Manx Family Links Emmeline Pankhurst to the Isle of Man

With the commemoration of women in Britain securing the vote dominating news coverage today, it’s also an opportunity to explore the lives of the women who fought for democracy, but a Manx link with the powerful Emmeline Pankhurst may hold the key to her personal vision for women’s suffrage.

Sophia Jane Craine, the mother of Emmeline Pankhurst, baptised in the parish of Lonan, was the daughter of William and Jane Craine and often referred to as ‘a bright, attractive, good-looking young woman’. During Sophia Jane’s early childhood the family lived in the Strand quarter of Lonan parish, her father a shoemaker.

Likely an only child, the Craine family moved to Tynwald House, 3 North Quay, Douglas, where they ran a lodging house and home-schooled their daughter.

Sophia Jane married an aspiring Manchester warehouseman and ardent Liberal, Robert Goulden, at Kirk Braddan in 1853 and relocated to her husband’s hometown; it’s assumed that they met when he lodged with her family. Sophia Jane’s mother moved to Christian Road, Douglas, before settling at Strathallan Crescent in the town.

Sophia Jane Goulden was kept busy bringing up a large family, for the most part at Seedley Cottage, Pendleton, Salford. Sylvia Pankhurst recalled, ‘…..grandmother, brought up on a Manx farm, was the typical old-fashioned bustling housewife, working amongst her maids, in a household producing its own butter and bread, jams and pickles……’

It was, however, her great-grandmother, Jane Quine, who was a farmer’s daughter from Jurby.

Her sister Christabel, remarked, ‘…..grandmother, born in the Isle of Man, gave mother her sea-blue eyes, her healthy, finely balanced constitution, her spirited courage, her portion of the enterprise that scatters Manx folk far in the world and gives them good success in their undertakings. The peaceful, open-air life was the best preparation for the exacting and energy-spending life in store for her……’

Sophia Jane was a passionate feminist, who gave her blessing to the work undertaken by her family, accompanying Emmeline to suffrage meetings in the early 1870s. But she was also quick to criticise her daughter.

In 1878 Emmeline’s parents bought 9 Strathallan Crescent, Douglas, formerly the home of John Morrison, her step-father, and used as a holiday home, where the Goulden family spent summers exploring lanes and glens, visiting their grandmother, (who plied them with soda cakes) and listening to Robbie Craine, a relative learned in Manx folklore and a well-known, local character.

Both of Emmeline’s parents died in Douglas, and are buried in Braddan Cemetery – Robert in 1892 and Sophia Jane in 1910, after a bout of double pneumonia.

But although enfranchisement of women, who fulfilled certain criteria, is generally accepted as being established on the Isle of Man in 1881, there is evidence that progress took place much earlier, when four women from Maughold and Lonan were amongst the voters of Garff in 1700.

(Images courtesy of Isle of Man Stamps & Coins and the Isle of Man Family History Society)

Valerie Caine

© February 2018

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)