YORKSGEN-L ArchivesArchiver > YORKSGEN > 2006-03 > 1142958430
From: "Robin's wool" <>
Subject: Life for women in 1913 and inquest papers
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 16:27:10 +0000
On 19/3/06 11:57 pm, "Jean and Terry" <> wrote:
> I wondered the other day how different my life would have been if my
> expectations upon marriage had been that I would have many children. Women
> probably felt inadequate if they didn't have children. By 1961 (when I
> married) women were beginning to feel they could control how many children
> they had and could choose how they wanted to live. i.e. home working wives
> or outside workers.
Birth control was in its infancy in 1913.... Or was it dark ages...
I am researching the life and children of Elizabeth ALTOFT ( the
illegitimate lady born 1854 with reputed Royal connections)
She and William JOHNSON married in Crayke. They lived in York and had seven
children between 1877 and 1899 .. Possibly more, but these are the ones we
find living at census time ... All in York.. Two boys ( William Samuel
Altoft my grandfather and Stanley ) and five girls (Elizabeth, Beatrice
Annie who married Alfred JOHNSON, Edith who married Ernest SKINNER, Betsy,
and Ethel who married Robert Young CARTER)
Hers was a troubled family ... Husband committed suicide in 1903 leaving her
with the bairns to look after ...
She married her second husband, Thomas THOMPSON in 1905.
Her daughter Beatrice married in 1897, had two children and did not want any
more ... How to avoid pregnancy then ??
We do not know for sure but at the inquest in to her death in March to May
1913 it emerges that she had a miscarriage in January that year she had had
another illness a year previously.
Why the inquest .. She died of heart failure following taking a noxious
substance .. While there was no evidence as to what the substance actually
was it appears she had 'got some pills and potions from a woman in Leeds'
It is likely she took these to avoid another pregnancy. The inquest was a
very public event and reported in detail in the York Newspapers.
They could not positively establish what she took nor why she took so the
Coroner directed the jury to find death to be 'according to the medical
The coroner in his summing up felt is important to warn others that
"those taking or supplying of any poison or other noxious thing with intent
to procure a miscarriage is a felony punishable with hard servitude for life
or not less than 3 years imprisonment " I wonder when this law was repealed
.. After 1955?
The inquest papers include copies of newspaper cuttings one of which is
adverts for such items as 'Ladies Blanchard's pills' ... Available from
Now I have a third inquest to explore as Elizabeth died from accidentally
falling down stairs at home in 1918.
The 1913 inquest papers have provided several answers to the genealogy
problems I have with this family ..clarifying that Elizabeth THOMPSON is my
great great grandmother and that there are two daughters of Beatrice Annie.
I now have Elizabeth's death certificate and this states her name as
Elizabeth Annie Ramsey Altoft THOMPSON
Note the JOHNSON married name is missed out but she kindly added in a couple
more as we had only ever seen he with Elizabeth as a forename.
Why the Ramsey? Well on her marriage to Thomas THOMPSON in 1905 she laid
claim to a father Anthony RAMSDEN (deceased) although in 1876 at her first
marriage no father's details are given.
Did she find her father? .. Was it a convenience to have a named father? How
come the Edward VII story comes down via her unfortunate daughter who called
her own daughter Beatrice as well?.... And remember the royal prince was
known as Bertie (not so different from Beatrice) ...BTW my grandfather not
only carried the Altoft name but passed it on to his eldest son Reginald
My insight from all of this is
Do not believe the family story .. But seek out what may be behind it
English death certificates are not as unrewarding as they may at first
appear (especially to those of researching in Scots BMDs as well)
Newspaper reports of an inquest may give most of the relevant information
but the Coroners Inquest papers can reveal critical details and sometimes a
lot more ..
There is much more information around than what is on the internet...
I could go on ... But thank anyone who has read this far ...
( and ps ....Ron there is a GOONS connection too ... As the other great
grandfather on this side was George GALTRESS and he committed suicide too in
1902 ... So a next project is to learn more about the social and work
conditions for the labouring classes in York in the first decade of the last
Robin and Margaret McEwen-King
|Life for women in 1913 and inquest papers by "Robin's wool" <>|