Back to my theme of forgotten suffragists. In the foyer of Manchester Central Library is a bronze plaque to
Rosa Leo Grindon, 1848-1923 A tribute to a devoted citizen
Rosa Leo Grindon? Who she? Even Google was vague though it rustled up the plaque designer, John Cassidy.
Ancestry reveals the bare bones of Derbyshire-born Rosa née Elverson. Her father was a labourer in 1851; by 1861 he had risen to grocer/draper – i.e. in much maligned ‘trade.’ Somehow, somewhere between 1891, (when she is a ‘lady housekeeper’ to a Lichfield brewer) and the September quarter of 1893, she meets and marries 75 year old widower, Leopold Grindon, her senior by 29 years. They are living together in the 1901 census. He died in 1904 and in the 1911 census Rosa is ‘lecturer and suffragette’. Yes!
I’m always reiterating not everything is on the internet… finding more about Rosa required a trip to Manchester Central Library to view correspondence collected by Mr Cummings Walters, editor of Manchester City News. Bingo! Rosa LLA, FRMS, was Chairman, Honorary Secretary for Prizes and Assistant Treasurer of the Manchester Shakespeare Tercentenary Association, an organisation which she founded. Also included were her letters re; new-found interest, spiritualism. Further evidence of this was provided by a newspaper clipping for a meeting held by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes’ fame. Winding through microfilm of City News I found her obituary including photographs (P6, 12 May 1923). Superwoman Rosa had attended Cheltenham College sitting her examinations (remember, many universities didn’t permit women to matriculate) at St Andrews University in ‘English literature, Anglo Saxon, botany and geology, a first class in physiology and a second class in economics’. As a girl, she’d been ‘a fearless rider to hounds’ (fox hunting). She’d visited ‘America as a suffragist’ but ‘was not aggressive in the women’s movement’. This intrigues me. Why had she classed herself in 1911 as suffragette not the less militant ‘suffragist?’ We may never know.
Manchester Town Hall is currently closed for renovation until at least 2024. The statues, plaques, memorials etc have been moved for safekeeping. Is our Rosa’s plaque one of these? If so, she has risen from the obscure…. Good on you!