Elizabeth Clarke Wolstenholme Elmy

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Elizabeth Wolstenholme

Elizabeth Clarke Wolstenholme Elmy (1833–1918) was an English suffragist, essayist and poet, who also wrote under the pseudonyms E, Ellis, Ellis Ethelmer, and Ignota.


Elizabeth Wolstenholme was born in Cheetham Hill, Manchester and baptised on 15 December 1833 in Eccles, Lancashire where her father was a Methodist minister.[1] She was the daughter of Revd Joseph Wolstenholme who died around 1843. Her mother Elizabeth had died when she was very young and she was brought up by her stepmother Mary (née Lord).[2]She attended Fulneck Moravian School for two years but was not permitted to study further. She opened a private girls' boarding school in Boothstown near Worsley and stayed there until 1865 when she moved her establishment to Congleton in Cheshire. In 1865 she founded the Manchester Schoolmistresses Association.[1]

Shortly before the birth of their son, Frank, Wolstoncroft married Ben Elmy who had also been a school teacher but subsequently ran a mill producing silk cloth. In the UK census she is listed as "Elizabeth Woolstencroft" living with Benjamin Elmy.


She became an ardent feminist and vigorous campaigner for women's suffrage. Her brother Joseph Wolstenholme (1829–1891) was a professor of mathematics.

She was honorary secretary to the Manchester Society for Women's Suffrage (1865), secretary to the Married Women's Property Committee (1867–1882), a founding member of the Women's Franchise League (1889) and the founder of the Women's Emancipation Union (1891).

She published a long feminist poem, Woman Free (1893); two sex education manuals (The Human Flower, 1894, and Baby Buds, 1895) and many pamphlets, including her last work, Woman's Franchise: The Need of the Hour (1907).



  1. ^ a b Crawford (2003), p. 225
  2. ^ Stanley Holton, Sandra (2004), "Elmy, Elizabeth Clarke Wolstenholme (1833–1918), campaigner for women's rights", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.) (Oxford University Press), retrieved 26 February 2015  (subscription required)


  • Crawford, Elizabeth (2003), The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928, Routledge, ISBN 1-135-43402-6 

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