Winifred Coombe Tennant
Winifred Coombe Tennant became a suffragist before the First World War.
Winifred Coombe Tennant became a suffragist before the First World War. She was a leading figure in the campaign for women's suffrage in South Wales and became president of Neath Women's Suffrage Society.
In 1914 when war broke out she was appointed deputy chairman of the Women's Agricultural Committee for Glamorgan. She became chair of the local War Pensions Commission and also served as director of national service for Wales.
Winifred was at pains to stress that women claimed the vote as of right and not as a reward for their war work, although she acknowledged the role the war had played in changing attitudes to women's enfranchisement. She was a leading campaigner for Lloyd George's Coalition Liberals at the general election of 1918 and became the first woman to serve as a magistrate in Glamorgan. She was a member of the executive of the Welsh National Liberal Council and of the Committee for Self Government for Wales. In 1922 she was nominated by David Lloyd George to be a representative at the League of Nations, becoming the first British woman to do so. She was the National Liberal candidate for the Forest of Dean constituency in the 1922 general election, but was unsuccessful.
Winifred had a deep love for Wales and its cultural life and took great interest in politics and social reform, both local and national. Firmly Liberal in inclination, she disliked authoritarianism in politics and expressed anti-monarchist sentiments on occasion. Her administrative work was extensive and she took an active interest in Tennant family estate business at a time when such a role was uncommon for a woman.
In a locality that produced several well-known independent and strong-minded women, Winifred stands out as a woman who achieved great political influence in the era following the First World War. She was born and married into the privileged upper middle class in the late Victorian era and that allowed her the freedom to pursue her interests. By all accounts a complex and charismatic character, Winifred exemplified the social confidence and liberal morality that helped to overturn the commonly held submissive and restrictive concept of a woman's role at that time.
Winifred was well known locally during her lifetime and interest increased after her death when she was identified as the spiritualist author 'Mrs Willett'. Recent publication of her diaries, edited by Peter Lord and held in the National Library of Wales, has reignited interest in this enigmatic and charismatic woman.