From Liberal to Labour with Women's Suffrage: The Story of Catherine Marshall

By Jo Vellacott | Go to book overview

1 Late Victorian Liberal Youth,
1880-1907

On 28 April 1880, Caroline Marshall, experiencing the onset of labour, went upstairs to give birth to her first child, Catherine. "That most wonderful moment," she wrote many years later to her daughter, "that few speak of . . . with enough wonder. Was it to be death or new life that awaited one? A total change in any case. You certainly did that — life has never been the same since! What would the new life be? I thank God a good one, that I love and am thankful to have had a hand in however faulty an one." 1

Catherine was not an easy child. She was eager and boisterous, she dominated her younger brother, Hal, she was an original, she was somehow larger than life, and yet her health was poor. She never fitted well into the mould of a Victorian young lady, and she was fortunate that her parents, an enlightened and progressive couple, tried to obtain procrustean conformity in only a few matters.

In 1869, shortly after graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge, Frank Marshall, Catherine's father, then aged twenty-two, had been appointed to a mastership in mathematics at Harrow. 2 In August 1876, 3 when he was twenty-nine, Frank married Caroline Colbeck, the sister of a colleague. Caroline was twenty-three years old, and taught at a small school for girls (and young boys) together with another sister, Margaret, three years her senior, and a sister‐ in-law, Florence Colbeck.Despite some ill health, Caroline went on teaching after marriage, but apparently resigned as soon as she found herself pregnant with Catherine in August 1879. 4 Several months after Catherine's birth, a relative still wrote anxiously of

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