By Clare Wichbold, MBE.
While there are several census returns where women protested in writing about the issue of Parliamentary suffrage, there are far fewer men who actively participated in this campaign of disobedience. One such individual was Kenneth Scott, who ran a nursery and market garden at Hurst, a village near Twyford in Berkshire, and with the willing cooperation of the women living at the property, provided a fascinating 1911 census return. This blog is not the first time the family has been identified as evaders/resisters of the census appearing in the gazetteer of Jill Liddington’s book Vanishing for the Vote.[i] However, I am delighted to be able to fill in some of the gaps about the people involved.
Kenneth Duke Scott was born in March 1883, the eleventh and youngest child of Louisa and Reverend Thomas Scott. He was the first vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Penge, one of the new London suburbs which had grown up in the mid-19th century. Thomas died suddenly in 1887 at the age of 53, leaving his wife homeless and virtually penniless; there was only £253 18s 6d for Louisa and the family in his personal estate.
She and three of the children, Ethel, Hilda, and Kenneth, later appear on the 1891 census living at Railway Avenue in Penge where she had taken in a lodger, a solicitor named George Herbert Davis. Ethel and George married on 22 December 1891, and both became deeply involved in the suffrage campaign. You can see more on George Davis (CLWS) and Ethel Davis (WSPU) on our suffrage map.
At the age of 15 Kenneth contracted polio while at St Edmunds School in Canterbury, and his slow recovery meant that he did not return to full time education but took various horticultural courses before being employed at a market garden in Malden, Essex. While studying horticulture Kenneth had met Alice Henderson, and they were eventually married in 1907.
By this time, he had moved to Berkshire and gone into partnership with his brother, Claude, where they were running their own market garden at Hurst. Claude subsequently left the business and found work as an insurance salesman.
Kenneth achieved a degree of notoriety in January 1910 when he confronted Chancellor David Lloyd George to press the cause of women’s suffrage at the end of a meeting in support of Rufus Isaacs, the Liberal MP for Reading. Two suffragettes had earlier infiltrated the meeting before being ejected after shouting at the Chancellor. Kenneth had a letter printed in the Reading Standard on 8 January 1910 in justification of his actions, which included grabbing the lapels of Lloyd George before being removed by the stewards. He also wrote about supporting women’s militancy in the suffrage campaign, before finishing with a flourish: ‘You can’t outwit a suffragette’.He joined the Men’s Union for Women’s Suffrage and is also found contributing 10s to the expenses of the WSPU ‘From Prison to Citizenship’ procession in June 1910. He regularly advertised in the Votes for Women newspaper, providing flowers ‘in the colours’ for meetings, and processions. Alice, too, can be found making financial contributions to the WSPU.
So, what does it say on the 1911 census form? There are five people recorded in Kenneth’s own hand: himself; Francis his son; his nephew Ronald, son of George and Ethel Davis (she evaded the 1911 Census together with two of their daughters); and his young nephew and niece, Philip and April. Across the form, also written by Kenneth, is an objection on behalf of the women living at the property: ‘All adult females omitted as a protest against the Government’s Veto of the Women’s Franchise Bill. WOMEN DON’T COUNT. K D Scott’. He also made the declaration on the bottom of the form above his signature, unreadable by writing over the top of it in ink.
The names of three women were added by the enumerator. It has been possible through further research to easily identify them: Mrs Scott (wife), who was of course Alice; Mrs Scott (visitor), Maria, their sister-in-law, mother to Philip and April and wife of Herbert Scott; and Mrs Scott (mother), Louisa, the widow of Reverend Scott.
Kenneth and Alice and their children Francis and Kenneth Jr subsequently emigrated to the United States of America in March 1913, having been involved in a slander case with two suffragists the previous autumn. Despite his victory in court, Kenneth’s reputation among those in the suffrage campaign was erroneously tarnished; he had also alienated a number of local businessmen with his forthright views in support of votes for women. The family did return home to the UK on several occasions but were absent for Louisa Scott’s funeral in early March 1932. She died at the age of 92 while staying with George and Ethel Davis at Northfleet. The youngest of the Scott’s nine children, Eric, had been born late in autumn 1931, probably precluding them travelling back to join the rest of the family. Kenneth died during a visit to the UK in 1950 and was buried in the family plot at St Margaret’s Church, Downham, Essex. Alice outlived Kenneth in California and died in 1959. Maria, their sister-in-law, has proved difficult to track down, but appears to have died in 1954.
During the anxious years of the First World War, Kenneth and Alice wrote a joint will for their ever-growing family. He added a codicil in March 1917 which includes the following quote, once again demonstrating his passion for fairness and equality: ‘My most intense wish is that you may see fit to live and die a rebel, against injustice and oppression, in whatever form you find it’.
We'd love to put Kenneth and the Scott family on the Suffrage Map where his business 'Hurst Nurseries' was in Twyford, Berkshire. Are you a local researcher or historian who can trace its former location? If so do let us know. We'd love to hear from you, thanks.
Tara - Mapping Women's Suffrage.
About the Author
Clare Wichbold has just finished working as a professional fundraiser in Herefordshire after 25 years, spending time at Herefordshire Council, Hereford Cathedral, and The Courtyard Centre for the Arts. A former archaeologist, she became interested in the women’s suffrage campaign as chairman of the Hereford Three Choirs Festival centenary celebration of votes for women in 2018. Inspired, Clare has since authored a book and is looking forward to further local research opportunities.
[i] J. Liddington, Vanishing for the Vote: Suffrage, Citizenship, and the Battle for the Census (Manchester University Press, 2014).
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are soley those of the author. Any views and opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of Mapping Women's Suffrage, and/or any/all contributors to this site.