Striving for a world transformed by justice and peace - a TL from 1827

The second reading of the Prevention of Forced Adoptions Bill was debated in the House of Commons on 16 November 1897. It gave single mothers the right to keep their children, and made their forced adoptions illegal. It also gave adopted children the right to know the full names and address of their birth mother.

In the debate, Ann Bowman, Commonwealth MP for Tottenham since April 1994, said that when she was 18 years old, she gave birth to a baby girl. (1) Because she was a poor single mother, the father of the baby having left her when she told him that she was pregnant, her new born baby was taken from her. She had named her Catherine. She was not told the names and address of the married couple who adopted Catherine. Ann said she suffered much distress in Catherine being taken from her. She was now 46 years old and married with six children (in addition to Catherine).

Ann said that she and Catherine met for the first time the previous June. There was extensive newspaper of a private members bill she had introduced into the House of Commons to end forced adoptions. That bill was lost because of the October 1897 general election. The Commonwealth manifesto for that election promised that a Commonwealth government would re-introduce it at the earliest opportunity,

The bill did not apply in the 27 counties of Ireland under the jurisdiction of the Irish governnent and parliament. But the leader of the Irish National Party in the House of Commons, John Dillon, said he was confident that the Irish government would introduce similar legislation in the Irish parliament.

The bill received a second reading by a large majority, with Commonwealth, Irish National, a few Conservative and some Liberal MPs voting for it. It passed through all its stages in the Commons by 17 December 1897.

(1) She is a fictional person.
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The House of Lords debated the second reading of the Prevention of Forced Adoptions Bill on 18 January 1898. In the vote at the end of the debate, 67 Conservative Peers voted against, 48 for and 174 abstained, which was the official Conservative position, or were absent. So the bill received its second reading. After passing through its remaining stages, it received the royal assent and became law on 8 February 1898.
Ann Bowman's eldest daughter, Catherine, was born on 10 August 1869. She was married with two sons and a daughter. Their ages in February 1898 were seven years old, fourteen months and three years old. Ann got married in May 187i, and had four sons and a daughter by her husband, Thomas. Their son's ages in February 1898 were 23, 17, 14, and 8. Their daughters were 25, and 21 years old. When Ann left school she went to work in a factory in north London. Thomas worked in the same factory.
Jane, Ann Bowman's daughter born in 1873, was captain of Wood Green women's football team. In the 1890s women's football grew steadily in popularity. But the Football Association (FA) did not allow women's teams to play on their grounds, or compete in the FA cup. Instead they played on recreation grounds or in parks. Also the FA did not permit women's teams to qhave to have the same name as the men's teams. So instead of Liverpool and Everton there were Kirkdale and Old Swan, for Manchester there was Moss Side. In London there were teams for Hammersmith, Paddington, and Fulham. Because there was not a men's football team for Glasgow, there was a women's team named for that city. There was a well supported campaign for the FA to allow women's teams to play on their grounds, to compete in the FA cup and have the same team names as the men's.

However, there was considerable opposition to women playing football. It was considered to be bad for their health, and their knee length football shorts were condemned as immodest. Also women's football was regarded as inferior to men's.
Robert Applegarth announced at a meeting of Commonwealth MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday 7 November 1899, that he would resign as leader of the party and Prime Minister, when they had elected a new leader. He was sixty years old (born 26 January 1839) and had been party leader since 29 June 1880. The procedure for electing the new leader was as follows: Commonwealth MPs would be eligible to vote. If there was more than one candidate, the first ballot would be held on 29 November. If no candidate received a majority of votes, the last placed candidate would be eliminated and a second ballot held on 5 December. If no candidate won a majority, all except the top two candidates would be eliminated, and there would be a third and final ballot on Thursday 7 December 1899.

There was a lot of speculation in the press as to which MPs would put themselves forward for the leadership. Four candidates, all cabinet ministers, stood for election. They were Robert Blatchford, Robert Cunninghame Graham, Ann Hewitson, and Sarah Taylor. (1)

Blatchford was 48 years old (born 17 March 1851), He was President of the Board of Trade and MP for Halifax since the April 1882 general election. His life was the same as in OTL up to 1877. (2)

Graham was 47 years old, having been born on 24 May 1852. He was Foreign Secretary and MP for Renfrewshire West since the April 1886 general election. His life was as in OTL up to 1885. (3)

Ann Hewitson was Chancellor of the Exchequer. She was 51 years old, born in Preston, Lancashire on 12 May 1848. When she was ten years old, she started work part time in a large cotton mill in Preston. When she reached the age of thirteen, she left school and became a full time weaver in the mill. At the Commonwealth Party conference in Liverpool in September 1871, she moved the motion for the proposed living wage to be the same for both men and women. It was passed by a large majority. She was MP for Ribble Valley from October 1874 to June 1878, and for Preston South from a by-election in July 1880. She was an attractive looking woman, five feet five inches tall, slim with light brown hair and blue eyes. She was a practising Methodist. She had been engaged to be married, but her fiancee was killed in an accident in the cotton mill where they both worked. She never married and remained a virgin all her life.

(1) Hewitson and Taylor are fictional persons.

(2) See

(3) See
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Sarah Taylor, the Lord President of the Council and leader of the House of Commons, was born in a Liverpool slum on 18 April 1837. So she was 62 years old. Her father was a casual labourer in the docks, and her mother a seamstress. She was their third child. They later had six more children, two of whom died in infancy, The famlly lived in one room.

When she was ten years old she left school to work as a maid for the Rathbones, a branch of the prominent merchant family in Liverpool. They lived in a three storey house in the fashionable Anfield district of the city. Sarah's parents died in a cholera epidemic in Liverpool in July 1849. When she was fifteen years she and John Rathbone, the eldest son of her employer, became friends. He was born on 17 November 1835, so he was one year and five months older than her. Their friendship developed into a sexual relationship and she lost her virginity to him. She became pregnant by him. When she could no longer hide her pregnancy, she was dismissed from her job. John denied that he got her pregnant. Sarah went to live with her older sister, Maggie. In October 1853 she gave birth to a girl, whom she named Ellen after her mother.
John Rathbone was elected Conservative MP for Liverpool Walton in the 1870 general election, and has been re-elected in every subsequent election. He was still an MP in 1899. He has admitted that he got Sarah Taylor pregnant, but claimed that she seduced him. She said that he promised to marry her, if she let him have sexual intercourse with her.

Sarah worked from home as a seamstress while bringing up Ellen. In May 1856 she met and fell in love with a 22 year old man, called Henry Evans. She and Ellen moved in with him. She gave birth to a son in August 1857, had a miscarriage in February 1858, and gave birth to a second son in February 1859. She became pregnant again, but Henry keft her in January 1860 for another woman. Her older brother and sister did not have room for her and her three children in their homes, because they had children of their own. So she had no alternative but to enter Liverpool Workhouse. There she gave birth to a girl in March 1860. She named her daughter Hannah. Henry was Welsh, he and his parents moved to Liverpool from north Wales. So her three children by him were half Welsh.

In September 1860, Fanny Smyttan was visiting the women in the workhouse, She approached Sarah, and the two women started talking. Fanny was the Liverpool Organiser of the Ladies Assaociation for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act (LNA). Fanny visited the workhouse every week, and she and Sarah became friends. In December 1860, appointed her the paid Assistant Liverpool Organiser of the LNA. So Sarah and her four children left the workhouse. In March 1864 she became the Liverpool Organiser.

Sarah joined Liverpool Public Library, and read extensively both fiction and non-fiction. Her reading radicalised her and she joined the Commonwealth Party in June 1862. In 1868 she was elected as a Commonwealth member of the West Derby Board of Guardians which comprised Liverpool. She became active in the party and in the October 1874 general election was elected Commonwealth MP for Liverpool Kirkdale, winning the seat from the Tories. She has been MP for the constituency since then, and has made it a safe Commonwealth seat. In January 1877 she was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board. In June 1878 she was promoted to President of the Board. Since then she has held various cabinet posts in Commonwealth Party governments.

On 15 March 1884, Ulster Volunteer (UV) gunmen attacked her constituency party office. Sarah was shot in the chest, both breasts and her thighs. Since then she has needed to use crutches to walk. She was in a critical , but stable condiition in hospital. She was discharged after sixteen days.

On 3 April 1886, three UV gunmen broke down the front door of her house in Kirkdale, where a meeting of the local Commonwealth Party was taking place. They shot indiscrimately at the people in the room, killing five and injuring nine. Sarah was shot in her chest, below the right shoulder. She was taken to hospital, where she stayed for five days.

Sarah Taylor was baptised and brought up in the Church of England, but drifted away from the Church in her teens. In September 1866 she joined the Congregationalist Church in Liverpool and has been a practising member of the church since then. She was a very attractive woman, five feet four inches tall with dark brown hair and brown eyes. She was on the large size, but not fat.
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Sarah Taylor's mother, Ellen, was born in the north of Ireland. Her maiden name was Robinson. Her family emigrated to Liverpool when she was a child. So Sarah was half Irish.

In October 1863 she became friends with Donal Macaulay. He was 28 years old, a member of the Commonwealth Party in Liverpool and a skilled worker in the docks. He was born in Ireland. His family emigrated to Liverpool in 1847, when Donal was twelve years old, because of the Famine. He was a Catholic.

Donal was a widower. In March his wife had died giving birth to their son, who also died. In October 1863 he had a son aged seven years old, and two daughters who were six and four years old. Donal married Niamh, a Catholic woman, on 1 June 1867, but he and Sarah stayed friends, and he invited her to his wedding. Niamh and Donal had eight children between February 1868 and September 1883.
In the Commonwealth leadership election, Graham was the most left wing, while Blatchford was on the right of the party. They were the only candidates born in middle class families. Hewitson and Taylor were on the soft left. With two women candidates in the election, there was a lot of discussion in the press as to whether a woman should be party leader and therefore Prime Minister. Conservative newspapers urged Commonwealth MPs to vote for Blatchford as the least worse choice.

Marie and Nye Griffiths and their children discussed the leadership election. As did their siblings and their families. They wanted Hewitson or Taylor to be elected leader, with most in favour of Taylor.

The Commowealth Party leadership wanted party members to have a say in the leadership election, though only Commonwealth MPs would decide who would be leader. So party members could vote at constituency party offices for the person they wanted to be leader. The completed ballot papers were posted to party headquarters on 25 November 1899. After they were counted two days later, the General Secretary announced the result of the members' vote. Taylor had received the most votes, followed by Hewitson then Graham and then Blatchford, But all had received less than half of the total votes.

The number of votes received by each candidate in the first ballot was as follows:
Sarah Taylor: 136
Ann Hewitson: 102
Robert Blatchford: 85
Robert Cunninghame Graham: 46.

Graham was eliminated, and the result of the second ballot of Commonwealth MPs on 5 December was:
Taylor: 161
Hewitson: 114
Blatchford: 94,

Blatchford was eliminated, and the result of the third round of voting on 7 December 1899 was:
Taylor: 207
Hewitson: 162,

So Sarah Taylor was elected leader of the Commonwealth Party and therefore became Prime Minister. The defeated candidates congratulated her and assured her of their full support.
There was a great amount of press comment regarding Sarah Taylor being the first woman Prime Minister. Though it was historic, modern have generally minimised its impoetance. They point out that most government ministers and most MPs were men, as were all senior civil servants. Business and industry, trade unions and the legal profession were all dominated by men.
Sarah Taylor made the following changes to her government on 11 December 1899:
John Ferguson from Home Secretary to Lord President of the Council and leader of the House of Commons
Robert Blatchford from President of the Board of Trade to Home Secretary
John Bruce Glasier from President of the Health and Local Government Board to President of the Board of Trade
Marion Bernstein from First Commissioner of Works to President of the Health and Local Government Board
Amie Hicks from Parliamentary Secretary Board of Trade to First Commissioner of Works
Helena Born from Parliamentary Secretary Board of Education to Parliamentary Board of Trade
George Lansbury from Assistant Postmaster-General to Parliamentary Secretary Board of Education
Edward Thompson was appointed Assistant Postmaster- General. (1) He was the first black government minister. Bernstein was a wheel chair user.

(1) He is a fictional person.
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The Scottish Home Rule Association (SHRA) campaigned for home rule for Scotland, but it received little support from the political parties. A motion in favour was rejected by a large majority at the 1898 Commonwealth Party conference, so it was not party policy. However the foreign secretary, Robert Cunninghame Graham, was a member of the SHRA. He was the most prominent of Commonwealth MPs who supported home rule. A few Liberal MPs were also in favour, but the Conservative Party was united against it.

A minority of the Commonwealth Party and Commonwealth MPs advocated home rule for Wales. Rhiannon Davies (nee Griffiths), who was elected MP for Swansea in the 1897 general election was one of them. A motion in favour of home rule for Wales was defeated by a substantial majority at the 1898 Commonwealth Party conference. But more Commonwealth Party members and MPs supported Welsh home rule than did Scottish home rule. A few Liberals, but no Conservatives, were also in favour of Home Rule for Wales.
David Lloyd George was originally a supporter of the Liberal Party, but he joined the Commonwealth Party in late April 1886 when the Liberals went into coalition with the Conservatives. He was elected Commonwealth MP for Eifion, in north-west Wales, in the April 1894 general election, and re- elected in October 1897. He advocated home rule for Wales, and was gaining a reputation as an eloquent speaker.
In February 1898, the British colonies of Cape Colony and Natal combined to form the self -governing Union of South Africa. It gave equal voting rights, to men and women, and to all races. Also the rights to be elected to parliament and to be appointed to government posts.

In January 1899, France invaded the independent island kingdom of Madagascar. Queen Ranavalona III appealed to the British government for military aid to defend their country (1) In a decision which was strongly opposed by the Conservative and Liberal parties, British troops were sent to Madagascar. Although it meant that Britain and France were at war, it was agreed by their governments that the war would be restricted to Madagascar. At the battle of Antsirabe on 9 July 1899, a joint British- Malagasy army decisively defeated the French. (2) The French government troops withdrew their troops from the island, and guaranteed its independence.

(1) See

(2) See
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The coastal strip of Kenya was leased by the Sultan of Zanzibar to the British East Africa Association. In 1895 the British government took control, and it became the East Africa Protectorate. By 1899 all of Dahomey was a French colony.
The Gilbert and Ellice Islands became a British Protectorate in 1892. (1) Their annexation by the British government was opposed by many in the Commonwealth Party because they were opposed to expansion of the British Empire. Seventy-five Commonwealth MPs voted against the second reading of the bill making the Islands a British Protectorate. The Prime Minister, Robert Applegarth, and the Colonial Secretary, Robert Cunninghame Graham, defended it as being for the welfare of the native inhabitants, and that the Islands would become independent as soon as they were ready.

Samoa became a French colony in 1898. Nauru, and Solomon Islands became part of the Spanish Empire in 1881 and 1892 respectively.

(1) They are now Kiribati and Tuvulu in OTL.
The French Empire expanded in west Africa in the 1890s. All of Dahomey became a French colony in May 1892, followed by Ivory Coast in April 1893, Senegal in September 1894, Mali in February 1897, and Upper Volta ( now OTL Burkina Faso) in October 1899. France established the colony of Ubangi-Shari in central Africa in January 1894. (1) Malawi became part of the Portuguese Empire in March 1892.

(1) For Ubangi-Shari see
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In April 1899, Maire and Aneurin stayed for a week with her cousin Niamh Collins (nee O'Brien), her husband Brendan and their children in Wexford in south east Ireland. (1) Niamh was a daughter of Maire's father's brother and his wife.

On Monday 10 April, Maire and Nye travelled by train from Swansea to Fishguard, then by ferry to Rosslare and train to Wexford. Brendan and Niamh were waiting for them at the railway station. From they walked to Brendan's and Niamh's house. It was a four bedroom terrace house rented from a housing co-operative. Brendan was 49 years old and a carpenter. Niamh was 45 years old and a dressmaker. They had been married for 25 years and had nine children. Five sons aged 25, 22, 17, 16, and 9, and four daughters aged 21, 18, 14, and 8. Their two eldest sons and their eldest daughter had left home. But their other three daughters and three sons were still living there.

Niamh's eldest son, Liam, was born in February 1874 and conceived the previous May. She and Brendan were not married when she became pregnant, but engaged and living together. Her parents were indignant when she told them that she was pregnant. They called her a dirty, filthy slut and whore, and that she was going to Hell. She wrote to her cousin, Maire with the news. Maire replied that she was delighted and pleased for Niamh.

Maire, Nye and their two young children, David (born 27 February 1872) and Eithne (born 11 June 1873) travelled from Swansea to Wexford on Friday 19 September 1873 for Niamh's and Brendan's wedding in a Catholic church the following day. They stayed in a bed and breakfast in Wexford because Niamh and Brendan were living in a one bedroom lodging. Niamh's parents did not go to their daughter's wedding.

(1) For Wexford see
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Maire and Niamh have exchanged letters, birthday cards and Christmas cards. Maire has told her cousin the events in her life, including her love for Hannah Davis and their relationship, and Nye's lovers. Niamh was always supportive of Maire. The Griffiths and the Collins visit one another in alternate years. Though Nye did not always come with Maire and their children.
Niamh Collin's father was William O'Brien, born in September 1812. Her mother was Harriet Collins (nee Nolan), born February 1818. They got married in May 1838 and had six sons and three daughters. Niamh was their youngest daughter. William died in April 1876, and Harriet in July 1889.

William rented a farm in County Wexford, west of Wexford. His younger brother, Ruairi, rented the neighbouring farm. Because his farm was doing badly, he sold his tenancy to William in October 1849 and emigrated to Swansea in October 1849 with his wife, Teresa. She gave birth to Maire in July 1850.
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