Autograph Letter Collection: Biographical notes by Mrs Billington Greig

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains of biographical notes of various women, mainly suffrage campaigners, created by Mrs Teresa Billington Greig.

Administrative / Biographical History

Teresa Billington-Greig (1877-1964) was born in Preston, Lancashire in 1877 and brought up in Blackburn in a family of drapers. Although from a Roman Catholic family, Billington-Greig became an agnostic whilst still in her teens. Having left school with no qualifications she was initially apprenticed to the millinery trade. However, she ran away from home and educated herself well enough at night classes to become a teacher. She worked as a teacher at a Roman Catholic school in Manchester, studying at Manchester University in her spare time, until her own agnosticism made this impossible. From there Billington-Greig joined the Municipal Education School service where her religious beliefs brought her into conflict with her employers. However, through the Education Committee there she met Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903 who found her work in a Jewish school, while that same year she became a member and organiser of the Independent Labour Party. In Apr 1904 she was the founder and honorary secretary of the local branch of the Equal Pay League within the National Union of Teachers. In either late 1903 or early 1904, she joined the Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU) and became one of their travelling speakers. She was sent to London with Annie Kenney to foster the movement there and to create a London-based organisation, which eventually became the headquarters of the Union. This was done on a small financial budget. The following year she was asked to become the second full-time organiser of the group in its work with the Labour Party and in this capacity she organised publicity and demonstrations as well as building up the group's new national headquarters in London. In Jun 1906, Billington-Greig was arrested in an affray outside of Asquith's home and later sentenced to a fine or two months in Holloway Prison. She was the first suffragette to be sent to Holloway Prison although an anonymous reader of the Daily Mirror paid the fine. Later in the same month, Jun 1906, she was sent to organise the WSPU in Scotland and it was here that she married Frederick Lewis Greig 1907. However, growing differences with the Pankhursts led to her resignation as a paid organiser, though she remained in the group as a member until Oct 1907. In Oct 1907, Mrs Pankhurst suspended the constitution and took over government of the WSPU with her daughter Christabel. Several prominent members left the WSPU, including Billington-Greig, Mrs How-Martyn and Charlotte Despard who together went on to form the Women's Freedom League (WFL) on the basis of organisational democracy. Billington-Greig was initially appointed the National Honorary Organising Secretary for the League. However, Billington-Greig once more resigned in 1910 when the WFL undertook a new campaign of militancy after the defeat of the Conciliation Bill. Although she did not immediately join another organisation Billington-Greig continued to write and carry out public speaking engagements - activities she continued throughout her life. She also cared for her daughter, born in 1915, and supported her husband's billiards table company. Her only organisational work until 1937 was in the field of sport. Then she once more joined the Woman's Freedom League working for it's Women's Electoral Committee. After the Second World War this became the Women for Westminster group with which she remained involved. Subsequently she took part in the Conference on the Feminine Point of View (1947-1951) and after 1958 she was a member of the Six Point Group while writing her account of the Suffrage Movement. She had a keen interest in the history of the suffrage movement, as well as her writings on the subject she compiled many biographies. Some of these were created for obituaries for the Manchester Guardian. Her writings on behalf of the women's cause (but to some extent in criticism of it) included 'The Militant Suffrage Movement', published in 1911. Other writings cover a wide range of topics of social and feminist interest. She wrote innumerable articles for a variety of journals. Her interests were wide and she was involved in a large number of women's organisation. In 1904 she had formed the Manchester Branch of the Equal Pay League. She held strong views on a variety of subjects of public interest, but especially equality between the sexes in education and in marriage. She died in 1964.

Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically. Numbered 3921-4013

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. Available on microfiche only.

Acquisition Information

Billington-Greig left her papers to the Fawcett library on her death in 1964.

Other Finding Aids

Abstracts of individual letters in the autograph letters collection were written and held alongside the letters. This work was done from the 1960s by volunteers including Nan Taylor. In 2004 Jean Holder completed a 3 year project to list the letters, copy-type the abstracts, and repackage the letters to meet preservation needs. In 2005 Vicky Wylde and Teresa Doherty proof read and imported the entries to the Special Collections Catalogue.

The original card index of all correspondents, including date of letter & volume reference, is available on the microfiche.

Alternative Form Available

A copy of this archive is available on microfilm held at The Women's Library.