Emily Mary Kendall, nee Lessware, formerly Ellis (1866-1933)

Circuit Superintendent and Suffragette?

By Jill Barber

In 1915, a remarkable article appeared about Emily Kendall, the wife of a Primitive Methodist minister, George Kendall, who was apparently acting as Circuit Superintendent while her husband was on active service in France. 

A Lady Parson

The article, entitled, 'A Lady Parson', says, 'several English clergymen are fighting at the front with the full consent of their congregations and diocesan bishops. But it has remained for the wife of a Primitive Methodist superintendent to set an example for other ministers’ wives to follow, by acting as locum tenens for her husband. The lady in question is Mrs George Kendall, who holds the unique position of superintendent of the Windsor Primitive Methodist circuit. She has taken up her duties because her husband, now Captain G Kendall, is in France looking after a Havre hospital and fulfilling the duties of chaplain with the Expeditionary Force. Mrs Kendall has six churches under her supervision, and, as superintendent minister, she occasionally preaches at each of them.’

Suffragette

Emily was born in Mile End, London. She married Thomas Henry Ellis, a draper, and they moved to Horncastle in Lincolnshire, where he died in 1898, leaving her with a four year old daughter, Connie.

In 1910 Emily married her second husband, George Kendall, a Primitive Methodist Minister. She was 44, and he was 28.  They met when George Kendall came to Horncastle in 1906. They must have been engaged by 1908, when Connie had a significant encounter:

'I went on holiday to Dunoon with my mother and my prospective step-father, and as we walked down the parade I saw a woman standing on a chair, with a crowd round her, and I went over to listen to her. She was talking about the things I thought were important, at least the things that I knew were important, I may not have thought of them before. She was talking about equality, and liberty, and fair deals for people, and second class citizens. I don't know who she was, and I never saw her again, but she altered the whole of my life that day.'

Connie went on to become a prominent Suffragette, who set fire to Esk Winning Railway Station. Her husband Will Lewcock was a Conscientious Objector in the First World War, and they were both leaders in the Independent Labour Party. Connie was later awarded an OBE.

Given Emily's actions in taking over her husband's ministry in 1915, she probably shared her daughter's views about women's suffrage. What a remarkable woman.

Sources

'A Lady Parson', Dominion, vol 8, issue 2530, 3 August 1915. [paperspast.natlib.govt.nz]

Oral account by Connie Lewcock, who was interviewed in 1976 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p011m2sv

Tim Kendall, the grandson of George Kendall, introduced me to this fascinating story.  I am sure there is more to tell!

This page was added by Jill Barber on 08/10/2015.
Comments about this page

Tim has added: Grandpa met widowed Emily in Horncastle, she owned her husband's drapery shop and was a Sunday School Teacher at Horncastle. Over a decade older than the then 25 year old GK they married in 1910 just before they moved to Colnbrook and then Windsor and in 1922 South Wales, where they adopted my deceased Uncle Jack.

Emily's family, the Lesswares, were from Islington, they moved back there to the Caledonian Rd when GK took over the Islington Circuit in 1926. She died of cancer in 1933 in her early 60's after years of suffering and 'the whole borough mourned her passing, for she was much loved and had done much good amongst the poor there...'. GK married Emily's helper and best friend Winifred a year later and 9 months later Dad was born with Raymond (died 2010) and finally Rosemary when he was 58.

By Jill Barber
On 08/10/2015

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