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The fight for women’s rights – the women’s temperance movement played a big part

With the new film Suffragette being released this October, there will be renewed interest in the women’s suffrage movement. I’m looking forward to seeing the film, starring Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan but I hope it doesn’t glorify the role of the suffragettes, without at least some mention of the many women who believed that women’s suffrage could, and would, be achieved by women making their arguments peaceably and logically.

Many of the women who promoted temperance were strong, intelligent women – Lady Henry Somerset and Rosalind Howard, Countess of Carlisle to name just 2. Naturally they saw the sense in women having the vote and baulked at the notion that they were an inferior species. They demonstrated through their temperance work that they were very capable of organising themselves, locally and nationally. They held rallies and demonstrations. They had their own journals. They travelled the country delivering powerful speeches. Their appeal crossed the social divide and they should be given some credit for awakening the sleeping giant which was the voice of women’s emancipation.

It was no co-incidence that the joint founder, and 3rd President, of the British Women’s Temperance Association was Margaret Bright Lucas – the sister of MP John Bright, a forward thinking reformer, best known for his anti Corn Law campaign.margaret Bright Lucas

Posted in Fight for women's suffrage, Lady Henry Somerset, Rosalind Howard Countess of Carlisle, Suffragettes, Suffragists, Temperance, Victorian temperance movement, Women's Right to Vote, Women's Rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Sincere apologies to those who have booked for my talk in Plymouth.

Due to a sudden death in the family, I need to be elsewhere so am having to cancel the talk.

I am sorry for the inconvenience caused.

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1-SR at 70Sarah Robinson – The Soldiers’ Friend

1-Image (260) Agnes Weston – The Sailors’ Friend

Why was the work of these women so important in Portsmouth?

We need to bear in mind that in the 1860s & 1870s, Portsmouth was one of England’s main ports. With the country frequently at war, or displaying our strength, somewhere in the world – Crimea, South Africa, India, Egypt – there was a constant stream of troopships and naval vessels in and out of port. These floods of servicemen were seen as disruptive, only welcomed by those who saw their wages as easy pickings eg the publicans.

In a letter to Sarah Robinson, at The Soldiers’ Institute she established in Portsmouth, one soldier, a staff-sergeant of the 6th West Yorks Militia, described the scene on his arrival back from Abyssinia:

Immediately we disembarked, and before getting into quarters, we were beset by keepers of gin-shops and worse, hundreds of unfortunates in gay attire, and professional music-saloon harpies, all determined to allure the unsuspecting soldier into their meshes … The consequence was that, in the absence of any counteracting influence whatever, we ran riot through the town, completely demoralised species of humanity, drinking spirits like water, giving ourselves up to all manner of wickedness, regardless of all orders relating to conduct or sobriety. it was no uncommon thing for a man to go out with £10 or £15, and within a few hours be brought to the Main Guard minus boots, cap, belt, and money, having been relieved of these superfluities by the friends who had enticed him into their houses

No wonder there was a need for someone or some organisation to provide a moral compass for these hapless young men.

Yet it was 2 matronly women, first Sarah and later Agnes, who addressed this need. Their practical efforts, campaigning zeal and steadfast faith changed lives. The culture within the Army and Navy began to change, the welfare of their men taken more seriously. Of course there were other organisations involved in welfare work for soldiers and sailors but none which addressed the issue of alcohol abuse with the same directness.

I shall be giving a talk in Portsmouth on Friday 22nd May

Posted in Agnes Weston, alcohol abuse, Army, female temperance reformers, Portsmouth, Sarah Robinson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


My article Taking the Pledge appears on p62 of the June 2015 edition of WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE magazine.

I expect some readers will find references to The Band of Hope illuminating as they may have uncovered membership certificates amongst their ancestor’s papers.

Also, a surprising number of people were given the name temperance, especially as a middle name.

Posted in Agnes Weston, Army, Band of Hope, books by Ros Black, British Women's Temperance Association, Duxhurst, female temperance reformers, Feminism, Lady Henry Somerset, Sarah Robinson, Temperance, temperance pledge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



Many thanks to all who attended the launch of my new book Scandal Salvation and Suffrage – The Amazing Women of The Temperance Movement in Haywards Heath on 23rd April.

To promote the new book in Sussex, I have been putting together a new talk: Temperance Tales from Sussex and Surrey and have been uncovering some fascinating tales of how, in the second half of the 19th century, temperance meetings were frequently disturbed by youths, often fuelled by free beer from local publicans or brewers.

In some instances, there was major opposition to the temperance campaigners, especially The Salvation Army, with Skelton Armies being formed to mock the Salvationists. But there were also lower-key demonstrations which disturbed the tranquillity of Sussex villages and towns such as Steyning, Horsham and Cuckfield.

In 1897 the Mid Sussex Times referred to an incident when the lower part of Cuckfield was filled by a crowd which indulged in “ill-timed frolic and indiscreet refreshment”. A ‘spectator’ from Handcross wrote about “covert indecencies” being hurled at “respectable females when the opportunity offered. More drunken men were to be seen rolling about between Pease Pottage and Handcross than ever was seen on days of clubs and fairs”.

Posted in alcohol abuse, books by Ros Black, Cuckfield, Sussex towns and villages, Temperance, temperance tales from Sussex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

King signs pledge for duration of the war – 100 years ago on 6th April 1915

Even before war was declared, steps were put in place to reduce opening hours in areas where there were garrisons or armament factories. Obviously there was widespread appreciation of the fact that the British needed to have all their wits about them, not have brains befuddled by alcohol.

The state even took over the drinks trade in some areas of the country, including Carlisle. 3 of the 4 breweries were closed down, as were almost half the pubs. Rather surprisingly, the Carlisle experiment remained in place until the 1970s!

It was Lloyd George who persuaded the King to sign the pledge. On 6th April 1915, the following declaration was issued:

“No wines spirits or beer will be consumed in any of His Majesty’s houses after to-day, Tuesday April 6th, 1915 for the duration of the war.”

The King was leading by example – one which many others followed.

The British has asserted their moral superiority over the Germans.

Posted in King signs pledge for duration of First world war, Rosalind Howard Countess of Carlisle, Temperance, World war One | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment