We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Brownlow [née Morgan], Jane Macnaughton Egerton (1854/5–1928), educationist and suffragist, was born in Paisley, the daughter of Captain George Bernard Morgan. Her father was town major at Gibraltar when she married Captain Edward Francis Brownlow (1839–1875), of the 71st highland light infantry, at King's Chapel, Gibraltar, on 20 August 1872. Her husband was a distant connection of the family of Baron Lurgan; after his early death she returned to Britain, and in 1881 was living in Grantchester, near Cambridge, as a student. She subsequently moved from Cambridge to London, where she brought a feminist perspective to the issues of state schooling and the position of women in the labour market. She was also an uncompromising supporter of women's suffrage and it seems likely that she joined a suffrage society.

A member of the Fabian Society, the Humanitarian League, the , the Teachers' Guild, and the Women's Progressive Society, Mrs Brownlow could draw on almost twenty years' experience in the educational world by the time she became manager of an elementary school in Finsbury (1891). Within two years she was criticizing the domestic curriculum for working-class girls in a Pioneer Club debate covered in the feminist journal Shafts. In 1896 she condemned the uneven provisions of the Technical Education Act, commenting in a letter to Shafts that: ‘framed by men in the interests of men, they make it impossible for instruction to be given in any trade to persons not already working at that trade’ (Shafts, 1896, 84).

In the autumn of 1894 Jane Brownlow put herself forward as a candidate for the London school board. Campaigning as a Progressive in Finsbury, she was a strong supporter of higher elementary schools and argued that a great injustice had been done to the really intelligent children. At the same time she did not endorse socialist proposals to provide maintenance for school children out of public funds. As a Liberal she advocated a charitable solution to the problem of school feeding. Speaking at a campaign meeting in Horsleydown, Mrs Brownlow acknowledged the work of her predecessor, Helen Taylor, who represented Southwark between 1876 and 1885: having heard much praise of Taylor's involvement with the local schools she vowed to ‘strive to follow in her footsteps’ (Southwark Recorder, 10 Nov 1894). With the support of the London Nonconformist Council she polled 7121 votes, finishing fifth in the contest for four divisional seats on the board.

An active member of the Women's Liberal Federation, in 1896 Jane Brownlow supported an attempt to withdraw female support for anti-suffrage parliamentary candidates. She seconded a resolution to this effect moved by Mrs W. Grove of Southport, in the absence of Mrs Eva McLaren, at the annual council meeting in June (Woman's Signal, 18 June 1896, 189–90). In the end the proposal was defeated, after a turbulent debate that raised the spectre of more party secessions. Six months later she reiterated her position during a public debate at Trinity Hall, London: ‘I will not’, said Mrs Brownlow, ‘lift a finger to help any man who will not help my sisters’ (Woman's Signal, 3 Dec 1896, 357).

Jane Brownlow was an outspoken critic of protective legislation which restricted or prohibited women's work in certain fields or limited their duties or hours of work. In her view the link between lack of political rights and potential economic disenfranchisement was clear, since the new Factory Acts applied only in areas worked also by men. As she put it in 1896: ‘No legislator has yet attempted to make laws which shall prevent women from taking night work when nursing, or acting, or dancing’ (Brownlow, Women and Factory Legislation, 4). However, she also took up the issue of child labour, working with Margaret Macdonald and Ruth Homan on the committee on wage-earning children, which was formed by the Women's Trade Union League to increase the efficiency and promote the reform of the existing legislation.

Quite apart from her political commitments, Mrs Brownlow was an accomplished author and linguist, whose works included a translation entitled The English Woman: Studies in her Psychic Evolution from the French work by David Staars (1909). The book starts by providing a general introduction to the idea of character, moving on to look at the English mind, English women during the Renaissance, and the position of English women in the eighteenth century. Final sections describe the advent of organized feminist campaigns in the nineteenth century. At the start of the twentieth century she turned naturally to the Women's Local Government Society as a political organization; she made a significant contribution to its agitation against the Education Act of 1902, which restricted the opportunities for women in local educational administration. A decade later, fresh legislation meant her handbook for women seeking elected office (1911) was used to promote women's work in local government. Jane Brownlow died on 14 November 1928 at her home, 59 Seymour House, Compton Street, London.

Jane Martin

Sources  

J. M. E. Brownlow, Women and factory legislation (1896) · D. Staars, The English woman: studies in her psychic evolution, trans. J. M. E. Brownlow (1909) · J. M. E. Brownlow, Women's work in local government (1911) · J. Edwards, ed., ‘The directory of lecturers and reformers’, Labour Annual (1897), 241–6 · School Board Chronicle (11 Nov 1894), 583 · Shafts, 3 (1894), 366–7 · Shafts, 4 (1895), 22 · Southwark Recorder (3 Nov 1894) · Woman's Signal (18 June 1896), 189–90 · Woman's Signal (3 Dec 1896), 357 · 205/59 committee on wage earning children, 9th and 10th Annual Reports, 1909–10, London Metropolitan University, Gertrude Tuckwell MSS, Women's Trade Union League · m. cert. · d. cert. · E. Lodge, The peerage of the British empire (1881) · census returns, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901

Archives  

LMA, school board for London · LMA, Women's Local Government Society |  London Metropolitan University, TUC Collection, Gertrude Tuckwell MSS, Women's Trade Union League


Wealth at death  

£3633 6s. 1d.: probate, 25 Jan 1929, CGPLA Eng. & Wales