• March of the Women

Augusta Spottiswoode (?1824-1912)

Reproduction of an oil painting by Miss Bertha Newcombe, 1910, representing Miss Emily Davies and Elizabeth Garrett hiding the first women’s suffrage petition under an apple-woman’s stall in Westminster Hall until John Stuart Mill came to collect it.
(The Women’s Library collection, LSE Library).

Augusta was born to parents Andrew and Mary Spottiswood, c.1824. Augusta and her elder sister, Rosa, were women of independent means inheriting equal shares in their father’s four Life Assurance policies and 13 shares each in the London Gas Light Company, following his death in 1866. Rosa lived at ‘Drydown’, Shere. There are letters in Bertha Marion Broadwood’s correspondence from Rosa regarding the cottage nursing homes initiative (SHC ref 2185/BMB/-).

In 1866, the first petition for women’s suffrage was presented to parliament. Augusta is listed as one of the 1521 signatures, residing at 12 James Street, Buckingham Gate, London. The petition was collected by a group working out of the London home of Clementia Taylor and pages were pasted together before being presented to John Stuart Mill, a pro-suffrage MP, by Elizabeth Garrett (sister of Millicent Garrett Fawcett) and Emily Davies, at Westminster. The original petition does not exist but luckily it was printed into a pamphlet.

Pamphlet copy of 1866 petition.
(The Women’s Library collection, LSE Library).

The following year, Augusta joined the London National Society for Women’s Suffrage (LNSWS) which had been set up by Helen Taylor, Clementia Taylor and Frances Power Cobb. The group had yearly meetings and where they would discuss what would be done to promote women’s suffrage over the coming 12 months. Augusta’s family were printers and in 1867 the LNSWS placed an order with Spottiswoode Printers for headed note paper and in 1868 they reprinted a speech given by W. J. Fox in 1853, on women’s suffrage, as a leaflet.

Augusta was a wealthy women of independent means and continued to support others by becoming a Poor Law Guardian for Guildford in 1877, authorising the sending of impoverished children to Canada during the 1880s. Augusta and Rosa appear on electoral registers from 1895, so it is likely they were voting in local elections but there is no evidence either of them maintained an interest in the campaign for women’s suffrage. Augusta died at her home in Surrey on the 3 August 1912, at the age of 88. Augusta invested in property in Shere and Peaslake and upon her death these cottages were left to her cousin, R M Bray.

Contributed by Holly Parsons, The March of the Women Project Officer.

Sources:

Crawford, Elizabeth (1999). The Women’s Suffrage Movement, A Reference Guide 1866-1928. Roudledge, London.
Hollis, Patricia (1987). Ladies Elect: Women in English Local Government 1865-1914. Clarendon.
Mitchell, Sally (2004). Frances Power Cobbe: Victorian Feminist, Journalist, Reformer. University of Virginia Press, London.
Bray papers regarding property of Augusta and Rosa Spottiswoode, including the extract of the will of Augusta Spottiswoode (SHC ref G85/24/-)
LSE – The 1866 women’s suffrage petition
Parliament UK website. The 1866 Women’s Suffrage petition: the first mass Votes for Women petition
Parliament UK website. The Early Suffrage Societies in the 19th century – a timeline
Parliament UK website. Votes for women: the 1866 suffrage petition
Womens Suffrage- Augusta Spottiswoode

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