Isabella Caroline Somers-Cocks

Image: Lady Henry Somersets Children’s Fountain (1897), Temple Garden, WC2. Jacqueline Banerjee: “The sculpture crowns a drinking fountain, while…the girl is offering a bowl of her own, sometimes described as a birdbath. It is a charming piece…that chimes with the New Sculpture of the time. The statue has had to be replaced since vandals sawed it off at the feet in 1970; its replacement is surely a tribute to the sculptor as well as to Lady Somerset herself.” George Edward Wade (1853-1933); replica of 1991 by Philomena Davidson Davis (London 1949).

From the website of the White Ribbon Association:

“Lady Henry Somerset was born Isabella Caroline Somers-Cocks, the daughter of Charles Somers-Cocks and his wife Virginia. She married Lord Henry Somerset in 1872, however, the marriage ended disastrously and Lady Henry won custody of their only son – an act which was almost unheard of for a woman at the time. Her family owned several estates across England, including Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire.

She became the President of the British Women’s Temperance Association (B.W.T.A) in 1889 but was an advocate of moderation rather than abstinence. Lady Henry Somerset had a huge influence within the B.W.T.A. She arranged for a temperance exhibition at Eastnor Castle and another in Toxteth, Liverpool, which attracted over 50,000 people. By 1891 the number of B.W.T.A branches had risen to 263, and the annual income increased to £1,150 (over £133,000 in today’s money).

She was close friends with Frances Willard, a temperance reformer from America. Frances came to stay with Lady Henry Somerset to recuperate from an illness, and they even learned to ride bicycles together! Frances advocated many social issues including children’s welfare, women’s suffrage and prison reform, which Lady Henry Somerset also supported. However, this divided the B.W.T.A, many of whom just wanted to focus on temperance matters, and in 1893 the Organisation split into two. Some members formed their own Organisation, the Women’s Total Abstinence Union (W.T.A.U), while the B.W.T.A became the National British Women’s Temperance Association (N.B.W.T.A).

In 1896 she established Duxhurst Farm Colony for Inebriate Women. The home was a type of rehabilitation for women from all social classes. The home was open as a rehabilitation centre for nearly twenty years, before being commandeered by the War Office during World War I.
Lady Henry Somerset resigned as President of the N.B.W.T.A in 1903. She died in London in 1921 following a short illness but insisted on a simple service at her local church instead of a burial in the family vaults at Eastnor Castle.”

From Wikipedia:

“…She was maternally a niece of the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron and first cousin of the writer Virginia Woolf’s mother, Julia Stephen. Lady Isabella married Lord Henry Somerset on 6 February 1872, and became known as Lady Henry Somerset. The match appeared to be perfect. Her husband was the second son of Henry Somerset, 8th Duke of Beaufort, and as such stood to inherit almost nothing, unlike her. On 18 May 1874, a son was born to the couple and named Henry Charles Somers Augustus. However, Lord Henry was homosexual, and the marriage was doomed to fail. Male homosexual acts were a criminal offence in the United Kingdom at the time, but women were expected to turn a blind eye to every kind of their husband’s infidelity. Lady Henry became interested in the temperance movement after her close friend committed suicide while intoxicated.”

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