Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015 - C for Annie Elizabeth Clark

Annie Clark was born in 1844, fifth of the twelve children of James and Eleanor Clark of Street, Somerset. Annie's father was one of the founders of the firm C & J Clark and it was his idea to make slippers out of the offcuts left from the sheepskin rugs which were the original goods made by the firm. These proved so popular that the business switched to producing them and later other types of shoe.
The Clark family dressed in 'free-labour' cotton in 1858. James and Eleanor (1st and 3rd from left), Annie (8th from left).

Annie was educated privately at a girl's school in Bath and then lived at home, taking her full share in the work and duties necessary to her large family circle. Her mother was active in good causes, supporting the Abolition movement by selling and dressing her family in 'free-labour' cotton, produced by freed slaves. Annie did social service among the girls employed in the family factory, worked for the Bible Society and espoused the cause of temperance. From the mid 1860s she was an ardent supporter of Womens Suffrage, although in common with most Quaker women of her time she was a suffragist rather than a suffragette, seeking to advance the cause through argument rather than through confrontation.

It was not until Annie was in her late twenties that she began to study for a university entrance examination with a view to taking up a medical career. At that time no hospital or medical school in England would admit women as students. There was however an open door in Scotland at Edinburgh and Annie Clark was one of the small band of women students who entered. Their only possible route to qualification was by way of the licentiate examination of the Society of Apothecaries.

Sophia Jex-Blake
Suddenly, in 1874, the hospital authorities changed their policy, deciding that women should no longer be permitted to share in the teaching, and at the end of that year they were obliged to leave. Sophia Jex-Blake, who had been a pioneer at Edinburgh in 1869, organised the Women's School of Medicine in London and Annie Clark went there. It was, however, still impossible for a woman to obtain a medical degree from any British university, so Annie was compelled to turn to Europe and to pursue her studies in a foreign language. She selected the University of Berne, which was German speaking, and after a two-year course she took her MD in 1877.

It was still impossible for her to practice in the British Isles but just then Dublin adopted a more liberal view and she and twelve other women took the membership examination of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. Annie then spent some time in postgraduate work in Paris, Vienna and America before returning to England in 1878 to take up an appointment as house surgeon at the Birmingham and Midland Hospital for Women which had just moved to extended premises in Yardley. She remained associated with this hospital and with the Children's Hospital for the rest of her working life. She also built up a large private practice, gaining to a special degree the friendship and regard of  a wide circle of patients, to whom she was affectionately known as 'Dr Annie'.

Hilda Clark
The causes she had worked for when she was young remained important to her throughout her life. Annie Clark was convinced that the scientific truth about alcohol showed that its use as a drug was harmful. She recognised it as a depressant which lessened the chance of recovery in dangerous illness and so, in defiance of much criticism, she refused to order alcoholic treatment, a pioneering stance at the time. She also continued to support the suffragist movement in different ways and encouraged younger women, including Hilda Clark, her niece, and Maida Sturge, her cousin, to follow her into the medical profession.


Quakerism was always an important part of Annie's life. She was described as 'an earnest Friend, laying stress on the value of regular attendance at meetings for worship and discipline. Except in cases of urgent necessity she never saw her patients until the hour of worship was over'.

Maida Sturge
Annie Clark was nearly seventy years old when she retired in 1913. For many years travelling was one of her greatest pleasures and she made frequent journeys to Switzerland and the Tyrol. In 1920 her cousin Maida Sturge had set up a Birmingham Children's Home in the healthy air of the Tyrol and it is possible that Annie Clark took as much of an interest in that as she did in the rarer alpine flowers that were always an absorbing delight to her. She died in 1924 in her eightieth year.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015 - B for William Charles Braithwaite

W.C. Braithwaite
William Charles Braithwaite was born in Camden, London on 23 December 1862, eighth of the nine children of Joseph Bevan Braithwaite and Martha Gillett. He was a pretty child, 'very fair, with a captivating smile, his golden hair arranged in one long curl on the top of his head', and was doted on by his older sisters. He showed an early love of books and learned to read when he was three.

William was brought up in a close, contented Quaker family but had little contact with others of his own age. Both his parents travelled in the ministry and were often away from home, but their absences were accepted as normal. William grew particularly close to his father with whom he shared a love of study.

William was educated at home until he was eleven when he was sent away to Quaker schools, first in Weston-super-Mare and then in Scarboroough. Leaving school at seventeen, William went to University College London, graduating in 1881. He was active in sport but also in the Bunhill Adult School and the Friends Christian Fellowship Union.

J.B. Braithwate, William's father
William next turned his attention to the law, studying mostly at home or in his father's chambers. After qualifying in 1887 William lived at home and worked for ten years with his father in his conveyancing practice at Lincoln's Inn, a happy arrangement for them both. William explored London, studied, wrote poetry and did peace work with his uncle and neighbour, George Gillett.

His friend George Newman, who met him at this time, says he was 'a reserved, imperturbable man, of quiet but exceptional power...He never failed you. He was circumspect, seeing all sides and sympathizing with many...possessing a delightful sense of humour and a well-developed faculty of imagination.'

William's life changed in 1896 when he became engaged to Janet Morland and accepted the offer of a partnership in Gillett's Bank in Banbury, Oxfordshire. He had to give up the legal profession and move away from home, but banking gave him a more settled income and more leisure for study and for his work with the Society of Friends.

Banbury Quaker Meeting House in 1910s
He settled happily in Banbury with Janet and the couple had four children, three boys and a girl. There was a shift in attitude towards family life from one generation to another. William's father had encouraged his children to join him in his study, but had expected them to do so in absolute quiet. In contrast it was a source of wonder to William's friends how he could calmly collate an ancient manuscript or prepare an Adult School lesson while his small children played around the room, asking questions and demanding his help in their games.

As well as his other interests William became involved in public life in Banbury. He was a magistrate from 1906 until his death and chairman of the Education Committee for many years. He was also very involved with the local Quaker school, Sibford.

John Wilhelm Rowntree
William was much influenced by his friendship with John Wilhelm Rowntree who he had met at Yearly Meeting 1893. They shared a belief in the need for education for Friends and for strengthening the Society and developing its ministry. One of John Wilhelm's projects was the writing of a standard history of Quakerism and he had begun collecting thousands of books and pamphlets for the necessary research when he died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1905. William took up the project and worked on it in his leisure time for the next fourteen years. He sometimes became so absorbed in the work 'that he seemed to be living in the seventeenth century, far removed from the events that were passing around him.' The Beginnings of Quakerism and The Second Period of Quakerism were completed in 1919 and have not yet been surpassed.

At the beginning of 1922 several of William's long-term projects were nearing completion. The histories had been finished eighteen months earlier, the new Yearly Meeting Book of Discipline, which William was much concerned with compiling, had been agreed and Gilletts Bank had been amalgamated with Barclays after negotiations in which William had taken a major role.

In the last week of January William ministered at Banbury Meeting, took a leading part in a conference on Ministry in Oxford, began a series of Adult School evening talks and worked in the bank. On Friday he felt unwell but went to London by the early train to attend an educational meeting. He became much worse and only just managed to get to Paddington and onto the train home. He arrived in Banbury in a state of collapse, sank into a diabetic coma and died the next day, 28 January 1922, aged fifty nine.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2015 - A for Alphabet Again

As I have found the discipline of following the alphabet through the year helpful I have decided to continue with it into 2015.

I'm intending to post alphabetically at the same rate as in 2014, once every two weeks or as near to that as I can manage. I want to continue my Quaker biographical posts, introducing some less well known Friends, but I will throw in some other alphabetic posts as before.

If I have other things to say I will slip them into my blog without the Quaker Alphabet heading.

I shall continue to put up links to my own and others' posts on the Facebook page for Quaker Alphabet Blog 2014 and beyond but I am also intending to use Twitter [@gilskidmore] more to spread the word.

I hope, dear reader, that you will find something to interest and engage you here in the coming year and I hope that you will tell me what you think.