Governess and Author
Whilst Jessie Fothergill is the better known of the sisters, Caroline’s life is by far the more intriguing. Although her father left the Society of Friends (Quakers) when marrying Ann Coultate, the sister of my great, great grandfather, the principles of that religious movement certainly influenced her path in life.
With her 5 siblings, she was born in the village of Bowdon, Cheshire. Her father Thomas was a merchant dealing in cotton yarn and they were comfortably well off until tragically he died in 1866. Two brothers also died around the same time. In 1871 her mother and four surviving children, all girls, were lodgers with farm labourer George Lord and his family in Littleborough near Rochdale.
Near the Fothergill home in Littleborough.
Quaker’s believe in being independent. Jessie had bad health and so any physical employment was not an option. In 1874 Caroline accompanied Jessie to Germany where the climate was better for Jessie’s health. On their return Jessie continued writing, publishing her first novel ‘Healey’ in 1875 while Caroline took up the post of governess.
However, with her sister gathering fame and good income from writing, in 1883 Caroline tried her hand with a first novel, ‘Put to the Proof’. For at least the next 15 years Caroline had a string of novel’s published, but none received the same acclaim as her sister’s. Nevertheless she received income including some from prizes. The Dundee Peoples Journal published in serial form 'Foes of a Household', chapter 8 being illustrated here, dated 13 June 1885, £200 prize?
Women’s Suffrage and Liberal Politics
Quakers and my Burnley ancestors were politically aligned to the Liberals supporting William Gladstone and ‘Home Rule’ for the Irish. A prominent Quaker and liberal Politician who was nickname 'Apostle to Women' because of his support for women's suffrage, was one Jacob Bright, brother of industrialist John Bright. He was also brother of Thomas Bright who was married to her mother's sister Caroline Coultate, so he was Jessie and Caroline's uncle-in-law. This relationship and the Quakers belief in the same voting rights for women may have influenced the next chapter in Caroline’s life. On 23rd December 1889 she was appointed organizing agent for the Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage, London. This was after a split in the Women’s Suffrage movement in 1888. A Parliamentary report records:
‘Politics has complicated the suffrage campaign. There is dissension as to whether its rules should be changed to allow other political organisations to affiliate. The concern is that the suffrage society would be swamped by members of the Women’s Liberal Federation, which supports Gladstone and Home Rule. The Home Rulers are defeated and break away to form the Central National Society for Women’s Suffrage. Liberal Unionists, led by Millicent Fawcett, who are anti-Home Rule and anti-Gladstone, remain as a reconstituted Central Committee of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage.’
It would appear that if Caroline was now employed by this latter committee that she did not align her views with the home rule Liberals. It is hoped that more information will be forthcoming regarding her role in this committee.
Click here << to read the short story, 'At Any Cost'.