The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women: From the Earliest Times to 2004

By Elizabeth Ewan; Sue Innes et al. | Go to book overview
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RADCLIFFE, Mary Ann, n. Clayton, baptised Nottingham 18 June 1746, died Edinburgh, in or after 1810. Writer. Daughter of Sarah Clayton, and James Clayton, retired merchant.

Mary Ann Clayton's father, an Anglican, died when she was three: her mother was a Catholic and, after arbitration, it was decided that the child should be brought up an Anglican. However, her mother sent her to the Bar Convent school, York, from 1758. Her guardians later fought her mother's favouring of Mary Ann's Catholic suitor, Joseph Radcliffe (born c. 1715), sending her to London and

putting her money in Chancery, but she eloped with Radcliffe and married him on 2 May 1762, bearing him eight children. Her picaresque Memoirs tell the story of her struggle for survival, after her fortune was managed by trustees and her husband's businesses failed. She ran a coffee house, kept a shop, took in lodgers and sewing, and acted as a chaperone and a governess.

From 1781 to 1783 Mary Ann Radcliffe was housekeeper for her former schoolfriend Mary Stewart, Countess of Traquair, at whose Peebles home she met the sympathetic liberal Catholic priest Alexander Geddes. She afterwards remained in Edinburgh, where she ran a boarding-house, saw her eldest daughter married, and found schools or places for her sons, returning to London in 1789. Her Female Advocate; or An Attempt to recover the Rights of Women from Male Usurpation (1799), though disavowing 'the Amazonian spirit of a Wollstonecraft' (p.xi) discussed the declining job market for women, which might leave unprotected women with little recourse but prostitution. In 1802, she published two issues of Radcliffe's New Novelists Pocket Magazine. The authorship of several Gothic novels, The Fate of Velina de Guidova (1790), Manfroné (1809) and Radzivil (1814) has been ascribed to her, probably wrongly. She is often confused with the English Gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe. Friends urged her to return to Edinburgh, where after the failure of several business attempts, she published her Memoirs by subcription in 1810, revealing her poverty and appealing for help in her final years. JR

Radcliffe, M. A. (1810) The Memoirs of Mary Ann Radcliffe in Familiar Letters to Her Female Friend. Blain V, Clements P., Grundy I. (eds) (1990) Feminist Companion to Literature in English; Coleridge, H. J. (1887) St Marys Convent, Micklegate Bar, York (i686–i887); Luria, G. (1994) 'Introduction' to Radcliffe, M. A. The Female Advocate; ODNB (2004).

RAE, Jane, m. Coates, born Denny 20 Dec. 1872, died Clydebank 12 May 1959. ILP activist and councillor. Daughter of Elizabeth Cossens, and Livingston Rae, ironmonger.

Jane Rae became well known as a Clydebank activist through her involvement in the all-out strike that paralysed the giant Singer Sewing Machine works in Clydebank in 1910–11. She worked in the needle-making department and was among those who felt deeply aggrieved by the increased workloads, wage-rate undercutting and imposition of American scientific management methods (including job timing, work reorganisation and use of the stop-watch) at the factory. She became actively involved in the dispute and found herself, with 400–1,000 others (press accounts vary) sacked for standing up for their rights a common enough experience for those active in trade unions or in socialist politics at the time. She was described by one of her fellow Singer employees, Bill Lang, as 'a fiery customer involved in everything'. She was a strikingly tall, strong-willed, studious woman who was, according to her brother John Rae, 'an intellectual, interested in the progress of society she always wanted to improve the social conditions of the working people'. A contemporary labour activist was Frances (Fanny) Abbott (1892–1971) who worked at Singer's in 1910–11 and was involved from the 1910s with the ILP and later with organising the Women's Section of the Labour Party.

Jane Rae joined the ILP around this time, inspired, her family recalled, by a Keir Hardie speech. By 1913, she was secretary of the Clydebank branch. Thereafter, her wide-ranging political activities included involvement in the suffrage campaign (chairing a meeting for Emmeline Pankhurst at Clydebank Town Hall), the Cooperative movement and the anti-war movement during the First World War. The period from then until 1928 was her most active in politics. She was elected as a local councillor in Clydebank in 1922: among her particular interests were temperance and education. In these years she involved her whole family in political campaigning chalking the streets, protesting outside pubs and parading with umbrellas painted with political slogans. Her niece, also Jane Rae, recalled that 'she would go out with her school bell and get all the children out, like the Pied Piper. Jane in front and all the children all following'. Among her successes in local politics was a policy of not having any pubs licensed within sight of schools in Clydebank. She also became a JP Her brother recalled that she used her position to protect women who had suffered domestic violence.

After her mother died in 1929, Jane Rae married a long-time Australian friend, Alfred Coates, a builder, and emigrated to Australia. They returned about a decade later and settled in the Channel Islands where she witnessed the hardships, 'disappearances' and brutalities meted out to Russian prisoners of war at the time of its occupation by the Nazis. Her family recall that she destroyed all her socialist literature and records of


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