Monday, 27 March 2017

Made in Hull: Women in the Pursuit of Perfection

To celebrate the end of Women's History Month 2017 and the City of Culture’s Women of the World Festival, we thought we would take a look at the lives of some of our unsung women, all of whom we have records on at the History Centre if you want to find out more. Winifred Holtby, wrote an article for the Yorkshire Post in October 1929 entitled, Women in the pursuit of perfection [L WH/2/2.25/05/10B]. In it she separated women into two groups: those who are satisfied with their lot and are happy to compromise; and those who strive for something better, for perfection. Holtby, along with the rest of the women in this blog, falls into the second category. These are women that deserve to be celebrated for their contribution to the life of the City and those within it. 

Ann Watson
On her death, Mrs Ann Watson provided for the creation of a trust, The Ann Watson Trust, under the terms of her will, dated 27th October 1720. We know little of Ann's life or family, except that she was married to the Reverend Abraham Watson, lived in Hedon and had four children. Three of her children, Hedon, Abraham, and a daughter married to Mr Alexander Hall, all died in her lifetime. Her fourth child, Isaac survived her and was the rector of South Ferriby. Her bequest provided for the accommodation and relief of poor women in need who were members of the Church of England. Preference was given to widows or unmarried daughters of clergymen of the Church of England. She also made provision to help those in need to gain an education. Through careful management her bequest has helped those less fortunate than herself for three centuries. Today, the objectives of the Charity remain fundamentally the same. They include providing for the advancement of education through the promotion of education amongst persons under 25 who are residents of the East Riding of Yorkshire or who attend a school in that area. You can find out more about Ann Watson and her legacy by exploring the trust's records [C DSAW].

Map showing the extent of the Trust's land ownership, 1770 [C DSAW/3/2]

Mrs Christiana Rose
Christiana Rose was a woman who forged her own way in a man’s world. In 1833 she inherited a business that would become known as Rose, Downs & Thompson Ltd. It was originally established in 1777 by John Todd as the Old Foundry in a location that would later become known as Canon Street. The business specialised in making windmill parts and casting canon and ship fittings. It also benefited from the lucrative seed crushing industry which required presses and windmills to operate. On the retirement of Mr Todd in 1824, the business passed to Christiana's father, Duncan Campbell. Christiana had a large hand in continuing the business and expanded it to such an extent that, between 1861 and 1863, the Old Foundry had built and installed over one hundred double presses, all of which bore the name C Rose. She died in December 1871 having steered the business through a transitional period which would see it become one of the leading exporters of oil mill machinery. To find out more, have a look at the records of Rose, Downs & Thompson [C DBR]. 

Photograph of female workers in the workshop, c.1920 [C DBR/2037]

Ada Hartley
Born in 1896 to Charles and Caroline Hartley, Ada was a woman who was to dedicate her life to the teaching profession and the children in her care. At the age of 17 she attended Hessle Church of England School as a student teacher. She would return to the school in 1928 as a teacher, and would remain there, working her way up the ranks to Headmistress in 1938, until her retirement in 1961. Outside of her teaching work, Ada served the community in other ways. By 1925 she had joined the Kingston Nursing Division of St. John’s Ambulance Association. She served in No. 6 District, the Hull Corps. In 1931 she was appointed a Lady Ambulance Officer and became a lady ambulance driver later the same year. As WWII approached, Ada attended courses in Chemical Warfare and became an instructor in anti-gas measures, before being appointed as a Lady Divisional Superintendent in June 1941. After the war she received The Order of St. John of Jerusalem in recognition of devoted service to the cause of humanity. Ada remained unmarried after the war, a fate many women experienced following the death of a generation of young men did not come home from the war. She died in 1980 having dedicated her whole life to helping others. You can find out more about Ada and her life in records at the History Centre [C DIMH].

Ada (1st on left) with The St John's Ambulence [C DIMH/1/4/1]

There are many more stories waiting to be told, many more exceptional Hull women to discover, here at the History Centre through our online catalogue. Mary Murdoch (1864-1916), Suffragist and Hull’s first female doctor [L.610]; Winifred Holtby (1898-1935), author, critic, journalist and political activist [L WH,  L.823]; Stevie Smith (1902-1971), poet and author [U DP/156, U DP/197, L. 821 (SMI)]; Amy Johnson (1903-1941), aviatrix and the first female to fly to Australia [L.920 (JOH), L DIAJ]; Lilian Bilocca (1929-1988), activist [L. Newspapers, L. Books]; Jean Hartley (1933-2011), founder of Marvell Press, Philip Larkin’s publisher [U DJE].

Carol Tanner, Collections Manager Hull City Archives

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