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

By Jo Vellacott | Go to book overview

2 Bringing the Women's
Suffrage Cause to the Lake
District, 1907-9

Like most human beings, the Marshalls lacked total consistency. On the one hand, there are their advanced political and social views, the excellent education they ensured for Catherine, the sharing of causes between mother and daughter, the lack of condescension in exchanges between father and daughter, the wholehearted support of her political activities by both parents. On the other hand, a perhaps understandable concern for her health led to overprotectiveness and was expressed in outright orders as to where she might stay and what kind of clothing she should wear; marginally acceptable for a sixteen-year-old, but inappropriate for a twenty-year-old and downright absurd when directed to a twenty-six-year-old. When Catherine was on her way to spend some time in London at the beginning of 1906, her mother wrote: "if the Kenyons can really give you a warm and a dry bed and room you can stay — but can Aunt M[argaret] ensure this? I mistrust servants especially Mrs. K's and I do not want you to start London with a cold. And you must take a wrap in any case for the return also a change of boots and stockings: it may be pelting with rain and you will tire yourself to pieces." 1

Above all, there is the anomaly of the acceptance by all the family — as far as we know including Catherine — that she would never need, perhaps never be permitted, to earn her own living. Others of her contemporaries accepted this as a parental decision in their own cases, and a matter requiring considerable courage even to raise; 2 in Catherine's case it seems more likely that it was raised, discussed, and decided — but, regrettably, without leaving a trace in writing.

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