LADY HENRY SOMERSET 1851 – 1921
Lady Henry Somerset was born Isabella Caroline Somers-Cocks, the daughter of Charles Somers-Cocks and his wife Virginia. She married Lord Henry Somerset in 1872, however, the marriage ended disastrously and Lady Henry won custody of their only son – an act which was almost unheard of for a woman at the time. Her family owned several estates across England, including Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire.
She became the President of the British Women’s Temperance Association (B.W.T.A) in 1889 but was an advocate of moderation rather than abstinence. Lady Henry Somerset had a huge influence within the B.W.T.A. She arranged for a temperance exhibition at Eastnor Castle and another in Toxteth, Liverpool, which attracted over 50,000 people. By 1891 the number of B.W.T.A branches had risen to 263, and the annual income increased to £1,150 (over £133,000 in today’s money).
1902 ANNUAL COUNCIL BIRMINGHAM TOWN HALL PRESIDED OVER BY LADY HENRY SOMERSET
She was close friends with Frances Willard, a temperance reformer from America. Frances came to stay with Lady Henry Somerset to recuperate from an illness, and they even learned to ride bicycles together! Frances advocated many social issues including children’s welfare, women’s suffrage and prison reform, which Lady Henry Somerset also supported. However, this divided the B.W.T.A, many of whom just wanted to focus on temperance matters, and in 1893 the Organisation split into two. Some members formed their own Organisation, the Women’s Total Abstinence Union (W.T.A.U), while the B.W.T.A became the National British Women’s Temperance Association (N.B.W.T.A).
LADY HENRY SOMERSET AND FRANCES WILLARD LEARNING TO RIDE
In 1896 she established Duxhurst Farm Colony for Inebriate Women. The home was a type of rehabilitation for women from all social classes. The home was open as a rehabilitation centre for nearly twenty years, before being commandeered by the War Office during World War I. Learn more – click here
Lady Henry Somerset resigned as President of the N.B.W.T.A in 1903. She died in London in 1921 following a short illness but insisted on a simple service at her local church instead of a burial in the family vaults at Eastnor Castle.