Matilda Charlotte Chaplin , M.D.

Matilda Charlotte Chaplin , M.D.

b: 20 JUN 1846
d: 19 JUL 1883





Scotland, Japan, France, England
'The Chaplin and Skinner Families' December 1902, page 12:

>> Mrs. Matilda Chaplin Ayrton was born in June, 1846, at Honfleur, in Normandy. An account of her distinguished career can best be given by quoting from an appreciation published by Miss Eliza Orme in the 'Englishwoman's Review' 15th August, 1883, shortly after her death, which occurred on 19th July, 1883:-

"The earliest study of Matilda Chaplin was in drawing and painting, and this she pursued with considerable success at South Kensington, the British Museum and elsewhere. She had great natural talent in drawing, and although she afterwards gave up the idea of making art her profession, she found constant opportunity throughout her career of using the taste and facility she possessed. In her notes of medical lectures and in papers written on scientific subjects, her drawings were remarkable for their accuracy, and her coloured sketches illustrating her work in dissection were especially admired by both professors and fellow students. Only a short time before her death she was engaged in drawing directly on the wood a set of illustrations for a paper by Professor Remy on the effect of the manners and customs of the Japanese in producing certain physical deformities. The artistic side of her character was also shown in many ways unconnected with professional life. When in Japan she not only made many sketches, some of which appeared in a popular work afterwards published entitled 'Child-life in Japan', but she adapted Japanese designs to the furniture and decorating of her own home in a way that was entirely original and pleasing in effect. Her old friends in Edinburgh recollect that her pencil often afforded her a restful change from work and worry, and in whatever circle she found herself, her taste and skill in drawing was always one of the characteristics which at once stamped her as something more than a mere medical student.

In 1867 Matilda Chaplin started her medical studies, and in 1869 passed the preliminary examination at Apothecaries' Hall. At that time Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and Mrs Anderson, M.D. [NB: On 24 June 1901 Phyllis Chaplin married Philip Herbert Cowell, a nephew of Mrs. Garrett Anderson, M.D.] were the only women qualified to practise medicine in England, and the diploma of licentiate of Apothecaries' Hall which they held was to be henceforth denied to others. Mrs. Chaplin was one of the small band of students [Sophia Jex-Blake was another?] whose long struggle in Edinburgh led to the opening of the medical profession to women in England, and having matriculated with honours at the Edinburgh University, throughout the weary struggle which ensued with the authorities, she was always in the front of the battle. The strain was very great, and no doubt over-taxed the strength of several who, if they had been allowed fair play, would have carried off high prizes in academic competition without loss of health. Like the Jews of old, these women were expected to build their temple with their swords lying beside them, and too often their utmost endeavours were followed by bitter disappointment. After being allowed to matriculate, and proving by the honours taken in examination their superiority to the average medical students of the University, they were tyrannically refused the means of carrying on their studies, and at last in 1872 resorted to legal action in order to obtain this privilege Miss Chaplin was not individually in favour of such bellicose means being employed, but she loyally worked with the little band of students, of which she was so distinguished a member. It will be remembered that the judgement in favour of the women was reversed on appeal, and it is easy to picture the lingering hopes, the hard work in canvassing for support, the task of collecting evidence, and all the other outside fatigue to which these students were subjected. Miss Chaplin read hard and worked hard through it all, and in the interstices of her numerous employments made some lifelong friendships among the residents of Edinburgh who sympathised in her cause. She took high honours in anatomy and surgery in 1870/71 at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Edinburgh, and also wrote several articles for the 'Medical Press' and 'Circular' at about the same time.

When satisfactory medical education seemed unattainable in Edinburgh, the facilities afforded by foreign universities tempted several women abroad. Miss Chaplin kept up her attendance in Edinburgh but also studied in Paris [soon after the siege, see MAC diary June and July 1872], thus doing double work in order to be ready for any privileges which might be granted at home, and at the same time to take advantage of those so generously offered abroad. In recognition of past work, the University of France bestowed on her the degrees of Bachelier de Science and Bachelier des Lettres and the welcome she received as a student is best described in her own words taken from a letter addressed at the time to the editor of the 'Edinburgh Courant.'

"In this city, which has been called 'le foyer de la civilization,' lady students have every facility for study, and are treated with the greatest deference by the officials connected with the Bureau de l'Instruction Publique, by the clinical teachers, by the professors and students of the medical faculty. At the examinations, which are oral and public, a lady student, though surrounded by auditors, is encouraged by the knowledge that the many listeners are well-wishers.'

During the long struggle in Edinburgh only one or two of Miss Chaplin's most intimate friends who knew that she was engaged to be married to her cousin, W.E. Ayrton, now Professor of Physics in the New Technical College, Finsbury, and then a distinguished and favourite student of Sir William Thompson [NB: He is now, in 1899, Dean of the City and Guilds of London Institute, Exhibition Road]. She feared that those who did not know her well enough to trust her might disbelieve in her desire for a professional qualification, and that in this way the public acknowledgement of her engagement might injure the cause for which she was working so devotedly. Her marriage shortly after leaving Edinburgh was therefore a surprise to many, but it was soon proved that her work was only helped and encouraged by her husband, himself a steady supporter of the claims of women to educational freedom. When remembering with a regret, amounting almost to bitterness, how much energy which might have been given to research in science, and the relief of suffering, was in her case frittered away in fighting against the barriers set up in bigotry and self-interest, we turn with relief to the other side of the picture, which tells us that she had through all her professional career the great blessing of a sympathetic companion. Such an element was particularly necessary to her happiness, possessing as she did many qualities adapted to sweeten domestic life and home sympathies, which demanded objects upon which they might be bestowed. Many of her old friends remember the delight she always had in childrens' society, and the fellow-feeling which was at once recognised when she played or talked with them. In after years her own little girl was a source of indescribable pleasure to her.

The writer remembers that on Mrs. Ayrton's return from Japan she was criticised by an intimate friend for having cut off her long hair, the fashion of wearing it short not then existing. Her defense was unanswerable, for she explained she had done it during the voyage in order to save all her time for the task of beautifying her baby, whose golden curls required much attention. Afterwards she took the child with her to Paris, and in the intervals of study solaced herself with its care, acting as interpreter between it and the French bonne, since it could only speak in Japanese. Some of Mrs. Ayrton's most graceful literary efforts were inspired by her love for children and especially by her devotion to the little daughter now left an orphan.

To return to her early married life, Mrs Ayrton in 1873 accompanied her husband to Japan, where he was appointed Professor of Physics at the New Technical University. Before leaving England she obtained a certificate from the London Obstetric Society in Midwifery, which was then the only medical qualification open to women in England. Mr. and Mrs. Ayrton passed through America on their way out and interesting articles from the pen of the latter appeared in 'The Scotsman' on the University and Currency of California. In Japan she had ample opportunity of exercising her varied talents. Besides literary and artistic work, involving close observation of the people, their customs, and history, she also carried out systematic scientific research, afterwards embodied in her thesis when she took her degree in Paris. She started a school for native midwives, and lectured in it herself with the help of an interpreter. An account of this interesting work is given in an article contributed by her to the 'Scotsman' on 'Lady Medicals in Japan.' The great need of women doctors in countries where men are not permitted to attend female patients has now been recognized so fully that a few weeks ago the Queen received a lady doctor about to depart for India with expressions of approval. .At the time however, when Mrs. Ayrton was training her Japanese students public opinion had still to be educated on the subject, and her work was invaluable for this purpose.

In 1877 some previous warnings of chest delicacy terminated in a severe attack of pneumonia, and Mrs. Ayrton returned to England with her little girl. Invigorated by the voyage she continued her work in Paris, taking her degree of M.D. in 1879, presenting a thesis entitled - 'Recherches sur les dimensions generales et sur le developpement du corps chez les Japonais.'

Shortly afterwards she qualified herself for English medical practice by obtaining the Licentiate of the King and Queen's College of Physicians, Ireland. In this examination she was the only female candidate, and stood first in the list both for medicine and midwifery.

During 1879/80 Mrs Ayrton studied at the Royal Free Hospital, devoting special attention to diseases of the eye, and she also found time to help on many of the efforts towards improving the education and social position of women. In Paris she had taken a leading part in organising a club at which women students could find rest, recreation, and mutual assistance. On coming to London her aid was asked for a somewhat similar scheme, and she became an original member of the Somerville Club, then in its infancy, but now permanently established at 405 Oxford Street. As a member of the Committee, from the formation of the Club until the time of her death, Mrs. Ayrton exercised great influence in many questions of policy, and was always on the side of liberty and tolerance. The utter absence of class distinction and the freedom of debate amongst the club members were principles she warmly advocated when the rules were being drafted. In her active endeavours to start the Somerville, and make it widely known amongst women, Mrs. Ayrton was assisted by her mother, Mrs Chaplin, in whose house she was then residing, and in all her projects for the promotion of womens' happiness she was always helped and encouraged by the hearty co-operation of the various members of her family. Mrs. Ayrton was singularly adapted to influence others of her sex with whom she came in contact, and whether in a club room or by her own hospitable hearth she had the subtle power of persuading, without seeming to preach, which is, perhaps, the most certain method of influencing others. We know of more than one instance in which her encouragement, advice, and example induced a girl with no particular object in life to find out work to do and do it. It may truly be said of Mrs. Ayrton that her own work was not the measure of the tenth part of that of which she was the indirect cause.

After the lung disease, which eventually caused her death, made itself too apparent to be ignored, Mrs. Ayrton was obliged to winter abroad. She carried on her studies in the Hospital at Algiers, and in the Physiological Laboratory at Montpelier during successive winters. She also continued her literary and artistic work to the last, and has left some interesting papers illustrated by her own hand. Of these may be mentioned a second work on Japanese Child Life, entitled 'Reality - Our own Child's life in Japan,' 'Quinze jours au Couvent,' and 'A Feminine Pharisee.' The peculiar hopefulness of consumptive patients was hers in a marked degree, so that old friends who met her in society but a few weeks before her death had no expectation of the sad news they were so soon to hear. After a short attack of severe illness she died on the 19th July, at her residence, 68 Sloane Street, and was buried on the following Tuesday in Brompton Cemetery.

The foregoing sketch of the life of one of our most distinguished women gives but a very inadequate idea of her character. The strongest impression she made on her friends was that of her many-sidedness. She was able to study science minutely and accurately without becoming too selfish to be a politician, or too dry to be a sociable companion. She had the broadest views as to the requirements of freedom for women socially and politically and the keenest interest in the ins and outs of the woman's question. Yet she cared for home duties and enjoyed home pleasures, interesting herself deeply in the work of those she loved. Her tolerance and her appreciation of the point of view of others prevented her from running into extremes, while her lively humour made her conversation delightful, even when her hearers might differ from her in the main objects of her work. But to the smaller circle of those who were privileged to call themselves her friends the value of her society depended on something deeper than these qualities. It was the unselfishness of public spirit, the untiring energy of enthusiasm, and the ennobling influence of a life devoted to a great object that made Matilda Chaplin Ayrton beloved by those who knew her best. She did not under-rate the advantages already gained by women, nor did she exaggerate their disabilities, but she never ceased to work towards the wider life and fuller happiness which she believed should be theirs.

The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar,
From the sphere of our sorrow."

[This article is followed in the 'The Chaplin and Skinner Families' on page 15 by an appreciation of her in French which appeared shortly after her death. It is reproduced in the file Chaplin.doc, but not here] <<


Obituary from The Times, 26 July 1883:
Nature regrets to announce the death, at the early age of 37 years, of Mrs Chaplin Ayrton, the wife of Professor W E Ayrton. Mrs Ayrton was in many ways a remarkable woman. As Miss Chaplin she was one of the first to take up the practical question of womens' professional education, and it was largely due to her exertions that the medical career is now opened to women. Her long struggle, from 1869 to 1873, to obtain the necessary permission to present herself for examination told seriously on her health. In addition to attending all the medical classes open to women in Edinburgh, and gaining honours at all the examinations held in connexion with them, Mrs Chaplin Ayrton studied at the hospitals and the Medical School of Paris, and there took her degree of M.D. in 1879. Her graduation thesis, "Researches on the General Dimensions and on the Development of the Body among the Japanese," is full of valuable scientific experiments. At the examination of King and Queen's College of Physicians, Ireland, she was the only woman among a large number of candidates, but she came out first in the examination. Mrs Ayrton had, moreover, considerable skill as an artist, as is evident, among other instances, in her interesting book on "Child Life in Japan." Her contributions to periodicals of various classes showed her wide knowldge apart from her own special subject, and her many sided sympathies.

From Ann Mendell (nee Gregory) copy of the Chaplin and Skinners book (annotations by Ayrton Chaplin and others):
The Life of Sophia Jex-Blake by Margaret Todd MD, Macmillan & Co, London, 1918, gives a very full account of the whole struggle. A note p323 states "At this time (1871) almost all public-spirited women thought the suffrage would be granted before the right to a medical education." Women were placed on Party Voters lists in 1918. The index gives Ayrton, MD, Mrs Chaplin as below:
(263) Miss Chaplin (afterwards the wife of Professor Ayrton) had also joined their ranks, and it was a gallant and creditable little phalanx that made its way up to the university on October 19th to undergo the Matriculation Examination (1869).
(289) It may be well to give the names of the gallant seven once for all: Sophia Jex-Blake, Mary Edith Pechey (Mrs Pechey Phipson), Isabel Thorne, Matilda Chaplin (Mrs Ayrton), Helen Evans (Mrs Russel), Mary Anderson (Mrs Marshall), Emily Bovell (Mrs Sturge).
(336) ?
(341) Mrs Evans engaged to Dr Patrick Heron Watson (1871) Miss Chaplin, Miss Pechey
(377) The difficulty of arranging classes was so great that a good many of the students had scattered for the summer months (1872). Mrs Chaplin Ayrton as well as Miss Bovell was in Paris; Miss Massingberd Mandy and Miss ? had gone to Dr Lucy Sewall at Boston, and Miss Pechey was working at the Lying in Hospital in Endell Street.

On another page is written: When the University College students were shouting down Lydia Bekkes, the advocate of Women's Suffrage, about 1868, Mattie got up and described her own reception by the Parisian Students, pathetically appealing to the rioters to be courteous to an American (?English) unprotected woman. The effect was wonderful; the students felt the forcible appeal and all sat down, mute and attentive.

END
"I am particularly interested in the Chaplin and Skinner womens' role in the campaign for Education for Women. It is easy to guess how they might have got involved in the campaign. Louisa and Mathilda Chaplin grew up at 35 Blandford Square, London NW and were neighbours of Emily Davies, Barbara Bodichon and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson."
[Letter on black-edged paper in tiny but clear writing in a tiny black-edged envelope from Matilda Charlotte Chaplin? addressed to Miss E I Skinner, at Lake Bank Hotel, Blawisle, Newton in Cartmel, Lancashire.]

June 6, 1866

35 Blandford Square, N. W.

Dearest Effie,

"Very many happy returns of the day" and I only wish I could see you in order to italicize that speech with kisses; however I am so glad to hear that you are coming to town about your foot: till the last day of July I stick to the town -- Holroyd -- and the SKM Boilers, the last reason being most important.

Where the others will be wafted off to depends entirely on the health of "the real master of the house.” Is not this news about Uncle Edward delightful, we are all so pleased, it will be like having another sister rather than an aunt and she will make him such a sweet little wife. In fact they are mutually most fortunate and the whole affair seems quite miraculous and unreal, as Holroyd and I were at the (?) down at Wimbledon when Uncle and E came. Their new house is most unique though the colouring of the (?) is rather a failure as the paint has run – their view is lovely over London, enveloped in deep grey (by courtesy -- "smoke" -- your mother will say) mist, with the spires and towers of the Parliament houses and Abbey just visible, the river with many spanning bridges gleaming and winding about, then to the right the glittering Crystal Palace, the clump of Knockholt beeches, and fields and woods, and woods and fields, till blue meets blue at the furthest horizon.

We did not get back from the "Camels" till Uncle and Emma had left so I have not seen them but am looking forward to doing so tomorrow evening. They are going to have a quiet wedding, which weddings are on the whole really the most enjoyable. Mama called at Ashley House today - poor old Morgan has a very bad finger having poisoned it with some copper. Mama saw one of Alice’s trousseau dresses which was lovely, grey and pink silk.

The proofs are coming in everyday, the M&S looks most satisfactory in print.

I hope you will like the enclosed -- you (?) it to renew the ribbon. The Pynes were asked by the Slades’ for a water party but the weather has turned so bad that rowing must have been out of the question. We are to go in a second batch so I hope we shall have more luck in the day. I am going to get a white flannel Garibaldi on purpose for boating.

After this letter I shall have your directing as Ayrton does sometimes "Miss Matty Chatty Chaplin" by the way said old fellow is flourishing - Edith goes down to stay with Helen in Rugby in about ten days, pleasant for both eh!

Very best love to your mother who I trust is pretty well and sisters and with the grand old-fashioned prayer of "God bless you,” darling I remain yours ever

M. C. Chaplin


December 24th 1868

Dearest Effie

Thank you for your letter and kind hope that if I went to Southampton I should look in upon you at Haling however I shall not have that pleasure as I am not going with Will to Southampton. I write now to wish you all a merry Christmas though I fear it will be saddened by Allan's speedy departure.

I fear this will have to be a very short note as all my time has been taken up going about getting things with Will. Last night we all went to Greenwich, Holroyd was unfortunately detained at his office. I suppose next Christmas you will atone for John carrying Louie by being with us as Mrs H. C.

With much love to your mother, Carry, Kate, Maud and Allan, I cannot but enumerate them separately that my message may seem to convey somewhat more than the usual "love to all."

And with all wishes of happiness for the New Year

Believe me to be your attached friend

M. Chaplin

END

Additions to Ann Mendell’s copy of the Chaplin & Skinner family book facing page 13: See also photo ‘Facing page 13’ in Odds & Ends.

[In handwriting] When the University College students were shouting down Lydia Bekker, the advocate of womens' suffrage, about 1848, Mattie [Matilda Charlotte Chaplin] got up and described her own reception by the Parisian students, v pathetically appealing to the rioters to be courteous to an American (? English) unprotected woman. The effect was wonderful; the students felt the forcible appeal and all sat down, mute and attentive.

From the Daily News, 12 January 1918

A LONG FIGHT

History of the Movement for Emancipation

The Parliamentary history of the women's suffrage movement may be said to date from the Reform Act of 1832, which first introduced into the franchise law the words "mail person." For 35 years, however, there was no real agitation, although the ground was being prepared. On the Reform Bill of 1867 John Stewart Neil brought in a women's suffrage amendment, but it was defeated by 196 votes to 73.

A test case was fought in the courts in 1868. It was based on the substitution of "man" for "male person" in 1867, and in the phrase in Lord Brougham’s Act of 1850 that "the masculine gender shall be deemed to include females." The decision was against the women. In 1870 the first Women's Suffrage Bill was introduced by Jacob Bright, and met defeat in Committee.

WHEN MILITANT TACTICS BEGAN

Further Bills at Westminster made no progress, and about the time that the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman took office at the end of 1905 section of the women's movement adopted the new policy of interrupting meetings, followed by more militant tactics. These included attempts to force their way into the Houses of Parliament, which had to be guarded by cordons of police; the breaking of windows in public and private buildings; setting on fire of pillar-boxes; and other daring devices which excited great public clamour.

Hundreds of women were arrested, and mainly in prison adopted the hunger strike. Innumerable meetings were held in the open and in halls, and one woman attempted to stop the Derby race with results fatal to herself. Processions, in which great ingenuity for picturesque effect was manifested, were organised in endless sequence, and in every possible way the movement was kept to the front, and the public excited to an alarming extent.

OPPOSITION WORN DOWN

Concurrently with the agitation of the militant faction the movement in favour of the vote was being pressed forward on quieter and effective lines by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. Gradually the opposition was worn down, and when women showed their capacity so strikingly in every department of war work a distinct revulsion of feeling in their favour was manifested.

Mr Asquith with remained an opponent of the women's movement until 1916, but in August of that year announced in the House Commons that women's work in the war had converted him.

THE FINAL VICTORY

The long struggle for Women's Suffrage ended in the House of Lords last night in the defeat of the hostile amendment by 134 to 71. The end is in many ways very characteristic of a series of battles which have very rarely been fought and still more rarely decided upon the merits of the main issue. There was scarcely any pretence among the peers last night as to the reasons which determined their decision. They have passed Women's Suffrage not because the majority of them believe in it, but because they desire to avoid a conflict with the Commons which could only end in humiliating defeat. We are not saying that it is not a right and even a patriotic motive under the circumstances; but the knowledge that it was operative certainly diminishes such grace as was still left in the long-delayed gift. The real force which has conferred it is not the peers but the popular feeling aroused by the importance of woman's contribution to the war. The opponents of the change urged that in its present form it will not benefit the woman war worker, and alternatively that this work is not in itself an evident qualification for the franchise. They cannot have it both ways, and to advance both pleas suggests a certain insincerity which is not more convincing because it is probably mere confusion of mind. The real ground of opposition - yesterday as always - was in the alarm which the prospect of an addition to the register of an overwhelming sex vote excites in some minds. We believe it is utterly unfounded; practical experience will undoubtedly show, in our opinion, that there is no such thing as a sex vote. It is possible that certain sections of women may be found open to special appeals. It cannot be said that among male voters such "pockets" of opinion are unknown. But the plain man is very unlikely to be terrified by threats and bogeys which have accompanied every franchise reform ever made, and have uniformly being proved hollow.

This was followed by a list of those who voted for and against.


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


Ayrton [nee Chaplin], Matilda Charlotte (1846-1883),
physician, was born in Honfleur, France, the daughter of
John Clarke Chaplin, a solicitor. Her early studies were in
drawing and painting and she used her artistic talents
throughout her subsequent career. But she began what
was to prove a long struggle to qualify as a doctor about
1867. She attended classes at the Medical College for
Women in London, opened in 1864 to train women in mid-
wifery, and she passed the preliminary examination for
the licence of the Society of Apothecaries just before the
society closed its professional examinations to candidates
who had not attended regular medical schools. At the time
this move appeared to preclude women's obtaining any
qualification that would entitle them to have their names
entered on the General Medical Council's register. How-
ever, in 1869, Sophia Jex-Blake was pressing to be admit-
ted to medical classes at Edinburgh University. The uni-
versity court refused consent for mixed classes and was
not prepared to make special arrangements for Jex-Blake
alone, but conceded that special classes for a group of
women might be possible. Jex-Blake advertised for
women to join her and Matilda Chaplin was the second to
do so. In October 1869 Chaplin, together with four other
women, passed the matriculation examination for Edin-
burgh University, the first women to be fully enrolled at a
modern British university.
These five with two others who joined them the follow-
ing year were to become known as the 'Edinburgh seven
or 'septem contra Edinam' as over the next four years they
battled in private and, in the later stages, in public for
access to the full range of medical instruction and the
right to graduate. This culminated in a lawsuit against the
university. Chaplin was 'not individually in favour of such
bellicose means being employed’ but she loyally worked
with the little band of students, of whom she was so dis-
tinguished a member' (Orme, 345). In 1870-71 Chaplin
took high honours in anatomy and surgery at the extra-
mural examinations of the Royal College of Physicians
and Surgeons of Edinburgh. She also wrote several art-
icles for the Medical Press and Circular at this same time and
in 1871 attended some medical classes in Paris.
In June 1873 the seven's legal battle for the right to
graduate was finally lost. But in the meantime Chaplin
had married her cousin, the physicist and engineer Wil-
liam Edward *Ayrton (1847-1908), on 21 December 1871. In
1873 her husband was appointed professor of physics and
telegraphy at the new Imperial Engineering College in
Tokyo and Mrs Ayrton went with him to Japan. Before leav-
ing England she obtained a certificate in midwifery from
the London Obstetrical Society and in Tokyo she started a
school for Japanese midwives, lecturing there herself
with the aid of an interpreter. She also continued with pri-
vate medical studies and wrote and illustrated several
newspaper articles about her travels.
In 1877 Mrs Ayrton became ill and she and her young
daughter Edith Chaplin Ayrton (who later married the
writer Israel Zangwill) returned to London. Here Ayrton
recommenced her medical training at the London School
of Medicine for Women; she obtained her MD in Paris in
1879 and in 1880 became a licentiate of the King and
Queen's College of Physicians in Ireland, where she, the
only female candidate, headed the pass lists in medicine
and midwifery. She then began practice in Sloane Street,
London, while studying diseases of the eye at the Royal
Free Hospital. She was a founder member of a club for
women students in Paris and of the Somerville Club in
London, which provided rest, recreation, and assistance
for women students. Through this club Ayrton was a
much valued adviser to many young women. She con-
tinued to write articles on life in Japan and other topics
and, in 1879, she published a book entitled Child Life in
Japan, illustrated by her own sketches. But by 1880 her
health was breaking down and the signs of tuberculosis
were manifest. She was obliged to winter abroad, first in
Algiers and then in Montpellier, continuing her medical
studies in both places. Ayrton died of tuberculosis on 19
July 1883, aged thirty-seven, at her home, 68 Sloane Street,
Chelsea, London, and was buried in Brompton cemetery
on 24 July. M. A. ELSTON

Sources BMJ (11 Aug 1883), 298 • E. Orme, "Matilda Chaplin
Ayrton', Englishwoman's Review. 14 (1883), 343-50 • S. Roberts, Sophia
Jex-BIake: a woman pioneer in nineteenth century medical reform (1993) •
M. A. Elston, 'Women doctors in the British health service: a socio-
logical study of their careers and opportunities', PhD diss.,
U. Leeds, 1986 • G. Travers [M. Todd], The life of Sophia Jex-Blake
(1918) • DNB • m. cert. • d. cert. • CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1883)
Archives priv.coll.
Wealth at death £737 15s. 1d.: resworn administration, 19 Dec
1883, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Letters to the Editor
LADY MEDICALS IN JAPAN
The Imperial College of Engineering,”
Tokei(Yedo), Japan, March 9, 1874

Sir,? There were those amongst the Professors of the University and the citizens of Edinburgh most zealous in their earnest endeavour to obtain for ladies a complete medical education. I feel that it may afford these friends some satisfaction to hear that one of the lady medical students for whom they could obtain, during four years, but a partial university training, finds her collegiate studies of great practical utility.
Obstetrics, as throughout the East, is practiced in Japan almost entirely by women. The demand for accoucheurs being thus insignificant, the State School of Medicine, under German organization, has not hitherto embraced the study of obstetrics.
The remaining medical tuition under army and under navy control is, of course, but little occupied with obstetric work. The European medical men here have their time fully occupied with other Government employment.
It was from the above circumstances, and also on account of an instructress being preferred, that I was invited to train a class of Japanese ladies as accoucheures. Though the Japanese gentlemen promoting the class are fully alive to the rapid progress of Western science, their scheme was of too untried and tentative a nature to make them willing to engage teachers unless on the spot.
Thus it appears to me that for many years they would have failed to secure a teacher had I not been able to aid their schemes. For the assistance I was thus able to render, I am indebted to your University for having temporarily forgotten to exclude ladies from the inestimable advantage of good instruction in medical science.
In spite of all the difficulties of speaking and of reading answers to questions through the medium of an interpreter, these Japanese ladies are far more apt and attentive students than were some illiterate English midwives whom I at one time instructed. Japanese midwives have absolutely no knowledge of anatomy and physiology, the mere dissection of an animal is to them a marvelous revelation. They are therefore, of course, quite unfit to comprehend and cope with any cases of difficulty that may arise.
Finding what excellent students I have to deal with, it is a matter of serious regret to me that I was quite debarred from obtaining, as I wished, a practical knowledge of microscopic manipulation when I was in Edinburgh last winter. This will prove a great disadvantage to the progress of my pupils when the time shall have come for them to acquire a knowledge of histology.
However, I trust that future “Cives Academiae Edinenais,” may be enabled to feel as deeply grateful as I do for the instruction that was vouchsafed me, without even the alloy of “wishing that little were more.” ?I am, &c.
MATILDA CHAPLIN AYRTON.

[From Matilda Charlotte Chaplin to Effie (Euphemia) I. Skinner, her future sister-in-law, postmarked 31 January 1866. The tiny envelope is addressed to Miss E.I. Skinner, Kent’s Bank, Newton in Cartmel, Lancashire]

The Parsonage, Hurdsfield, Macclesfield

Dearest of Effies,

The above is a very rough sketch of the view from the drawing-room window, at the foot of the copse are two pools of water which would be pretty were not the water as black as ink from being used in the Dye House.

Now I would tell you what we have been doing. We found when we got here that they had not received Mama’s letter but we were cordially welcomed all the same. The next day it rained in the morning but in the afternoon Ellen and I went up to the Adsheads where we stayed to tea. Polly A. plays very well and she played to me a great deal, "Moonlight Sonata" and other delicious things -- as it was pelting hard they asked us to sleep there which we accordingly did – at about 9 p.m. Mr Peter A came in from the Dye house. I am not particularly prepossessed with him, he is not so good-looking as I thought.

The next morning Kitty A. (a very nice girl) Ellen and I went down to the boat and rowed about on a large pool they have; after that I went all over the Dye house which was interesting, but my nose never encountered a more abominable collection.

I have not sketched since I left you, not having heart for such Broctonian works as yet, and besides Ellen has kept me well on the trot. The morning after we came they sang to me one very pretty new song "there's a silver lining to every cloud" and dear, that's just what I want you not to forget, for it is so -- do you remember that pretty little hymn:

"Why restless, why so weary
my soul, why so cast down?
[etc]

Poor Emily is not at all strong, the doctor came this morning. Mama wrote and told Miss Dardis that we should start for Dublin the first week in September. We shall stay here till the end of next week and then go to Holyhead where we shall remain till such date. This place is decidedly gossiping though very pleasant for a short time. Can I make you understand an idea which entered my noddle at day or so ago -- pins for the hair, get a piece of wood and carve at the top a crest of oak leaves small -- with just a little acorn, then an acorn tolerably large to fit over at the other end - it would be new and might therefore (as I suppose) be charming.

However, I dare say I shall never do it, but it's amusing playing. As for those old shoes they are not wanted. It was such a delightful surprise to find that little note in the purse: in the evening it suddenly occurred to me that there might be a note in its so I took it out of my pocket looked first in one division then in another. When beginning to lose all hope I looked in the last and there was her darling little letter. On Thursday Mama got the wire and in the evening I made up the peacock’s feather, it looks lovely -- worth 8/ at least. Ellen and Emily both are mad for peacocks feathers "like mother’s" they admire it so - it looks so nobby I quite congratulate myself on having lost the other.

We all stayed to sacrament yesterday. I wondered whether any of you would go to early service. You dearest darling how I should like to give you a good hug -- I thought after the train puffed off "there is deep meaning in those eyes," “thy sea-blue eyes, unpunishable Gwen.” I hope your dear Mother is better. The parting with dear Flo must have been very painful to all. I am anxious to hear the upshot of the Scotch trip.

Love and kindest remembrances to all,

Good-bye, yours ever attached. MCC

Biography





Scotland, Japan, France, England 'The Chaplin and Skinner Families' December 1902, page 12:

>> Mrs. Matilda Chaplin Ayrton was born in June, 1846, at Honfleur, in Normandy. An account of her distinguished career can best be given by quoting from an appreciation published by Miss Eliza Orme in the 'Englishwoman's Review' 15th August, 1883, shortly after her death, which occurred on 19th July, 1883:-

"The earliest study of Matilda Chaplin was in drawing and painting, and this she pursued with considerable success at South Kensington, the British Museum and elsewhere. She had great natural talent in drawing, and although she afterwards gave up the idea of making art her profession, she found constant opportunity throughout her career of using the taste and facility she possessed. In her notes of medical lectures and in papers written on scientific subjects, her drawings were remarkable for their accuracy, and her coloured sketches illustrating her work in dissection were especially admired by both professors and fellow students. Only a short time before her death she was engaged in drawing directly on the wood a set of illustrations for a paper by Professor Remy on the effect of the manners and customs of the Japanese in producing certain physical deformities. The artistic side of her character was also shown in many ways unconnected with professional life. When in Japan she not only made many sketches, some of which appeared in a popular work afterwards published entitled 'Child-life in Japan', but she adapted Japanese designs to the furniture and decorating of her own home in a way that was entirely original and pleasing in effect. Her old friends in Edinburgh recollect that her pencil often afforded her a restful change from work and worry, and in whatever circle she found herself, her taste and skill in drawing was always one of the characteristics which at once stamped her as something more than a mere medical student.

In 1867 Matilda Chaplin started her medical studies, and in 1869 passed the preliminary examination at Apothecaries' Hall. At that time Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and Mrs Anderson, M.D. [NB: On 24 June 1901 Phyllis Chaplin married Philip Herbert Cowell, a nephew of Mrs. Garrett Anderson, M.D.] were the only women qualified to practise medicine in England, and the diploma of licentiate of Apothecaries' Hall which they held was to be henceforth denied to others. Mrs. Chaplin was one of the small band of students [Sophia Jex-Blake was another?] whose long struggle in Edinburgh led to the opening of the medical profession to women in England, and having matriculated with honours at the Edinburgh University, throughout the weary struggle which ensued with the authorities, she was always in the front of the battle. The strain was very great, and no doubt over-taxed the strength of several who, if they had been allowed fair play, would have carried off high prizes in academic competition without loss of health. Like the Jews of old, these women were expected to build their temple with their swords lying beside them, and too often their utmost endeavours were followed by bitter disappointment. After being allowed to matriculate, and proving by the honours taken in examination their superiority to the average medical students of the University, they were tyrannically refused the means of carrying on their studies, and at last in 1872 resorted to legal action in order to obtain this privilege Miss Chaplin was not individually in favour of such bellicose means being employed, but she loyally worked with the little band of students, of which she was so distinguished a member. It will be remembered that the judgement in favour of the women was reversed on appeal, and it is easy to picture the lingering hopes, the hard work in canvassing for support, the task of collecting evidence, and all the other outside fatigue to which these students were subjected. Miss Chaplin read hard and worked hard through it all, and in the interstices of her numerous employments made some lifelong friendships among the residents of Edinburgh who sympathised in her cause. She took high honours in anatomy and surgery in 1870/71 at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Edinburgh, and also wrote several articles for the 'Medical Press' and 'Circular' at about the same time.

When satisfactory medical education seemed unattainable in Edinburgh, the facilities afforded by foreign universities tempted several women abroad. Miss Chaplin kept up her attendance in Edinburgh but also studied in Paris [soon after the siege, see MAC diary June and July 1872], thus doing double work in order to be ready for any privileges which might be granted at home, and at the same time to take advantage of those so generously offered abroad. In recognition of past work, the University of France bestowed on her the degrees of Bachelier de Science and Bachelier des Lettres and the welcome she received as a student is best described in her own words taken from a letter addressed at the time to the editor of the 'Edinburgh Courant.'

"In this city, which has been called 'le foyer de la civilization,' lady students have every facility for study, and are treated with the greatest deference by the officials connected with the Bureau de l'Instruction Publique, by the clinical teachers, by the professors and students of the medical faculty. At the examinations, which are oral and public, a lady student, though surrounded by auditors, is encouraged by the knowledge that the many listeners are well-wishers.'

During the long struggle in Edinburgh only one or two of Miss Chaplin's most intimate friends who knew that she was engaged to be married to her cousin, W.E. Ayrton, now Professor of Physics in the New Technical College, Finsbury, and then a distinguished and favourite student of Sir William Thompson [NB: He is now, in 1899, Dean of the City and Guilds of London Institute, Exhibition Road]. She feared that those who did not know her well enough to trust her might disbelieve in her desire for a professional qualification, and that in this way the public acknowledgement of her engagement might injure the cause for which she was working so devotedly. Her marriage shortly after leaving Edinburgh was therefore a surprise to many, but it was soon proved that her work was only helped and encouraged by her husband, himself a steady supporter of the claims of women to educational freedom. When remembering with a regret, amounting almost to bitterness, how much energy which might have been given to research in science, and the relief of suffering, was in her case frittered away in fighting against the barriers set up in bigotry and self-interest, we turn with relief to the other side of the picture, which tells us that she had through all her professional career the great blessing of a sympathetic companion. Such an element was particularly necessary to her happiness, possessing as she did many qualities adapted to sweeten domestic life and home sympathies, which demanded objects upon which they might be bestowed. Many of her old friends remember the delight she always had in childrens' society, and the fellow-feeling which was at once recognised when she played or talked with them. In after years her own little girl was a source of indescribable pleasure to her.

The writer remembers that on Mrs. Ayrton's return from Japan she was criticised by an intimate friend for having cut off her long hair, the fashion of wearing it short not then existing. Her defense was unanswerable, for she explained she had done it during the voyage in order to save all her time for the task of beautifying her baby, whose golden curls required much attention. Afterwards she took the child with her to Paris, and in the intervals of study solaced herself with its care, acting as interpreter between it and the French bonne, since it could only speak in Japanese. Some of Mrs. Ayrton's most graceful literary efforts were inspired by her love for children and especially by her devotion to the little daughter now left an orphan.

To return to her early married life, Mrs Ayrton in 1873 accompanied her husband to Japan, where he was appointed Professor of Physics at the New Technical University. Before leaving England she obtained a certificate from the London Obstetric Society in Midwifery, which was then the only medical qualification open to women in England. Mr. and Mrs. Ayrton passed through America on their way out and interesting articles from the pen of the latter appeared in 'The Scotsman' on the University and Currency of California. In Japan she had ample opportunity of exercising her varied talents. Besides literary and artistic work, involving close observation of the people, their customs, and history, she also carried out systematic scientific research, afterwards embodied in her thesis when she took her degree in Paris. She started a school for native midwives, and lectured in it herself with the help of an interpreter. An account of this interesting work is given in an article contributed by her to the 'Scotsman' on 'Lady Medicals in Japan.' The great need of women doctors in countries where men are not permitted to attend female patients has now been recognized so fully that a few weeks ago the Queen received a lady doctor about to depart for India with expressions of approval. .At the time however, when Mrs. Ayrton was training her Japanese students public opinion had still to be educated on the subject, and her work was invaluable for this purpose.

In 1877 some previous warnings of chest delicacy terminated in a severe attack of pneumonia, and Mrs. Ayrton returned to England with her little girl. Invigorated by the voyage she continued her work in Paris, taking her degree of M.D. in 1879, presenting a thesis entitled - 'Recherches sur les dimensions generales et sur le developpement du corps chez les Japonais.'

Shortly afterwards she qualified herself for English medical practice by obtaining the Licentiate of the King and Queen's College of Physicians, Ireland. In this examination she was the only female candidate, and stood first in the list both for medicine and midwifery.

During 1879/80 Mrs Ayrton studied at the Royal Free Hospital, devoting special attention to diseases of the eye, and she also found time to help on many of the efforts towards improving the education and social position of women. In Paris she had taken a leading part in organising a club at which women students could find rest, recreation, and mutual assistance. On coming to London her aid was asked for a somewhat similar scheme, and she became an original member of the Somerville Club, then in its infancy, but now permanently established at 405 Oxford Street. As a member of the Committee, from the formation of the Club until the time of her death, Mrs. Ayrton exercised great influence in many questions of policy, and was always on the side of liberty and tolerance. The utter absence of class distinction and the freedom of debate amongst the club members were principles she warmly advocated when the rules were being drafted. In her active endeavours to start the Somerville, and make it widely known amongst women, Mrs. Ayrton was assisted by her mother, Mrs Chaplin, in whose house she was then residing, and in all her projects for the promotion of womens' happiness she was always helped and encouraged by the hearty co-operation of the various members of her family. Mrs. Ayrton was singularly adapted to influence others of her sex with whom she came in contact, and whether in a club room or by her own hospitable hearth she had the subtle power of persuading, without seeming to preach, which is, perhaps, the most certain method of influencing others. We know of more than one instance in which her encouragement, advice, and example induced a girl with no particular object in life to find out work to do and do it. It may truly be said of Mrs. Ayrton that her own work was not the measure of the tenth part of that of which she was the indirect cause.

After the lung disease, which eventually caused her death, made itself too apparent to be ignored, Mrs. Ayrton was obliged to winter abroad. She carried on her studies in the Hospital at Algiers, and in the Physiological Laboratory at Montpelier during successive winters. She also continued her literary and artistic work to the last, and has left some interesting papers illustrated by her own hand. Of these may be mentioned a second work on Japanese Child Life, entitled 'Reality - Our own Child's life in Japan,' 'Quinze jours au Couvent,' and 'A Feminine Pharisee.' The peculiar hopefulness of consumptive patients was hers in a marked degree, so that old friends who met her in society but a few weeks before her death had no expectation of the sad news they were so soon to hear. After a short attack of severe illness she died on the 19th July, at her residence, 68 Sloane Street, and was buried on the following Tuesday in Brompton Cemetery.

The foregoing sketch of the life of one of our most distinguished women gives but a very inadequate idea of her character. The strongest impression she made on her friends was that of her many-sidedness. She was able to study science minutely and accurately without becoming too selfish to be a politician, or too dry to be a sociable companion. She had the broadest views as to the requirements of freedom for women socially and politically and the keenest interest in the ins and outs of the woman's question. Yet she cared for home duties and enjoyed home pleasures, interesting herself deeply in the work of those she loved. Her tolerance and her appreciation of the point of view of others prevented her from running into extremes, while her lively humour made her conversation delightful, even when her hearers might differ from her in the main objects of her work. But to the smaller circle of those who were privileged to call themselves her friends the value of her society depended on something deeper than these qualities. It was the unselfishness of public spirit, the untiring energy of enthusiasm, and the ennobling influence of a life devoted to a great object that made Matilda Chaplin Ayrton beloved by those who knew her best. She did not under-rate the advantages already gained by women, nor did she exaggerate their disabilities, but she never ceased to work towards the wider life and fuller happiness which she believed should be theirs.

The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar,
From the sphere of our sorrow."

[This article is followed in the 'The Chaplin and Skinner Families' on page 15 by an appreciation of her in French which appeared shortly after her death. It is reproduced in the file Chaplin.doc, but not here] <<


Obituary from The Times, 26 July 1883:
Nature regrets to announce the death, at the early age of 37 years, of Mrs Chaplin Ayrton, the wife of Professor W E Ayrton. Mrs Ayrton was in many ways a remarkable woman. As Miss Chaplin she was one of the first to take up the practical question of womens' professional education, and it was largely due to her exertions that the medical career is now opened to women. Her long struggle, from 1869 to 1873, to obtain the necessary permission to present herself for examination told seriously on her health. In addition to attending all the medical classes open to women in Edinburgh, and gaining honours at all the examinations held in connexion with them, Mrs Chaplin Ayrton studied at the hospitals and the Medical School of Paris, and there took her degree of M.D. in 1879. Her graduation thesis, "Researches on the General Dimensions and on the Development of the Body among the Japanese," is full of valuable scientific experiments. At the examination of King and Queen's College of Physicians, Ireland, she was the only woman among a large number of candidates, but she came out first in the examination. Mrs Ayrton had, moreover, considerable skill as an artist, as is evident, among other instances, in her interesting book on "Child Life in Japan." Her contributions to periodicals of various classes showed her wide knowldge apart from her own special subject, and her many sided sympathies.

From Ann Mendell (nee Gregory) copy of the Chaplin and Skinners book (annotations by Ayrton Chaplin and others):
The Life of Sophia Jex-Blake by Margaret Todd MD, Macmillan & Co, London, 1918, gives a very full account of the whole struggle. A note p323 states "At this time (1871) almost all public-spirited women thought the suffrage would be granted before the right to a medical education." Women were placed on Party Voters lists in 1918. The index gives Ayrton, MD, Mrs Chaplin as below:
(263) Miss Chaplin (afterwards the wife of Professor Ayrton) had also joined their ranks, and it was a gallant and creditable little phalanx that made its way up to the university on October 19th to undergo the Matriculation Examination (1869).
(289) It may be well to give the names of the gallant seven once for all: Sophia Jex-Blake, Mary Edith Pechey (Mrs Pechey Phipson), Isabel Thorne, Matilda Chaplin (Mrs Ayrton), Helen Evans (Mrs Russel), Mary Anderson (Mrs Marshall), Emily Bovell (Mrs Sturge).
(336) ?
(341) Mrs Evans engaged to Dr Patrick Heron Watson (1871) Miss Chaplin, Miss Pechey
(377) The difficulty of arranging classes was so great that a good many of the students had scattered for the summer months (1872). Mrs Chaplin Ayrton as well as Miss Bovell was in Paris; Miss Massingberd Mandy and Miss ? had gone to Dr Lucy Sewall at Boston, and Miss Pechey was working at the Lying in Hospital in Endell Street.

On another page is written: When the University College students were shouting down Lydia Bekkes, the advocate of Women's Suffrage, about 1868, Mattie got up and described her own reception by the Parisian Students, pathetically appealing to the rioters to be courteous to an American (?English) unprotected woman. The effect was wonderful; the students felt the forcible appeal and all sat down, mute and attentive.

END "I am particularly interested in the Chaplin and Skinner womens' role in the campaign for Education for Women. It is easy to guess how they might have got involved in the campaign. Louisa and Mathilda Chaplin grew up at 35 Blandford Square, London NW and were neighbours of Emily Davies, Barbara Bodichon and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson." [Letter on black-edged paper in tiny but clear writing in a tiny black-edged envelope from Matilda Charlotte Chaplin? addressed to Miss E I Skinner, at Lake Bank Hotel, Blawisle, Newton in Cartmel, Lancashire.]

June 6, 1866

35 Blandford Square, N. W.

Dearest Effie,

"Very many happy returns of the day" and I only wish I could see you in order to italicize that speech with kisses; however I am so glad to hear that you are coming to town about your foot: till the last day of July I stick to the town -- Holroyd -- and the SKM Boilers, the last reason being most important.

Where the others will be wafted off to depends entirely on the health of "the real master of the house.” Is not this news about Uncle Edward delightful, we are all so pleased, it will be like having another sister rather than an aunt and she will make him such a sweet little wife. In fact they are mutually most fortunate and the whole affair seems quite miraculous and unreal, as Holroyd and I were at the (?) down at Wimbledon when Uncle and E came. Their new house is most unique though the colouring of the (?) is rather a failure as the paint has run – their view is lovely over London, enveloped in deep grey (by courtesy -- "smoke" -- your mother will say) mist, with the spires and towers of the Parliament houses and Abbey just visible, the river with many spanning bridges gleaming and winding about, then to the right the glittering Crystal Palace, the clump of Knockholt beeches, and fields and woods, and woods and fields, till blue meets blue at the furthest horizon.

We did not get back from the "Camels" till Uncle and Emma had left so I have not seen them but am looking forward to doing so tomorrow evening. They are going to have a quiet wedding, which weddings are on the whole really the most enjoyable. Mama called at Ashley House today - poor old Morgan has a very bad finger having poisoned it with some copper. Mama saw one of Alice’s trousseau dresses which was lovely, grey and pink silk.

The proofs are coming in everyday, the M&S looks most satisfactory in print.

I hope you will like the enclosed -- you (?) it to renew the ribbon. The Pynes were asked by the Slades’ for a water party but the weather has turned so bad that rowing must have been out of the question. We are to go in a second batch so I hope we shall have more luck in the day. I am going to get a white flannel Garibaldi on purpose for boating.

After this letter I shall have your directing as Ayrton does sometimes "Miss Matty Chatty Chaplin" by the way said old fellow is flourishing - Edith goes down to stay with Helen in Rugby in about ten days, pleasant for both eh!

Very best love to your mother who I trust is pretty well and sisters and with the grand old-fashioned prayer of "God bless you,” darling I remain yours ever

M. C. Chaplin


December 24th 1868

Dearest Effie

Thank you for your letter and kind hope that if I went to Southampton I should look in upon you at Haling however I shall not have that pleasure as I am not going with Will to Southampton. I write now to wish you all a merry Christmas though I fear it will be saddened by Allan's speedy departure.

I fear this will have to be a very short note as all my time has been taken up going about getting things with Will. Last night we all went to Greenwich, Holroyd was unfortunately detained at his office. I suppose next Christmas you will atone for John carrying Louie by being with us as Mrs H. C.

With much love to your mother, Carry, Kate, Maud and Allan, I cannot but enumerate them separately that my message may seem to convey somewhat more than the usual "love to all."

And with all wishes of happiness for the New Year

Believe me to be your attached friend

M. Chaplin

END
Additions to Ann Mendell’s copy of the Chaplin & Skinner family book facing page 13: See also photo ‘Facing page 13’ in Odds & Ends.

[In handwriting] When the University College students were shouting down Lydia Bekker, the advocate of womens' suffrage, about 1848, Mattie [Matilda Charlotte Chaplin] got up and described her own reception by the Parisian students, v pathetically appealing to the rioters to be courteous to an American (? English) unprotected woman. The effect was wonderful; the students felt the forcible appeal and all sat down, mute and attentive.

From the Daily News, 12 January 1918

A LONG FIGHT

History of the Movement for Emancipation

The Parliamentary history of the women's suffrage movement may be said to date from the Reform Act of 1832, which first introduced into the franchise law the words "mail person." For 35 years, however, there was no real agitation, although the ground was being prepared. On the Reform Bill of 1867 John Stewart Neil brought in a women's suffrage amendment, but it was defeated by 196 votes to 73.

A test case was fought in the courts in 1868. It was based on the substitution of "man" for "male person" in 1867, and in the phrase in Lord Brougham’s Act of 1850 that "the masculine gender shall be deemed to include females." The decision was against the women. In 1870 the first Women's Suffrage Bill was introduced by Jacob Bright, and met defeat in Committee.

WHEN MILITANT TACTICS BEGAN

Further Bills at Westminster made no progress, and about the time that the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman took office at the end of 1905 section of the women's movement adopted the new policy of interrupting meetings, followed by more militant tactics. These included attempts to force their way into the Houses of Parliament, which had to be guarded by cordons of police; the breaking of windows in public and private buildings; setting on fire of pillar-boxes; and other daring devices which excited great public clamour.

Hundreds of women were arrested, and mainly in prison adopted the hunger strike. Innumerable meetings were held in the open and in halls, and one woman attempted to stop the Derby race with results fatal to herself. Processions, in which great ingenuity for picturesque effect was manifested, were organised in endless sequence, and in every possible way the movement was kept to the front, and the public excited to an alarming extent.

OPPOSITION WORN DOWN

Concurrently with the agitation of the militant faction the movement in favour of the vote was being pressed forward on quieter and effective lines by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. Gradually the opposition was worn down, and when women showed their capacity so strikingly in every department of war work a distinct revulsion of feeling in their favour was manifested.

Mr Asquith with remained an opponent of the women's movement until 1916, but in August of that year announced in the House Commons that women's work in the war had converted him.

THE FINAL VICTORY

The long struggle for Women's Suffrage ended in the House of Lords last night in the defeat of the hostile amendment by 134 to 71. The end is in many ways very characteristic of a series of battles which have very rarely been fought and still more rarely decided upon the merits of the main issue. There was scarcely any pretence among the peers last night as to the reasons which determined their decision. They have passed Women's Suffrage not because the majority of them believe in it, but because they desire to avoid a conflict with the Commons which could only end in humiliating defeat. We are not saying that it is not a right and even a patriotic motive under the circumstances; but the knowledge that it was operative certainly diminishes such grace as was still left in the long-delayed gift. The real force which has conferred it is not the peers but the popular feeling aroused by the importance of woman's contribution to the war. The opponents of the change urged that in its present form it will not benefit the woman war worker, and alternatively that this work is not in itself an evident qualification for the franchise. They cannot have it both ways, and to advance both pleas suggests a certain insincerity which is not more convincing because it is probably mere confusion of mind. The real ground of opposition - yesterday as always - was in the alarm which the prospect of an addition to the register of an overwhelming sex vote excites in some minds. We believe it is utterly unfounded; practical experience will undoubtedly show, in our opinion, that there is no such thing as a sex vote. It is possible that certain sections of women may be found open to special appeals. It cannot be said that among male voters such "pockets" of opinion are unknown. But the plain man is very unlikely to be terrified by threats and bogeys which have accompanied every franchise reform ever made, and have uniformly being proved hollow.

This was followed by a list of those who voted for and against.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


Ayrton [nee Chaplin], Matilda Charlotte (1846-1883),
physician, was born in Honfleur, France, the daughter of
John Clarke Chaplin, a solicitor. Her early studies were in
drawing and painting and she used her artistic talents
throughout her subsequent career. But she began what
was to prove a long struggle to qualify as a doctor about
1867. She attended classes at the Medical College for
Women in London, opened in 1864 to train women in mid-
wifery, and she passed the preliminary examination for
the licence of the Society of Apothecaries just before the
society closed its professional examinations to candidates
who had not attended regular medical schools. At the time
this move appeared to preclude women's obtaining any
qualification that would entitle them to have their names
entered on the General Medical Council's register. How-
ever, in 1869, Sophia Jex-Blake was pressing to be admit-
ted to medical classes at Edinburgh University. The uni-
versity court refused consent for mixed classes and was
not prepared to make special arrangements for Jex-Blake
alone, but conceded that special classes for a group of
women might be possible. Jex-Blake advertised for
women to join her and Matilda Chaplin was the second to
do so. In October 1869 Chaplin, together with four other
women, passed the matriculation examination for Edin-
burgh University, the first women to be fully enrolled at a
modern British university.
These five with two others who joined them the follow-
ing year were to become known as the 'Edinburgh seven
or 'septem contra Edinam' as over the next four years they
battled in private and, in the later stages, in public for
access to the full range of medical instruction and the
right to graduate. This culminated in a lawsuit against the
university. Chaplin was 'not individually in favour of such
bellicose means being employed’ but she loyally worked
with the little band of students, of whom she was so dis-
tinguished a member' (Orme, 345). In 1870-71 Chaplin
took high honours in anatomy and surgery at the extra-
mural examinations of the Royal College of Physicians
and Surgeons of Edinburgh. She also wrote several art-
icles for the Medical Press and Circular at this same time and
in 1871 attended some medical classes in Paris.
In June 1873 the seven's legal battle for the right to
graduate was finally lost. But in the meantime Chaplin
had married her cousin, the physicist and engineer Wil-
liam Edward *Ayrton (1847-1908), on 21 December 1871. In
1873 her husband was appointed professor of physics and
telegraphy at the new Imperial Engineering College in
Tokyo and Mrs Ayrton went with him to Japan. Before leav-
ing England she obtained a certificate in midwifery from
the London Obstetrical Society and in Tokyo she started a
school for Japanese midwives, lecturing there herself
with the aid of an interpreter. She also continued with pri-
vate medical studies and wrote and illustrated several
newspaper articles about her travels.
In 1877 Mrs Ayrton became ill and she and her young
daughter Edith Chaplin Ayrton (who later married the
writer Israel Zangwill) returned to London. Here Ayrton
recommenced her medical training at the London School
of Medicine for Women; she obtained her MD in Paris in
1879 and in 1880 became a licentiate of the King and
Queen's College of Physicians in Ireland, where she, the
only female candidate, headed the pass lists in medicine
and midwifery. She then began practice in Sloane Street,
London, while studying diseases of the eye at the Royal
Free Hospital. She was a founder member of a club for
women students in Paris and of the Somerville Club in
London, which provided rest, recreation, and assistance
for women students. Through this club Ayrton was a
much valued adviser to many young women. She con-
tinued to write articles on life in Japan and other topics
and, in 1879, she published a book entitled Child Life in
Japan, illustrated by her own sketches. But by 1880 her
health was breaking down and the signs of tuberculosis
were manifest. She was obliged to winter abroad, first in
Algiers and then in Montpellier, continuing her medical
studies in both places. Ayrton died of tuberculosis on 19
July 1883, aged thirty-seven, at her home, 68 Sloane Street,
Chelsea, London, and was buried in Brompton cemetery
on 24 July. M. A. ELSTON

Sources BMJ (11 Aug 1883), 298 • E. Orme, "Matilda Chaplin
Ayrton', Englishwoman's Review. 14 (1883), 343-50 • S. Roberts, Sophia
Jex-BIake: a woman pioneer in nineteenth century medical reform (1993) •
M. A. Elston, 'Women doctors in the British health service: a socio-
logical study of their careers and opportunities', PhD diss.,
U. Leeds, 1986 • G. Travers [M. Todd], The life of Sophia Jex-Blake
(1918) • DNB • m. cert. • d. cert. • CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1883)
Archives priv.coll.
Wealth at death £737 15s. 1d.: resworn administration, 19 Dec
1883, CGPLA Eng. & Wales
Letters to the Editor
LADY MEDICALS IN JAPAN
The Imperial College of Engineering,”
Tokei(Yedo), Japan, March 9, 1874

Sir,? There were those amongst the Professors of the University and the citizens of Edinburgh most zealous in their earnest endeavour to obtain for ladies a complete medical education. I feel that it may afford these friends some satisfaction to hear that one of the lady medical students for whom they could obtain, during four years, but a partial university training, finds her collegiate studies of great practical utility.
Obstetrics, as throughout the East, is practiced in Japan almost entirely by women. The demand for accoucheurs being thus insignificant, the State School of Medicine, under German organization, has not hitherto embraced the study of obstetrics.
The remaining medical tuition under army and under navy control is, of course, but little occupied with obstetric work. The European medical men here have their time fully occupied with other Government employment.
It was from the above circumstances, and also on account of an instructress being preferred, that I was invited to train a class of Japanese ladies as accoucheures. Though the Japanese gentlemen promoting the class are fully alive to the rapid progress of Western science, their scheme was of too untried and tentative a nature to make them willing to engage teachers unless on the spot.
Thus it appears to me that for many years they would have failed to secure a teacher had I not been able to aid their schemes. For the assistance I was thus able to render, I am indebted to your University for having temporarily forgotten to exclude ladies from the inestimable advantage of good instruction in medical science.
In spite of all the difficulties of speaking and of reading answers to questions through the medium of an interpreter, these Japanese ladies are far more apt and attentive students than were some illiterate English midwives whom I at one time instructed. Japanese midwives have absolutely no knowledge of anatomy and physiology, the mere dissection of an animal is to them a marvelous revelation. They are therefore, of course, quite unfit to comprehend and cope with any cases of difficulty that may arise.
Finding what excellent students I have to deal with, it is a matter of serious regret to me that I was quite debarred from obtaining, as I wished, a practical knowledge of microscopic manipulation when I was in Edinburgh last winter. This will prove a great disadvantage to the progress of my pupils when the time shall have come for them to acquire a knowledge of histology.
However, I trust that future “Cives Academiae Edinenais,” may be enabled to feel as deeply grateful as I do for the instruction that was vouchsafed me, without even the alloy of “wishing that little were more.” ?I am, &c.
MATILDA CHAPLIN AYRTON.
[From Matilda Charlotte Chaplin to Effie (Euphemia) I. Skinner, her future sister-in-law, postmarked 31 January 1866. The tiny envelope is addressed to Miss E.I. Skinner, Kent’s Bank, Newton in Cartmel, Lancashire]

The Parsonage, Hurdsfield, Macclesfield

Dearest of Effies,

The above is a very rough sketch of the view from the drawing-room window, at the foot of the copse are two pools of water which would be pretty were not the water as black as ink from being used in the Dye House.

Now I would tell you what we have been doing. We found when we got here that they had not received Mama’s letter but we were cordially welcomed all the same. The next day it rained in the morning but in the afternoon Ellen and I went up to the Adsheads where we stayed to tea. Polly A. plays very well and she played to me a great deal, "Moonlight Sonata" and other delicious things -- as it was pelting hard they asked us to sleep there which we accordingly did – at about 9 p.m. Mr Peter A came in from the Dye house. I am not particularly prepossessed with him, he is not so good-looking as I thought.

The next morning Kitty A. (a very nice girl) Ellen and I went down to the boat and rowed about on a large pool they have; after that I went all over the Dye house which was interesting, but my nose never encountered a more abominable collection.

I have not sketched since I left you, not having heart for such Broctonian works as yet, and besides Ellen has kept me well on the trot. The morning after we came they sang to me one very pretty new song "there's a silver lining to every cloud" and dear, that's just what I want you not to forget, for it is so -- do you remember that pretty little hymn:

"Why restless, why so weary
my soul, why so cast down?
[etc]

Poor Emily is not at all strong, the doctor came this morning. Mama wrote and told Miss Dardis that we should start for Dublin the first week in September. We shall stay here till the end of next week and then go to Holyhead where we shall remain till such date. This place is decidedly gossiping though very pleasant for a short time. Can I make you understand an idea which entered my noddle at day or so ago -- pins for the hair, get a piece of wood and carve at the top a crest of oak leaves small -- with just a little acorn, then an acorn tolerably large to fit over at the other end - it would be new and might therefore (as I suppose) be charming.

However, I dare say I shall never do it, but it's amusing playing. As for those old shoes they are not wanted. It was such a delightful surprise to find that little note in the purse: in the evening it suddenly occurred to me that there might be a note in its so I took it out of my pocket looked first in one division then in another. When beginning to lose all hope I looked in the last and there was her darling little letter. On Thursday Mama got the wire and in the evening I made up the peacock’s feather, it looks lovely -- worth 8/ at least. Ellen and Emily both are mad for peacocks feathers "like mother’s" they admire it so - it looks so nobby I quite congratulate myself on having lost the other.

We all stayed to sacrament yesterday. I wondered whether any of you would go to early service. You dearest darling how I should like to give you a good hug -- I thought after the train puffed off "there is deep meaning in those eyes," “thy sea-blue eyes, unpunishable Gwen.” I hope your dear Mother is better. The parting with dear Flo must have been very painful to all. I am anxious to hear the upshot of the Scotch trip.

Love and kindest remembrances to all,

Good-bye, yours ever attached. MCC

Facts
  • 20 JUN 1846 - Birth - ; Honfleur, Normandy, France (Baptized Sprowston Norfolk in 1847 according to Andi Smith)
  • 19 JUL 1883 - Death - ; her residence, 68 Sloane Street, London
  • 1867 - Fact -
  • 1869 - Fact -
  • 19 OCT 1869 - Fact -
  • BET 1870 AND 1871 - Fact -
  • 21 DEC 1871 - Fact -
  • 12 JUL 1872 - Fact -
  • 1872 - Fact -
  • 1873 - Fact -
  • 1877 - Fact -
  • 1879 - Fact -
  • BET 1879 AND 1880 - Fact -
  • BET 1881 AND 1883 - Fact -
Ancestors
   
Edward Chaplin , MA, Rev.
7 JUL 1771 - 14 NOV 1858
 
 
John Clarke Chaplin
25 AUG 1806 - 2 JUN 1856
  
  
  
Margaret Clarke Theodorick
4 JAN 1771 - 29 NOV 1827
 
Matilda Charlotte Chaplin , M.D.
20 JUN 1846 - 19 JUL 1883
  
 
  
Frederick Ayrton
1780 - 24 NOV 1824
 
 
Matilda Adriana Ayrton
1 JUN 1813 - 26 JAN 1899
  
  
  
 
Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) John Clarke Chaplin
Birth25 AUG 1806Watlington, Norfolk about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, privately baptized 26th by his father and recd into church by Rev
Death2 JUN 1856 Tonbridge, Kent, England
Marriage6 APR 1835to Matilda Adriana Ayrton at Marylebone, London (New Church)
FatherEdward Chaplin , MA, Rev.
MotherMargaret Clarke Theodorick
PARENT (F) Matilda Adriana Ayrton
Birth1 JUN 1813Chelsea, London (baptised Richmond according to Andi Smith)
Death26 JAN 1899 98 Palace Gardens Terrace, Kensington, London.
Marriage6 APR 1835to John Clarke Chaplin at Marylebone, London (New Church)
FatherFrederick Ayrton
MotherJuliana Caroline Rebecca Adriana Nugent
CHILDREN
MHolroyd Chaplin
Birth17 MAR 1840Edgbaston, Warwickshire, England (1881 Census) on St Patrick's Day
Death23 DEC 191772 Edith Road, West Kensington, Middlesex
Marriage16 AUG 1870to Euphemia Isabella Skinner at Bickington or Newton Abbott? in South Devon, see Matilda Adriana Chaplin's diary for Tuesday 16 August 1870.
MAllan Chaplin , Col
Birth20 JUN 1844Christened St Peter, Brighton, Sussex on 18 Sept 1844 - IGI
Death19 AUG 1910
Marriage20 DEC 1871to Maud Elizabeth Skinner at Bridgend, Glamorgan
FLouisa Sarah Chaplin
Birth23 APR 1838Baptized St Thomas in Birmingham 1838 according to Andi Smith)
Death9 JUL 1897Allevard-Les-Bains, Isere, France
Marriage30 APR 1864to John Edwin Hilary Skinner at Christ Church, Marylebone, London
MAyrton Chaplin , Rev
Birth19 OCT 1842Edgbaston, Warwickshire, England (1881 Census)
Death1930
Marriage2 JAN 1868to Edith Elizabeth Pyne
FMatilda Charlotte Chaplin , M.D.
Birth20 JUN 1846Honfleur, Normandy, France (Baptized Sprowston Norfolk in 1847 according to Andi Smith)
Death19 JUL 1883her residence, 68 Sloane Street, London
Marriage21 DEC 1871to William Edward Ayrton , F.R.S. F.R.S. at Saint Matthew, Bayswater, Kensington.
FJulia Margaret Nugent Chaplin
Birth23 JAN 1837Baptized St Thomas in Birmingham 1837 according to Andi Smith)
Death
Marriage2 MAR 1886to James Edward Nugent
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) William Edward Ayrton , F.R.S. F.R.S.
Birth14 SEP 1847London (see obituary)
Death6 NOV 1908 41, Norfolk Square, Hyde Park, London, England
Marriage21 DEC 1871to Matilda Charlotte Chaplin , M.D. at Saint Matthew, Bayswater, Kensington.
Marriage6 MAY 1885to Phoebe Sarah (Hertha) Marks at Mr and Mrs Hancock's house in Queen's Gate
FatherEdward Nugent Ayrton
MotherEmma Sophie Althof
PARENT (F) Matilda Charlotte Chaplin , M.D.
Birth20 JUN 1846Honfleur, Normandy, France (Baptized Sprowston Norfolk in 1847 according to Andi Smith)
Death19 JUL 1883 her residence, 68 Sloane Street, London
Marriage21 DEC 1871to William Edward Ayrton , F.R.S. F.R.S. at Saint Matthew, Bayswater, Kensington.
FatherJohn Clarke Chaplin
MotherMatilda Adriana Ayrton
CHILDREN
FEdith Chaplin Ayrton
Birth1 OCT 1874Yedo, Japan
Death5 MAY 1945
Marriage26 NOV 1903to Israel Zangwill
Evidence
[S10998] Marriage Certificate obtained from the General Register Office through the Family Records Centre, London
Descendancy Chart
Matilda Charlotte Chaplin , M.D. b: 20 JUN 1846 d: 19 JUL 1883
William Edward Ayrton , F.R.S. F.R.S. b: 14 SEP 1847 d: 6 NOV 1908
Edith Chaplin Ayrton b: 1 OCT 1874 d: 5 MAY 1945
Israel Zangwill b: 21 JAN 1864 d: 1 AUG 1926
Oliver Louis Zangwill b: 29 OCT 1913 d: 12 OCT 1987
Joy