Maud Palmer, Countess of Selborne

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Beatrix Maud Palmer, Countess of Selborne (11 April 1858 – 27 April 1950) was a British political and women's rights activist.

Born in Marylebone as Beatrix Maud Gascoyne-Cecil, she was the oldest child of future Prime Minister Robert and Georgina. She was not formally educated, but acquired an interest in conservatism and political affairs through her family and the local Primrose League.[1]

In 1883, Cecil married William Palmer, Viscount Wolmer. They had four children, including Roundell. At the 1885 UK general election, William was elected as a Liberal Party Member of Parliament, and while Maud remained a staunch Conservative Party supporter, she gradually won William to her views, as he first joined the Liberal Unionist Party split, then later became associated with the far right of the Conservative Party.[1]

William succeeded as Earl of Selborne in 1895, and Maud therefore became Countess of Selborne. From 1905, William held various senior posts in South Africa, and Maud moved with him, associating herself with various local charities. They returned to the UK in 1910, and she became president of the Conservative and Unionist Women's Franchise Association. In this role, she toured the country, speaking in support of women's suffrage. While she initially only supported votes for wealthy single women, she later also supported the enfranchisement of married women, arguing that most married women were conservative. She stood down in 1913, and once World War I started, focused instead on promoting patriotism.[1]

After the end of the war, the countess was less active, but became a Justice of the Peace in Hampshire,[1] and served as president of the National Council of Women of Great Britain & Ireland in 1920/21.[2]

Her name and picture (and those of 58 other women's suffrage supporters) are on the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London, unveiled in 2018.[3][4][5]


  1. ^ a b c d "Palmer, (Beatrix) Maud, Countess of Selborne". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/50054. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Glick, Daphne (1995). The National Council of Women of Great Britain: the first one hundred years, 1895-1994. London: National Council of Women of Great Britain. p. 248.
  3. ^ "Historic statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett unveiled in Parliament Square". 24 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  4. ^ Topping, Alexandra (24 April 2018). "First statue of a woman in Parliament Square unveiled". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Millicent Fawcett statue unveiling: the women and men whose names will be on the plinth". iNews. Retrieved 2018-04-25.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Louisa Knightley
President of the Conservative and Unionist Women's Franchise Association
Succeeded by
Countess of Fingall
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Maria Ogilvie Gordon
President of the National Council of Women of Great Britain & Ireland
Succeeded by
Frances Balfour