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Discrete CollectionsThe Women's Library
TitleJohnson, Mrs Marion
Ref No8SUF/B/041
Box Fetch NoBox 1: Disc 10
Date12 Apr 1975
Extent72:00 mins
Admin Biographical HistorySee biography for Marion Johnson
DescriptionInterview took place at The Fold, Highfield Lane, Nawton, York. Interviewee is daughter of Alice Schofield-Coates (1881-1975); and of Charles Coates (d.1939); niece of Marion Coates-Hanson (b.1870). Also see interviews with her mother [8SUF/B/042] and sister Alice Richards [8SUF/B/142] and 8SUF/B/153.

Interview summary:
0:00 mins:
Mother [Alice Schofield- Coates] had watched 'Shoulder to Shoulder'; criticisms of its omission of Women's Freedom League (WFL). Mother born near Manchester; her early life and employment as a teacher. Father [Charles Coates] aged 48 when they married; he was then a wealthy coal exporter and keen Labour supporter. Mother had come to Middlesbrough area as a WFL organiser; he rescued her in Guisborough, and they married in 1910. In 1924 through speculation, father lost all his money. Mother left penniless. Father (whose family had been Quakers) was a self-made man, and always retained his socialist principles; his links with Joseph Fels, social reformer.

15:00 mins:
Mother was a WFL organiser for about 4 years. Imprisoned aged 28, married aged 29. They then lived in Middlesbrough. She had office in Arcade, below which she ran a vegetarian restaurant. Local WFL branch sustained to c.1948. Restaurant unprofitable and father always subsidised it till c.1923. Parents always part of local suffrage-progressive movement locally. As a child, there were always servants; till aged about 12 when everything was lost. For mother, housework was always for someone else. Mother travelled to London regularly for WFL. The Minerva Club, run by Marian Reeves; as student, Marion Johnson had rooms there. Anna Munro. When he lost his money, father felt he had let her mother down. Briefly ran a boarding house in Middlesbrough. Children were afraid of mother. Mother got things done, for example, as a councillor, equal pay for women teachers locally. Retired from public life 1958, her only son died 1959.

30:00 mins:
Her sister Alice [Alice Richards] felt her siblings were favoured educationally. Father died 1939. Her brothers' and sisters' children.
Children's private education before and after father lost his money. Social ostracism for bankruptcy. She briefly became a National Union of Women Teachers (NUWT) organiser; then took in a paying guest in their later house, Agecroft. Aunt Marion [Marion Coates-Hansen] employed him as a commercial traveller. Mother indirectly critical of him; 18 years' difference in their ages. In Victorian household, the children lived upstairs in nursery. Mother could look cold; an impressive-looking woman.

45:00 mins:
Mrs Despard stayed at Wilstrop House. Minerva Club run-down; Marion Johnson resisted living there. Meetings held there, her mother's contemporaries there; Marion's slight resentment against her parents' contemporaries.
Marion Coates-Hanson and mother disliked each other; kept their distance. She was also a councillor, could make enemies, and patronised her husband. Lilian Lenton often stayed; appointed WFL northern organiser. A militant, she was wanted on the outbreak of the First World War; worked for Swedish Embassy during the war. Lenton's other odd jobs. Eccentric, outspoken and brave. Started off as a professional dancer.

60:00 mins:
Last saw Lenton 10-12 years ago; living on next to nothing; qualified for state pension. Compulsive talker and read romantic novels. Parents entertained, but children rarely called down, and this caused awe of my mother. She would retire to morning room after breakfast to write letters, and children did not see her.
Family ate meals together later, at Agecroft house.
Related Record8SUF/B/042
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsInterview recordings are available online and can be accessed at the link provided in this record.
Former Reference NumberTape 12
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