F. CECILIA TUBBS
(Fanny) Cecilia Tubbs was a feminist in Victorian and Edwardian Hastings.
Born Fanny Minet in Rome in 1831, in 1861 she married Colonel Tubbs of the Royal Artillery. They settled in St Leonards in 1863, making their home at Capel-ne-Ferne, on the corner of Albany Road and Pevensey Road. The Colonel died in 1891.
Though Mrs. Tubbs' interests were vast, they centred on the needs and rights of women and children. She was on many committees including the Central Aid Council, nurses' institutions, hospitals and the university extensions association. She was especially keen on university education for women and watched their admission to Cambridge with great delight.
She was deeply against the "White Slave Trade" - trafficking young girls for prostitution - and while abroad she followed up the misdoings of a man involved with this, with the result that he received two years' imprisonment.
In the 1870s Mrs. Tubbs headed a group of Hastings women philanthropists who founded a club at 55 Cambridge Road for women shop workers, based on YWCA principles. She gave educational lectures at the club and took part in the musical entertainments.
She was the first woman elected to the Hastings school board in 1880. After fighting much prejudice and hostility, she was returned with the largest number of votes. Another of her great passions was poor law work and, along with Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and other progressive women in Hastings, she succeeded in getting the first woman elected to the Hastings Board of Guardians, despite enormous opposition.
About 1890 Mrs. Tubbs and her friends organised an exhibition on women's work, held at the Royal Concert Hall. This drew large crowds. She brought 'sweated' women workers from London to remind people graphically of the terrible working conditions of the poor. These 'living exhibits' were well-lodged and very well-fed by the organisers before having to return to their life of drudgery.
Mrs. Tubbs helped found the Hastings branch of the NSPCC in 1894, when the society faced great prejudice and ridicule. Hastings did not have an inspector so members of the committee themselves investigated complaints and secured evidence to bring before magistrates. Mrs. Tubbs volunteered to act as "watch dog" and once spent many hours concealed in a house in the neighbourhood in order to give first-hand evidence of alleged cruelty to a little child.
She threw her heart into every good cause, even if it attracted controversy. If she honestly believed something to be right, she campaigned for it. Among the controversial issues she supported were anti-vivisectionism and women's suffrage (votes). Mrs. Tubbs gave the prizes at the Hastings & St Leonards Collegiate School, run by feminist Anne Fricker Hall, secretary of the Hastings Branch of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), of which Cecilia was a staunch member. Although a non-militant, Cecilia never denounced the militants.
In 1914 she and fellow suffragists abandoned their campaign for the vote in order to help many Belgian and other refugees who flocked to Hastings. The Suffrage Club became a refugee relief bureau.
When Mrs. Tubbs died in 1922, aged 90, her close friend and fellow suffragist Jane Strickland said:
"The passing of our friend means more to the town than many of its younger citizens can realise ... from the first moment of her residence here, Mrs. Tubbs placed herself, her time, her talents, and in a great measure her wealth, at the disposal of her fellow citizens... She was ever-ready to infuse her knowledge of good things into others and exhaust the stores of her intellect that others might be enriched."
Mrs. Tubbs was cremated and her ashes were laid to rest at the Borough Cemetery.
Copyright 2020 Helena Wojtczak