBS, although  there is nothing about them in her biography by Janet Dunbar or, as far as I can discover, in any of the many biographies of Bernard Shaw.  Charlotte fervently lamented the sterility of her early life and one wonders if she knew anything of the enterprises undertaken by her cousins. If she had, one imagines she would have rather envied them.

In the 1870s Isabella and Chambrey Townshend moved in artistic socialist circles, as close friends of Walter and Lucy Crane. Chambrey was an architect of whom his wife later wrote  ‘Chambrey Townshend had little push and no business ability to back up his remarkable artistic abilities.’ He worked as an assistant for George Edmund Street but never set up his own practice. Emily eventually decided that the family could live cheaper abroad and this they did – in France and Switzerland – from 1886 until 1893.

Caroline  was born in 1878, the fourth of Emily and Chambrey’s five children. After the family’s return from Europe she was for a time a pupil at Wycombe Abbey School before, by 1901, becoming a pupil to the leading stained-glass artist, Christopher Whall.

Caroline Townshend (courtesy of LSE Archives)

Charlotte Shaw was twenty years older than Caroline Townshend and had been brought up in very much more financially secure circumstances – yet she, Caroline, and Emily came to share the same social and political philosophy. Whether or not there had been earlier contact it is certain that in the early years of the 20th century their paths most certainly did cross – all being early members of the Fabian Society. Even so, the names of Emily and Caroline Townshend do not occur in Shaw’s published letters, although the LSE archives holds a few photographs showing Caroline’s sister, Rachel, on holiday in Wales with Charlotte Shaw (see, for instance, here).

So, if the Shaws were thinking of commissioning a stained glass panel, they knew they had an artist in the family who could accomplish it. Or, could it have been the other way round? Perhaps having a stained-glass artist in the family was too good an opportunity to miss. Perhaps Charlotte Shaw thought she must put her cousin’s talent to use. Did she discuss with GBS how this might be achieved? And did he then sketch out that political allegory? There are so many mysteries surrounding the panel. What was the purpose behind the commission? Where had they intended to place it? In their London apartment at 10 Adelphi Terrace –or at their country home Ayot St Lawrence – or in the Fabian Office? Whatever the intention, the panel was still in Caroline Townshend’s possession at the time of her death in 1944.  It seems very odd that it should have been discussed in the press in 1911 – and yet wasn’t claimed by one or other of the Shaws. Was Caroline paid for it?

Caroline also retained the original design for the panel – the cartoon – which in 1954 was given by Joan Howson, her artistic and life partner (they traded as Townshend and Howson) to Wimbledon’s William Morris House in memory of Emily and Caroline Townshend.  Emily Townshend had lived in Wimbledon and, with Caroline, was a shareholder in Wimbledon Labour Halls Co-operative Society Limited – also known as William Morris House.

Information on the William Morris House website (see here) states that the Fabian Society panel was made at the William Morris Works at Merton. I think this is probably mistaken. Emily and Caroline Townshend had in 1931 given WMH two Burne-Jones windows. These had been given by Burne-Jones to Chambrey Townshend and would have been made at the William Morris Works, but Caroline Townshend’s panel was almost certainly made at the Glass House, Lettice Street, Fulham, where she had a studio from c 1910 until the 1920s.

The Glass House had been set up in 1906 by a stained glass craftswoman, Mary Lowndes, to provide facilities for other stained glass artists and had proved most successful in attracting young women to the craft. Mary Lowndes was one of the founders of the Artists’ Suffrage League but I’ve found no clear evidence that Caroline Townshend was a member. The ASL records (held in the Women’s Library@LSE) are scanty but, as Mary Lowndes’ involvement with preparations for suffrage events was at times overwhelming, Caroline Townshend must have been only too well aware of all that activity and it would seem likely that, even if she were not a formal member, she would have lent a hand on occasion. Anyway, if she wasn’t an active suffrage supporter, her mother and sister certainly were. In 1907, Emily Townshend, then aged 57, spent two weeks in Holloway after being involved in a suffragette protest and in 1909 was followed by Rachel, who spent two months in prison. Caroline was living at home during this time and could not but help be swept up in the drama. So, by the time Caroline Townshend received the Fabian commission in 1910, she was surrounded by suffrage talk and activity at home and at work.

Of the kneeling female figures that on the far right is Caroline Townshend and two of the other figures demonstrate a strong connection between Fabianism and suffrage. The figure third from the right is Mary Hankinson, who was a very active suffragette – and from 1905 until 1948 a member of the Fabian Society. A teacher of physical education, she was hired in 1907 to give instruction in Swedish drill and country dancing at the first Fabian Summer School – funded by Charlotte Shaw – and from then until 1938 she was general manager of all Fabian summer schools. She was also a member of the Women’s Freedom League, one of the militant suffrage societies, and was president of the Gymnastic Teachers’ Suffrage Society. Her brother was Unitarian chaplain to Holloway prison and was used by Christabel Pankhurst as a conduit of information to and from suffragette prisoners. The suffrage collection he amassed includes a copy of Saint Joan presented to Mary Hankinson by Shaw, who wrote in it a very Shavian inscription ‘To Mary Hankinson, the only woman I know who does not believe she was a model for Joan, but also the only woman who actually was.’

On the stained glass panel between Mary Hankinson and Charlotte Townshend is the figure of Mabel Atkinson, who was a postgraduate student at LSE, a member of the executive committee of the Fabian Society from 1909 until 1915 and chairman of the Suffrage Section of the Fabian Women’s Group when it was formed in 1911. She was involved with Mary Hankinson in the development of the Summer School and was also a donor to and speaker for the WSPU.

In passing it’s worth noting a little remarked fact – that Charlotte Shaw was one of the WSPU’s most generous benefactors: for instance in March 1908 she gave them £100 and on 21 June took part in a spectacular WSPU procession – walking with the Fabians under the Society’s banner, which was carried by Maud Pember Reeves. Shaw watched from the pavement as she passed.

You can read more here about the iconography of the Fabian stained glass panel  and of its rather idiosyncratic history between 1944 and 2006, when it finally came to rest in the care of LSE. There it has most appropriately been installed in the Shaw Library, a room that commemorates not GBS, but Charlotte Shaw, who was a most generous benefactor to the LSE.

Charlotte Shaw was a very interesting woman – who evaded the limelight. At the Shaw/Wells/LSE conference we were treated to an excerpt from ‘Mrs Shaw Herself’ – a one-woman show – with musical accompaniment- about her. I thoroughly enjoyed this and thought I must let you all know that there will be a full perfomance next Saturday (30 Sept 2017) in St Lawrence Church in Ayot St Lawrence, the village where she and GBS made their home.

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Suffrage Stories: Hidden From History? – Florence And Beatrice Sotheran

On 4 April 2016 I gave a talk in the House of Commons at the Regional Suffrage Conference – one of the activities organised by Vote100 in the lead up to the 100th anniversary of (partial) women’s enfranchisement in 2018. I had been asked to speak on the methods that we can all use to recover something of the lives of hitherto unknown suffrage campaigners – the foot soldiers of the movement. I called the talk ‘Hidden from History?: using genealogical data to recover the lives of suffragettes’.

As a demonstration of what can be done – and the techniques used – I picked at random a few names from those who appeared in the Contributors’ List in Votes for Women, the newspaper published by the Women’s Social and Political Union, in the weeks of 7 and 14 April 1911. Over the next few days I will post their stories.

The first name I discussed was Sybil Campion and the second was Miss Susan Cunnington – who each donated 5 shillings to the Cause. The third was Yevonde Cumbers, who turned out to be less hidden from history than most, and the fourth was ‘Miss S.A. Turle’ whose sister, Caroline, was, I saw, also a generous donor.

Two others, grouped together on the 7 April list, appeared to be sisters – Florence and Beatrice Sotheran. Being a bookseller the name ‘Sotheran’ means something to me – Henry Sotheran’s  is a very long-established bookshop in Sackville Street –  off Piccadilly. And sure enough when I checked I found they were the twin daughters – at least I assume they were twins as they were both born in 1866 – of Henry Sotheran.

At first I thought that they were missing from the 1911 census – but one does have to check – and I found them in the Welsh census – on holiday in Barmouth. A Google search revealed the fact that both sisters were included on the Suffragette Roll of Honour – a list of suffragette prisoners that was compiled in the 1950s by the Suffragette Fellowship.

Armed with that information I then turned to one of the newer sources of information that is now available on Ancestry – the National Archives file that contains police records of suffragettes arrested.

Entry for the Sotheran sisters in the 'England - Suffragettes Arrested 1906-1914' (courtesy of The National Archives and Ancestry.co.uk)

Entry for the Sotheran sisters in the ‘England – Suffragettes Arrested 1906-1914’ (courtesy of The National Archives and Ancestry.co.uk)

I used to study this on my visits to the National Archives and think how wonderfully useful it was. And now it is available to all of us. Well, five months or so before they gave their April 1911 donations both sisters had been arrested and appeared at Bow Street Magistrates Court. The file gives the date – 19 November 1910– so I turned to look at the relevant copy of Votes for Women – and sure enough in the 25 November 1910 issue the WSPU had included brief biographies of all those arrested. That for the Sotherans tells us that ‘they are two constitutional suffragists who have been morally forced to take up militancy through the utter failure of quiet, Law-abiding methods of agitation’.

They had been arrested in the aftermath of Black Friday – when women went en masse to Downing Street. The Aberdeen Journal – found in the Findmypast collection of British Library newspapers – contains a vivid account of the scene and lists Beatrice and Florence Sotheran amongst those arrested.

So here, again, is an insight into the mindset of a couple of WSPU foot-soldiers. They were reasonably well-off, they neither needed to or – apparently – wanted to work for a living (although they may have devoted themselves to ‘good works’), but they were quite prepared to flout the law in pursuit of the parliamentary vote.

Sadly  I see that Florence died in September 1918 and would never have had the opportunity to exercise her parliamentary vote. Beatrice, however, lived for another 20 years and would have been able to vote on numerous occasions.

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Suffrage Stories: Hidden From History? – Miss S.A. Turle

On 4 April 2016 I gave a talk in the House of Commons at the Regional Suffrage Conference – one of the activities organised by Vote100 in the lead up to the 100th anniversary of (partial) women’s enfranchisement in 2018. I had been asked to speak on the methods that we can all use to recover something of the lives of hitherto unknown suffrage campaigners – the foot soldiers of the movement. I called the talk ‘Hidden from History?: using genealogical data to recover the lives of suffragettes’.

As a demonstration of what can be done – and the techniques used – I picked at random a few names from those who appeared in the Contributors’ List in Votes for Women, the newspaper published by the Women’s Social and Political Union, in the weeks of 7 and 14 April 1911. Over the next few days I will post their stories.

The first name I discussed was Sybil Campion and the second was Miss Susan Cunnington – who each donated 5 shillings to the Cause. The third was Yevonde Cumbers, who turned out to be less hidden from history than most, and when I put the fourth name, ‘Miss S.A. Turle’, into Google I managed straightaway to identify her as Miss Sophia Adelaide Turle, a literary editor and musician whose personal papers are now at Girton.

The Girton archive listing gives brief background information on Sophia and her family – her father was at one time organist at Westminster Abbey -and mentions that she was a supporter of a range of women’s educational institutions and of the suffrage movement. To quote from the archive listing ‘Miss Turle gave a small donation from her dress allowance to Girton in very early days. Though not rich, she was generous and gave money unasked and without ostentation to women’s causes.’

The Girton archive holds her diaries from 1877 to 1889 and the catalogue specifically mentions that Sophia attended numerous women’s suffrage meetings (both public meetings and smaller committee meetings), made regular payments of subscriptions to the Women’s Suffrage Society, and helped with the getting of names for petitions in favour of the franchise for women’.So here was the woman who is listed in the 7 April 1911 issue of Votes for Women as giving £4 3s 6d to the WSPU.

I then had a look at the 1911 census with no very great expectations of finding anything particularly interesting – Sophia was now 70 years old – and when Jill Liddington and I researched the census we did tend to find it was younger women who protested. But there in the listing was ‘S.A. Turle’ – it’s always a hopeful sign for the researcher of census boycotters to see initials rather than a full name. But there would have been no way of identifying her as a census resister without knowing her name to look up – she is what I called an ‘unknown unknown’

1911 census form for Miss Sophia Adelaide Turle (courtesy of The National Archives and Ancestry.co.uk)

1911 census form for Miss Sophia Adelaide Turle (courtesy of The National Archives and Ancestry.co.uk)

But when I clicked on the form I was gratified to find that she had written across it ‘As it has been legally pronounced, so far as the parliamentary vote is concerned, that a woman is not a ‘person’, I decline to fill in this census’. So here was a woman who had been involved with the suffrage campaign throughout the last quarter of the 19th century and was now taking militant action in the 20th.  Details for Sophia Turle and her maid had then been filled in by the enumerator.

In the same week her sister, Caroline, who had moved out of London to Dorset, gave £20 to the WSPU – and £2 the following week. She, too, is missing from the 1911 census – and died just over a month later (for short pieces about her see issues of Votes for Women for 2 and 30 June 1911). So behind those brief listings of donations, chosen at random, lies the story of a lifetime of support for women’s causes.

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Suffrage Stories: Hidden From History? – Yevonde Cumbers

On 4 April 2016 I gave a talk in the House of Commons at the Regional Suffrage Conference – one of the activities organised by Vote100 in the lead up to the 100th anniversary of (partial) women’s enfranchisement in 2018. I had been asked to speak on the methods that we can all use to recover something of the lives of hitherto unknown suffrage campaigners – the foot soldiers of the movement. I called the talk ‘Hidden from History?: using genealogical data to recover the lives of suffragettes’.

As a demonstration of what can be done – and the techniques used – I picked at random a few names from those who appeared in the Contributors’ List in Votes for Women, the newspaper published by the Women’s Social and Political Union, in the weeks of 7 and 14 April 1911. Over the next few days I will post their stories.

The first name I discussed was Sybil Campion and the second was Miss Susan Cunnington – who each donated 5 shillings to the Cause.

The next name on the list that I selected is one of the kind I like to come across – ‘Yevonde Cumbers’ –there can’t have been too many of women of that name around.

I looked for her on the 1911 census – nothing. I then looked on the 1901 census and there she was – born in 1893, living with her parents and younger sister, Verena, in Margate. He father was a manufacturer of printing ink. It’s interesting that she’s missing from the 1911 census. Did she evade? I found her mother and father on the 1911 census – by now they were living in a house with two servants in Bromley. But there is no trace anywhere in the country of Yevonde and Verena. At 18 and 16 they were quite young to be taking part in a census party – but I think we can probably add them to our list of census boycotters.

I discovered that Yevonde Cumbers married in 1920. From the Ancestry website I discovered that when she travelled back from the US after a visit in the mid-1930s the ship’s manifest revealed her occupation as that of ‘press photographer’ – and that is when the penny dropped.

Madame Yevonde - Self Portrait with image of Hecate

Madame Yevonde – Self Portrait with image of Hecate

I realised that she was none other than the one and only ‘Madame Yevonde’ – a starry portrait photographer whose autobiography, In Camera, published by the Woman’s Book Club in 1940, I once sold. I don’t know why I didn’t think of her as soon as I saw her name – but ‘Yevonde Cumbers’ really didn’t ring any bells.

Well ‘Madame Yevonde’ most certainly is not ‘hidden from history’ – here is a website all about her and her work. Sure enough it stresses that in her teens ‘Madame Yevonde’ had ‘discovered the suffragette movement and had devoted her efforts to the cause’. The article mentions that she was very strong and determined and was only 21 when she opened her own photographic studio.

The 1939 Register finds Yevonde Middleton, as she now is, in Frobisher House, Dolphin Square, a widow – and a ‘Portrait Photographer’. There are masses of references to Yevonde in the Findmypast newspaper search facility.

But here in the 7 April 1911 issue of Votes for Women we have young Yevonde Cumbers –  freeze-framed, as it were – handing over money she had collected – 4s 9d – to the WSPU. She didn’t yet know how famous she would become, but she did know that ‘Votes for Women’ was in her interest.

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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.

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Suffrage Stories: Hidden From History? Sybil Campion

Yesterday (4 April 2016) in the House of Commons I gave a talk at the Regional Suffrage Conference – one of the activities organised by Vote100 in the lead up to the 100th anniversary of (partial) women’s enfranchisement in 2018. I had been asked to speak on the methods that we can all use to recover something of the lives of hitherto unknown suffrage campaigners – the foot soldiers of the movement. I called the talk ‘Hidden from History?: using genealogical data to recover the lives of suffragettes’.

As a demonstration of what can be done – and the techniques used – I picked at random a few names from those who appeared in the Contributors’ List in Votes for Women, the newspaper published by the Women’s Social and Political Union, in the weeks of 7 and 14 April 1911. Over the next few days I will post their stories.

Here is the first:

In the issue of 14 April 1911 the list is headed by Elizabeth Garrett Anderson who gave £200. Well I don’t think we need to find out more about her – and there are many other names in the lists that will also be familiar to suffrage historians – many of them with entries in my Reference Guide. But what about the next on the list after Mrs Garrett Anderson. Who was Miss Sybil Campion who gave 5 shillings?

Looking at the 1911 census on the Ancestry.com website there is a young woman of that name who fits the bill. She is a shorthand typist who works for a metal merchant and is living in what was described as a Ladies Residential Club – Hopkinson House – in Vauxhall Bridge Road.

Hopkinson House - as it is today, little changed since 1911.

Hopkinson House – as it is today, little changed since 1911.

She was one of 96 boarders – parish workers, secretaries, students, photographers, teachers – mostly, but not all, in their twenties. What was Sybil’s background? I easily found her – thanks to the Ancestry Hints – on the 1891 and 1901 censuses. In both cases she was living with her mother and Caroline, her slightly older sister – but there was no trace of a father. Her mother is enumerated as married and living on private means. On the first occasion, that is in 1891, when Sybil was under 1 year old and her mother was 42, they were living in Belmont Street, Bognor Regis. Another search showed that Sybil had been born at nearby Felpham between April and June 1890. By 1901 mother and daughters were living in Hastings.

But I then took a look back at the mother – Eva Campion’s 1881 census form showed that far from being a relatively elderly mother of only two daughters – she was in fact the wife of an ex- army officer who was now an indigo planter – and by 1881 she already had two young sons.

After I had completed my initial Ancestry and Findmypast searching on the family I then put Sybil Campion’s name into Google and was directed to an Ancestry members’ board thread where a query had been made about the family. And this revealed that Sybil’s father was Thomas Arthur Campion, superintendent of a plantation in ‘east India’ – I think we can take that as meaning ‘the East Indies’. In fact I then substantiated this by accessing yet another Genealogical site – ‘Family Search’ run by the Mormons – the Latter Day Saints. Access to this is free, but it offers more limited sources of information. However it was here that I found the record of Sybil Campion’s christening at Felpham on 20 May 1890. This gives her full name – Sybil Constance Burney Campion – and the full names of both her parents – Thomas Arthur Campion and Evelina Ross Campion.

Noting that her mother’s name was ‘Evelina’ I momentarily mused about the inclusion of ‘Burney’ in Sybil’s name. Could there be a family connection to Fanny Burney, author of Evelina? Well, I did quickly establish that her mother had been born Evelina Ross Burney in 1848 and that her mother’s married name was Frances Burney – though let me stress that was her married name. Evelina’s father was a major in an East Indies regiment and she had clearly followed him out east – for in 1867 – aged 18 – she had married William Henry Adley at Barrackpore in Bengal. Back in England the following year she had given birth to a son and buried him a few days later. And then 3 years later in India she and Adley had had a daughter, Lilian Maud.

And now the story gets rather murky. For there is no doubt that this Evelina is the same Evelina who ten years later was living in Bognor with two young Campion sons. She had probably not been divorced from Adley, who, in his turn, when he appeared in the 1891 Welsh census as retired surgeon-general of the India army, described himself as a widower – although as we know Eva was very much still alive. Living with him then was 20-year-old Lilian. Had Evelina left her husband to live with Thomas Campion, and produce 4 further children, including Sybil? Had she lost contact with her first-born daughter?

Following up Thomas Arthur Campion in the Findmypast newspaper archive, I discovered that he had retired from the Army – the 5th Foot Regiment – as a lieutenant in 1876 and resigned his commission as a reserve officer in 1885. There is a suggestion that as a young lieutenant his role had been that of interpreter. An entry for ‘Sybil Campion’ in the same newspaper search engine yielded the fact that a girl of that name – and it must have been our Sybil Campion – was a pupil at Kenilworth College, a girls’ school in Hastings, passing the Preparatory class of the Royal Drawing Society in 1900 and taking part in a ‘pretty tambourine dance’ during a conversazione in 1902. Her sister, whom I can see was known as ‘Carrie’, is also mentioned as a pupil at the school. At this time the 1901 census shows that Sybil, her mother and sister lived in ‘Stewart Lodge’, Baldslow Road in Hastings. In 1901 all the houses in the road had names and not numbers and unfortunately house names such as this have now vanished from usage and without a good deal of local searching it is difficult to identify exactly which house ‘Stewart Lodge’ was in a long road of large houses – even if it is still standing – –Street View shows me that there has been some redevelopment. The Campions shared the house with the family of an artist – named Herbert Sparks..but I’ll resist getting sucked into his family’s rather interesting-looking history.

Another quick search showed that Evelina Campion, described as the wife of Thomas Campion, died in Bournemouth in 1908. However probate was not given to her husband but to one of her own relatives, Charles Burney. Her estate amounted to a rather pathetic £41.

But where was her putative husband – Thomas Arthur Campion? Following all leads, a Google search led me to another Ancestry forum members’ thread that suggested that the younger son, George, might have emigrated to Canada. So I turned to Ancestry’s selection of Canadian records and there in those of Canadian soldiers of the First World War I discovered the answer to Thomas Arthur’s whereabouts. For when he joined up in 1916 George gave his father’s address as ‘Rose Bay, New South Wales, Australia’. A quick jump to Ancestry’s Australian records found the death of a Thomas A. Campion in Sydney in 1914. Rose Bay is a suburb of Sydney – is this the correct Thomas A Campion? In 1916 did George not know of his father’s death two years earlier? It seems to me quite probable – but obviously more hard evidence would be required.

The army records afford a good deal of information – for instance, in answering a question about previous military experience George cited membership of the Hurstpierpoint Cadet Corps. I knew of Hurstpierpoint College in Sussex, but interested in further details I read online that it had moved to its present site in 1853 thanks to its local benefactors – the Campion family. What is one to make of that? I see that the East Sussex Archives hold Campion family papers – mentioning connections to army service in India in the 19th century. More paths to follow? Well – not at the moment. Incidentally, on the army form George described himself as a farm labourer – not exactly the rank in society that might have been expected of one who had been educated at Hurstpierpoint.  A little more Ancestry searching led me to discover that Arthur, the elder of the Campions’ sons had joined a Royal Navy Training ship when he was a teenager.

So I had now uncovered something of Sybil’s apparently rather unstable background. I had discovered where she had lived and where she was educated, and had established that by the age of 18 she was to all intents and purposes a penniless orphan. It was time now to forge on into her adult life.

Well, I couldn’t find any obvious death date or will for her but I did see that when her sister, Caroline, died in 1965 her birth date on the death register was given as 1885 rather than the correct date of 1889, which suggested to me that when she died she was not in the company of anybody who knew her full details. She didn’t leave a will.

Giving up on a death date for Sybil I looked at the London electoral register and I saw that between 1922 and 1925 she was living in shared premises at 18 Endsleigh Terrace – just off the Euston Road. There are more entries for ‘Sybil Campions’ on the local London electoral register but one has to beware of red herrings – a Sybil Campion who pops up in the late 1940s in Wandsworth is living with a James Campion, ie they are likely to be a married couple and not our Sybil. I had, of course checked Ancestry’s marriage records – but there was no evidence that our Sybil had married. I then looked at the 1939 Register on Findmypast but there was no trace of her there. I must explain that the 1939 Register is just that – a register taken in 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War. It is useful in giving the most basic data – such as an address – and also does give an exact date of birth and an occupation. However, for women – particularly women involved in the suffrage campaign who by 1939 were necessarily no longer young –this ‘occupation’ designation can be rather opaque – ‘Unpaid Household Duties’ being the most common. But occasionally the subject will be a little more forthcoming and allow themselves to be enumerated as ‘Artist’ or ‘Headmistress (Retired).

Anyway back to Sybil Campion. I then checked the Ancestry Travel files and lo and behold there she was – on 6 May 1927 Miss Sybil C. Burney Campion had embarked from Southampton to Auckland, New Zealand, sailing on the ‘Remuera’.  She was 37 years old and gave her occupation as ‘Household Duties’. The address she left behind didn’t give much away either – just care of the National Provincial Bank in London’s Victoria Street. And there we must take leave of her – I can’t find her death in New Zealand – probably because the available records only go up to 1964 and she may have been as long lived as her sister.

From all this we can get something of a picture of that young woman who sent off her 5 shillings to the WSPU in April 1911. She came from a family where the father was mostly absent – indeed where her parents may not have been formally married – where her two considerably older brothers from an early age made their own way in the world, where her mother coped alone with bringing up her two daughters, living in towns along the south coast of England. Did Sybil know of the existence of her half-sister, Lilian – who, incidentally, married the professor of civil engineering at Birmingham University. Sybil probably did not stay at her genteel girls’ day school past 16, then trained as a typist and found work in a London office, living for a time in a hostel and then in a series of shared flats.

She didn’t have an opportunity of boycotting the 1911 census –even if she had intended to – because the form for the hostel was filled in by the superintendent and not by the individual boarders. But now that we see the forces that shaped her life it was little wonder that she was a WSPU supporter. The 5 shillings she gave was likely to have been the equivalent of a day’s pay – working on the basis that a clerical wage was about £2 a week (for instance, that was the amount that suffrage organizers were paid). She could see that she would have to fend for herself through life. She could have had little faith in relying on men for support. In her late-30s Sybil shook the dust of old England off her feet and set sail for a new adventure – as had many of her ancestors. I wonder what became of her?

 

On 14 April the list is headed by Elizabeth Garrett Anderson who gave £200. Well I don’t think we need to find out more about her – and there are many other names in the lists that will also be familiar to suffrage historians – many of them with entries in my Reference Guide. But what about the next on the list after Mrs Garrett Anderson. Who was Miss Sybil Campion who gave 5 shillings?  Looking at the 1911 census there is a young woman of that name who fits the bill. She is a shorthand typist who works for a metal merchant and is living in what was described as a Ladies Residential Club – Hopkinson House – in Vauxhall Bridge Road – not far from here. She was one of 96 boarders – parish workers, secretaries, students, photographers, teachers – mostly, but not all, in their twenties. What was Sybil’s background? I easily found her – thanks to the Ancestry hints – on the 1891 and 1901 censuses. In both cases she was living with her mother and Caroline, her slightly older sister – but there was no trace of a father. Her mother is enumerated as married and living on private means. On the first occasion, that is in 1891, when Sybil was under 1 year old and her mother was 42, they were living in Belmont Street, Bognor Regis. Another search showed that Sybil had been born at nearby Felpham between April and June 1890. By 1901 mother and daughters were living in Hastings. But I then took a look back at the mother – Eva Campion’s 1881 census form showed that far from being a relatively elderly mother of only two daughters – she was in fact the wife of an ex- army officer who was now an indigo planter – and by 1881 she already had two young sons.

After I had completed my initial Ancestry and Findmypast searching on the family I then put Sybil Campion’s name into Google and was directed to an Ancestry members’ board thread where a query had been made about the family. And this revealed that Sybil’s father was Thomas Arthur Campion, superintendent of a plantation in ‘east India’ – I think we can take that as meaning ‘the East Indies’. In fact I then substantiated this by accessing yet another Genealogical site – ‘Family Search’ run by the Mormons – the Latter Day Saints. Access to this is free, but it offers more limited sources of information. However it was here that I found the record of Sybil Campion’s christening at Felpham on 20 May 1890. This gives her full name – Sybil Constance Burney Campion – and the full names of both her parents – Thomas Arthur Campion and Evelina Ross Campion. Noting that her mother’s name was ‘Evelina’ I momentarily mused about the inclusion of ‘Burney’ in Sybil’s name. Could there be a family connection to Fanny Burney, author of Evelina? Well, I did quickly establish that her mother had been born Evelina Ross Burney in 1848 and that her mother’s married name was Frances Burney – though let me stress that was her married name. Evelina’s father was a major in an East Indies regiment and she had clearly followed him out east – for in 1867 – aged 18 – she had married William Henry Adley at Barrackpore in Bengal. Back in England the following year she had given birth to a son and buried him a few days later. And then 3 years later in India she and Adley had had a daughter, Lilian Maud.

And now the story gets rather murky. For there is no doubt that this Evelina is the same Evelina who ten years later was living in Bognor with two young Campion sons. She had probably not been divorced from Adley, who, in his turn, when he appeared in the 1891 Welsh census as retired surgeon-general of the India army, described himself as a widower – although as we know Eva was very much still alive. Living with him then was 20-year-old Lilian. Had Evelina left her husband to live with Thomas Campion, and produce 4 further children, including Sybil? Had she lost contact with her first-born daughter?

Following up Thomas Arthur Campion in the Findmypast newspaper archive, I discovered that he had retired from the Army – the 5th Foot Regiment – as a lieutenant in 1876 and resigned his commission as a reserve officer in 1885. There is a suggestion that as a young lieutenant his role had been that of interpreter. An entry for ‘Sybil Campion’ in the same newspaper search engine yielded the fact that a girl of that name – and it must have been our Sybil Campion – was a pupil at Kenilworth College, a girls’ school in Hastings, passing the Preparatory class of the Royal Drawing Society in 1900 and taking part in a ‘pretty tambourine dance’ during a conversazione in 1902. Her sister, whom I can see was known as ‘Carrie’, is also mentioned as a pupil at the school. At this time the 1901 census shows that Sybil, her mother and sister lived in ‘Stewart Lodge’, Baldslow Road in Hastings. In 1901 all the houses in the road had names and not numbers and unfortunately house names such as this have now vanished from usage and without a good deal of local searching it is difficult to identify exactly which house ‘Stewart Lodge’ was in a long road of large houses – even if it is still standing – –Street View shows me that there has been some redevelopment. The Campions shared the house with the family of an artist – named Herbert Sparks..but I’ll resist getting sucked into his family’s rather interesting-looking history. Another quick search showed that Evelina Campion, described as the wife of Thomas Campion, died in Bournemouth in 1908. However probate was not given to her husband but to one of her own relatives, Charles Burney. Her estate amounted to a rather pathetic £41.

But where was her putative husband – Thomas Arthur Campion? Following all leads, a Google search led me to another Ancestry forum members’ thread that suggested that the younger son, George, might have emigrated to Canada. So I turned to Ancestry’s selection of Canadian records and there in those of Canadian soldiers of the First World War I discovered the answer to Thomas Arthur’s whereabouts. For when he joined up in 1916 George gave his father’s address as ‘Rose Bay, New South Wales, Australia’. A quick jump to Ancestry’s Australian records found the death of a Thomas A. Campion in Sydney in 1914. Rose Bay is a suburb of Sydney – is this the correct Thomas A Campion? In 1916 did George not know of his father’s death two years earlier? It seems to me quite probable – but obviously more hard evidence would be required.

The army records afford a good deal of information – for instance, in answering a question about previous military experience George cited membership of the Hurstpierpoint Cadet Corps. I knew of Hurstpierpoint College in Sussex, but interested in further details I read online that it had moved to its present site in 1853 thanks to its local benefactors – the Campion family. What is one to make of that? I see that the East Sussex Archives hold Campion family papers – mentioning connections to army service in India in the 19th century. More paths to follow? Well – not at the moment. ..Incidentally, on the army form George described himself as a farm labourer – not exactly the rank in society that might have been expected of one who had been educated at Hurstpierpoint.  A little more Ancestry searching led me to discover that Arthur, the elder of the Campions’ sons had joined a Royal Navy Training ship when he was a teenager.

So I had now uncovered something of Sybil’s apparently rather unstable background. I had discovered where she had lived and where she was educated, and had established that by the age of 18 she was to all intents and purposes a penniless orphan. It was time now to forge on into her adult life.

Well, I couldn’t find any obvious death date or will for her but I did see that when her sister, Caroline, died in 1965 her birth date on the death register was given as 1885 rather than the correct date of 1889, which suggested to me that when she died she was not in the company of anybody who knew her full details. She didn’t leave a will.

Giving up on a death date for Sybil I looked at the London electoral register and I saw that between 1922 and 1925 she was living in shared premises at 18 Endsleigh Terrace – just off the Euston Road. There are more entries for ‘Sybil Campions’ on the local London electoral register but one has to beware of red herrings – a Sybil Campion who pops up in the late 1940s in Wandsworth is living with a James Campion, ie they are likely to be a married couple and not our Sybil. I had, of course checked Ancestry’s marriage records – but there was no evidence that our Sybil had married. I then looked at the 1939 Register on Findmypast but there was no trace of her there. I must explain that the 1939 Register is just that – a register taken in 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War. It is useful in giving the most basic data – such as an address – and also does give an exact date of birth and an occupation. However, for women – particularly women involved in the suffrage campaign who by 1939 were necessarily no longer young –this ‘occupation’ designation can be rather opaque – ‘Unpaid Household Duties’ being the most common. But occasionally the subject will be a little more forthcoming and allow themselves to be enumerated as ‘Artist’ or ‘Headmistress (Retired).

Anyway back to Sybil Campion. I then checked the Ancestry Travel files and lo and behold there she was – on 6 May 1927 Miss Sybil C. Burney Campion had embarked from Southampton to Auckland, New Zealand, sailing on the ‘Remuera’.  She was 37 years old and gave her occupation as ‘Household Duties’. The address she left behind didn’t give much away either – just care of the National Provincial Bank in London’s Victoria Street. And there we must take leave of her – I can’t find her death in New Zealand – probably because the available records only go up to 1964 and she may have been as long lived as her sister. But from all this we can get something of a picture of that young woman who sent off her 5 shillings to the WSPU in April 1911. She came from a family where the father was mostly absent – indeed where her parents may not have been formally married – where her two considerably older brothers from an early age made their own way in the world, where her mother coped alone with bringing up her two daughters, living in towns along the south coast of England. Did Sybil know of the existence of her half-sister, Lilian – who, incidentally, married the professor of civil engineering at Birmingham University. Sybil probably did not stay at her genteel girls’ day school past 16, then trained as a typist and found work in a London office, living for a time in a hostel and then in a series of shared flats.

She didn’t have an opportunity of boycotting the 1911 census –even if she had intended to – because the form for the hostel was filled in by the superintendent and not by the individual boarders. But now that we see the forces that shaped her life it was little wonder that she was a WSPU supporter. The 5 shillings she gave was likely to have been the equivalent of a day’s pay – working on the basis that a clerical wage was about £2 a week (for instance, that was the amount that suffrage organizers were paid). She could see that she would have to fend for herself through life. She could have had little faith in relying on men for support. In her late-30s Sybil shook the dust of old England off her feet and set sail for a new adventure – as had many of her ancestors. I wonder what became of her? Perhaps someone reading this will know.

Copyright

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

,

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