Women’s Suffrage 100th anniversary … how three Bodnant ladies became significant force in fight for votes for women
A century since the Representation of the People Act, newly discovered archive material sheds light on the campaigning of Laura McLaren, Agnes Pochin and Priscilla Bright McLaren.
Three women from North Wales who were instrumental in the fight to get women the vote are among suffragists being honoured today.
Newly discovered archive material sheds light on the campaigning of Laura McLaren, who was Lady Aberconwy of Bodnant, her mother Agnes Pochin and her mother-in-law, Priscilla Bright-McLaren.
They joined the fight for equality more than 100 years ago, and today in London they will be remembered during a major event will mark the 100 years since the Representation of the People Act, which secured votes for women for the first time.
Bodnant Garden’s Becky Hitchens said: “Archives are only now coming to light which show how important these women of Bodnant, Conwy were to the cause and we’re excited to be finally telling their story in this centenary year.”
Agnes Pochin (1825 – 1908) was an early supporter of women’s rights, who helped found the powerful Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage. Priscilla Bright-McLaren (1815-1906) was also an early pioneer against slavery and in support of women’s suffrage.
When Agnes’ daughter Laura married Priscilla’s son, Charles McLaren (Ist Lord Aberconwy), these two campaigning families became a united political force.
Laura’s early life bore the hallmarks of great Victorian drama; her father Henry Pochin a successful industrialist and radical Liberal, and her mother Agnes Heap a pioneer of Women’s Suffrage.
Laura survived four siblings who died in childhood, and took on her parents’ Bodnant estate following the disinheritance of her remaining brother (after his ‘unsuitable’ marriage and a scandalous court case.)
She married into a Scottish Quaker family of equal campaigning credentials; her husband Charles McLaren was the barrister, businessman and politician nephew of celebrated Liberal orator John Bright (who in 1911 was created Lord Aberconwy for his services to country); her mother-in-law, Priscilla Bright-McLaren, a leading early campaigner for women’s rights.
Laura herself was a woman of formidable character, intellect and talent. From an early age she was helping her father with the management of Bodnant Estate and shaping the garden. In later years she went on to be awarded the prestigious RHS Victoria Medal of Honour.
In 1901 she handed the day-to- day care of Bodnant Garden to her eldest son Henry on his 21st birthday, to devote more time to political life. From her London home she served with the London National Society of Women’s Suffrage lecturing, writing pamphlets and rallying government support, aided by her suffragist daughters Florence and Elsie.
In 1909 she produced The Women’s Charter of Rights and Liberties for the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. During WW1 she also ran a nursing home for officers in her home in Belgrave Square, for which she was awarded a CBE.
She carried the baton alongside Agnes and Priscilla, serving with the National Society of Women’s Suffrage lecturing, writing pamphlets and rallying government support. In 1909 she produced The Women’s Charter of Rights and Liberties for the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, a key part in the passage of the Representation of the People Act 1918.
On her death the Times described Laura as one of the greatest horticulturists in Europe, adding: “To watch Lady Aberconwy walking round the gardens with her son was to see two beings as near to complete happiness as is given in the world, and to be able to create and leave behind such a heritage of beauty is a rare and precious legacy.”
Bodnant Garden will be celebrating all three of the women’s achievements and their legacies this Autumn.
Blog taken from Daily Post by Mari Jones. See original article here