Feminists of Hastings|
EMMA ELIZABETH FRICKER HALL
Emma Elizabeth Fricker Hall was born in Mount Row, opposite Paragon, on the New Kent Road, Southwark, London, on 16th September 1840 and was baptised on 18th October that year at nearby Holy Trinity, Newington. Her father was William Henry Hall, her mother was Emma (possibly nee Fricker). Her grandfather was Henry Bonham Hall, which may explain the name of her future school. After 1851 no trace was found of her family in the census or other records.
At some point she moved to St Leonards, where she either founded or took over proprietorship of the Hastings amp&; St Leonards Collegiate School, Bonham House. A record of Miss Fricker Hall appears in 1874, the first year one of her pupils passed the Oxford Local Examinations. The school appeared in adverts, but Miss Hall’s name was absent from them until July 1875. The school was conducted ‘upon the principle of the North London Collegiate School’, founded by Miss Frances Buss in 1850. She had been a feminist pioneer in girls’ education, insisting that they receive the same opportunities as boys, and was listed by The Times as one of the ten greatest women of all time.
In adverts for the school between 1875 and 1884, among the patrons were Matilda Betham Edwards, Sir Thos Brassey, Lady Brassey, Dr Blackwell , Major Tubbs, Mrs Tubbs (of the school board) In 1884 Dr Blackwell gave out the school prizes.
In 1881 her mother Emma was living with her. She was 65 and her occupation was housekeeper, presumably employed by her daughter. Her 36-year-old married sister Clara Wade was also there, along with a governess called Fanny Ludlow and five boarders. In 1882 she tried to stand for election to the Hastings Board of Guardians but was struck off on a technicality. On Saturday 27th October 1883 Miss Fricker Hall held a meeting about women's suffrage at Bonham House. Almost all of those present were women. Miss Caroline Ashurst Biggs referred to the coming Reform Bill, in which they had very good hopes of women being given the vote. After the meeting a group of locals booked the Public Hall in Robertson Street for the evening of Tuesday, 30th October 1883, and engaging a number of speakers Miss Fricker Hall and J.G. Eiloart attended. The following edition of the HSLO devoted more space to women's suffrage than ever before: the report of the meeting filled two-and-three-quarter columns of broadsheet! At a meeting at Mr Cole's house at 59 Cambridge Road on 17th December 1883, the Hastings Branch of the National Society for Women's Suffrage was founded - or, rather, revived. Mr and Mrs Eiloart were among those present. Miss Fricker Hall was appointed honorary secretary.
From January to March 1884 monthly suffrage meetings were held at 32 Havelock Road. In late March a meeting was held by Miss Fricker Hall at Bonham House. Attendees included well-known woman such as Mrs Laura Ormiston Chant, the Countess de Noailles, Mrs Saul Solomon, Mrs Tubbs, the Eiloarts , author Olive Schreiner, and many others. Apologies were sent from Matilda Betham Edwards. Another meeting was held on 18th March at Bonham House, 'attended by a large and representative assembly' and among the guests were Caroline Ashurst Biggs and Dr Blackwell , who moved a resolution. The next meeting was held there eleven days later, and Mrs Ormiston Chant spoke to a 'fashionable audience' of over a hundred including the Countess de Noailles, Olive Schreiner, Mrs Saul Solomon, Mrs Tubbs 'and party', Mr, Mrs and Miss Eiloart. Mrs Tubbs referred to a man who had recently spoken at the local debating society. He stated that women should not have the vote because they were intellectually, morally and physically inferior to men. She suggested that there must be some men who did not reach the average level of women, and she wondered at what stage the speaker would withdraw the vote from such men!
In early 1885 Miss Fricker Hall exchanged some correspondence with the Prime Minister William Gladstone on the subject of women's suffrage. She copied this to the HSLO (and the Daily News), which printed it in their 31st May editions.
The HSLO of 7th June quoted from a 'fashionable journal' that opined that Miss Fricker Hall was 'doing considerable service to the cause' in Hastings, and that she had got the better of Gladstone in their recent correspondence. During the summer Miss Fricker Hall had a few letters published in the HSLO, explaining that that petitions for women's franchise were being sent to the House of Lords, and that the notion that women wanted the vote so that they could become MPs was 'a most mischievous one, constantly brought forward by our opponents, and calculated to do damage.' She emphatically denied the suggestion. In September 1884 the HSLO announced that the Hastings branch of the NSWS had published a pamphlet by Barbara Bodichon , 'a lady who is well known and esteemed by many old Hastingers' . The pamphlet was called 'Reasons for the Enfranchisement of Women' and could be bought at any bookseller for 3d.
In April 1885 Sir Thomas Brassey MP presented to Parliament a petition for women's suffrage. In August, Miss Fricker Hall wrote to him, asking him to support Mr Woodall's second reading of the Women's Suffrage Bill on 22nd August. His curt but curious reply was that he declined to state his opinion until after the General Election. The HSLO for 6th June 1885 reported that the Women's Suffrage Journal (founded 1870) had published a letter from certain ladies to the House of Peers, in support of women's suffrage, and that the signatories included local names such as Barbara Bodichon , Miss Fricker Hall, and Mrs Eiloart .
During 1885 there were various meetings around women's suffrage, held at Mr Nevill's house 30 Wellington Sq and at Bonham House. The eighteenth annual report of the NSWS revealed that, amongst the signatories to a letter addressed to the House of Lords in favour of women's suffrage were two from Hastings: Dr Elizabeth Blackwell and Miss Fricker Hall. The HSLO remarked that, 'contrary to the generally received opinion on women as letter writers', the letter was 'briefly sweet and almost masterful in its terseness and logical cogency.' The letter pointed out that women formed one-seventh of Britain's landed proprietors, that many women had means and position, others were engaged in professional, literary and artistic pursuits, that many were schoolmistresses, farmers, merchants, manufacturers, shopkeepers, and a large number were engaged in industry. It was injurious to the community, as well as to these individuals, to exclude 'so large a proportion of the property, industry and intelligence of the country from all representation'. Six hundred and thirty MPs supported women's suffrage; of whom 319 were Liberals and 200 Conservative. What is more, many had recently converted and perhaps many more would.
After 1889 Miss Fricker Hall isn’t mentioned in the local papers. In 1894 she appears in the paper running a similar school in Birchington, Kent. In 1900 she lived at Fairholme, Mill Road, Epsom. In the census of 1901 she was 55 and living in Epsom with Fanny Fairhurst Kent, aged 42, and was described as a 'late proprietor of a ladies school'. She is in the 1911 census, still living with Fanny Fairhurst Kent in Epsom; Fanny is an epileptic in the care of Miss Hall.
No record has been found of her death.