Audio guide to statue of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy in Congleton
Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy (1833-1918)
‘Though she be but little, she is fierce’ Shakespeare
Artist: Hazel Reeves MRSS SWA FRSA
Unveiled: 8th March 2022 by The Rt Hon. the Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE
Elizabeth lived in Congleton and was one of the most important national figures in the Women’s Rights Movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Elizabeth led the campaigns for girls’ education, for women to have rights within marriage, including owning property and having custody of their children, and women’s right to vote. Emmeline Pankhurst called Elizabeth ‘the brains behind the women’s suffrage movement’.
Elizabeth moved to Congleton from Manchester in 1867 and married a local mill owner, Ben Elmy. There is a blue plaque on their house in Buglawton. Elizabeth founded a girls’ school in Moody Street. Elizabeth was a leader in many national campaigns for women’s rights, including:
The Right to Vote: Elizabeth was a founding member of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage and the Women’s Emancipation Union, and campaigned all her life for this right, granted to some women just before her death in 1918.
Equal Education: Elizabeth founded the Manchester Schoolmistresses’ Association and campaigned for equal education for girls. In 1866 she addressed the Taunton Commission in Parliament, which ultimately led to the 1870 Education Act, giving all children the right to free schooling.
Rights within Marriage: Elizabeth campaigned against domestic violence and led the committee that worked to achieve the Married Women’s Property Act 1882.
Custody of their Children: Elizabeth worked for the group campaigning for women to have this right, eventually granted by the Guardianship of Infants Act 1886.
Equality in the Law: As the first paid employee of the women’s movement from 1871, Elizabeth was known as the ‘Scourge of The Commons’ and the ‘Parliamentary Watchdog’ for her effective scrutiny of laws to see if they were harmful to women.
This statue was funded by public donation and given to Congleton by Elizabeth’s Group, a team of local women, to commemorate the vital work and historical importance of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy.
With thanks to: The Denise Coates Foundation, The Inclosure Trust, The Heritage Lottery Fund, Doctor Maureen Wright, Kanga Health, Congleton Partnership, Graham, Co-op Community Fund, Susan & Peter Munro, The Margaret Williamson Fund, Kay & Michael Wesley, Heather Seddon, David Seddon and In memory of Joan Seddon, Lynn Purcell, Redrow Homes, Tesco, Aurelius Trust, Congleton Town Trust, Heather Watson, Elizabeth Bolding, Jude Howell, Margaret Horner, Diane Gratton, Hammond McNulty, Berisfords Ribbons, Greenfinch Naturals, Tom Withers Architecture, Willis Bros., Congleton Museum, Congleton Town Council and Cheshire East Council.
In loving memory of our Trustee Ethel Ranson.
Elizabeth’s Group would like to thank all the people and businesses who have generously contributed to help create Our Elizabeth.
Audio Description read by Jill Young.