Catherine Marshall saw no reason why women should take second place to men in any respect.  

She devoted her inspirational life to the grand causes of equality, education and peace.  


Too Ferocious at Cricket

From her earliest days at St Leonard's, a top-notch progressive girls' school in St Andrews, Fife, Catherine challenged the conventions of her day.  

Catherine was ferocious on the sports field, playing the girls' staples of hockey and lacrosse but then taking on the boys' games of cricket and even golf.  

Visiting and then living at Hawse End by Derwentwater she organised games of 'manhunt' on Swinside.  Teams of human Hounds chased Hares across the fell.  Accident-prone Catherine risked life and limb to lead the pack.  

 Catherine Marshall wearing the suffragist's green

Catherine Marshall wearing the suffragist's green

Captured by Causes

Throughout her life Catherine was captured by causes, large and small. This led her Aunt Florence to send a fruit-knife to her at school with the remark that she was 'such a vegetarian'. Her parents were forward looking but also constraining and overprotective, even as she entered adult life.  Concerns over her health led to outright orders as to where she might stay and what kind of clothing she might wear - marginally acceptable for a sixteen-year-old girl, but inappropriate for a twenty-year-old modern woman with modern views. 

Denied the education her intellect surely deserved, she studied informally with Cambridge economist Cecil Pigou.

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Outdoor Enthusiast

The bicycle, that symbol of women's emancipation, was Catherine's main means of transport.  She toured the Lake District, Germany and the Yorkshire Dales on two wheels, dressed no doubt in the practical pantaloons that challenged the norms of the day.

Well-dressed, well-informed and dynamic, Catherine was so tall she had to have stockings (black, openwork) specially made, 'extra large in length and foot'.

 Bird's nest at Hawse End

Bird's nest at Hawse End

Life at Hawse End

At Hawse End Catherine was immersed in Nature's beauty, surrounded by the Lakeland Fells. In the garden she spotted twenty two different species of birds' nests in one year.  

In summer she would row visitors across the lake from the Keswick landing stage, while in winter she skated on its icy expanse.  From the front door she would stride up and down Catbells or Causey Pike in just a hour or two, enjoying the outdoors for the 'ripping walks and gorgeous views'.

 Hawse End by Derwentwater, now a Cumbria County Council Outdoor Centre

Hawse End by Derwentwater, now a Cumbria County Council Outdoor Centre

'Hawse End looks out across Derwentwater over St Herbert's Island.  Turner visited and sketched the view to Walla Crag in the last years of the 18th century.  

The artist noted the way the fells made 'a perfect reflection in the water'

The Marshall family owned land on the lake shore and father Frank had Hawse End built.

After Catherine's time Cumbria County Council took over the house and it still serves as an Outdoor Centre.  Click here for more information.  

While living there she threw herself into local projects with a fervent desire to make a difference. Later, even as she became more and more involved in the politics of suffrage, she continued to teach music at Newlands and Braithwaite schools. The Ofsted of the time reported that Catherine's teaching at Braithwaite had been responsible for a marked improvement in the school as a whole.  

When her mother became ill Catherine was expected to devote her energies to running the family home.  She never welcomed this burden and perhaps it was the irony of being asked to judge local girls' ironing skills that pushed her towards the cause of gender equality. 

A resolute feminist, Catherine saw women's suffrage as essential to enable other changes including equal pay, conditions in the home and the workplace and a say in post-war reconstruction. She argued passionately for women's 'need of the vote, right to vote, fitness to vote and duty to vote'.

Suffragists and Suffragettes

Catherine campaigned for women's votes peacefully, in contrast to the confrontational suffragettes.  But she was no less forceful or demanding.  

She pioneered new ways of getting her message across, taking her case to meetings in Braithwaite, Portinscale, Grange, Stair, Bassenthwaite and Brigham and promoting her cause from a stall on Keswick market.

She  secured support from the local press, having "a very good friend" in the Editor of the Cumberland Herald.  

Her ability to organise drew Catherine into national campaigns and movements becoming prominent in the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and the Election Fighting Fund for Women's Suffrage.   

In 1913, pre-Twitter, pre-Facebook, a remarkable pilgrimage from all corners of England and Wales brought 50,000 suffragists to a rally in Hyde Park.  Catherine's party from Keswick carried their banner proudly at the front of the Cumberland contingent as they set off from Carlisle's Market Cross on the long journey south.

 

Westminster Politics

As the actions of the militant suffragettes hardened opposition among male MPs and ministers Catherine worked tirelessly behind the scenes to promote the cause.  She built bridges with all three political parties.  Although Prime Minister Herbert Asquith refused initially to deal with the movement, Catherine, Millicent Fawcett and Kathleen Courtney secured a meeting with the influential Chancellor David Lloyd-George.  

Lloyd-George was sympathetic to the cause and in August 1913, Asquith relented and Catherine was part of the delegation who pressed the suffragist case.  Still, the party-politicking of the day obstructed progress.  If women won the vote who could count upon them at the ballot box?  

The outbreak of war in 1914 confused matters further.  Women took the place of men in industries vital for the war effort. Most of the men fighting and dying for King and Country had no vote. Could this continue once the war was over? Could Parliament be seen to pass new legislation without addressing the question of votes for women?

In 1917 Parliament passed the Electoral Reform Bill, for the first time giving some women the right to vote and a year later the Representation of the People Act extended suffrage to most women over 30.

Women were finally granted suffrage equal to men in 1928 under the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise Act) 1928.                                  

 Prime Minister Herbert Asquith

Prime Minister Herbert Asquith

 Clifford Allen of the No Conscription Fellowship

Clifford Allen of the No Conscription Fellowship

Suffrage Movement Splits

During the Great War the NUWSS movement split.  The issue - educating the public about war and peace.  The result - Catherine and many others resigned to devote more time and energy to pacifism.

Scandalously, for their trouble, they were written out of the official histories of the movement penned by its president Millicent Fawcett and her ally Ray Strachey.  

It wasn't until Canadian academic, pacifist and feminist Jo Vellacott was brought together with Catherine's papers at the Cumberland Archive that her story was told. When the resulting book was published it opened historians' eyes to the achievements of the young Hawse End activist, over-turning established views about the period.  'From Liberal to Labour with Women's Suffrage' is lauded as the 'definitive analysis of the huge archive of Catherine Marshall papers'.  In it, Catherine's work is recognised for 'raising working-class consciousness and re-awakening a long-dormant demand for full adult enfranchisement'.

Around the time of the NUWSS split, Catherine fell deeply in love with Clifford Allen, secretary of the No Conscription Fellowship, and was profoundly affected by his imprisonment during the war.  

After the war her campaigning continued as she worked at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) headquarters in Geneva, then helped Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Czechoslovakia, Austria and Germany, housing some near Derwentwater. 

Papers Saved from the Flames

Catherine's remarkable story was almost lost.  She piled her whole archive of letters and papers in a damp shed at Hawse End where they mouldered for years. They were heading for a bonfire when a chance phone call to the County Archivist saved them from the flames and took them to Carlisle for safekeeping.  Now historians and academics pore over them to support their research into a tumultuous chapter in British history.


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