Kate Fowler Tutt

Kate Fowler Tutt was born in Brighton in 1868 and trained as a teacher and campaigned for the improved health of her pupils and the underprivileged.

Kate Fowler Tutt was born in Brighton in 1868 and trained as a teacher and campaigned for the improved health of her pupils and the underprivileged. She was Head of South Malling Elementary School, Lewes and from 1913, was Headmistress of the Central Girls Senior School, Lewes. During the First World War, she set up a communal kitchen and during the Second World War helped provide for evacuee children as well as urging women to take a bigger role in world affairs.

Kate had previously condemned suffragette militancy and wrote to a newspaper proposing a House of Women that would be elected by women to ‘formulate reforms’. She then became increasingly convinced of women’s ability to vote and by 1913 was speaking at events with the WSPU and NUWSS and is thought to have been present at the release of WSPU suffragette Beatrice Sanders from Lewes prison. In the 1918 general election, she used public meetings to urge women to use their vote and to help govern their community. 

Kate was Lewes’s second, and for many years only, female councillor and from 1924 – 1935 she served on 20 committees overseeing education, health and new housing developments. She chaired the committees on housing and for the hospital for infectious diseases. She was described as ‘a real heavyweight’ who ‘broke down a lot of barriers for women’ as well as being a natural performer and spoke regularly at Women’s Institute meetings on subjects as diverse as ‘The Cultivation of Happiness’ and ‘The Beveridge Report’.

Kate was a prominent figure in Lewes during her lifetime and her name is still well known locally. From a modest background, she was driven by a belief in the value of education and a commitment to improving the welfare of women and children, especially the underprivileged. Her prominence meant that her outspokenness on suffrage and other issues was not without risk to her professional standing.  Nevertheless, she was not put off and had a long and active career as an opinion former, lecturing widely across the county on topical subjects. She also campaigned for refugees and the ideals of the League of Nations.

Highlighting Kate’s story opens the way for discussing lesser known suffragette figures with whom she worked such as local WPSU activist and nurse Greta Allen. The suffragettes are a particular inspiration to Lewes bonfire societies who dress in their colours, whereas a hundred years ago bonfire celebrations ridiculed their cause. There is currently no memorial in Lewes to Kate Fowler Tutt.

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