Biographies


Here are some short biographies of persons mentioned on this website who do not appear to have information about them anywhere else on the Internet.

{Let me know who's missing from this list ~ email the webmistress }

Matilda Hays (1820?-1897)

Passionate about women's rights since she was a teenager, she wrote for numerous publications and translated from French. She is of considerable interest to lesbian historians, because of the following: Her friends called her Max, or Matthew; Elizabeth Barrett Browning said she 'dressed like a man down to the waist'. She lived for years with American actress Charlotte Cushman, a male impersonator, and played Juliet to Miss Cushman's Romeo. They were said by Mrs Browning to have made 'vows of celibacy & of eternal attachment to each other... it is a female marriage'. The relationship was intense, tumultuous and ended with huge drama, Miss Cushman paying Miss Hays a substantial sum of damages. She had a passionate friendship with Bessie Rayner Parkes ; she formed an intense attachment to Adelaide Anne Procter, and Miss Procter dedicated her Legends and Lyrics (1858) to Miss Hays. She tended Miss Procter's grave and more than thirty years after her death, when Miss Hays died, her obituary in the Liverpool Echo called her 'the dear friend of Adelaide Procter, gone before'. The 1861 Census shows her living at 19 Langham Place, with Emily Faithfull listed as a 'visitor'. In later life Matilda lived with Theodosia, Lady Monson, for many years. It maybe also be of interest to historians of sexuality that, according to her biographer Lori Williamson, Frances Power Cobbe lived in a female marriage with sculptor Mary Lloyd, who predeceased her by eight years and alongside whom she was buried.

Mrs C.J. (Elizabeth) Eiloart

Shareholder in and writer for the Englishwoman's Journal since its foundation in 1858, under the pseudonyms Asterisk, or 'E'. Became its editor in 1864. Persuaded Marylebone Swimming Baths in 1858 to be open to ladies only each Wednesday and a female teacher was employed to teach them. Suffragist in the 1860s. Prolific novelist from the 1860s to the end of the century. In the 1870s she lived at The Elms, Chiswick. In 1875 Ernest Eiloart published The Laws Relating to Women.

[Anna Maria] Helena, Comtesse de Noailles (c1826-1908)

Born in England, she married into the French aristocracy. Little is known about her life. She was anti-vaccination; she financially supported the Gordon Boys' Home at Cobham; she financially supported Elizabeth Blackwell during her struggle to become the world's first qualified female doctor. Her name appears in 1858 as patroness and committee member of the Ladies' National Association for the Diffusion of Sanitary Knowledge and was a proponent of going barefoot. She was also anti vivisection.S he was a supporter of the campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts and in 1870 offered to place some of the victims of the Acts in the Albion Hill Reformatory in Brighton. She lived at Holywell Lodge on her Meads estate in Eastbourne. In 1881 she was a widow, the 'head of household' at 31 Eversfield Place, St Leonards-on-Sea, with Miss A.M.M. Roche, a butler and three other resident servants, including a lady's maid. In her will she left money to the local parish church to found an orphanage on the estate, dedicated to St Mary, for the daughters of clergymen. Her will was contested and in 1915 a judge ruled that the money must indeed be used for an orphanage but not necessarily in Eastbourne.

Sir Francis Goldsmid and Louisa, Lady Goldsmid (1819-1908)

Louisa was a lifelong friend of Emily Davies, and a feminist campaigner and benefactor who spent the whole of her adult life distributing her magnificent wealth to the poor and needy and, most especially, to every campaign to improve the status of women, including the Langham Place circle, the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women and women's suffrage petitions. Her husband, a Liberal MP, was a staunch supporter of the feminist movement. They lived at 13 Portman Square and as a widow she lived at 'Red Lodge', Eastbourne. She left a colossal bequest to the London School of Medicine for Women and gave the equivalent of millions to Girton.

Lady Monson (1803-1891)

A worker for women's rights, horsewoman, atheist and landscape painter. Married to Baron Monson of Burton, who died in 1841. She was a friend of Anna Jameson, the Brownings and Matilda Hays, with whom, according to author Sharon Marcus, she had an affair.

Sarah Lewin (1812-1898)

Born at St Albans, the daughter of a grocer, she went to London aged just 19 to earn her living and was for 12 years book-keeper to her uncle, a butcher. An article about female employment in the 'Englishwoman's Journal' led her to its offices, and she became secretary to the Society for the Employment of Women in 1859. For a while she worked on the Journal, then on the Alexandra Magazine, then returned to the Society for the Employment of Women, holding the post of assistant secretary until her retirement in 1889. She gave thirty years of total devotion to the work of the Society, even living in a flat above its offices at 22 Berners Street.

Viscountess Amberley (1842-1874) photo

The Hon. Katherine ('Kate') Louisa Stanley was the great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of King Charles II by his mistress Barbara Villiers. Her father Baron Stanley was an MP; his father Lord Russell was twice Prime Minister. Her mother Henrietta Maria (1807-1895) co-founded the Women's Liberal Unionist Association, was a strenuous worker for the higher education of women, helping to establish Girton College, Cambridge, the Girls' Public Day School Trust, and the Medical College for Women. Lady Amberley's sisier Blanche was the grandmother of Winston Churchill's wife Clementine. Her sister Rosalind Howard, Countess of Carlisle (1845-1921), was chatelaine of Castle Howard and a suffragist and a radical temperance campaigner. Lady Amberley was married at 22, had a son at 23, twin girls at 24, one of whom was stillborn. In 1870 she became president of the Bristol and West of England Women's Suffrage Society and was also on the committee of the Stroud Women's Suffrage Society, and secretary of the Newport branch. She demanded not only for the suffrage but for equal pay. equality of education, all professions opened to women and equality for wives, in a ten point plan. She funded a scholarship of £ 50 to any woman desiring to study medicine. This was won by Emily Bovell. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was her personal physician. She was a proponent of birth control and with her husband intended to publish some literature on that subject. She was known to be having an affair with her children's tutor, with her husband's blessing. John Russell, Viscount Amberley, was MP for Nottingham from May 1866 till November 1868. In 1872 she gave birth to the philosopher-to-be Bertrand Russell; J.S. Mill was his godfather. She died two years later, aged just 30, after catching diphtheria from her daughter, who died soon afterwards.

Sarah Bunting Superintendent of the Working Women's College in 1865. Married professor of law and barrister Sheldon Amos in 1870. Both were involved in the Anti CD Acts campaign. Left UK 1879. Returned as a widow in 1887, involved in Women's Franchise League, NUWSS, SA.

Lady Henry Somerset (1851-1921) photo

A privately-educated earl's daughter and debutante, she was born Isabella Somers-Cocks. Her mother Virginia was the sister of famous photgrapher Julia Margaret Cameron. She became one of the two most important woman temperance reformers in British history. At 21 she married the son of a duke. Her husband was a homosexual and so they separated and she won custody of their son in 1878. She was a fabulously wealthy heiress and in 1890 was elected president of the British Women's Temperance Association (BWTA), in connection with which she founded and edited itsjournal, the Woman's Signal. She served as a member of the Women's Liberal Federation With the American Frances Willard she became a Fabian socialist. She was a campaigner for women's emancipation but approved of licensed prostitutes for the benefit of the British army in India to deal with the spread of venereal disease and thus clashed with Josephine Butler. She became world president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, a post she held until 1906. She devoted her remaining years to the Colony for Women Inebriates, Duxhurst, that she had established in Reigate, Surrey.

F. Henrietta B. Muller Prominent feminist, editor of the Women's Penny Paper 1888-1892, co-founder of the Women's Printing Society, pioneer school board member; later a Theosophist and associate of Annie Besant. Born in Valparaiso, Chile, she was educated at Boston, USA, London and Girton College, Cambridge.

"After a great deal of difficulty and opposition from my family I managed to go to Girton where I spent three most happy years... Miss Davies was the Principal of Girton when I was there. I had to work hard and when I came out with Honours I was immensely proud. I took Moral Sciences, which include Political Economy, Philosophy, Psychology etc... After a little while, at the suggestion of Professor Fawcett, I made up my mind to stand for the London School Board."

She came top of the poll and served for Lambeth on the London School Board for six years.

Her sister, Eva McLaren, was a prominent feminist. They bought a house at Cadogan Place in London and in 1884 refused to pay taxes 'as a protest against being denied the right to vote'. They were arrested, prosecuted, and their goods were distrained. In 1888 Henrietta Muller founded The Women's Penny Paper, a women's newspaper, which she edited for five years under the pseudonym 'Helena B Temple'.

She died in 1906.

Eliza Fox (1823/4-1903)

Born Eliza Florance Fox (Florance was her mother's maiden name)attended Henry Sass's School of Art and became a painter and a member of the Society of Female Artists. Her father was a great supporter of women's rights. He introduced her to Harriet Martineau and Harriet Taylor, and she later befriended Robert and Elizabeth Browning, Barbara Bodichon and Mrs Gaskell, persuading the latter to sign the 1856 petition for the Married Woman's Property Bill, which Eliza's father voted for, he having been elected MP for Oldham when she was 24. She was signatory to a letter asking academicians to allow women to enter the Royal Academy Schools.

In 1859 she married artist Frederick Lee Bridell. He died four years later, followed by her father and Mrs Gaskell. As Mrs Bridell she spent four years in Algiers with Barbara Bodichon and painted a seried of pictures of Arab life and landscapes that are her best-known works. In 1871 she married her cousin George Fox, and adopted the name Eliza Bridell-Fox. She died at home, 21 Campden Hill Road, Kensington and was buried in Brompton cemetery.


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All pages © Helena Wojtczak 2009. Corrections and additions are warmly welcomed. Email me