Elizabeth’s Story


Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy was born in 1833 at a time when women had few rights.  She was deeply disappointed that she was not allowed an education when her elder brother was given an expensive private education.  This unfairness inspired her to a life of activism on many fronts and a burning desire to progress the education of women and girls.

She opened a girls school in Congleton in the early 1860s and lived here for 54 years, whilst fighting nationally and internationally for human rights and equality for all.  She was a major player in the suffragist movement and was instrumental in some women getting the vote in 1918 and universal suffrage in 1928.

Elizabeth was a socialist, atheist, republican who believed in equality for all, regardless of class, gender or social standing.  She is a beacon of humanity shining through the late 19th Century and deserves recognition for the work she did and the changes she brought about.

Elizabeth’s Group formed to right that wrong.


Political History

Elizabeth refused to marry as to marry would have robbed her of all her rights.  She lived openly with her partner Ben, at a time when to do so was not only frowned upon, but seen as scandalous behaviour. She was heavily condemned and criticised by her sisters in the suffragist movement and society in general.

Elizabeth was a passionate secularist and along with Ben, worked and campaigned on this issue for many years taking the full force of the ensuing condemnation.

The Elmys were also committed socialists and were committed to the socialist cause.  They  believed in equality for all, that both men and women needed to rise together and that all should have the same opportunities in life.

Elizabeth believed in equality for all and that no religion or law should seek to control a persons body; all human beings have the right to love who they want to love and have control over their own bodies.  In other words freedom and equality for all.

Wherever Elizabeth saw unfairness and cruelty she was shouting out and fighting the establishment of her day.  There was not an issue that passed the Elmys; they were also passionate anti-vivisectionists, the animal rights campaigners of their age and they promoted family planning and were vocal against marital rape and domestic violence.

Elizabeth was the voice for the voiceless of her day and remains a good example of humanity for all in our current age.


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