Eliza Elizabeth Thewlis (1860-1930) née Taylor

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Eliza Elizabeth Thewlis was a local suffragette and the mother of Dora Thewlis. Her daughter gained notoriety after a photograph of her arrest at a women's suffrage march in London in 1907 was printed on the front page of the Daily Mirror.


Eliza Elizabeth Taylor was born in Woodbridge, Suffolk, in 1860, the daughter of coal porter James Taylor and his wife Eliza (née King). She is believed to have had 9 brothers and sisters.

By 1880, the family had moved to Yorkshire where her father found employment as a coal stoker in the cotton mill at Meltham Mills. The Census of the following year lists her parents and four of her siblings residing at 49 Shady Row.

Eliza Elizabeth married Holmfirth weaver James Lindley Thewlis on 8 February 1880 at the Queen Street Wesleyan Methodist Church in Huddersfield. At the time, she was pregnant with their first child, Mary Eleanor. In total, the couple had 7 children:

  • Mary Eleanor Thewlis (1880-?)[1]
  • Amy Thewlis (1881-1964)[2]
  • James William Thewlis (1882-1955)[3]
  • Flora Thewlis (1884-1932)[4]
  • Evelyn Thewlis (1885-1962)[5]
  • Dora Thewlis (1890-1976)[6]
  • Mabel Thewlis (1897-1971)[7]

A further child is listed as their daughter in the 1901 Census, but it seems more likely that Muriel was the illegitimate child of one of the couple's daughters:[8]

  • Muriel Thewlis (c.1900-1903)[9]

The Census returns show that the family had to regularly move to find work and, for a period around 1890 to at least 1894, they lived at 42 Shady Row, where Dora was bor on 15 May 1890. As it was not always practical to move with all of their children, relatives appear to have sometimes helped with their upbringing.

In December 1894, James Lindley Thewlis of Shady Row received two nominations for election as a Honley Urban District Councillor.[10] He was unsuccessful and received the least number of votes of the six candidates.[11] Had he been successful, it seems highly like that he would have used his position to push for a boundary change to bring the whole of Meltham Mills into the township of Meltham — at that time, the portion containing Shady Row was within the boundary of Honley. In February 1895, the residents of Shady Row signed a petition which eventually led to the Boundary Commission extending the Meltham boundary in March 1896.[12]

Between the 1901 and 1911 Census returns, the family are known to have lived on Hawthorn Terrace. The former census also records Muriel Thewlis (1900-1903)[13] as their daughter, but it seems more possible she was the illegitimate child of one their eldest daughters.

According to many sources, the family were Socialists and members of the Independent Labour Party. Both Eliza and her daughter Dora became involved in the local suffragette movement, with Eliza later claiming that they "were the first Huddersfield people to assist Mrs. Pankhurst in the [1906] bye-election, and it was mainly through our efforts that, the Huddersfield branch of the Women's Social and Political Union was formed."[14]

On the evening of 5 March 1907, Eliza chaired a meeting held at the Friendly and Trades Club on Northumberland Street where support was urged for the upcoming second reading of Willoughby Dickinson's Bill on 8 March.[15] Following the failure of the Bill, the W.S.P.U. announced that they would march on the Houses of Parliament and ten women from Huddersfield agreed to take part, including 16-year-old Dora Thewlis.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 20 March, the march set off from Caxton Hall, led by Viscountess Haberton, but were unable to storm Parliament due to the large numbers of police. As the authorities sought to disperse the crowds, over 70 arrests were made, including Dora. As she was frogmarched away, a photographer from the Daily Mirror captured the moment in a now iconic picture.


Emigration to Australia

Her daughters Dora and Evelyn emigrated to Australia in 1912, arriving into Melbourne aboard the Van Linschoten on 9 October. Her son James William emigrated the following year with his wife and child, as did daughter Amy and her husband Thomas Woods.

Eliza, along with her husband and their daughter Mabel, departed from London on 5 March 1920 aboard the Demosthenes, arriving into Brisbane on 19 April.

In the summer of 1930, she returned to England with her husband aboard the turbine steamship Moreton Bay. At 7:08am, as the ship passed through the Red Sea towards the Suez Canal on 30 July 1930, Eliza Elizabeth Thewlis suffered a fatal heart attack. The cause of death was noted in the Register of Deceased Passengers as "myocardial degeneration, bronchitis and siriasis" and it remains uncertain where she was buried.[16]

Eliza Elizabeth Thewlis (1860-1930) - death.png

James Lindley Thewlis sailed back to Australia aboard the Hobson's Bay, which departed Southampton on 1 October 1930. He died in 1942 at Geelong, Victoria, Australia, aged 82.

Census Returns

year address details
1861 Brook Street, Woodbridge, Suffolk James Taylor (31) [coal porter], his wife Eliza (30), and their six children, including Eliza (5m).
1871 St. Johns Hill, Woodbridge, Suffolk James Taylor (42) [coal porter], his wife Eliza (41), and their ten children, including Eliza (10).
1881 Hillhouse Green, Cartworth, Holmfirth James L. (20) [weaver], his wife Eliza (20), and their daughter Mary Eleanor (11m).
1891 42 Shady Row, Honley James L. (30) [woollen weaver], his wife Eliza E. (30) [thread packer], and their children Mary E. (10) [thread doffer], Amy (9), James W. (8), Flora (6) and Evelyn (5).
1901 17 Queens Place, Ramsbottom, Lancashire Jas. Lindley (40) [cotton mixer?], his wife Eliza E. (40), and their daughters Mary E. (20) [cotton rover], Amy (19) [cotton intermediate tenter], Flora (16) [cotton slubber], Evelyn (15) [cotton spin doubler?], Dora (10), Mabel (3) and Muriel (11m).
1911 Manchester Road, Linthwaite James Lindley (50) [fancy worsted weaver], his wife Eliza (50), their daughter Mabel (13), their grandson Arthur Leslie Thewlis (7), and their nephew Harry Smith (27) [engineer].

Notes and References

  1. Born 14 April 1880 in Meltham and baptised 11 September 1881 at St. Bartholomew, Meltham.
  2. Born 10 April 1881 in Holmfirth and baptised 11 September 1881 at St. Bartholomew, Meltham. Married 23 May 1903 to Thomas Woods in Bury, Lancashire. Died 1964 in Australia.
  3. Born 22 July 1882 in Cartworth and baptised 25 December 1882 at St. David, Holmbridge. Married 18 April 1903 to Mary Hannah Chilvers in Milnrow, Lancashire. Died 1955 in Australia.
  4. Born 18 April 1884 in Holmfirth and baptised 3 January 1897 at St. Bartholomew, Meltham. Married Septimus Howarth in 1905. Died 1932 and buried on 8 April at Bradley.
  5. Born 28 October 1885 in Holmfirth and baptised 3 January 1897 at St. Bartholomew, Meltham. Married Fredrick Albert Kirtsen in 1915. Died 1962 in Australia.
  6. Born 15 May 1890 in Honley and baptised 20 June 1897 at St. Bartholomew, Meltham. Married 1918 to John Thomas Dow in Australia. Died 1976 in Australia.
  7. Born 9 April 1897 in Meltham and baptised 20 June 1897 at St. Bartholomew, Meltham. Married William Benjamin Lewis in 1920 in Australia. Died 18 July 1971 in Australia.
  8. The 1911 Census states that the couple had seven children in total, which suggests Muriel was not actually their daughter.
  9. Born in Slaithwaite. Died in Lancashire.
  10. Huddersfield Chronicle (07/Dec/1894).
  11. Huddersfield Chronicle (18/Dec/1894). The three elected for Honley West Ward were: George William Oldham (57 votes), John Hobson (49) and Henry Jillot (44). The unsuccessful candidates were: Henry Bassingdale (16), Wright Charlesworth (10) and James Lindley Thewlis (5).
  12. "West Riding Boundary Question" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (10/Mar/1896).
  13. Born 1900 in Slaithwaite. Died 1903 in Lancashire.
  14. "Dora Thewlis's Suffrage Trip" in Leeds Mercury (25/Mar/1907).
  15. Willoughby Dickinson, 1st Baron Dickinson
  16. There is no Britisth death register index entry for Eliza Elizabeth Thewlis, so it may be that either she was buried at sea or at an intermediate port (likely Port Said), or her body was returned to Australia.