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The Derbyshire Link With The 1866 Petition

We have been trundling along getting up to speed with the necessary, but less exciting elements of the Project, finance, administration and web design etc. We need more if you have an interest in Women's History, and, or have some free time you need to fill, please look no further than Deeds Not Words....Be a part of the writing of our collective HERstory....

So, the last time we 'met' we were looking into the 1866 Petition.... In 1866, a group of women organised a petition to demand that women should have the same political rights as men. There had been an earlier petition on the subject in 1832.

Our research has not only uncovered a hard copy of the Petition, but, that, the names of 11 plus Derbyshire women are on the list!...How exciting is that! Nearly 1500 women signed the 1866 Petition, and of course many used pseudonyms and incomplete addresses. Women also moved around, and, so, although they may have been from/or living in Derbyshire at the time, if they had moved since signing we have limited ways of tracing them without investing a considerable amount of time and effort in doing so...but watch this space.

In 1866 the women took their petition to Henry Fawcett and John Stuart Mill, two MPs who supported universal suffrage. Mill added an amendment to the Reform Act that would give women the same political rights as men. The amendment was defeated by 196 votes to 73.

In the wake of this defeat the London Society for Women’s Suffrage was formed. Similar Women’s Suffrage groups were formed all over Britain. In 1897, seventeen of these individual groups joined together to form the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

In Derby the NUWSS was a member of the Midlands (East) Federation of The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. The Secretaries of the Derby Branch are listed as Miss Annie Brewer, Mickleover and Miss Bridget Martin, Darley Abbey Vicarage (1909) and Mrs Sowler. Field House, Duffield, Derbyshire. We will be investigating the stories behind each of these women further (Crawford, E, The Women's Suffrage Movement Reference Guide 1866 - 1928 1999, UCL Press London P.165). Thus far we have not found any sources which contain information on NUWSS branches in the County but this is something we aim to investigate further.

Source: British Library “Dreamers And Dissenters“

In the meantime, please see the names and locations of the Derbyshire women we were able to trace listed below in alphabetical order

Bishop, Margaret Chesterfield

Fox, Elizabeth Shakespeare Street, Derby

Jackson, Jane, Chesterfield

Lamb, Emma, Chesterfield

Lamb, Sarah, Chesterfield

Lindsell, Sarah Shakespeare Villa, Derbyshire

Loveday, Mary Anne New Street, Derby

Marshall, E. Wollton Street, Derby

Pearson, Elizabeth, Chesterfield

Roe, Mary Anne Grove Villas, Derby

Young, M.A. Shakespeare Street, Derby

Source Links to the PDF document of the original 1866 Petition:

Interesting, according to Crawford (2006 p.75) seven women with Derby addresses and five women (we have only been able to locate some of these it seems there's a lot more work to be done) with Chesterfield addresses signed the 1866 Petition. Crawford also notes that Derbyshire women also signed the Petition presented on March 29th 1869. This Petition seemed to have significant support from Smedley's Hydro at Matlock Bath where 27 employees 'residents' of the organisation signed. Other Petitions signed by Derbyshire women include the 1872 Petition presented on April 26 and 27th. Of the 1866 Chesterfield signatories Crawford notes, that Emma and Sarah Lamb were both teachers, "..probably running their own school." (p.75). Additional Petitions were presented and signed in Chesterfield on April 26th 1870 and on March 13th 1873,

With regard to 1866, we also wish to claim the signature of Mrs Ellen Roberts, nee Bemrose, listed as living in Denbigh, Wales when she signed the Petition. Miss Roberts is from a prominent Derby family (notably printing in other business endeavours) The Bemrose's. More importantly we wish to include Ellen as a Derby Signatory because, we have found research undertaken by Elizabeth Crawford and a Blogger Dr Ann Dingsdale (see the link below) which indicates that she moved from Derby to Denbigh only 4 months before she signed the Petition.

Ellen Bemrose was born in 1834 the daughter of William Bemrose and his wife Elizabeth. In the 1861 census she was living at the busy stationers and printers on the corner of Irongate in the ‘Irongate, in the centre of Derby. We will be investigating her links to the Derby Bemrose's who played a prominent role in local politics and among other things are the namesake of Bemrose School.

On 26th June 1862 Ellen married John Henry Roberts at All saints Church Derby.

Ellen and John continued to live in Derby until 1866 when he was appointed Head Master of Denbigh Grammar School. It was shortly after John's appointment as a head that they moved to Denbigh.

Source: Dr Ann Dingsdale's Blog

Whilst seeking to 'claim Ellen in some way, it is important to note that because the Petition was passed within circles of friends, family and acquaintances, it is possible that she may not have been in such circles in Derby and her move to Denbigh was fortuitous. However, the climate of anti-suffrage sentiment at the time adds weight to the significance of the act of signing, so we cannot help but conclude that she must have had more than a passing interest/sympathy with Votes for Women, prior to moving to Denbigh. We have not included Ellen's signature in the main list of 'women from Derbyshire who signed', but we wish to note her as a Derbyshire born Suffrage Supporter!

We could not be more excited about uncovering the names of these amazing Derbyshire women! The real work begins when we dig deeper into the archives and other records to try to uncover who they were...come and join in the fun!

In the next post we hope to provide a list of Derbyshire Suffragettes....and their locations....much work to do. Watch this space!

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