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Great Brummie women, back in the day

April 4, 2009

The more I search for great Brummie women the more philanthropists and suffragettes I stumble over.  It seems a number of others have been also drawn to these women.  The Birmingham Disability Resource Centre web site includes a blog post of the subject, which they describe as a slight aside from the history of disabled people in Birmingham”.  In my research I have also found an essay “Moral Regeneration: Women and the Civic Gospel in Birmingham 1870 – 1914” by Paula Bartley of the University of Wolverhampton.  Both of these offer fascinating insights and resources, and I owe some of the information here to them.

Elizabeth “Tetty” Porter – 1689–1752

Her marriage ceremony to Samuel Johnson is re-encated very year at St. Werburgh’s Church, Derby. Her dowry of over 600 pounds was invested in setting upEdial Hall, a private school at Edial near Lichfield. She gained a poor reputation in her time, mainly as a result of her 2nd marriage to Samuel, who was 21 years her junior.

Louisa Ryland 1814 – 1889

Louisa made a massive contribution to her home city, including donating Cannon Hill Park.  She inherited a significant wealth from her grandfather, becoming a millionnaire.  Even after many philanthropic acts in her life, her estate was valued at £2m on her death.

Emma Jane Worboise 1825-1887

Emma was a prolific writer, publishing over 50 volumes.  She began writing at an early age and her first book, Alice Cunningham was published in 1846, when she was twenty-one.

Bessie Rayner Parkes 1829-1925

She worked with her friend Barbara Leigh Smith (later Barbara Bodichon), to establish the English woman’s journal in 1858.  Their aim? To advance ideas on the reform of women’s education and legal rights.  More impressively, from these writings emerged a women’s employment bureau, reading room, clerical school, and the Victoria Press.

Bertha Ryland 18?? – 19??

Bertha slashed a painting by Romney in the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery in 1911.  The gallery closed and remained so for 6 weeks.  She was one of many to use this somewhat extreme form of direct action to draw attention to the suffragette cause.

Constance Naden 1858 – 1889

She was a prolific writer, as a poet & Philosopher, creating a body of work in poetry and essays.  She studied botany and was a member of the natural history society.

Dame Elizabeth Cadbury 1858 – 1951

Philanthropist and wife of George Cadbury, she made lots of great contributions to Brum: hospital, holiday home for children living in slums; founder of the Birmingham Union of Girls’ Clubs in (now BAYC) 1898 and so much more.

Margery Fry 1874 – 1958

Prison reformer, magistrate and Hall Warden at first female students’ hall of residence at the University of Birmingham.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 9, 2009 7:01 pm


    Must chat, soon. Glad to be back in touch albeit a little remotely! Are you favourite sabs going to count in this great Brummie women thing of yours, even if we (they) were only passing through!

    How’s the lass? Love to Andy.

    Happy Easter and big kisses



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