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Beulah Kezia Eagleton

Beulah Kezia Eagleton was born in Coventry on 11 July 1815. Her father was Rev John Eagleton and her mother Elizabeth Montford, was daughter of a brass founder who’d married Eagleton in Coventry on 2 March 1807.

In 1819, the family moved to Birmingham followed by a move to Huddersfield, when her father was appointed first minister of Ramsden St Chapel in 1826.  The ‘keen air’ did little for his health and he was more or less suffering with chest complaints for the rest of his life and died in 1832. Beulah’s mother also appears to have died in 1832, and is certainly not on the 1841 census.

John Eagleton was ‘one of the most talented and useful ministers ever known in the West Riding of Yorkshire’. The estimation in which he was held, may be ascertained by the fact, that in one day, in 1829, no less a sum than £636 was collected by his congregation, to defray the expenses incurred at the erection of the place. Mr. Eagleton’s death on 3 September 1832 was justly and universally lamented; ‘he was one of the best men and ministers who ever lived.’

Beulah had several siblings:

Sisters Hepzibah, Jemima and Julia (Hepzibah ran a ‘Dame School’ in Huddersfield before marrying Henry Leadbeater in 1835) and Julia was a governess. So it’s clear that the daughters were educated and went on to educate others. Jemima & Beulah probably taught too though there is no evidence to prove it.

Brothers were Jeshurun, Jabez, John Ebenezer, Jehoiada – they liked their ‘J’s – and as someone commented on a family search site – ‘their parents must have been Bible readers’ (clearly hadn’t noticed that their father was a Methodist minister!) Jehoiada went to the USA and founded a huge steel wire manufacturing co in New York – employing 600-700 people.

In July 1841, Beulah Kezia Eagleton married fellow Huddersfieldian, James Hanson, a woollen cloth manufacturer, at Highfield Independent Chapel Huddersfield. (It was the first Dissenters’ church to be built in the town.)

They must have moved to Bradford shortly afterwards as their first four sons:

  • James, (1843),
  • Charles Henry (1845),
  • Frederick Arnold (1847) and
  • Frederick Benjamin (1849)

were all born in Bradford, but by 1851 the family was back in Huddersfield, living at Spring Street. James was still working as a woollen cloth manufacturer – although he had other interests and was part of committee for the Female Education Institute (listed as being so in 1856) and where he delivered a lecture entitled ‘Reading Considered as a Means of Mental Culture’ in February 1851.

More children followed:

Daughter Beulah Kezia known as Kiah (presumably so she & her mother weren’t mistaken for each other) in 1852, who worked as a private governess until her marriage in 1884 – after which she went to live for a time in Orkney with her Scottish husband.

Son Willie Malleson in 1855, who died in 1876

Daughter Marion Fanny in 1857. She never married so never had to give up her teaching career and became a much-respected teacher of English History at Salts’ Girls’ High, only retiring shortly before her death in 1924.

The family made the move back to Bradford between 1857 and 1860 and their family was completed when Ernest Spenser was born in 1860.

The family lived in Horton Rd in 1861, when James grandly described himself on the census return as: ‘proprietor, printer, publisher and editor of newspaper (The Bradford Review), then moved later to Manningham. James’ achievements have already been well documented by John Jackson, but of course his wife’s have not. Aside from bringing 8 children into the world (and without an army of house servants – just one in 1851) Beulah Kezia had had an education and was going to use it.

Perhaps it was her strict Methodist upbringing that prompted her to write about Temperance, but it seems she responded to an advert for a competition run on occasions by the Scottish Temperance League – who regularly published books and papers on the evils of alcohol. The league’s first competition had been in 1856/7, when they’d offered a first prize of £50 & a second of £25 for ‘the Best (& second best) Temperance Tale, Illustrative of the Injurious Effects of Intoxicating Drinks, and the Demoralizing Effects of the Liquor Traffic’.  They advised that the general style of tale they were looking for might be understood from a perusal of Ten Nights in a Bar-Room, and Fast Life, as published by the League, price 6d. The League would publish the book.

Three years later, the League decided to run the competition again – this time offering just one prize of £100. Beulah put pen to paper, no doubt encouraged by James. The prize went to Mrs Henry Wood, for her novel Danesbury House. Now whether there was a second prize or not (some claim that Beulah’s book received that accolade, but there is no evidence apart from a written inscription by a family member in a first edition of 1863 published by Heywood’s of Manchester) we cannot be certain.However, it’s perhaps likely that it wasn’t, as had it been published by the League, part of the conditions of the competition were that the author would give over copyright of the novel to the League. Mrs Wood never benefited from the huge sales of Danesbury House, but presumably Beulah did make money from Fanny Lee’s Testimony as it ran to at least four editions and was still being published and marketed twenty years later, in 1882.There are a couple of lengthy reviews which you can download here, one from 1867, the other from 1882, but here is a brief extract from the Hull Packet of 1882:

Since the time when Danesbury House, that splendid temperance story, thrilled the reading world, there has, perhaps, been no tale written on similar lines, so powerful as Fanny Lee’s Testimony. Mrs Hanson has written a graphic story which will enable her to rank amongst the best of those really womanly authors, of whom there are so few. There is a genuine, homely and effective air throughout the narrative, which forms its peculiar charm, and we can heartily commend the book to all who love pure and healthy fiction. The volume is excellently printed and handsomely bound.

Beulah’s writing continued and an anthology:  Poems and Tales of Social Life, was advertised in the Bradford Observer in June 1867urging subscribers to order at the Review office and advising that the work would be sent to press as soon as a sufficient number of names have been sent in. Presumably husband James had a hand in this.

One thing he didn’t have a hand in (although actually as a man of the Press, he might) was the astonishing work of a small committee of women (of which BKH was one) who organised a massive fundraising effort (raising £600) in support of the recently deposed Bradford MP, Mr Edward Miall (and his wife & daughter), in 1869.

In a story that might have been in the newspapers today, Miall had lost in seat in the election of 1868, the first after the 1867 Reform Bill, which had given the vote to householders as well as house owners (doubling the electorate, but of course not including women).

Henry Ripley had been returned as an MP (along with W. E. Forster) but it was quickly alleged (and subsequently proven in a trial in February 1869) that he (or at least his henchmen) had been guilty of bribery, treating and undue influence over the election period. He’d basically been buying drinks, tobacco and food for any man (mainly Irish living in North Wing and East Ward – just down Otley Road) who said ‘put me on the committee’. A petition was also got up against Forster on similar charges, but the fact that Ripley spent £4,000 on his ‘canvassers and messengers’ and Forster spent £270, it’s clear who ran an honest campaign & who didn’t! The Forster petition was dismissed, he retained his seat (thank goodness) but there was a by-election in March 1869 & Miall was returned.

But in the meantime, the women, who didn’t have a vote, decided to do something positive to show their support for Miall – clearly the women of the town loved Miall and didn’t like Ripley (who was not a general ladies’ favourite, as had been asserted – by him).

You can imagine that Beulah (as a keen advocate of Temperance) would be disgusted at the tactics employed by Ripley – encouraging men into pubs and plying them with huge quantities of beer, beef and tobacco, so it’s easy to see why she was one of the key instigators. The committee raised around £600 in a very short time, from the pence and sixpences of the poor to the gold of the rich.

By the time the presentation was made (at St George’s Hall on Monday, 24 May 1869) of course Miall had regained his seat, but it didn’t stop the jollifications going ahead. The description of the event is fantastic. You can download it here.

Over 4,500 women attended, dressed gaily in crinolines and with their hair neatly got up in chignons. So great was the crush and excitement that the doors had to be opened 15 minutes early. The Leeds Times describes ‘Perhaps one of the most remarkable meetings ever held in the kingdom, and perfectly unique in its kind in every respect’,  women-only event to which ‘none of the hirsute sex’ had been invited (apart from those taking part in the proceedings and the ‘universally indispensable’ men of the press – who had to make do with sitting on the legs of stools so arranged as to give temporary seating, when the women pushed them out of their seats in front of the orchestra).

The chair was taken on the stage by Mr Titus Salt who was supported on the platform by the ladies committee (which included Mrs James Hanson aka Beulah Kezia)

Of course, all the presentations and speeches were delivered by men (Robert Kell, Alderman Brown, Ernest Renck,, Angus Holden, Alfred Illingworth, James Wallwork, James Pollard – sounds like a who’s who of Bradford!) on the women’s behalf, but it is interesting to note that in the main their speeches were supportive of women being involved in politics and of single women being given the vote (married women had the franchise through their husbands…).

Edward Miall, the object of so much female support, gave a gushing speech and these extracts clearly demonstrate how in touch he was with the women of Bradford:

I look upon these beautiful gifts of yours, in the first place, as the utterance of indignant womanhood in Bradford. Someone had taken liberty with your name, and woe be to the man who disposes of the will of a woman without having first asked her consent.

It has been the fashion of man to degrade woman by lording over her, and of course he, to justify himself in doing this, has assumed that the political sphere is a sphere altogether apart from that in which a woman ought to move. But we have our first lessons in morality from the lips of our mothers, and our chief support in adversity on the arms and bosoms of our wives, and he is the man who can accomplish little in this world, however he may set his heart upon the triumph of the right, who does not link with him the fond, pure, and affectionate counsels of woman. Happy will be the day in England – happy will be the day throughout the whole world, when woman takes up her real and proper position. …. Women of Bradford, take your part, let your benign and genial influence smile away, as far as it can the asperities of party feeling; be present as it were, in the spirit at least, in all electoral contests, and diffuse your own sweet humour, as the humour which shall guide, and, as it were sway the hearts of those over whom you have control.

After declaring that he would have ‘Bradford Women’ engraved on his heart ‘at the last’, Miall resumed his seat to great cheers.

I think Beulah’s support for a man of this calibre gives us some insight into her character. She was pro-Temperance, pro-women and pro-justice, and, had she not married, she’d probably have had a career as a teacher (the only real career open to women at that time). Instead she became a supportive wife and loving mother – an equally valuable path in life. That her children all pursued careers (daughters into teaching, sons into the newspaper industry) is testament to her (although of course James Hanson always gets the credit as far as his sons being journalists is concerned!).

Beulah died on 8 July 1888 aged 73, leaving James widowed.

Gaynor Haliday

March 2020

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