Middlesbrough’s most prominent
political figures of the 20th century was Alice Schofield. Activist,
suffragette and councillor, she was born in the town in 1881, and died, after a
full and worthy life, as recently as 1975.
Her early days were inauspicious, to say the least. With three elder brothers, her mother felt unable to cope, and dispatched her daughter to
with an uncle and aunt. It would be the
making of her, as she moved confidently through childhood and into a career as
a teacher by the turn of the century.
Influenced by her colleague, Teresa Billington, she joined the Women’s
Social and Political Union in 1904 – though broke away from the same in 1907 to
help form the Women’s Freedom League after disagreeing with the way in which
the Pankhursts were running the WSPU. Manchester
By 1909, she was back in
Middlesbrough, and still campaigning for Women’s Rights – suffering a short spell
in prison for her troubles. In 1910, she
married local merchant Charles Coates, not long after he had rescued her from attack
at an open-air meeting in Guisborough.
With her financial future seemingly secured, she and her three children
enjoyed a comfortable home life, and continued campaigning for both the WFL and
social reform in general up and down the country (and even abroad).
In 1924, her husband lost much of his money, though they were able to maintain a reasonable standard of living (for a time they ran a boarding house).
was a paid organiser for several representative bodies in her time,
and a long-time member of the fledgling Labour Party – as well as becoming a
JP. She also became Alice Middlesbrough’s first female
councillor in 1919, serving until 1926.