The meeting welcomed the Rev Ben Reece who came to talk about Women of Liverpool. He introduced his talk by telling us that there is a window in the Anglican Cathedral which depicts all the famous women in history. There’s Kitty Wilkinson as well as Elizabeth Fry and John Wesley’s wife who had 19 children!
Kitty Wilkinson born in 1786 came to Liverpool from Londonderry, Ireland when she was 9 years old. Her Father was an English soldier and the family lived in a basement in Dennison Street near to the Northern Hospital. There was Kitty, her Mum and one brother, her other brother had drown just off the Wirral coast as the ship coming to Liverpool experienced an accident. Kitty was taken around Liverpool by Elizabeth Lightbody who took an interest in her. She gave Kitty a hymn book as a present. As well as working in the Lancashire cotton mill Kitty was also left a mangle in the will of a lady whom she had looked after. Kitty used the mangle and would take in washing using lime and this helped when in 1832 there was a Cholera epidemic. Kitty married a French sailor (John De mont) who she met whilst working on the docks and they had 2 children. Kitty’s husband died after 3 years as he drowned. Kitty worked for the Rathbone family and a book was written about her. She became the Supervisor of the Washhouse and Public Baths in Frederick Street in 1742. She later married John Wilkinson who worked for the Rathbone family and that is how they met. In 1846 Kitty was presented with a silver plate at Carnatic Hall by Queen Victoria. When John Wilkinson died Kitty resigned from the Washhouse and lived for some years before she also died.
We heard that a Mary Robinson and Agnes Jones were employed by the Rathbones and how they helped at the Workhouse on Brownlow Hill (District nursing was then formed). They had both trained with Florence Nightingale at St Thomas Hospital in London and then they came to Liverpool. Nursing was looked on as a bad profession in those days because nurses drank gin and got tipsy. Agnes Jones took control and eventually got rid of the bad nurses. She died aged 35 years in 1868.
Josephine Butler came to Liverpool to help at the Workhouse in 1865 and she was married to a clergyman. Josephine worked part time in the Workhouse as she was teaching at Shaw Street School. She was a very passionate woman who was instrumental in the Contagious Diseases Act being passed which stopped women being taken off the streets and searched at Police stations. Josephine visited Crewe and managed to get the support of the railway men and was victorious when Gladstone came to power. She was a great suffragette.
The Rev Reece ended his talk by saying that the greatest woman was Bessie Braddock who was a very forward thinking person. She was a great fighter and demanded results and would not stop until she had answers. He said that we could do with more Bessie Braddock’s in parliament today.