Stroud's Secret Suffragist
Jacqui Stearn

Please allow me to introduce myself.

I am Stroud’s Secret Suffragist, Mrs Margaret Hills, or Miss Maggie Robertson, or Mrs Harold Hills or even Margaret Hills née Robertson, depending on when we meet in my life.

To begin then. I was born in 1882. First there was my Mother, Agnes, and Father, Henry Robert Robertson. They already had two daughters by the time I was born in the Primrose Hill house. Three years later, Donald Struan arrived.

They were all famous apart from mother and me; father was a Royal Academy artist; Donald, my brother, a professor of Greek at Cambridge University; my oldest sister Agnes, a renowned botanist and also an author; and Janet, another artist like father.

We were a privileged family, but life was not all smooth; Mother hid herself away in her faith while Father was an atheist. Which made for difficult Sundays, let me tell you.

They also disagreed on girls’ education. Mother thought education should equip us girls only for marriage and child-rearing, but, thankfully, Father disagreed.

He was head of the family, and lucky for us believed in the education of girls. So I, and my sisters, attended the North London Collegiate School, a school established by Miss Buss who was in the vanguard of girls’ educational provision.

Girls’ education was uncommon when I went to school, but mine was an uncommon school, so I learnt Latin and mathematics, French and biology. We did sports too – I even learned to swim.

You will see the label on my spectacles. Of course you will. At school they asked us to label everything so I did – label everything. I was told to go and see the headmistress, Mrs Sophie Bryant. Surliness and insubordination they accused me of. I was just doing as I was told that was all – and pointing out the foolishness of inaccurate writing. Father couldn’t keep a straight face when he told me off.

Would you mind awfully my removing the label from my spectacles now?