Women and Witham, 19th and 20th centuries


 Chelmsford Chronicle, 23 June 1848
Witham Literary Institution. Two lectures by Mrs Balfour, ‘Moral and Intellectual Influence of Women in Society’. [i.e Mrs Sarah Lucas Balfour, see Wikipedia.

Debate about proposed new rating system whereby owners would pay rates of lesser properties instead of tenants as hitherto. Opposed by many tenants because it would take away their voting rights, though some workers supported it so they would not have to pay rates.

Women did not speak at the public meeting but the voting details include women as follows (18 women out of 309 who voted, 5.8%)

For the resolution (7 out of 126, 5½%)
Maria Mead
Mary Carlick
Widow Curtis
Widow Sayer
Widow Coney
Widow Love
Widow Dazeley

Against the resolution: 11 out of 183 (6 %)
Miss Bramston
Miss Du Cane
Sarah Heskins
Mrs Vandervord
Mrs R Du Cane
Miss Matthews
Miss Foster
Eliza Trew
Miss Hubbard
Mary Ann Norton
Mrs Humphreys

9 November 1887 (in review of year, Essex County Chronicle, 30 December, page 6)
‘Meeting of the British Women’s Liberal Association at Kelvedon; speech by Mr Joseph Arch’.

Strike of pea sorters, Taber, Cullen and Co, 1891
Essex Weekly News, 3 April 1891, page 7, 10 April 1891, page 8, 10 April 1891, page 7

Essex Weekly News, 30 November 1894, page 7
Meeting ‘in connection with the Young Women’s Christian Society’. Held at Congregational Lecture Hall. Large gathering. A ‘lecturette’ by Mrs Albert Smith of Kelvedon ‘are we better than our grandmothers, or is the present better than the past’. Lecturer said yes. Discussion afterwards. Mrs Everard, Miss Brenes, Miss M A Garrett, said no, Misses Adnams and Jewell said yes. Vote in favour. Sec of Society, Miss Ward, presided.

Essex Weekly News, 27 October 1905, page 8
‘The Council Schools. At the monthly meeting on Monday, Mr Coker presiding, Miss A Luard wrote declining to fill the office of chairman’. Mr Coker retiring. F P Bawtree chosen.

Essex Weekly News, 3 November 1905, page 5
Literary Society. Evening of impromptu speeches at Congregational Lecture Hall. Officers include one of Vice presidents Mrs A Wilson, and Treasurer Miss Afford, and Committee Mrs Everard and three men.

Essex County Chronicle, 10 November 1905, page 5
‘Women’s Liberal Association’. Social meeting. Officers elected – President, Miss E E Butler. Treasurer Mrs Ernest Smith. Secretary Mrs Pinkham. Vice-presidents Mrs Edmunds and Mrs Garrett. Balance in hand.

Essex County Chronicle, 12 January 1906
‘To the Electors of the Maldon Division of Essex. Gentlemen and Brother Electors … C H Strutt, Blunts Hall’.

Essex Weekly News, 10 January 1908, page 5
‘C E T S …[probably Church of England Temperance Society] annual meeting .. chairmanship of Canon Ingles … Committee included Mrs Eldred, Misses D Ingles, Combe and Evers and 5 men. Hon sec and treasurer to be Miss Vaux in place of Mr H M English who had resigned after 20 years’.

Essex County Chronicle, 4 February 1910
Witham Liberals on Defeat. … On Wednesday evening the workers (both ladies and gentlemen) of the Liberal side at the recent election in the Witham district, were entertained to an “At Home” given at the Collingwood Hall by Mr and Mrs Bevington Smith of Wickham Hall, and Mr and Mrs Ernest Smith of Chipping Hill. Speeches (by men).

Essex County Chronicle, 16 June 1911
… Mr Percy Laurence, J P, president of the Witham Conservative Club, gave a garden party in the grounds of the Grove to members of the club and friends. There was a gathering of 250. … Mr Laurence … said he was particularly pleased to see the ladies, whose co-operation in political work he warmly welcomed’.

Essex County Chronicle, 24 November, 1911, page 3
‘Women’s Suffrage Meeting at Witham. Lord Rayleigh as a supporter’. ‘Crowded meeting … Public Hall, … under the auspices of the Women’s Conservative and Unionist Franchise Association. Lady Rayleigh presided, supported by Lord Rayleigh, O.M., Lady Betty Balfour, Sir John Rolleston, MP for East Herts, and Mrs Cooper, from Lancashire’. Lady Rayleigh said Lord Rayleigh agreed with cause. She says every householder should vote (but should not give two votes to one house, nor should women become MPs). Mrs Cooper spoke of her earlier life working in a cotton mill and that women were entitled to the franchise by their economic contribution. Mrs Balfour said her sister Lady Lytton had been arrested the previous night but she didn’t agree with those tactics. She had canvassed Witham and found a lot of interest. They should found a branch of the organisation here.

[Mrs Selina Cooper a very well-known suffragist with a hard upbringing in Lancs. Involved with Women’s Co-op Guild and ILP. Mrs BB big wheel also, in Conservative circles; see biogs of both filed with the newspaper item in the newspaper file] and word docs with biogs from new dnb. Canon Ingles, the Vicar spoke. Unconvinced. In a house with nine women and they agreed time not come for women to be involved in politics. Should form public opinion and use their influence on men.]

 Essex Weekly News, 2 May 1913, page 3 [also see xerox of whole report on newspaper files]
Report of Braintree Guardians’ annual meeting. Mrs Marriott had left and she had ‘been very useful on the Cottage Home and Boarding-out Committees (Hear, hear)’. ‘The Captain’s Joke. Capt Abrey before the appointment of committees remarked: Mr Chairman, I should like to ask if we have any suffragettes here, because if so I should like some guarantee that we shall not be blown up. I think we ought to have some protection (Laughter). The Chairman: I think you can take care of yourself, Captain. (Renewed laughter). Capt Abrey: If there is to be any shooting I shall have to provide myself with a shooting iron. I am very fond of shooting. But I should like an answer to my question. The Chairman: I don’t think there is much fear of that. Miss Tabor: I should just like to say that nobody can object to militant tactics more than I do (Hear, hear). Mr Bartram: May I say that I have sat for many years with Miss Tabor on the Education Committee, and we had no more intelligent and excellent member on that Committee. Miss Tabor had always shown sound judgment and had done excellent work (Hear, hear). Mr B S Wood: I also have known Miss Tabor a good many years, and I will go bail for her good behavior (Laughter)

(see notes on ERO G/Br M35-M39, Braintree Guardians, Minutes 1911-1930 for other items re women)

Essex County Chronicle, 2 May, 1913, page 5
Two paragraphs of comment on Miss Tabor’s election to the Braintree Board of Guardians and especially the reaction of Captain Abrey, who ‘wanted to know in effect if the lady intended to introduce bombs’. Regarded as humorous be he ‘he didn’t seem to mean it in that way’. Miss T said ‘she was not a militant Suffragette, and that she strongly objected to militant tactics’. Several vouched for Miss Tabor’s character.

[A Miss M E Tabor of ‘Fennes’, Bocking, was on Guardians in 1934, Braintree and Witham Times, 17 May 1934]

Essex Weekly News, 25 July 1913 [also see xerox of whole report on newspaper files]
‘Suffragist “Pilgrims” in Essex. Banner smashed at Chelmsford’. March of ‘Non-militant Suffragists’ from East Anglia to London to take part in demo in Hyde Park on 26 July. Stopped and held open-air meetings along the way.

‘Lady Rayleigh presided at the Witham meeting, and the speakers were Mrs Rackham, Miss Taylor, Miss Vaughan, and Miss Courtauld. With the exception of a few interjections such as “You’re trying to wear the trousers” and “We can’t help laughing”, the meeting was very orderly’. Further meeting at Hatfield and Chelmsford where banner taken.

According to earlier part of the report, Miss Courtauld was of Colne Engaine, Mrs Rackham of Cambridge (who had frequently spoken in the area and was a sister of Miss ME Tabor who presided at Braintree meeting), Miss Vaughan of Rayne. Don’t think it explains Miss Taylor.

Another story afterwards is about ‘disturbance at the London Pavilion on Monday, when Mrs Pankhurst was re-arrested at a meeting of the WSPU, several women surrounded the police and detectives and attempted to rescue Mrs Pankhurst’. Several arrested including Miss Madeline Rook [or Rock?] of Ingatestone. Released on bail. Described as a poet aged 30. At court she and two others refused to sign recognisance to keep the peace but ‘sureties were eventually forthcoming’.

UDC 31 August 1914
page 208. Letter from County Council, please constitute District Committee to assist the Special Committee appointed for County ‘to assist them in dealing with distress caused by the War, and where necessary in distributing relief, and also in collection of subscriptions to the National Relief Fund’. Form Committee, of Council representative Q D Greatrex, Board of Guardians representatives Capt S Abrey and Mr W Pinkham, one, representative of railway Trade union to be appointed by selves. Mr M Hanson Pullen. The Misses Gimson, Howard-Vyses, and Pattisson as representatives of the Soldiers and Sailors Families Association.

Essex Weekly News, 1 October 1915
page 5 (see xerox on newspaper file). ‘Presentation to Canon and Mrs Ingles. Parting gifts from Witham parishioners’. Long report. Gifts to Mrs Ingles also, by Mrs Hutley on behalf of Mothers Union. Spoke. Hope you and Canon Ingles and daughters will be happy. Gave her armchair. Also Miss Keeble of Kelvedon on behalf of Witham GFS of which she is the oldest member, small clock,. This because Miss Edith Luard away. ‘Mrs Pelly, on behalf of the Working Party, presented Mrs Ingles with as handsome Japanese screen, in remembrance of the meetings at the Vicarage and the many gatherings Mrs Ingles had organised for their benefit. Canon spoke for her. Recognise vicars wives. ‘Mrs Ingles came to him from a very beautiful home, not having been specially trained, he should say, for such work as she had had to do’.

UDC 25 October 1915
page 288. Letter from Lady Paget[?whether I typed this right] asking for co-operation on November 18th, to be known throughout British Isles as ‘Russias Day’ and arrange flag day. Ask Miss Pattisson to do it.

 UDC 4 November 1915, Extraordinary meeting
Clerk had invited ‘3 Ladies’ to undertake work re Russias Day but other duties meant they couldn’t. Ask Miss Edith Luard.

Essex County Chronicle, 14 January 1916
page 1. Advert – Lady Clerks in offices urgently required.
page 4. Meeting of Essex War Agricultural Committee. E G Smith presided. Men (about 12), Miss K M Courtauld of Earls Colne co-opted.

Essex County Chronicle, 18 February 1916
page 3 (see xerox on newspaper files). ‘Women and agriculture. Meeting of Essex Ladies’. Under auspices of Essex War Agricultural Committee ‘to make the necessary preliminary arrangements in connection with the organisation in Essex of women’s labour on the land’. Hon E G Strutt presided. Lots of ladies, many named. Included Lady Rayleigh, Mrs Christopher Parker.
‘Chairman said some people had expressed the opinion that farmers did not want the assistance of women.’ Might have been so earlier in War but not now because of call-up of men etc. Long speech. One speaker on other counties and another on ‘Women’s National Land Service Corps’, one of whose objects was ‘to get women of the professional classes in towns to undertake a course of training to fit themselves for acting as forewomen of local village corps, and to make the various arrangements with the farmers’. Lady Petre to be president of the women’s organisation. Executive Committee provisionally appointed.

Essex County Chronicle, 10 March 1916
page 3, see xerox on newspaper file.
Witham Tribunal. ‘The need of Milkers. Is women Labour “All Fudge”. Lots appealed for by Mr H T Isted on behalf of Lord Rayleigh’s farms. Military rep (E Pelly) said how could chairman Hon Ed Strutt get up on platform and tell farmers to employ women, and then excuse farmworkers from service. Details of farms and numbers. ‘Mr Hutley questioned where they would lodge the women. It would be absolutely impossible to lodge them in the cottages’. Concerning one case, Captain Abrey said ‘You don’t want all these men for 368[? – or could even be 36½] acres of arable land. The Chairman: You must try to teach my brother how to farm. Capt Abrey: Yes, I can (Laughter).

 Essex County Chronicle, 17 March 1916
page 5 (see xerox). ‘Bishop at Witham. Address to Scottish soldiers. On Sunday morning the Bishop of Chelmsford visited Witham, and gave the address at the church parade of the Lowland Scottish Regt., RE, at the Parish Church. The Lowland Scottish are mostly Presbyterians, and their Sunday services had been fixed for Witham Congregational Church, but in view of the visit of the Bishop, it was arranged that the troops should attend the Parish Church to give his Lordship the opportunity to speak to them. There was a parade of 500 of the soldiers, headed by their brass band. The Chaplain, Capt Yuill, conducted the service from the pulpit’. Pep talk. Clean living men survived injuries in War but others didn’t.

Essex County Chronicle, 24 March 1916
page 3. Meeting of Essex Women’s War Agricultural Association. Lady Petre presided. [there are regular meetings of this body reported through the year]

Essex County Chronicle, 14 April 1916
page 3, see xerox on newspaper file. County Appeal Tribunal. At Witham Police Court. Six hours. Lots of appeals from several areas. Chair was Mr Collingwood Hope, KC.
Women and Horses. Mr H Isted, manager to Messrs Strutt and Parker, re Great Bardfield. Long discussion. Exemption. Ditto some in Faulkbourne and Hat Peverel, Terling, Sible Hedingham. ‘The Chairman … There was the possibility of training women to do the work of cowmen. – Mr Isted: We have a school of women being trained at a farm at Little Baddow.- The Chairman: We shall expect an honest effort to be made to replace these cowmen by women. It might also be possible to economise in the ploughmen by the same means. – Mr Isted: We cannot train the women to take the place of ploughmen: it would not be safe to put the women with horses, even if they would go, but we are training them to take charge of the cows. I will withdrw this application for the two cowmen’.

‘The Daughter’s chance. Mr E M Blyth, miller, Witham Mill, appealed for exemption for Frank Green, 24, married, manager of a branch shop at Witham, whose claim to the Local Tribunal had been refused. It was stated this man gave up his former occupation of a baker, and was now engaged in selling chicken food and biscuits at a retail shop. – Mr Blyth stated that this man was the only man engaged at the shop, and had worked there since a boy. He (Mr Blyth) had two sons serving with the Army in France, and they had lost several men from the mill This shop was in the town, where orders were taken and transferred by telephone to the mill. There was no one else to manage the shop. Ladies who wanted to order biscuits for their dogs would not go down to the mill: the trade would go to someone else if the town shop was closed. – Capt Howard: You have a daughter; could not she manage this shop? – Mr Blyth: She has never been brought up to that kind of work. – Capt Howard: But ladies are doing all kinds of things now they did not do before the war, and your daughter might like to do this shop? – Mr Blyth; She is busy at home, where we have soldiers billeted. – Capt Howard: then a sharp lad might manage the shop, by the aid of the telephone? – The Chairman: People will have to put up with inconvenience due to the war; instead of having things sent to them, they will have to go and fetch the goods. – One month was allowed to enable Mr Blyth to make other arrangements for the shop.’

Hatfield Peverel case.


Essex County Chronicle, 30 June 1916

see xerox on newspaper file. Witham Tribunal. Includes:

‘Mr E Spurge, Witham, applied for Frank Cundy, 31, cashier for three businesses, as an expert. – The Chairman: We cannot understand why a women cannot do this? – Mr Spurge: I cannot find such a woman. – It was reported that Cundy was passed only as fit for garrison duty. – Four months exemption was granted’.

Essex Weekly News, 14 July 1916, page 5
‘A meeting of the Executive Committee of the Essex Women’s War Agricultural Association was held in London, on Wednesday, Lady Petre presiding.

The Hon Mrs Champion R Russell reported that in the Romford district the same number of women were at work as was recorded last month. She had experienced some difficulties with regard to people who wanted to get work, as when she sought information from farmers as to what they wanted she sometimes got not reply. The farmers generally seemed well supplied. She feared, however, that some of the women were taking advantage of the position, and one farmer had stated that he thought he was spending 100[?] per cent more in wages because their women got through their work so slowly. The Chairman asked if it would be possible to put the women on piece work ? Mrs Russell said the farmer referred to did not seem to think so.

Reports as follows were also received from the districts:-

Witham – Mrs Parker. 385 women were registered, and 100 had armlets. She believed they were working extremely well, and that local farmers were quite satisfied. [this probably in district or division or whatever]

Rochford – Miss Ta[?]ke. … There was a difficulty with regard to the educated classes, everyone apparently thinking they ought to do something they had never done before [Laughter].

Miss Imago, of the Board of Trade, in reply to questions, said it should be clearly understood that the armlets were only for women who were engaged on farms and in kitchen gardens, and could not be issued to those employed in the cultivation of flowers’.


UDC 25 September 1916

page 342. Finance Committee reported Mr Roberts joining HM forces so resigned, and Mrs Mens application for vacancy [probably rate collector].

page 344. Letter Mr C C Roberts resigned as deputy rate collector, thanks. Letter from Mrs M A Mens for same job. Accepted.


UDC 30 October 1916

page 349. Letter re arranging ‘a Rumanian Flag Day;. Write to Miss Luard and ask if she with Miss Afford and Mrs Hanson Pullen could do it.


UDC 26 March 1917

page 374. Letter from Mrs Mens (Deputy Rate Collector) she observed the water rates were to be collected quarterly under the new regulations, if so she couldn’t do it. Resolved that they be yearly during war and every 6 months after.

page 376. Letter from Lady Carson, re street collection for British and Foreign Sailors Society. Refer her ‘to Miss Luard who doubtless would organise a collection’.


17 August 1917 (ERO L/P 3/35, Lieutenancy papers, correspondence, 1916-1918)

Includes: Maldon District Emergency Committee, 17 August 1917, to Shire Hall

Re correspondence about clearing banks etc. of money in case of invasion. ‘I am also to ask you if a woman can be sworn in as a Special Constable to be in charge of the Bank’s property on this car’.

Forwarded to Major Gen Hay[?] Pall Mall, Central Force and Emergency [?]

His reply doesn’t mention women. But Goold clerk to county, says to Maldon:

‘I believe no woman has yet been sworn in as a Special Constable for this County and I think it would be better for a man to be in charge of the Bank’s property in the event of it having to be removed’.


UDC 20 August 1917, extraordinary meeting

page 396. Necessary to appoint Food Control Committee. To be the seven ‘active members’ plus representative from Co-op, and also ‘Mr Ebenezer Smith’ as ‘labour representative’. Also Miss Afford be asked, and also Messrs F J Hayward and Mr E C Quick.


UDC 27 August 1917

page 401. People invited to Food Control committee had agreed.


UDC 24 September 1917

page 406. Accept Finance Committee report; re letter from ‘Mrs Mens (Collector)’ ‘ for more money. Give her £7 10s for extra work done and no additional salary.


UDC 10 December 1917

page 418. Letter from Sir Arthur Pearson re collection ‘for the Blinded Soldiers Children’s fund’ ‘Ask Miss Pattisson if she could arrange for the Boy-Scouts to distribute and collect envelopes for subscriptions as suggested in the letter’.


UDC 28 January 1918

page 431. Letter from French Red Cross (British Committee) re arranging ‘France’ Red Cross day. ‘Ask some Witham Ladies to try and fix a date’.


UDC 25 February 1918

page 437. Re letter from National War Savings Committee ‘as to “Business Mens week” campaign, leave to Mr Pinkham to see Mrs Peecock, Secretary of War Savings Committee at Witham.



Vote given to ‘Women over the age of 30 who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5 or graduates of British universities. MPs rejected the idea of granting the vote to women on the same terms as men. Women had their first opportunity to vote in a General Election in December, 1918. Several of the women involved in the suffrage campaign stood for Parliament. Only one, Constance Markiewicz, standing for Sinn Fein, was elected. However, as a member of Sinn Fein, she refused to take her seat in the House of Commons’ (schoolnet web site)


Essex Weekly News, 1 March 1918, page 4

Essex Education Committee. One of members Miss Chisenhale Marsh.


1919 ‘In 1919 Parliament passed the Sex Disqualification Removal Act which made it illegal to exclude women from jobs because of their sex. Women could now become solicitors, barristers and magistrates. Later that year, Nancy Astor became the first woman in England to become a MP when she won Sutton, Plymouth in a by-election. Other women were also elected over the next few years. This included Dorothy Jewson, Susan Lawrence, Margaret Winteringham, Katharine Stewart-Murray, Mabel Philipson, Vera Terrington and Margaret Bondfield’ (schoolnet web site).


Glove Factory strike, 1919.

See Essex County Chronicle, 28 February, page 6, 7 March, page 5, 14 March, page 5, 21 March, page 2. Essex Weekly News, 18 April, page 6

One of the representatives from the Workers Union in Chelmsford who helped the girls was Miss Florence Saward (as Mrs Balaam she became a magistrate in 1932, see below)


Essex Weekly News, 25 July 1919, page 6

Committee for Peace celebrations, all men. Miss Pattisson gave away the prizes.


Essex Weekly News, 15 August 1919, page 8

‘An interesting presentation has been made by a large number of Essex farmers to Miss Grace O Laurence, of the Grove, Witham, as a “slight recognition of her valuable assistance in obtaining labour for the land during her voluntary work under the War Agricultural Executive Committee at Chelmsford, 1917-1919”. The presentation consists of a very handsome Louis Quinze writing table and chair of the same date. The farmers have also presented Miss Cicely Pelly with a beautiful cabinet appreciation of her voluntary services under the same organisation. For over two years these young ladies gave their ungrudging services under the Committee for the benefit of the farmers, and the success of their efforts may be judged by this gratifying and spontaneous token of appreciation.

In reference to the presentation we have received for publication the following letter:-

Dear Sir, May we ask you in your courtesy to allow us through your valued paper to acknowledge with grateful thanks the most handsome gifts that have been presented to us by the farmers of Essex ?

We are both greatly touched and gratified by this spontaneous and all too generous appreciation of the small se4ices we were able to render during the war under the Essex War Agricultural Committee. To us the work has been in all sincerity a labour of love, and we shall value our trophies for all time beyond anything on our possession.

Our heartfelt thanks are due to each and everyone of those who have so kindly contributed to the presentation. Yours faithfully, Grace O Laurence, Cicely Pelly. Witham, 14th August 1919’.


Essex Weekly News, 29 August 1919, page 8

At Witham Bowling Club there was ‘a novelty … in the form of a ladies’ Bowling competition’. Whist afterwards, ladies and gentlemen separate.


Essex Weekly News, 21 November 1919, page 3

Exec Cttee elected for building Nurses’ Bungalow. Mrs Pelly, Mrs Brandt, Mrs Kellock, Mrs P Brown, Dr Knight (convenor), Drs K and E Gimson, Messrs Christopher W Parker, S Franklin, Eb Smith, E G Smith, W Pinkham, and W P Perkins – The Chairman : I think we have done some good to the honour and glory of the town’.


Essex Weekly News, 30 April 1920, page 6

page 3. Witham Urban District Council, 26 April. Annual Meeting. Agreed that the whole of the Council should be the Housing Committee instead of just five members as previously.

Councillor Ebenezer Smith said that at the next meeting he would propose the co-option of four others from outside the Council onto this committee.


Essex Weekly News, 4 June 1920

Witham Urban District Council, held 31 May. ‘Mr Eb Smith moved that four additional persons be co-opted onto the Housing Committee, two being women – but the motion was not seconded’.


Essex Chronicle, 7 April 1922

Urban District Council elections:


J Ernest Smith, 462?

Miss C A Pattisson, 463?

R Little (Lab), 414

Not elected:

R W Wakelin, ???

J T Hayward, 325 or 225?

Mr A W Garrett did not seek re-election. Mr Little gains a seat for Labour.

[another page:-]

‘The Ladies. Witham is the first town in the Braintree and Maldon areas to elect a lady member to its Urban Council. Miss Charlotte Alice Pattisson, who at the first venture rose to within one vote of the top of the poll, is a daughter of the late Mr William Pattisson, of Writtle, where she was born. Her grandfather practised as a solicitor in Witham many years ago, and the late Admiral Sir William Luard was her great-uncle. She takes an active part in nearly everything going on in the township, her offices ranging from that of quartermaster in the Witham Boy Scouts to a leading part in the Women’s Institute. Another noteworthy victory, at the top of the poll, was that of Mrs Trotter, at Epping, who stood as the nominee of the Women’s Institute, which also supported Miss Pattisson. Ladies likewise had some signal successes for the Boards of Guardians, whereon they are almost indispensable, with their kind hearts and their anxious care for the women and children’.

‘Lady Voters Preponderate.

Witham is one of the very few towns n England where lady voters actually preponderate. They are in a majority of [??] on the electoral strength. Miss Pattisson, after her election, told a representative of the Essex Chronicle an interesting story of how she became selected as the first woman candidate for the Council. The subject was discussed at the Women’s Institute, and she agreed to “break the ice”. “As to my position on the Urban Council”, proceeded Miss Pattisson, “I shall be quite willing to learn all about the town affairs, and see what can be done. We cannot spend much money, because we have not got it, and the rates must be watched, but there are many ways in which I hope to assist”. There can be no doubt that the choice of the women of Witham will be fully justified’.

‘Some Results :- …A notable feature is the growing strength of the Women’s Institute movement, which put forward candidates with success in every instance. The Essex Chronicle has already called attention to this new factor in public affairs. The Institutes, all honour to them, discuss and agree how women can best use their votes, and if the men do not mind, and do not take more care generally about this matter, they will be finding themselves out-voted as well as outnumbered by the opposite sex. Not that any harm would be done, but women are naturally more interested n women, although theirs are the concerns of man and children also, if “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”’


Essex Weekly News, 27 April 1922

UDC meeting, 24 April

‘First Lady member. Mr Pelly formally welcomed Miss Pattisson, the first lady member of the Council. Ladies, he said, were taking a tremendous part in national matters, and he was sure she would be of great assistance in their work. The Chairman said knowing what Miss Pattisson had done for the town he was sure she would be an acquisition to the Council’.


1924 ‘When Ramsay McDonald became Prime Minister in 1924 he appointed Margaret Bondfield as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Labour. Five years later Bondfield became the first woman in history to gain a place in the British Cabinet’.(schoolnet web site).


Essex Chronicle, 1 April 1925

UDC elections. Elected:

Miss C A Pattisson,

J Ernest Smith

Layton Church

Not elected

R Little (Lab)

A G Bright (Lab)

Miss Pattisson, the only Lady Member, had the active support of the Women’s Institute. Mr R Little, a former Labour member, lost his seat.

[note: at Great Easton the Countess of Warwick failed to get elected to the Dunmow Rural District Council]


Essex Weekly News, 27 August 1926, page 10

‘On Wednesday a gala was held on the cricket ground in order to raise funds for the Chelmsford and Colchester Hospitals… another match Witham Ladies v Witham C C was played. … The cricket match ladies v gentlemen provided a good deal of fun, as the gentlemen had to bat, bowl and field left-handed; the match also served to show that the ladies could play good cricket. The ladies went in first and compiled 109 for 7, at which they declared. Miss Littlehales, of Langford, who captained the ladies’ side, made 51 all out, the other scores being Miss Fern 9, Miss Green 8, Miss Evitt and Miss Beardwell 6 each, Miss Croxall 5, Miss Foster 4. The gentlemen won by knocking up 111 for 7 … bowling for the ladies Miss Littlehales 4 for 41, Miss Fern 2 for 16’.

Also a mixed doubles tennis tournament.


1928 ‘A bill was introduced in March 1928 to give women the vote on the same terms as men. There was little opposition in Parliament to the bill and it became law on 2nd July 1928. As a result, all women over the age of 21 could now vote in elections’ (schoolnet web ste)


C/M/Pa 1-5, Minutes of Public Assistance Committee 1929-1932


Braintree and Witham Times, 22 November 1929, page 1

Whist drive organised by Women’s section of Witham Labour Party.


Braintree and Witham Times, 6 December 1929, page 1

Witham Labour Party Women’s section had whist ‘in the Club’.


Braintree and Witham Times, 28 March 1930, page 3

‘A great Institution holds its last meeting. Braintree Board of Guardians’. Include Miss S E Vaux, Colonel E L Geere, W W Burrows, Eb Smith, T Speakman. Tributes to late members. And officials. Matron reported 87 inmates, as against 208 last year. Casual men 162 (against 128), casual women 14 (against 5).

First lady Guardian, in 1895, was the late Mrs Alice Joseph of Bocking, then Miss Lucy Docwra and Miss Sarah Butler.


14 May 1930, Minutes of County Public Assistance Committee (ERO C/MPa 1)

Braintree area Guardians have asked whether they may have Ladies’ visiting committee including ladies not Guardians. No, not if not Guardians.


Braintree and Witham Times, 5 December 1930, page 5

Federation of Labour women formed in Labour Club at Witham.


Essex Chronicle, 2 January 1931

Miss E Luard was one of a committee chosen at a meeting to consider what action for the unemployed.


January 1932 in Braintree and Witham Times, 29 December 1932, summary of 1932

‘Mrs F Balaam (Silver End), Mrs E M Packe (Langford Place), and Mr C Stewart Richardson (Witham) sworn in Justices of the Peace’.


1932 from Q/JL 19 List of magistrates, 20th century, Witham Division.

Name Address Date qualified Comments
Mrs Florence May Balaam 71 Francis Way, Silver End near Witham, (altered to Geddings, Essex Road, Hoddesdon Herts) 6 January 1932 To Unattached list June 1935


Essex Chronicle, 22 July 1932

Witham branch of Maldon Division Women’s Conservative Association, annual garden fete in the grounds of Roslyn House by invitation of MR and Mrs Gerald Bright.


Braintree and Witham Times, 14 January 1932

page 3, col 4. New Witham magistrates. No details. ‘Include Mrs Florence May Balaam, Francis Way, Silver End, Mrs Elizabeth Margaret Packe, Langford Place, and Mr Charles Stewart Richardson, Beech Knowe, Witham’. No more details about them.


Braintree and Witham Times, 8 September 1932

page 2. ‘Bride not to obey. The New service at a Witham wedding … crowd of over a hundred … Miss Ellen Bright, youngest daughter of Mrs and the late Mr S Bright of Church Street, married to Mr Hugh Derrett, eldest son of Mrs M G Derrett of Severn Stoke, Worcs’ at St Nicholas church’. Graceful. Eldest brother Albert Bright gave her away. Six attendants including nieces Misses Vera, Pamela and Betty Bright. Master John Bright a page boy. William Bright, brother, best man. Curate Rev A J T Lewis. ‘The new marriage service was taken, the word “obey” being omitted’. Mr William Blood, cousin of the bridegroom, at the organ. 50-60 guests at the reception at the YMCA. The bride formerly worked at Crittall’s. Both were well known in Witham. Bride from old Witham family, the groom was employed here many years. Will live in Gidea Park.


September 1932 in Braintree and Witham Times review of the year, 29 December 1932 page 2

‘The word “obey” omitted from a wedding service at Witham Parish Church’.


Braintree and Witham Times, 8 September 1932

page 8, col.3. ‘Means Test Protest’. Conference organised by Braintree Co-op Committee at Co-op Hall, Bocking End. Reps from Co-op, Trade Unions, and Labour Party, about 60 in all. Discussed ways of opposing means test. Resolution. Committee to arrange public demonstration included Mesdames Balaam and Horridge [other names given too].


Braintree and Witham Times, 15 September 1932

page 4 ‘Means Test Tragedies. Acute situation in Braintree. Unemployment problem gets more acute every day’. Reaching alarming proportions, and much misery and distress is now emerging. Daily meetings in Braintree, eg the Market Place on Saturday night, 800 people. ‘Well reasoned addresses were delivered by Mrs F Balaam, JP, of Silver End, and Councillor Parker of Halstead’. Protests against the application of the means test and reduction of allowances to the unemployed. ‘We understand that hot words were exchanged at the Means Test meeting of the Braintree Area Guardians on Monday when the Ministry of Labour’s new “scale” was again enforced. Nearly 200 cases were dealt with, and more than 50, including all the females – struck off the list of recipients, while all the others were reduced in benefit … Applicants must now be treated as if they were applying for Poor Law out relief. In resigning membership Mrs F Balaam, JP, has written to the clerk to the Public Assistance Committee at Braintree in the following terms. “After giving careful thought to the question of the future treatment of the unemployed men and women who we subjected to a Poor Law Means Test when claiming transitional unemployment benefit, I have definitely decided that I cannot attend any more committee meetings in connection with the same. The poorest section of the community, namely the unemployed, are now being treated by the National Government as paupers, and my principles are such that I am not going to be a party in giving scales of Poor Law out-relief to my unfortunate fellow men and women who are unemployed. I only trust that the public will be stirred and opinion aroused over this inhuman treatment meted out to men, women and children. Every member of the Public Assistance Committee ought to be fired with anger over the latest regulations issued by the Ministry of Labour on behalf, I suppose, of the National Government, which orders us to regard the unemployed as paupers”. [Newspaper comment continues:-] The situation is so serious that the possibility of developments of a grave nature should not be overlooked. We trust no effort is being spared to examine every possible avenue likely to produce at least some amelioration of the lot of these unhappy out-of works and their families’.


Braintree and Witham Times, 13 October 1932

page 4. ‘First time ever’. Lady members of the St Nicholas church choir made appearance. In the way of an experiment. Vicar has had the idea in mind. Six ladies. They didn’t process. Remained in lady chapel, throughout. Understood that in future they will ‘wear the regulation cassock, surplice and mortar-board’.


1933 Kellys directory, Essex

Magistrates for Witham Division include Mrs F M Balaam (seems to be first woman; not there in 1929 directory).


Braintree and Witham Times, 16 March 1933

page 6 (see xerox in newspaper files) ‘Witham Church affairs’. Long report of meeting of Parochial Church Council in Rowley’s rooms. PCC at present is ‘Mr C Ashby, Mrs Ashby, Miss E M Blyth, Mr R Briggs, Mr F G Doole, Mr P C Evitt, Mrs B Hancock, Mrs E Hayes, Mrs M W Horner, Mr E King, Miss Maxlow, Mr E S Page, Mr F Redman, Mr H J Rowles, Mr H W Richards, Mr W Thoroughgood, Miss H J Watson, Mr A W Wright, Col E Lake Geere and Mrs A Peecock’. [12 men, 8 women]Col Geere and Mrs Peecock are new.

Long discussion that one third hadn’t retired as they ought. Miss Pattisson got applause for suggesting this should start next year.


June 1933 in review of the year in Braintree and Witham Times, 28 December 1933, page 6

‘Departure from the district of Mrs. Florence Balaam, JP, social worker and formerly trades union organiser (Miss Florence Sayward before her marriage), on taking an appointment in Hertfordshire’.

Note from Kelly’s directories (lists of Essex magistrates at front, and of those for Witham Division under Witham). In 1933, Magistrates for Witham Division include Mrs F M Balaam (seems to be first woman; not there in 1929 directory). In 1937, Mrs Balaam is still a magistrate for Witham Division, but her address is Geddings, Essex Road, Hoddesdon, Herts.

Miss Saward was involved in the glove factory strike in 1919 q.v.


Essex Chronicle, 26 May 1933

Meeting of General Committee of Maldon Divisional Labour Party at Co-operative Hall, Witham. Delegates representing local Labour parties, women’s sections and other affiliated organisations. Congrats to Mr Eb Smith and Mrs E L Mabbs on appointment of Witham and Braintree UDCs respectively.


Essex Weekly News, 4 August 1933, page 11

‘Women Conservatives. About 72 members of the Witham Women’s Conservative Association on Tuesday enjoyed the hospitality of Mr and Mrs Waller of Glenridge, Wickham Bishops, and attended the meeting held in their garden. Miss Ruggles-Brise gave a short talk on current politics, and later proposed a vote of thanks to MR and Mrs Waller. The host and hostess entertained the party to tea in the village hall.’


Essex Weekly News, 4 August 1933, page 11

Meeting of Maldon Divisional Labour Party Executive at Witham Co-op Hall. Resignation of Mrs Balaam JP and Mr F Balaam received with regret. Vacancies filled by Miss E Cathcart, membership secretary and Mrs J D Horridge, treasurer.


Essex Chronicle, 10 November 1933, page 10

‘Women Conservatives’. Monthly meeting. Song solos. Competitions.


December 1933, in Braintree and Witham Times, review of 1933, 4 Jan 1934, page 2

‘Final meeting of Witham Urban Council before amalgamation with Silver End and Rivenhall. Captain H L Evitt, a retiring member not seeking re-election, entertained his colleagues to supper at ‘Spread Eagle’ Hotel, also the officials, members of the fire brigade, and others. Mr B O Blyth and Miss Pattisson also intimated decision not to seek re-election.


Essex Weekly News, 19 June 1936, page 15

‘Women’s Guild. Reports from Mrs Woodwards on the Silver End conference, and from Mrs Hales on the Colchester conference were received at the monthly meeting of the Women’s Co-operative Guild. Mrs Hales, president, was in the chair. The whist drive winners were Mrs Benson, Mrs Hales, Mrs Christy and Mrs Oakley’.


Essex Weekly News, 24 July 1936, page 15

British Legion. About 70 members of the Women’s section, entertained by the President, Mrs H L Evitt, in the Grove Hall. Tea and games.


Essex Weekly News, 11 June 1937, page 15

‘Liberal Association. Mr M Barnard of White Notley initiated an interesting discussion at the monthly meeting of the Witham Liberal Association on Tuesday. Mrs Alderton presided. Mrs Claydon was tea hostess …’


Essex Weekly News, 11 June 1937, page 15

British Legion Women’s section. Entertainment provided by members of Silver End section. Report on London conference.


Essex Weekly News, 7 January 1938, page 15

‘Women’s Conservative Party. The annual New Year party organised by the Witham Women’s Conservative Association was held in the Constitutional Club on Tuesday, Mrs Geere, president, in the chair. Mr J P G Warboys, secretary and agent, was introduced to the members, and spoke of the need for political activity throughout the Division. An entertainment was arranged by Mrs Turner, and prizes were won by Mrs H Redman, Mrs J Glover, Mrs Hawkes, and Mrs Parkin. A chicken was won by Mrs Wincott, White Notley. Mrs Brandt presented the prizes. There was community singing, with Mrs Hancock at the piano. The arrangements were made by Mrs Geere and Mrs Andrews, secretary’.


Braintree and Witham Times, 2 November 1939, page 1

Witham Petty Sessions. Magistrates include Mrs Reid-Scott.


Essex Weekly News, 17 November 1939, page 8

Women’s section British Legion. Books collected for the forces. Wool distributed to make knitted garments. (A men’s meeting the same week).


Essex Weekly News, 23 August 1940

Flag day instead of Carnival. Miss Dorothy L Sayers, first public appearance locally urging donations and offering 6d for every £1 collected. Mrs C E Richards hon sec of organising committee.


Essex Weekly News, 6 September 1940, page 6

Flag day. Meeting of Witham Hospital Carnival Committee. Pres, sec and treas all men. Mrs C Richards had organised good flag day.


Essex Weekly News, 13 September 1940, page 6

Brotherhood. Sunday meeting . Mr W H Powling presided. “Mr P Bowyer gave saxophone selections. Mrs Walker read the lesson and Mrs A Tucker offered prayer. Mr Herbert Sadd of Maldon gave an address on “Prayer”’ [first time I noticed woman there; were some at other B meetings after this].


Essex Weekly News, 18 May 1945, page 14

During War, WVS with asst of women’s sect of British Legion have sent weekly or fortnightly hampers of fresh fruit and veg to Parkeston Quay for minesweeper crews. Weighed between 1 cwt and 3 cwt. Mrs B E Hancock was in charge.


Essex Weekly News, 18 January 1946, page 2

‘Dr Summerskill’s visit. British Restaurants to continue. Dr Edith Summerskill, M P, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Food, visited Chelmsford yesterday’. Went to Food Office, and Victoria Rd British Restaurant which serves 300 meals a day. Impressed. Said to reporter that ‘”We hope to make the British Restaurants a permanent feature in the life of the nation. As a feminist, I welcome this on any account, but also because I feel that they will ease the burden of the most overworked person in the world, the housewife”’.


Essex Weekly News, 15 March 1946, page 5


WITHAM husbands have been going through an anxious period – awaiting . the result of a debate at the monthly meeting of the local Women’s Institute.

For at that gathering a. motion had been tabled, “That a club would be of benefit to the Women of Witham”. After a spirited discussion the proposal was turned down, but not before some very outspoken comments had been made. Mrs Shaw, who initiated the debate, criticised men for. holding the purse strings, and erecting badly-planned houses with sinks, cupboards, meters, stop cocks, etc. all inconveniently placed. She wanted a club for women, with full social facilities, to provide an opportunity for them to get together on an organised basis, so that they could deal with their problems.

But the husbands had. a heroine in Mrs. Tarling, .who      opposed the motion with such conviction that the members threw it out. She pleaded for “things that will strengthen home life,” not things that will encourage “splits and divisions.” “No,” she added, “we don’t want a. women’s club in Witham … What we want is more co-operation and the fullest understanding as between man and wife, based on love and give and take.”

And so the husbands of Witham gave a last sigh of relief:; and since then the toast of the evening has been “To the woman who led the opposition.”

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