Autograph Letter Collection: Letters to and from Harriet McIlquham

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains letters to and from Harriet McIlquham concerning her political and suffrage campaigning work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Harriet McIlquham (1837-1910) was born in London in 1837. When young, she attended social and political lectures in Gloucestershire. By 1877, she had become a member of the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage as well as the Bristol and West of England Society for Women's Suffrage. In Feb 1881 she and Maria Colbey were the organisers of the Birmingham Grand Demonstration as well as being one of the speakers at the Bradford demonstration held in Nov 1881. That same year, she was elected as a Poor Law Guardian for Boddington in the Tewkesbury Union. An appeal was lodged to annul her election on the grounds that she was a married woman but it was found that she held her qualifying property independently of her husband and therefore remained in place. However, her attempt to be elected as a county councillor in 1889 failed. By 1889, Harriet McIlquham was a member of the Central National Society and a friend of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy. It was the latter who proposed her as president of the Women's Franchise League in Jul 1889, but two years later the pair transferred to the Women's Emancipation Union where Harriet McIlquham became a member of the council. In 1892 her first pamphlet 'The Enfranchisement of Women: An Ancient Right' was published and was widely read. Her writing continued in 1898 when the Westminster Review published a series of articles by her on Mary Astell, Lady Montague Wortley an eighteenth century journalist known as 'Sophia' and other enlightenment advocates of women's rights. Harriet McIlquham was also an active public speaker and in Feb 1893 gave a speech on women as poor law guardians; this was soon followed by an address to the Women's Emancipation Union conference held in Bedford the following year. Her audience and readers were drawn from across the spectrum of the suffrage movement. She was a member of the Cheltenham branch of the moderate National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies but also lobbied MPs in the House of Commons alongside members of the more militant Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU) in Feb 1905. Later, in 1908 and 1909 Harriet donated sums to both the WSPU and the Women's Freedom League respectively. Just before her own death, she helped organise a 'Grateful Fund' to which those who wished to show their appreciation of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy's suffrage work could contribute. She died in 1910 after a short illness.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in chronological order.

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.

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.

Custodial History

This collection consists of letters taken from various sources and filed individually in ring binders. The original source of the item (often from archive collections) is not generally indicated.

Related Material

Also held at The Women's Library are personal papers of Harriet McIlquham (7HMC). Other collections within The Women's Library Strand 9 which may be of interest include 9/01 Women's Suffrage, 9/02 General Women's Movement and 9/09 Suffrage and Women in Industry. Some publications by her are available in the Printed Collections at The Women's Library. Her correspondence and papers relating to the Women's Franchise League, (1881-1910) are held at the British Library (Reference : Add MSS 47449-55, see HMC Papers of British politicians 1782-1900, 1989).