Catherine Elizabeth Marshall

Catherine Marshall was a member of NUWSS (1909-1918) and a founder of the Keswick Women's Suffrage Association (1908 -1918).

Catherine Marshall was a member of NUWSS (1909-1918) and a founder of the Keswick Women's Suffrage Association (1908 -1918). She was a member of the No Conscription Fellowship (1914-1921) and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (1915-1941).

Catharine spent most of her childhood in Harrow where her father was a mathematics master at Harrow Boys School. She attended St Leonard’s School, St Andrew’s, Scotland but did not go to university possibly due to concerns over her health. In 1905, her father retired and the family moved to Hawse End in the Lake District.

In 1911 she was appointed Parliamentary Secretary, and worked hard to persuade senior figures in the Liberal Party to favour legislation on women's suffrage. In April 1912, the NUWSS announced that it intended to support Labour Party candidates in parliamentary by-elections. They established an Election Fighting Fund (EFF) to support the candidates and Catherine was made Honorary Secretary of the Committee.

As Parliamentary Secretary, Catherine told cabinet minister John Simon: "[after] I left school I started working for the Liberal Party almost as hard as I am working for women's suffrage now. It has been the greatest disillusionment… to find how little these principles really count with the majority of Liberal men”.

Catherine Marshall kept a tremendous archive full of letters, photographs, reports and suffrage literature that documents her pioneering work during the heroic struggle for women’s rights. This archive is now kept at the Cumbria Archive Centre in Carlisle.

Her vital contribution to the suffragist movement has not been fully recognised. In part the First World War brought a schism between Suffragists who were committed to using constitutional means and wanted to build on their work to campaign for peace and those who wanted to support the war effort. Catherine’s contribution is under-represented in the archives of the NUWSS.

In commemorating the contribution of Catherine Marshall we have an opportunity to acknowledge the role of NUWSS in the campaign for Women’s votes. Suffragists like her largely accomplished a one-by-one conversion of the public and of those in power such as MPs and party leaders through a peaceful and law-abiding approach.

Catherine’s impressive achievements had largely been forgotten by the time of her death in 1961. We hope that national recognition will put the contribution of this remarkable Cumbrian lady back into the public-eye once again.


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