Thursday, 25 June 2009

Women’s Rights women in Southport-

Women who signed the 1866 suffrage petition in North Meols Southport.

Checking on the story of Sarah Jane Oxley and her daughter Anna Maria Ainsworth and their neighbours in Southport Lancashire has diverted me from my original intention of proceeding in an orderly a-z direction in recording these women.
The discovery that a member of the London Association of Schoolmistresses, Elizabeth Janion, had moved from Southport to London , and that, though she did not sign the petition herself, several of her North Meols neighbours had intrigued me. The women who signed in Southport had always intrigued me- many neighbours, women in a range of work situations, and also their numbers vague- many just naming a road as their address, or even , like Anna Maria Ainsworth, adding herself to the address of someone else, and the connection being lost in the alphabetisation of the list.
Tracking neighbours in the census dredged up many connections in Southport. Now I need to get to grips with this fascinating group of women. Last week I ordered the 1900’s OS maps of Southport, and I collect them from Stamfords tomorrow- Perhaps a map will help me to unentangle the connections between schoolmistresses, boarding house keepers, widows and wronged wives, shopkeepers and midwives, women who continued to live their lives in comfort, and one at least, who appears to have ended her life in the workhouse.

Friday, 19 June 2009

In the Divorce Courts 1866

19th June 2009

Today I was very excited and eager to get back to the computer because I had made a discovery- The mother of AM Ainsworth, who had also signed the petition, was Sarah Jane Oxley. In 1861 she had married for a second time, leaving her grown up children with Anna Maria at their head, and living nearby in North Meols Southport. On Thursday I had discovered that her husband had filed a petition at the Liverpool divorce court in 1866. My imagination went into overdrive- I visualised a husband driven to distraction by his wife’s support for votes for women- appealing for a divorce, but being turned down (they were still living together in 1871, having survived his bankruptcy in 1869) The hours waiting for the delivery of the document on line were filled with fevered speculation- Evidence at last for a reaction from a husband. to his wife’s support for this cause. I was aware that divorce was rare and expensive, and was eager to hear the juicy details.
My Supervisor Professor Angela John used to remind me that these women were dead- I would bounce into a tutorial thrilled by the fact that – for example- Mrs Crudelius had lived long enough to see her elder daughter’s success in the University Local Exams which she had fought for with Emily Davies, though she never was able to vote. ..But my reaction to this document was as one would feel about a living friend, and as I read it I was near tears.
For Sarah Jane Oxley had left her husband in December 1865. His intemperate verbal abuse had escalated to physical abuse, and her doctor had warned that her health was in danger if she returned. In May 1866- the very month that this 43 year old woman signed the petition, George P Oxley took her to court to get her to return to him and tender conjugal rights. And there she was in the 1871 census back at home with him. Here was a woman who at that very moment in time indeed needed rights and a voice.
Sadly the document from Kew was longer that the 10 pages I had paid for- so I will have to wait for the end of the story- but I am pretty certain what it will be. When we don’t bother to vote at elections we need to remember that it was not just the vote that these women fought for. If George beat Sarah Jane and called her mad and a streetwalker before she signed how would this respectable Canadian Liverpool shipbroker have reacted when he heard that ‘his’ name had been printed and distributed to MP’s and the press in support of votes for women? The next few years must have been hell.
Though many of the married women who signed wrote their husband’s name, interestingly Mrs George P Oxley signed herself S J Oxley

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Kate F Ackland to Mary Anne Ackworth

I am just about to finish the A’s who signed the petition- It will take a day or so to sort out the Avery women ,who signed in Tenterden and Battle. I have just found a neat survey of Tenterden graveyards which is very helpful where, for instance, the signature is Mrs T Avery Snr. Tenterden.

The first signature of the petition is , out of order, Sarah Avery of Battle, and that made me realise that I need to list all the women, especially those I have not managed to trace…so here I go. Perhaps you can add information

After Sarah Avery
Kate Fanny Ackland signed the petition at 14, Buckingham Street, Strand London WC. She was born in February1844 in Birmingham and in the 1861 census her father James is a Parliamentary election agent. James Acland (1799–1876), according to the DNB had begun compiling electoral statistics, published as The Imperial Poll Book of All Elections from 1832 to 1864 (1865; 2nd ed, 1869). Acland was a radical, who had been a clerk, an actor, sub-editor of the journal the British Traveller, and editor of The Portfolio, or, Memoirs and Correspondence of an Editor (1831–3), after which he worked in Paris and then, from 1838 to 1846, as a lecturer for the Anti-Corn Law League. His experience as an election agent from 1846 onwards led naturally to his book.[1]
The family lived at Birkbeck House, Holloway Road at that time before moving to Buckingham Street. In 1871 the family were there but Kate had left by then. Early in 1867 Kate married Frederick Berridge, an attendant at the British Museum Library. They later lived at 2, Camden Terrace, Peckham, and had a daughter, Harriet E F Berridge
Mrs Annie Elizabeth Ackworth was born in 1841.(Anne Elizabeth Shaw Andrews) Her husband Edward Acworth MD was 31 years her senior., and she married him in 1864 in Ashford, Kent. He died in 1874, the year after the Amberley’s visited them at Elfinswood for a spiritualist session which they describe in the Amberley Papers (pp 533-536) Annie did not remarry, and died in Cuckfield in the middle of 1903. Kelly's Post Office Directory of Essex, Herts, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, 1867 records Edward Ackworth MD resident at Elfinsward. In the same volume he is also recorded as resident in Regency Square, Brighton The Amberley’s mention that she was a relative of Mrs Green- who was probably Betsy Matilda Pelham Green. Betsy Matilda was a witness at Annie’s wedding as Miss Acworth and was married to George C Green . Betsy Matilda and Mrs Catherine Ackworth Green- both signed the petition in Camberwell- This link is the first of many complex family networks which the census helps to reveal. The invitation to sign issued initially from the members of the Kensington Society (See my Groups article in the on-line DNB)

Mary Ackworth, Mary Ann Ackworth, Scarborough Rawdon Villas
Mary Brindley married James Ackworth, a Baptist college teacher in about 1830. She was his second wife, and they were married in Chatham, Kent. Their daughter Mary Ann was born in Leeds in 1833 and died in Stockton in 1911. She never married. In 1861 they were living in Westfield House, Rawdon, Yorkshire and James Ackworth LLD is described as a farmer of 3 1/2 acres employing one man and President and Theological Tutor of Rawdon College for the training of Baptist Ministers
That’s enough for one day! I will continue to fill in gaps in my next.

[1] DNB

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Career, Marital Breakdown, Women's Rights- Carmen Atkinson again!

13th June 2009
Why am I interested in these obscure women, and why do I think it is important to find the trajectory of their lives? Carmen Atkinson is a perfect example of a woman who is not remembered on the internet- google her and there is nothing. In fact she almost appears to want to obscure the record, changing her given name time and again. However in her two public utterances- asking for girls to be allowed to take the University Local Exams, and signing this petition- she was putting herself forward in support of controversial issues concerning women’s rights. In her professional life as a school proprietor in Brighton she keeps her name Carmen Atkinson, even though as a private individual she uses the anglicised form.
One of the puzzles of the petition- which led to the founding of the early suffrage societies the next year, was that of the hundreds of school mistresses who signed only a handful appear as members or subscribers to those societies (For example Miss Buss and Elizabeth Wolstenholme ) I suspect that the publicity resulting from the distribution of the document to the press and MPs could have had a devastating effect on the businesses that these women in particular were running.- If you thought the idea was ridiculous would you want your daughters teacher to support it?
The trajectory of Carmen’s life – glimpsed through the census- lends some credibility to that idea. After 1866 she moves to Brighton. Her husband may be commuting to visit her from Barnards Inn, but they are living apart. He has a respectable job as Clerk in the Bank of England, From 1881 they both describe themselves as widowed. Was this separation encouraged by her public stand on women’s rights?
Of course she had been running a school in the family home from at least 1864- and in their early married life they had lived on his private means in Devon (1851 census). So, unusually , she was a businesswomen and her husband was in a good job and also perhaps had other means. She did not have to work, yet perhaps she chose to educate young girls, and took an interest in improving that education. (However the early results lists of the University Local Exams do not show her entering any successful pupils)
So we have just any bright young Spanish woman, daughter of an army officer, arriving in Devon by 1834, marrying at the age of 19 a well to do young Bank Clerk (Their son’s record at Oxford suggests that Charles John Atkinson’ father was a knight.) having three sons and a daughter and going on to set up a school in the family home. She supports two women’s causes publicly. Then/And she separates from her husband, and in Brighton sets up two more schools, one for boys then one for girls. Her widowed mother Asuncion Navarrete lives with her throughout her life in England, dying aged nearly 90, and we leave her in 1901 living in a Convalescent Home for Gentlewomen in Folkestone.
Is this just a forgotten life, or is it remarkable?

Friday, 12 June 2009

Carmen Atkinson- Woman of many names

I have spent the afternoon pinning down Carmen. She was born Maria Carmen Benita Gertrude Navarrete in Cartagena Spain- When she was first married , in 1851 census, living in Plymouth she called herself Maria. In 1861 she was Carmen both at home and professionally when she signed the University Local Exams petition.

Running her prep school and girls’ boarding school in Brighton she calls herself Catherine, and at the convalescent home in 1901, she is known as Mary C Atkinson. No wonder she was hard to track down. She had three sons while living in Devon, one of whom, Harry Percy Atkinson, went to Oxford University and became a vicar.
There is still a puzzle about her daughter Constance who in 1861 is listed as being 17 years old and born in Blackheath. I think that this could be an error, and have ordered what seems a possible birth certificate –for a child that could have been 17 months old- and has the name Carmen Emily Adelaide Constance Atkinson born 1859 in Greenwich, who appears at school in Westbury on Trym in 1871. I have to wait until about the 21st June to receive the certificate. who made all this possible have done a little sneaky trick. They snare you into ordering the certificates from them for £22, but they are still available from the GRO for £7. I don’t normally buy certificates for the Suffrage Petition women, only when there is a particularly knotty puzzle which needs unravelling…

Carmen Atkinson

Carmen Atkinson Aldbor' House Tottenham Green N (1823-1905) on the 1861 census

After a day of research yesterday I wrote this morning:

I have had a very interesting tussle with Carmen Atkinson- she appears to have come to England from Cartagena in Spain with her mother Asuncion Navarrete and married her husband Charles John Atkinson in Devon and they had their daughter Constance in about 1844 in Blackheath. I will double check the marriage under his name.
I can’t track them in the 1841 or 1851 census where they should be somewhere! In 1861 they are at the petition address- she is running a boarding school for girls with three live in teachers. Her husband is a clerk in the Bank of England. However in the 1871 census he is living alone in Barnards Inn Holborn dealing with the civil service as a clerk at the Bank of England. By 1881 he is retired in lodgings in Surrey describing himself as a widower and in 1891 his home is in Devon, where he dies later.
I cannot find Carmen in the 1871 census, but in 1874 she is listed in a directory as running a private school at 32 Montpelier Crescent Brighton and in 1882 she is running a Ladies School at 24 Sussex Square . In 1891Census she and her mother are in lodgings in Brighton, where a fellow lodger is an upholsterer, so they may have fallen on hard times. Asuncion dies in about 1895, and Carmen appears to die in Billericay Essex in 1905. I need to find her in the 1841, 1851 , 1871 1881 and 1901 census.
She is remarkably elusive, as is her mother, however she appears as Carman and Carmen as well, so there may be other variations on her name. So today I need to track her in those censuses and also what happened to her daughter Constance.
I am fascinated that from at least the 1880’s she and her husband both described themselves as widowed. I suppose he could have supported her in her business as a school proprietor while he lived. The school at Tottenham appears large and prosperous, and lasted for at least 1861-1866- Carmen also signed the University Local Exams petition in 1864 for Emily Davies, so she is likely to have been an enlightened and progressive schoolteacher.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Petition itself and the Petition Hanging

Here is the title page of the Petition . It was one of those serendipitous moments when I was sitting having coffee with Kate Perry the archivist at Girton College and saw on a bookshelf a bound volume of Suffrage Pamphlets which I took to look at out of curiosity, as I was reading the Emily Davies papers at the time. Both Kate and I squealed with excitement when my suspicions were confirmed...I had been told that usually petitions to parliament were burned after the signatures had been counted. It turned out that Emily Davies had organoised the printing to distribute to MPs and the press to prove what respectable business women, teachers, wives and widows were asking for full citizenship.
The second photograph is a detail of the Suffrage Petition hanging which I made in 2002. After completing the Thesis, I felt guilty about the 900 women out of 1,499 whom I had not managed to trace in 6 years of research. They were the lost women- so I recorded their names on a huge stitched hanging. This detail shows Lady Amberley- one of the few women whose photograph survived, and the names of women stitched into silk fibres, holding the whole piece (1metre wide x 2 metres long) together

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Celebrating the 1,499 women who signed the 1866 Women's Suffrage Petition

1,499 women were contacted by their friends and relations in May 1866 and asked to sign a petition asking that certain women could have the vote in Britain. This was 40 years before the Suffragettes. The signatures was collected by members of the Kensington Society, a discussion group, and deliverd to MP John Stuart Mill by Emily Davies, founder of Girton College and Elizabeth Garrett, later an early woman doctor.

When the petition was presented to Parliament, it was greeted with amazement and contempt However the women who signed, many of whom were working to support their families, had also had their names and addresses published in a pamphlet distributed to the press and MP.

In 1990 visiting Girton College archives, I found a copy of this list of names and addresses, and started to seek out and celebrate these remarkable brave women. I completed a PhD in 1995 (Generous and Lofty Sympathies...) but then I had only traced about 600 of the women who signed.

Nearly twenty years on- and with the internet and famil y history resources available now- I have traced nearly all the women, and in many cases can put together their life stories . Now I want to tell these stories to celebrate these (often) forgotten lives.

.This blog will be a diary of my progress starting with some of those women whose surnames start with A. Here are two women who were brought up modestly in the country- one of whom became wife of a businessman, and the other who was a servant.
Mary Allbright, Lancaster
Mary Knipe was brought up on a farm of 26 acres at Slyne with Hest Bolton le Sands, Lancashire. Her father and mother Sarah did not have live in servants, or labourers to help on the farm. In 1851 they had several teenage and adult sons and daughters, all of whom may have helped run the farm. Mary married Joseph Albright, a druggist in Lancaster in 1853. By 1861 she had two young sons and a baby daughter. By 1871 her son Joseph P was at a boarding school in Church Street, Lancaster, while her daughter was still at home. She died in 1872 and her husband remarried a couple of years later. The shop where she lived was in Great John Street, Lancaster.

Allen, Eliza 37 Kensington Place London, W
In 1861 Eliza appears to have been servant in sole charge of a house 19 Kensington Place Terrace. Eliza was born in Batcombe Dorset in 1842, daughter of an agricultural labourer By 1851 the family were living in Somerset. She is one of very few domestic servants to sign the petition.

Annie Elizabeth Ackworth, Elfinswood Cuckfield, Sussex

Annie Ackworth first came to my attention early in my research- I found her in The Amberley Papers-Letters and diaries of Lord and Lady Amberley edited by their son Bertrand Russell. Lady Amberley signed the petition herself, and later caused a stir by speaking at public meetings demanding the vote. In January 1873 Lord Amberley recorded in his journal that he and his wife had visited Annie for a seance . There is a full description of Annie at work as a medium. .
Annie Elizabeth Ackworth was born in 1841.(Anne Andrew Elizabeth Shaw) Her husband Edward Acworth MD was 31 years her senior., and she married him in 1864 in Ashford, Kent. He died in 1874, the year after the Amberley’s visited them at Elfinswood for a spiritualist session which they describe in the Amberley Papers (pp 533-536) Annie did not remarry, and died in Cuckfield in the middle of 1903. Kelly's Post Office Directory of Essex, Herts, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, 1867 records Edward Ackworth MD resident at Elfinsward. In the same volume he is also recorded as resident in Regency Square, Brighton The Amberley’s mention that she was a relative of Mrs Green- Could be Green Betsy Matilda Pelham nee Acworth who married George C Green in 1844, or Catherine Ackworth Green- both signed in Camberwell- Catherine may have been sister of Mr Green or married and widowed daughter of George Ackworth of Medway.