Friday, 19 January 2018

Daisy May Bates, CBE ( 1859-1951) - Welfare Worker and Journalist

A journalist and self-taught anthropologist, Daisy spent most of her adult life studying and campaigning for the welfare of the aborigines in western and southern Australia. Born and raised in Roscrea, Tipperary, Ireland, Daisy emigrated to Queensland in 1884, where within a year she married her first husband, Edwin Murrant. But shortly afterwards they separated and Daisy moved to New South Wales, where she met and bigamously married a cattleman, named Jack Bates. The following year they had a son, Arnold. In 1894, Daisy left both her husband and son in Australia and went to work as a journalist for the Review of Reviews in London. After reading a letter published in The Times in 1899, about the ill-treatment towards the Aborigines in Western Australia, she wanted to investigate it further and returned to Australia later that year, where she would spend the next forty years studying the culture, history, beliefs and customs of Aboriginal life. When the separation from her husband was finalised in 1902, Daisy devoted all her time in researching the remote Aboriginal tribes of south west Australia, camping amongst them in her tent, where she kept a full set of Dickens and a filing system that consisted of metal-deed boxes stored in an over-turned water tank. She was passionate about their welfare and became a loyal friend, who helped to care for them when they were sick, and became affectionately known as Kabbarli or ‘grandmother.’ 

Daisy spent most of her days with the Aborigines, believing that she was ‘the sole spectator of a vanishing race,’ and maintained a living by writing numerous articles for magazines and newspapers. In 1904, she was assigned by the Western Australian government, to record data on the Aborigines language, religion, myth and kinship, an extensive task that took seven years to complete. Her work was published in the Anthropological and Geographical Societies, in Australia and overseas. She also compiled a local dictionary of several dialects. In 1912, she became the first woman to be appointed Honorary Protector of Aborigines at Eucla and in 1933, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire or C.B.E in recognition of her work with the Aboriginal people. Ill health forced her to abandon her nomadic life and in 1945 she settled in Adelaide until her death in April 1951. 

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Aleen Cust (1868-1937) - Britain's First Woman Veterinary Surgeon

Following the death of her father, Sir Leopold Cust in 1878, Aleen was forced to leave her birthplace at Cordangan Manor, Tipperary, Ireland, where she had spent an idyllic childhood, and move with her mother and siblings to Shropshire, England. Encouraged by a family friend in her aspirations to pursue a career, Aleen began training as a nurse at the London Hospital, but feeling more empathy towards animals, she left nursing and much to her mother’s dismay, decided to follow a career as a veterinary surgeon. After gaining the necessary qualifications at university in Edinburgh, she was accepted into the New Veterinary College, where despite winning several medals and having passed the four-year curriculum with distinction, she was refused by the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to sit her professional exams, because she was a woman.

       In 1900, Aleen returned to Ireland where she worked as an assistant to William Augustine Byrne, at his veterinary practice in Roscommon. Unopposed to women entering the veterinary practice, William Byrne played a huge part in Aleen’s acceptance into the veterinary profession and through his recommendation she became part-time veterinary inspector to Galway County Council, a position that publicised the admittance of women into the profession. Aleen  had become highly respected in her profession and pressure was mounting against the RCVS to lift their restrictions regarding women.
     When William Byrne died suddenly in 1910, Aleen continued running his practice until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Keen to offer her veterinary skills in the horse hospitals set up at the Western Front, she drove her own car all the way to Abbeville in France. As she was still unqualified on paper, Aleen could not work officially with the Army Veterinary Corps, so she volunteered with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and unofficially worked in the field veterinary hospital. During the last year of the war, she signed up for the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps as a bacteriologist in the laboratory researching the diseases responsible for the deaths of many of the war horses. Aleen left France a month before Armistice Day.
     The passing of The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in 1919, prohibiting the exclusion of women from any occupation because of their gender, forced the RCVS to lift their restrictions regarding women and in 1922, twenty-two years after completing her training, Aleen finally received her diploma, becoming Britain’s first qualified female veterinarian. With her health declining, she retired to a quiet village in the New Forest, Hampshire, but often assisted in the work of the RSPCA. In 1937, she was visiting friends in Jamaica and had just finished treating their injured dog, when she collapsed suddenly and died.  

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington - Socialite and Author

Born in 1789, at Knockbrit, Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland,  Marguerite was the daughter of Edmund Power, an unsuccessful merchant and former magistrate, who through his own carelessness had fallen into debt. When Marguerite was just fifteen, despite her desperate pleas, her father forced her to marry an army officer, Captain Maurice St. Leger Farmer, in exchange for a significant sum of money. The Captain was an extremely disagreeable man with a violent temper and for three months he repeatedly punched, starved and imprisoned Marguerite in her own home, until she fled to her aunts in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. She spent the following years staying with various friends and family, until she finally settled in London in 1816, where she met Viscount Mountjoy, Charles Gardiner, 1st Earl of Blessington, who adored her. A year later, the drunken Captain fell from a window and died, leaving Marguerite free to marry the Earl.

Marguerite Gardiner

       Marguerite had become known in London society for her beauty, charm and wit and enjoyed her rich, extravagant lifestyle, entertaining the elite in their luxurious mansion at St. James’ Square. It was during this time that she wrote her sketches of London society, Sketches of Scenes in the Metropolis, published anonymously in 1822. In the same year, the couple set off on the Grand Tour of Europe, travelling in ‘a kind of sumptuous caravan,’ accompanied by a throng of servants and Marguerite’s younger sister, Mary Ann Power. They were joined in Paris by the dashing Count d’Orsay, an amateur artist, who would later become Marguerite’s lifelong lover. During the tour, they met several distinguished people including Lord Byron in Genoa, who became a close friend of Marguerite and who inspired her to later write Conversations with Lord Byron. In Naples, they met Irish writer and abolitionist, Richard Robert Madden, who later became her biographer and in Florence, Walter Savage Landor, author of Imaginary Conversations.  
       In December 1927, Count D’Orsay married Harriet Gardiner, the Earl’s daughter from his previous marriage and the following year they moved to Paris, but shortly after, the Earl suffered a stroke and died. Marguerite returned to London with D’Orsay and his wife, where despite the scandal, they all lived in the Blessington’s house at St. James’s Square. But by 1831, Harriet could not tolerate the situation any longer and left to live with her aunt and to avoid adding further fuel to the gossip, D’Orsay moved out soon after, but continued his liaison with the Countess. Although the Earl had left Marguerite ample money to live on in his will, it wasn’t enough to sustain their extravagant lifestyle and she soon fell into financial difficulty. She supplemented her income by writing for various periodicals, becoming one of the first writers to have her work serialized in the Sunday Times. Her first novel, Grace Cassidy, published in 1834, was followed by her biographical travel books, The Idler in Italy in 1839 and The Idler in France in 1841, bringing her success and a substantial income. But by 1849, Marguerite had fallen into debt and fled to Paris with D’Orsay to escape creditors, where a month later she suffered a heart attack and died a few hours later. She was laid to rest in a pyramidal tomb designed by D’Orsay, where later in his death, he too was buried at her side.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Eliza Shirley - Salvation Army Pioneer

Eliza Shirley was just seventeen years old when she left her home in England in 1879 and travelled with her mother, Annie, to the United States, on a mission to establish the Salvation Army in America. Despite William Booth’s reservations at such a difficult venture, he eventually gave the young lieutenant his blessing and Eliza and her mother were reunited with her father Amos Shirley, in Philadelphia, where he had secured work the previous year.  

They wasted no time in looking for suitable premises to hold the meetings for the Philadelphia Corps and eventually found an abandoned chair factory that was filthy and dilapidated. Undaunted, Eliza and her parents worked hard to make the building acceptable for worship and soon it was ready for the first meeting. They distributed handbills around the streets of the city and put up posters announcing that in the Salvation Factory on October 5th 1879, ‘Two Hallelujah Females from England, will speak and sing on behalf of God and precious souls.’

 Although only a small number attended the first meeting, their enthusiasm was encouraging and Eliza suggested they hold an open-air meeting to reach more people. On hearing the Shirleys sing their gospel hymns, the growing crowd at first listened in fascination, but malicious heckling from the intoxicated patrons emerging from the nearby saloons soon erupted and continued throughout the meeting.

Despite the opposition, the Salvationists were determined to continue their mission, but the open-air meetings attracted large angry crowds who resented the Army’s ‘invasion’ of their city, and Eliza and her parents were pelted with stones and rotten vegetables. The police offered little protection, so they followed the advice of the mayor and found a private piece of land in a remote area of the city to hold future meetings. 

Several weeks later, a fire broke out near the Shirleys’ land, attracting hundreds of people, so they took the opportunity to preach and sing. This time, the audience was more receptive and there were no outbursts of violence. After the singing, a drunken man called Reddy pushed through the crowd and asked the Shirleys if God would forgive a drunk like him. They assured him that he would be forgiven and led him back to the Salvation Factory to sleep off the effects of the alcohol.

When Reddy awoke fully sober, he knelt and prayed with the Shirleys and declared himself to be fully saved. Thereafter, he regularly attended the open-air and indoor meetings, becoming America’s first Salvation Army convert. This was a turning point for the Philadelphia Corps and as the news of his religious conversion spread, the attendance increased at the meetings.

Shortly after, General Booth promoted the Shirleys to captains and Eliza was put in charge of another building in Germantown, Philadelphia. Unfortunately, ill health forced her to return to England. After she recovered, she embarked on a tour around the country to speak about her fascinating experiences in America. She later returned to America in 1885, with her husband Phillip Symmonds, a Salvation Army captain, and continued her Christian work with the Salvation Army for the remainder of her life.

The Salvation Army continued to grow significantly and by the end of the nineteenth century, 798 corps could be found across twenty-seven states of America.

Image credit: Public domain

Friday, 6 October 2017

Lena Rice – Irish Ladies Wimbledon Champion

Helena Bertha Grace Rice, known as ‘Lena,' was born in 1866 and raised in Marhill, near the village of New Inn, Tipperary, Ireland. The family home, a large Georgian mansion, had a tennis court in its grounds where Lena and her sister Annie learnt to play tennis. Both girls also played regularly at Cahir Lawn Tennis Club. In May 1889, Lena played in her first tournament outside Tipperary, at the Irish Championships at Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club in Dublin. She was narrowly beaten in the semi-final, by five times Wimbledon champion, Blanche Bingley Hillyard, but she partnered with Willoughby Hamilton and won the title in the mixed doubles competition. At the Wimbledon Championships later that year, Lena reached the final where once again her opponent was Blanche Bingley. During the two-hour match, Lena won the first set and had three match points, but Blanche managed to win the next three match points, 4-6, 8-6, 6-4 and the game. Lena returned to Ireland ‘disappointed and exhausted.’

 Despite losing the singles final to Louise Martin at home in the Irish championships, Lena was backin Wimbledon on 4th July, 1890, competing in the Ladies Singles Championship finals. Only four competitors entered that year, the smallest entry for any competition at Wimbledon. As the defending champion Blanche Bingley could not compete that year because she was pregnant, Lena’s opponent was May Jacks. Lena walked onto the Centre Court wearing the acceptable attire for ladies’ tennis at the time; a floral patterned full-length skirt, a blouse with long sleeves, tightly clinched at the waist, a bustle, corset and a long petticoat, a boater hat and leather high-heeled boots on her feet. In the final game, when May Jacks lobbed the ball at her opponent, instead of waiting for the ball above her head to drop to waist height before returning it, as was expected at that time, Lena leapt into the air and smashed the ball over the net, where it bounced inside the baseline, winning the match in one stroke. The astonished spectators gasped and after a pause burst into applause. Lena had  not only introduced the forehand smash, but had also become the first Irishwoman (and remains the only one to date) ever to win Wimbledom. 

She retired following her victory at Wimbledon and after her mother’s death in 1891, having lost her father 23 years earlier, she remained unmarried and lived a quiet life alone at Marlhill, until her death from tuberculosis on 21st June, 1907, her 41st birthday. She is buried alongside her parents in the small graveyard at New Inn.      

Image credit: Wikipedia 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Annie Edson Taylor - Daredevil Pensioner

October 24th 1901 would prove to be quite an eventful day for Annie Edson Taylor, as not only was it her 63rd birthday, but it would also be the day when she would be the first person ever to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Born in 1838 in  Auburn, New York, Annie and her seven siblings enjoyed a comfortable upbringing as her father Merrick Edson owned a flourishing flour mill. Her father died when she was just twelve years old which left the family distraught but not penniless, as he had left a substantial amount of money, providing the family with financial security.

Annie was able to train as a teacher, during which time she met her husband, David Taylor. Several years after their marriage their son was born, but he died within a few days. David went to fight in the Civil War and was fatally wounded in 1864, leaving Annie a widow at the young age of twenty-five.

Annie's life changed dramatically. She spent the following years moving from one city to another in various teaching jobs, but as she tried to maintain the lifestyle that she'd grown accustomed to, her savings and wages soon dwindled as did the work and eventually she became desperate. Her future looked bleak with a strong possibility of spending the remainder of her life in a poorhouse.

In July 1901, Annie read in the New York World  that the Pan American Exposition was taking place in Buffalo, New York and that many people would also be flocking to see the nearby Niagara Falls. It was then that the idea of her daredevil stunt came to her. She would attempt to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, a feat that no one else had ever accomplished. She hoped that her daring plan would generate enough money to bring her financial security.

She found a company to design her barrel and enlisted Frank M. Russell, a successful promoter of carnivals and other events, to publicise her stunt. Newspaper reporters were keen to interview Annie and find out why a sixty-two year old woman would attempt such a dangerous stunt. She told one reporter, 'I might as well be dead as to remain in my present condition.' When asked if she was contemplating suicide, she replied, 'Not by any means, I am too good an Episcopalian to do such a thing as that...I entertain the utmost confidence that I shall succeed in going over the Falls without any harm resulting to me.'

Annie's custom built oak and iron barrel was 4 1/2 ft high and 3 ft in diameter and lined with cushions and straps to secure her inside. A rubber tube connected near the top of the barrel supplied Annie with air. As a test run she first sent the barrel over the Horse Shoe Falls with a cat inside. The cat survived the experiment and the barrel withstood the drop of  158ft. Annie was delighted and more determined to take the risk.

Annie with her barrel and cat.

Just after 4 p.m on October 24th, 1901, several thousand spectators gathered to watch Annie perform her daring stunt. She was secured inside the barrel and set adrift further upstream from the Falls. Weighted by a 200-pound anvil, the barrel floated along the river, through the rapids. The crowd gasped as the barrel tumbled over the brink and plunge into the deep water below. Hidden by the heavy mist, the onlookers waited anxiously for the barrel to appear. When it slowly came into view, the waiting rescue boat and crew retrieved the barrel and pulled it on to the rocks.

The lid was broken open and Annie raised her arm and waved her hand to let the onlookers know that she was still alive. Amazingly she emerged just dazed and shocked with only a cut behind her ear. However, she declared that she would 'rather face a cannon knowing I should be blown to pieces than do it again.'

Although Annie's stunt did bring her some financial relief, sadly it wasn't to last and she lived her final years in poverty until her death in 1921

Image credit: Wikipedia.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Josephine Butler ( 1828 - 1906)

Josephine Butler was one of the great social reformers of the nineteenth century. Although a deeply pious woman, she tirelessly campaigned for the welfare of prostitutes and led the campaign for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act in 1886.

Professor James Stuart said in his tribute to Josephine Butler, after her death, 'Mrs Butler was one of the great people of our world. In character, in work done, in influence on others, she was among that few great people who have moulded the course of things. The world is different because she lived...She was a great leader of men and women.'

Born in Northumberland in 1828, to wealthy landowners, John and Hannah Grey, Josephine and her nine siblings were raised with the staunch influence of her father's political views and activities and her mother's religious teachings in Christianity. John grey had high moral principles and a strong dislike for inequality and injustice. He was also an active member of the Anti-Slavery Society of Northumberland.

In 1852, Josephine married George Butler, an academic from Cambridge. It was around this time that Josephine became active in feminists movements. Both she and George shared a deep Christian faith and a strong commitment to liberal reforms.

It was after the tragic death of their five year old daughter, Eva, that Josephine stricken with grief and depression, plunged herself into her charity work. "I became possessed with an irresistible desire to go forth and find some pain keener than my own - to meet people more unhappy than myself," she later wrote.

In 1866, Josephine, George and their three sons moved to Liverpool, where George was to take a position as the new headmaster in Liverpool College. It was here at Brownlow Hill Workhouse, that Josephine had her first encounter with prostitutes. Women that were forced by lack of work into prostitution to feed their children, were rejected by society as 'ultimately bad.' Josephine always found them 'courteous and gentle,' Despite being of weak and frail health herself, she would sit on the damp bricks of the workhouse floor and join the women in their tedious work of picking oakum for caulking boats.

The abysmal treatment and suffering that prostitutes received in the workhouse led Josephine to open her own home to these poor unfortunate women, many of which were disease ridden and many were children. Even though accepting these women into his home was jeopardizing his career, George Butler shared Josephine's compassion and welcomed the women and children, whatever their circumstances.

Before long the Butler's beautiful, grand home was full. Josephine, anxious by the plight of the many female penitents being discharged from the workhouse into a life of homelessness, set about establishing her own refuge for female outcasts. In 1867, the Butlers secured a building near their own home which became known as the 'House of Rest.'

She would train the women for domestic service or prepare them for emigration. Women could earn a sixpence a day, with which they were 'delighted,' making clothes either from donated recycled garments or new cloth. She wrote, " I have expended a good deal in materials to make clothes for the poor and have got several women fitted out to return to their homes in Ireland or America, which they were prevented doing by nakedness."

Josephine also had a keen interest in women's education and in 1867, she joined Anne Jemima Clough in organizing courses of advanced study for women. Together they formed the North of England Council for promoting the Higher Education of Women, of which Josephine was appointed president. After campaigning to Cambridge University to provide more opportunities for women students, in 1869, The Cambridge Higher Examination for women over the age of eighteen was sanctioned.

The campaigning continued and spread across the continent, following a visit by the Butlers to Switzerland in the same year. This led to the formation of the International Women;s Association, which extended Josephine's influence across France, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Germany. It was around this time that Josephine began her crusade against the Contagious Diseases Act, introduced in the 1860s and sought to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in the armed forces by regular internal examinations of prostitutes. She objected to any laws applying only to women and this act was no exception.

Throughout her campaigning, she was often shunned and beset with 'violent and cruel' criticism, being referred to 'a woman who calls herself a lady.' The idea of a woman speaking about sexual matters in public was quite shocking, but still George continued to support his wife regardless. The Act was finally repealed in 1886.

Around 1885, Josephine came into contact with Florence Booth of the salvation Army, who shared Josephine's distress concerning the number of young child prostitutes 'walking our streets.' Girls as young as thirteen years of age were working in brothels on the continent.Under English law the seduction of a child aged thirteen and over was not a legal offence. This widespread organized trafficking of young girls was known as the White Slave Trade. Girls were misled to believe that they were going with a seemingly respectable foreign gentleman to Brussels, to a highly paid position or perhaps marriage. On arrival, the poor unfortunate girls would be handed over with false identifications to a terrible, cruel life in a Belgian brothel.

Together with William Stead, the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, Josephine and Florence set out to publicize this dreadful trade. With the help of a former brothel-keeper, Rebecca Jarrett, a thirteen year old girl called Eliza Armstrong was brought from her alcoholic mother for £5, to be transported to the continent. Eliza was in fact taken to Paris, where she was put to service with a good Christian family known to the Salvation Army. This exposure led to an uproar and the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, which raised the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen years.

After George Butler died in 1890, Josephine continued campaigning until the early 1900s, where in the last few years of her life she became a supporter of the National Union of Suffrage Societies. She died in 1906 at her son George's home in Northumberland.

Image credit: Wikipedia