The terror of women.

The diary of Antonia Macnaghten née Booth[1]

Antonia Booth was my great grandmother. She died in 1952, 5 years before I was born.

Diary entries are in black,

commentary is in blue

and footnotes are below in black.

Entries are captured in months.

This blog begins with the year 1898 even though the diaries start in 1894 because it is more straightforward to introduce the main characters in this year. I shall return to 1894 in a while.

If you think I’ve left something out please do let me know or if there is a factual error please tell me gently.

March 1898 continued

Went in the morning to see Dorothy Ward’s class at the Passmore Edwards Settlement and brought her back to lunch.

The Passmore Edwards Settlement

The Passmore settlement is ‘One of the greatest surviving examples of the Arts and Crafts School of Architecture, the Mary Ward House serves as a physical symbol of the ideals which it was to espouse. The contract was won by Dunbar Smith and Cecil Brewer, two young architects who lived in the settlement themselves, and were well placed to grasp the building’s purpose. They proved a fitting choice, choosing to create an idealistic architectural response to the strains which mass industrialisation had placed upon the working class. The Arts and Crafts style which they adopted advocated traditional craftsmanship and simple forms, eschewing common mechanised production methods. The plain brick façade and stone entrance way were accented with fine stone detailing, segmental arches, and stone eggs were displayed to symbolise creation and rebirth.’ [2]

Concerts and music were an important part of the Passmore Edwards Settlement reflecting their founder Mary Ward’s belief in the value of knowledge and experience for its own sake. Gustav von Hoist was Musical Director for a time and George Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb and Keir Hardie were amongst those who gave lectures. The settlement’s influence was resounding, and was soon international thanks to the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt, who resided in the building during its initial period of expansion. During the Presidency of her husband – Franklin Delano Roosevelt – seven charitable buildings were constructed across the United States, each of which took the Passmore Edwards settlement as its physical and spiritual model. [3]

Mary Augusta Ward [Mrs Humphry Ward] (1851–1920)© National Portrait Gallery, London
Mary Ward and Henry James. Rye, East Sussex, The National Trust

Antonia was visiting Dorothy Ward who helped with the work of the Passmore Edwards Settlement (now Mary Ward House) which her mother founded, and with children’s play centres and a school for invalid children. Her mother Mary Ward was a successful campaigner for children’s play centres, a supporter of women in higher education and a successful novelist. Mary was also one of the founders of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League. Born into a family of influential writers, educators, her uncle, Mathew Arnold, was the high priest of cultural liberalism. Her nephew was the novelist Aldous Huxley. Mary Ward inherited the mantle of the Victorian intellectual aristocracy especially the family tradition of public service. But although Ward’s commitment to women’s service included practical support for the poor, Janet Trevelyan[4] wrote of her mother that ‘Mrs Humphry Ward was no democrat. She was willing to wear herself out for Mrs Smith, of Peabody Buildings, and her children, but she could not believe that it would do Mrs Smith any good to become the prey of the political agitator. Mary Ward was reviled for her support of anti-suffrage. She became seen as an inveterate Victorian at a time when that epithet was entirely pejorative.’ [5]

‘Lytton Strachey mercilessly lampooned her, and Max Beerbohm called her “Ma Hump”.  Somerville College eventually disowned her.’[6] In a review of Janet Penrose Trevelyan biography of her mother in 1924, Virginia Woolf wrote that ‘none of the great Victorian reputations has sunk lower than that of Mrs Humphry Ward.’ Indeed, ‘vilification of Mrs Humphry Ward’ had reached ‘the level of a minor art form.’[7]

 Why did Mary Ward choose to lead the anti suffrage movement? ‘Like many people, she became increasingly conservative with advancing years and became manifest in her anti-Boer, anti-Home Rule and anti-female suffrage stance.  It was the latter position that severely affected her transition from Victorian to Edwardian.’  As Sutherland writes, her “implacable crusade to deny women the vote was as offensive to most under thirties as a campaign to send little boys back up chimneys.”[8]  ‘She wanted IOUs from men in power to get further measures for her children’s causes. She honestly, if wrongly, saw the suffragettes as terrorists, Fenians in skirts. The Oscar Wilde scandal was still suppurating. She, like other “antis”, had dark doubts about the suffragettes’ “womanliness”. The fact that there were lesbians among the suffragette activists horrified her. Most powerful on the platform was her appeal to “patriotism”. The empire depended on men’s willingness to sacrifice their lives for their country. Women were required to make no such sacrifice. The vote was the male sex’s payoff’.[9]

So where did Antonia Booth stand on the issue of women’s suffrage?  Before her marriage it is difficult to say. It was noted by Belinda Norman Butler, Mary’s granddaughter that in 1888 Antonia’s parents, Mary and Charles Booth and her cousin Beatrice Webb[10] ‘were completely at one over women’s suffrage, which all three abominated. Beatrice Webb even signed Mary Ward’s Anti-Suffrage Manifesto in 1909. Mary and Beatrice were unconsciously defending their own right to take part in vigorous intellectual effort in a male world while denying it to other less fortunate women. Beatrice regretted her attitude in later years but Mary Booth always derided votes for women. She used to tell us how the women of France held more power rocking their cradles than mischievous intellectuals trying to influence their menfolk.’[11]

Beatrice Webb later explained her reasons for signing the anti suffrage manifesto: ‘Conservative by temperament… I had reacted against my father’s overvaluation of women relatively to men; and the narrow outlook and exasperated tone of some of the pioneers of woman’s suffrage had intensified this reaction …But at the root of my anti-feminism lay the fact that I had never myself suffered the disabilities assumed to arise from my sex.’[12]

Did Antonia see things differently? Was it, as Virginia Woolf writes an opportunity to see the world in a new light:

‘But in imagination perhaps we can see the educated man’s daughter, as she issues from the shadow of the private house, and stands on the bridge which lies between the old world and the new, and asks, as she twirls the sacred coin in her hand, ‘What shall I do with it? What do I see with it?’ Through that light we may guess everything she saw looked different—men and women, cars and churches.’[13]

After Antonia Booth was married there is evidence that she did support the suffrage movement which several of the Macnaghten family were actively involved in. As early as 1884 Antonia’s father-in-law to be Lord Edward Macnaghten M.P. had voted in support of Mr. Woodall’s proposal to parliament to add new clause to the Franchise enfranchising women householders. By 1910 Antonia appeared at a meeting to support women’s suffrage herself alongside her husband Malcolm Macnaghten, her sister in Law Helen Macnaghten[14] and her husband’s cousin Eva Macnaghten.

Eva Macnaghten[15]

A large and influential meeting in support of women suffrage was held in Portrush… The chair was occupied by Mr. Hugh T. Barrie, M.P., the Hon. Helen Macnaghten, the Hon. Mrs. Malcolm Macnaghten, Lady Sybil Smith, Miss Eva Macnaghten, Miss Hamilton, U.D.C., ….and the Hon. Malcolm Macnaghten. A sixpenny admission and the presence of a couple of stalwart policemen at the entrance door were responsible for the elimination of any rowdy element… Miss Eva Macnaghten, who was heartily applauded, proposed the following resolution—” That this meeting considers the extension of the Parliamentary franchise to women on the same terms as it is, or shall be, granted to men, to be just, desirable, and practicable, and it calls on the Government to grant facilities for the third reading of the Conciliation Bill before the close of the coming Session.” (Applause) Continuing, she said the question ‘was one of world-wide significance and importance, and entreated the women present to think for themselves regarding it. When those who were opposed to the movement talked about a woman’s place being in the home they absolutely disregarded the extraordinary changes which had taken place in the conditions of her life during the last century. Women had been forced into the public market, and there were now some five millions of them working in the open market in competition with men. Thus it could be seen that it was impossible for them to remain in the home, and it was absolutely out of date for anyone to say they should do so. The vote was a certain amount of assistance to the men in securing reasonable wages, and there was also a direct relationship between the wages of the women and their having the vote. Men who had the vote would not give it up, because they considered it would alter their economic position. At the present moment who was it that had the vote? Occupiers, owners, lodgers, and university graduates. Who had not the vote? Felons, lunatics, paupers, and women. (Laughter and applause) The situation was ridiculous, and, even more than that, it was absurd. Their claim was that owners, occupiers, lodgers, and university graduates, being women, should have the vote, and the mere fact of sex should be no disability. (Applause) Practical unanimity prevailed, and when the resolution demanding the vote for women on the same conditions as men enjoy the franchise at the present time was put to the meeting, there were only five dissentients.Coleraine Chronicle – Saturday 03 September 1910

In her diary of September 1910 Antonia wrote:

In the evening we all went to a great meeting for women suffrage in Portrush. Eva and Malcolm spoke and the terror of women who held for nearly an hour. The audience was very friendly and voted for the resolution.

The ‘terror of women’ Antonia describes suggests she did have some of the prejudices of her parents.

March 1898 continued

Mother and I went out afterwards to see Lady Monteagle[16]. Miss Lyttleton[17] came to tea with me.

Miss Lyttleton

Read the Gadfly[18] with terrible excitement.

‘Montanelli’s voice was rather low, but full and
resonant, with a silvery purity of tone that gave to
his speech a peculiar charm. It was the voice of a
born orator, rich in possible modulations. When
he spoke to Arthur its note was always that of a

From the Gadfly by Ethel Lilian Voynich

Margaret and I went to church at Saint Margaret’s Westminster. We enjoyed the sermon and the splendid opportunities of walking there and back. We met Freshfields[19] and Adeline Ritchie[20] there. In the afternoon came Cousin Lucy Crompton[21], Mr Howard, Arthur Humphreys and Mr Harry Stephen.

Did a lot of piano. Mother and I went out calling together we got on splendidly till the snowstorm was let loose upon us and we got so wet that we had to come home. Father and Mother went to dinner with the Frank Coltmans and I to the W. Coltmans. Urith[22] and I went over to the other party in the evening found Miss Noble[23] and Mary Coleridge, Waterhouses and Mr Macnaghten besides the family and Sir John Clarke. Father and Mary Coleridge sat on a sofa and conversed in the most animated way.

‘I sat before my glass one day,
And conjured up a vision bare,
Unlike the aspects glad and gay,
That erst were found reflected there –
The vision of a woman, wild
With more than womanly despair.’

Extract from ‘The Other Side Of A Mirror’ by Mary Coleridge

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge who sat on the sofa with Antonia’s father was a British novelist and poet who also wrote essays and reviews. She wrote poetry under the pseudonym Anodos. The Poet Laureate of the time described her poems as ‘wondrously beautiful… but mystical rather and enigmatic’. When Charles Booths conversation with Mary took place she had recently published a popular novel called The King with Two Faces (1897), a historical romance based on the life of Sweden’s King Gustav III. The King with Two Faces opens with a scene involving four men waiting in a dark house to kill a courtier. Like Antonia Mary Coleridge felt a responsibility to support poor communities in London. Coleridge also taught grammar and literature to young women at a Working Women’s College, as part of her belief that it was her Christian duty to help the poor.[24]

Her family was a part of a very influential family. Her great-great uncle was the Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Mary’s father, Arthur Duke Coleridge was one of the prime movers behind the formation of the London Bach Choir in 1875 which Antonia became a member of. Arthur was a talented tenor and had considered a career as an opera singer. There was much of the performer in Arthur Coleridge, and in her collection of Mary Coleridge’s poems (1954), Theresa Whistler paints a vivid picture of the head of the Coleridge household. Arthur was, ‘a genial, magnificent figure with a face that would look well on a Roman coin, his shock of wavy grey hair poked forward over his open brow’. Mary’s mother, Mary Anne Jameson, was a member of the famous Jameson Whiskey family, and a cousin of Gugliemo Marconi.

‘The Coleridge family was impressively well connected and several evenings a week the door would be opened perhaps to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, or the artists, Holman Hunt and Sir John Everett Millais. Likewise, it may have been the actress, Fanny Kemble paying a visit, or the singer Jenny Lind, with her husband, the conductor, Otto Goldschmidt. In Mary’s collection of essays, Non Sequitur (1900), she describes her feelings when she first saw Robert Browning step through her front door: ‘I should like to think of another girl — as gay, as full of bold ambition and not so shy. I hope she will see the greatest man in the world come in, as I saw Robert Browning come through the door one evening, his hat under his arm’ (201).’[25]

I went to try on my dress Mrs Young’s, practise the rest of the morning. Went in the afternoon to see Avaline Ritchie who was out and on to the Newbolts[26] in their new house. Had a long talk with Mr N first and then with the delightful Margaret. Went to see Helen Holland[27] on the way home, she was in bed but very cheerful and happy about herself. Got a telegram from Tom to say that he was on his way to Paris.

‘What makes Henry Newbolt (1862-1938) especially notable in this context is that he was famously, gloriously, even flagrantly Victorian–more Victorian, certainly, than the queen. A totally respectable figure, Newbolt was a lawyer, a novelist, a playwright, and a magazine editor. Above all, he was a poet who sang the virtues of chivalry and sportsmanship combined in the service of the British Empire. As a 25-year-old lawyer, Henry fell in love with Margaret Duckworth, a woman of great charm who had many qualities associated with young men. She was a cousin of George Duckworth’s, Virginia Woolf’s half brother and a researcher for (Antonia’s father) Charles Booth in his study of the poor in London. She rode to hounds at a furious clip (much faster than Henry) and she was as interested in science as in music; she defied her hyper-religious mother by studying Darwinian biology….Margaret was already in love with someone else, her cousin, a beautiful young woman named  Laura Isabella ‘Ella’ Coltman (1863–1948) who was a good friend of Antonia’s before she married.  Margaret and Ella were both members of the Grecians, a club of women who studied Greek poetry, disdained the company of men, and privately gave each other male names drawn from the classics. Margaret announced she would marry Henry only if Ella became part of their intimate life together, and Henry agreed’

Sir Henry Newbolt No. 2, etching by William Strang (1898). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
29 Campden Hill Road, Holland Park, London, W8 7DX, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night —
Ten to make and the match to win —
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

Vitai Lampada by Henry Newbolt
(“They Pass On The Torch of Life”)

The way this ménage à trois has been reported in the press is typically jaundiced as Miriam Joyce has observed:

‘Either it has to be the man’s doing, with the women’s relationship ignored:

“Unknown to the world, he also entered into a triangular lifelong relationship with his wife and her best friend, Ella, carefully dividing his favours between the pair of them. The scandal never broke and the gentlemanly and chivalrous Newbolt soon became a sleek establishment figure, fussing over the de luxe binding of his latest book and insisting on wearing velvet knee-breeches and ruffles of the Nelson era when he received his knighthood.”
The Spectator,  Aug 23, 1997  by Andrew Barrow

Or the man has to be the victim of callous and unhousewifely lesbians:

“But not one in a hundred readers would guess the author of that explicitly erotic Viking Love Song, was also the upholder of Victorian values who maintained a bizarre ménage à trois with two forcible blue stockings who lived well into their eighties. They shared his London and country life, but not chores. Henry meekly mended his own socks and had little of Bloomsbury comforts.”
from Contemporary Review, Jan 1998, Molly Mortimer

Chuckle. Who knew that the distribution of sock-darning was a major complication of multiple-adult households?’[29]

To Southwark. Saw Miss Brownrigg and Polly and Florence. Carrie was not to be got at. I took Miss Goodwin a letter for the Waterloo hospital, she promised to take Florence there tomorrow.

Waterloo Hospital from Lambeth Council website

Turkey[30] to lunch. Mother and I went out together went to see Maisie Smith and paid other calls I went upstairs to see Mrs Ogle.

Went out on various businesses with mother. George came to lunch and we all went to see the last Phillips lecture[31]. He read his own poetry and woke up a good deal. Marpessa was very good.

This is a part of the Poem Marpessa by Stephen Philips:

Wounded with beauty in the summer night
Young Idas tossed upon his couch, and cried
“Marpessa, O Marpessa!” From the dark
The floating smell of flowers invisible,
The mystic yearning of the garden wet,
The moonless-passing night

Marpessa was given the choice between the god Apollo and the mortal Idas by Zeus and chose Idas.

Alice P., Turkey and George and I had tea together at the ABC and so home.

The Aerated Bread Company Ltd (A.B.C.) ran a large chain of tea rooms in Britain and other parts of the world, it was established in 1862 by John Dauglish as a bakery using a revolutionary new method he had developed, with the tea rooms starting in 1864.  Soon, tea rooms opened up all over, and a rival to the A.B.C. firm arrived as well: Joseph Lyons, opened his first tea shop on Piccadilly in 1894, and the first of his famous Corner Houses 15 years later. The tearooms provided one of the first public places where women could eat a meal, alone or with women friends, without a male escort. Women’s societies were housed directly above A.B.C. tea shops and there is some evidence that suffragettes met above the tea shops.

In the Virginia Woolf novel, Night and Day, Katherine Hilbery goes into an A.B.C. shop to write a letter to Ralph Denham.

“She would write him a letter and take it at once to his house. She bought paper and pencil at a bookstall, and entered an A.B.C. shop, where, by ordering a cup of coffee, she secured an empty table, and began at once to write…”

From Night and Day by Virginia Woolf

George Bernard Shaw’s diaries feature frequent references to having eaten and enjoyed such things as lots of fried or scrambled eggs, cheese (macaroni cheese being a perennial favourite), milk, cream, butter, chocolate, sweets, ginger beer, lemonade, unspecified soups, plus cakes and buns in an A.B.C café.[32]

ABC Menu from 1900

Please note fresh fruit and vegetables are not on offer. Preserved meats such as ham and tongue were very popular. Dense cakes are also a feature.

  BEEF RISSOLES (Cold Meat Cookery). – Chapter 13 – Beef INGREDIENTS The remains of cold roast beef; to each pound of meat allow 3/4 lb. of bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste, a few chopped savoury herbs, 1/2 a teaspoonful of minced lemon-peel, 1 or 2 eggs, according to the quantity of meat.
    Mode.–Mince the beef very fine, which should be rather lean, and mix with this bread crumbs, herbs, seasoning, and lemon-peel, in the above proportion, to each pound of meat. Make all into a thick paste with 1 or 2 eggs; divide into balls or cones and fry a rich brown. Garnish the dish with fried parsley, and send with them to table some good brown gravy in a tureen. Instead of garnishing with fried parsley, gravy may be poured in the dish, round the rissoles: in this case, it will not be necessary to send any in a tureen.
    Time.–From 5 to 10 minutes, according to size.
    Average cost, exclusive of the meat, 5d.
    Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, by Isabella Beeton, 1861 – Recipes

[1] Antonia Macnaghten née Booth was born on 3 February 1873. She was the daughter of Rt. Hon. Charles Booth and Mary Catherine Macaulay.1 She marred Rt.  hon. Sir Malcolm Martin Macnaghten. She had four children. She died on 18 January 1952 at the age of 78 leaving  53 diaries which are transcribed here.



[4] In 1904 Mrs Ward’s daughter Janet had married the historian G. M. Trevelyan who was a cousin of Antonia Booth’s.

[5] 25


[7] Virginia Woolf, review of Janet Penrose Trevelyan, The Life of Mrs Humphry Ward, The New Republic, January 9, 1924.


[9] The suffragettes’ unlikeliest enemy John Sutherland The Guardian 2013

[10] ‘Martha Beatrice Webb was a cousin of Mary Booth’s. She was an English sociologist, economist, socialist, labour historian and social reformer. It was Webb who coined the term collective bargaining. She was among the founders of the London School of Economics and played a crucial role in forming the Fabian Society’ wikipedia

[11] From Victorian Aspirations by Belinda Norman Butler.

[12] ’Beatrice Webb (1926) My Apprenticeship (London: Longmans, Green), pp. 354-5.

[13] From Three Guineas in The Complete Works of Virginia Woolf 

[14] Several of Malcolm’s sisters were keen supporters of the suffragettes including Ethel who was the honorary secretary of the Bushmills Suffrage Society in 1913.

[15] Eva MacNaghten was a cousin of Antonia’s future husband Malcolm Macnaghten. She was an activist who believed in non-violent resistance and political action. Born on 4th August 1864 in Ovingdean, Sussex, the daughter of the Hon. Elliot Macnaghten and his wife Jane Maria nee Vibart. Her father having served as a member of the Supreme Court in Calcutta as Vice President of the India Council, and as Chairman of the East India Company. Eva could have chosen a life of ease, but instead chose to campaign for two very important issues in her lifetime: firstly, women’s suffrage, and secondly, world peace. She distinguished herself firstly in the 1910s in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, for example speaking at Rotherfield and Tunbridge Wells in 1911, and again at Tunbridge Wells on 17 January 1913. These engagements were advertised in Common Cause, the newspaper of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. When the Women’s Suffrage Movement divided on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Eva was involved in forming the Women’s International League (now known as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom), which campaigned against the war. In May 1919 she attended the International Congress of the Women’s International League in Zurich to campaign for a more constructive, less punitive peace settlement after the First World War. Eva Macnaghten died in London on 27 January 1936, having seen all women in the United Kingdom enfranchised in 1928.

[16]Thomas was only seventeen years old when he succeeded his grandfather as 2nd Baron Monteaglein 1866. Educated at Cambridge, a colleague described this ‘very tall and slight’ soul as ‘a man of fine education, of stainless integrity and honour, brave but always gentle and conciliatory.’ These were characteristics shared by his only daughter Mary Ellen Spring-Rice who was born in 1880.

[17] Lucy Blanche Lyttelton; (1884 – 1977) was a British liberal politician, poet and diarist from the Lyttelton family. She married the Cabinet Minister, Charles Masterman.

[18] The Gadfly is a novel by Irish writer Ethel Voynich, published in 1897 set in 1840s Italy under the dominance of Austria, a time of tumultuous revolt and uprisings. The story centres on the life of Arthur Burton, as a member of the Youth movement, and his antagonist, Padre Montanelli. A thread of a tragic relationship between Arthur and his love, Gemma, simultaneously runs through the story. It is a story of faith, disillusionment, revolution, romance, and heroism.

[19] The Freshfields lived at 179 Airlie Gardens, Campden Hill Road.

[20] Charles Thackeray married Adeline Ritchie.

[21] Her husband was Henry Crompton.

[22] Mary Urith Coltman was the daughter of the barrister William Coltman and Bertha Elizabeth Shore Smith who was a cousin of Florence Nightingale’s. She married Mr Perrot in 1899.

[23] Miss Noble was a cousin on the Booth side.


[25] Abridged from:

[26] Newbolt lived at 14 Victoria Road in Kensington from 1889 to 1898.

[27] Florence Helen Holland, née Duckworth, Stella Duckworth’s cousin, in 1895 married Bernard H. Holland (1856–1926).

[28] Abridged from Globe and Mail, January 7, 1998.


[30] I think that Turkey is a pet name for either Alice or Ethel, the daughters of Lucy Clifford, née Lane (1855–1929), the prolific writer of novels, stories, and plays; she was the widow of William Kingdom Clifford (1845–79), mathematician and metaphysician, whose Lectures and Essays were edited by Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock in 1879. But I could be wrong!

[31] Stephen Phillips (28 July 1864 – 9 December 1915) was an English poet and dramatist, who enjoyed considerable popularity early in his career.


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