Saturday 9 January 2010

Random statue 2: Lady Henry Somerset

According to its plaque, this statue of a young girl was
From children of
the Loyal Temperance Legion
in memory of work done for the temperance cause by

Lady Henry Somerset

The President,
National British Women's Temperance Association,
incorporated June 1896

'I was thirsty and ye gave me drink'
Lady Somerset was born into the aristocracy and at the age of 22, married Lord Somerset. The marriage was unhappy and they legally separated. Although the failure of her marriage meant that she lost social position, it also enabled her to live an independent life financially supported by her extensive properties.

She became a Methodist and devoted herself to philanthropy. Much of Lady Somerset's work was initially done among her own tenants in London. Following her father's death she also took over responsibility for his tenants in the village of Ledbury. Her work in improving living conditions convinced her that liquor was at the root of many social problems, and she not only took the pledge herself but also became active in the temperance movement. In 1890, she was elected President of the British Temperance Movement.

For some years she worked and often lived with Frances Willard, a leading figure in the American temperance movement: they met at a US temperance convention in 1891. However, Frances's health was not good and she died in 1898.

Thereafter, much of Lady Somerset's time was devoted to the Duxhurst Colony for Inebriate Women. This establishment accommodated around 40 women in village-like surroundings, and aimed to rehabilitate them. There was also a building housing dependent children of the women. (Many of the women chose to move to the colony as an alternative to a prison sentence.) Not long after her death in 1921, however, it became a home for poor gentlewomen and in 1936 was sold. None of the buildings now survive.

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