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Record details

Title Rose Scott 1857 - 1923
Description Scott was an anti-poverty campaigner, supporter of adult suffrage, and Northampton’s first female councillor. She served on the Board of Guardians supporting widowed fathers, and as a member of the Education Committee, advocated provision of playgrounds.
Location Rose's plaque is located at 69 Birchfield Road, Northampton. NN1 4RG
Summary The daughter of a Baptist minister, Rose Scott was a lifelong campaigner against poverty. Convinced that it was caused by an unjust social system, she joined the Socialist movement and was elected to Croydon Board of Poor Law Guardians. In 1905, after the death of her first husband, she came to Northampton, and in 1906 was elected to Northampton Board of Guardians.

As a Guardian, she defended relief work for the unemployed, and was concerned to find housekeepers for widowed men with children, out relief for unmarried mothers, and a woman Relieving Officer to give more confidence to female clients. Co-opted onto the Education Committee, she criticised the poor quality of elementary school buildings in the town, and advocated the provision of playgrounds, apparatus and smaller class sizes.

Rose was a feminist who opposed the suffragettes’ policy of the vote for propertied women, and argued, face to face with Emmeline Pankhurst, the case for full adult suffrage for all men and women, regardless of property. She was well-known as a national speaker for the Social Democratic Federation.

During the First World War, she campaigned against the high price of food and fuel, and in 1917 was appointed to the Northampton Food Control Committee, one of only three women among 15 members. Although a member of the British Socialist Party, she opposed the BSP’s anti-war policy. She worked hard within democratic institutions to win support and make alliances in order to achieve concrete goals, and was respected by her political opponents.

In 1919 Rose Scott was elected as a Labour member of Northampton Town Council, the town’s first woman councillor. She served on several committees and chaired the new Maternity and Child Welfare committee, a position she held until her death. While leading this committee, she brought in Dr Emily Shaw as the first woman Assistant Medical Officer of Health with specific responsibility for maternity and child welfare, and led the drive for improved maternal health and mortality and a reduction of infant deaths and still births. Under her leadership, the Council introduced free meals for pregnant women and nursing mothers and began to pay maternity home and General Hospital fees for women in need.

After her death in 1923, Northampton’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr J. D. McCrindle, wrote, “No official worked with greater zeal and success, and none secured a larger measure of confidence and true respect. Those who served with her were sure of encouragement and ready sympathy at all times, and more often than not her assistance took the practical form of personal effort. I consider she did more real good in the town amongst those who needed it than any other single individual, man or woman, and I know that her successor is most ready to own the difficulty of filling her place. Her effort for what she believed to be the good of the working people of this town hastened her death and she literally died in harness.” Over 1,000 people attended her funeral at Billing Road cemetery.