womens suffrage

Elsie Bowerman

Elsie Edith Bowerman was a suffragette, RMS Titanic survivor and the first woman barrister at the Old Bailey.

Bowerman was born in 1889, when she was 11 years old she became the youngest girl to attend the prestigious Church of England girls’ boarding school Wycombe Abbey. In 1907, she travelled to Paris before continuing her education at Cambridge where she read Medieval and Modern Languages at Girton College.

In 1910. Bowerman and her mother became involved with the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and set up a branch of the organisation in Girton. Bowerman invited speakers including Margery Corbett-Ashby and Constance Lytton to speak at the college.

In November that year, Bowerman participated in the ‘Black Friday’, demonstration, where she sustained injuries by the police. A year later, she moved to St. Leonards where she once against established a branch of the WSPU.

In 1912, Bowerman boarded the Titanic. She and her mother survived by benefiting from both being first class passengers, and the “women and children first” rule.

On her return to the U.K, she continued to fight for women’s suffrage until the onset of WWI. During the war, Bowerman travelled to Russia as an orderly with the Scottish women’s hospital unit. In 1917 Bowerman became a member of the The Women’s Party and after the Representation of the People Act in 1918 she supported Christabel Pankhurst in her unsuccessful campaign for election as a representative of the party in The Women’s Party in Smethwick.

Bowerman then turned her attention to the law, becoming the first woman barrister at the Old Bailey. She practised law until the start of WWII when she joined first the Women’s Voluntary Services, followed by the Overseas Services of the BBC. She later travelled to the United States where she helped to established the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

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