On 29th September 2015 I wrote about the pioneers of the women’s police force. One of them was Margaret Damer Dawson (1873-1920). Today I’m going to look at her family tree to find ancestors who represent each of the 5 categories in my Law and Citizenship series.
represent 3 of the 5 categories herself. As a pioneer of the women’s police
force she instantly represents the “Police and Law Enforcement” category. She
can also be included in the “Campaigns and Activism” category not only for her
work to create the police force but also because she was an active
anti-vivisection campaigner. In 1914 Margaret was a member of the Criminal Law
Amendment Committee, giving her a place in the “Parliament and Legislation”
category. Margaret’s nearest police connection before she began to fight for
the creation of the women’s police force came with her step-uncle who was a
Metropolitan Police magistrate from 1905 to 1919. Perhaps that was the biggest
influence on Margaret’s own interest in the police force.
If we have Margaret
representing the “Police and Law Enforcement” category let’s have a look at her
ancestry to see who can represent the other four and see how much influence
they had on her family.
connection to a significant court case in Margaret’s ancestry comes with her
maternal grandfather, Frederick Shand Hemming (1825-1872). In 1865 at the
Divorce Court Frederick was cited as committing adultery with Rebecca, the wife
of Col. Gustavus Pollard. Polland was granted a divorce and Rebecca went on to
become Frederick’s second wife after the death of his first, Margaret Damer
There are several lawyers
and judges in Margaret’s ancestry. The nearest senior judge in the direct line
is Sir Roger Cholmeley (c.1485-1656). He rose from being called to the bench in
Lincoln’s Inn in 1520 to Lord Chief Justice in 1552. Roger’s career is
remarkable in that he was knighted and appointed a Chief Baron of the Exchequer
before being appointed a judge, a very rare distinction.
Sir Roger Cholmeley
sat in the House of Commons as Recorder of London. A good number of Margaret’s
ancestors were elected to parliament rather by virtue of their appointment. The
most recent of them is her stepfather, Thomas de Grey (1843-1919), who married
her widowed mother and sat as an MP before succeeding to the tittle of Baron
Walsingham and moving to the House of Lords (it was his brother who was
Metropolitan Police magistrate).
The nearest bloodline
ancestor to be elected as an MP was Sir John Hotham (1632-1689). He sat in 6
parliaments from 1660 to his death. His career is dominated by campaigns to ban
Catholics from standing for parliament and for the disbandment of the standing
army. Sir John was a very active parliamentarian and was appointed to many
committees. His political career appeared to end when he was defeated in the
1685 general election after being implicated in a Jacobite plot, but he joined
Prince William of Orange in his “invasion” in 1688 in the so-called Glorious
Revolution. He was re-elected to parliament in 1689 and died two months later
after catching a chill that winter.
When it comes to
“Campaigns and Activism” in Margaret’s ancestry there are several related
campaigns which are the most significant. These are the anti-Protestant
campaigns of the Tudor period known as the Northern (or Earl’s) Rebellion and
the Pilgrimage of Grace. This is where Margaret’s ancestry bumps into my own.
My direct ancestor Richard
Norton was the 71-year-old High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1569 when a group of
Catholic aristocrats and opponents of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I gathered
to rebel against her in the Northern Rebellion. Norton led an attack on Durham
Cathedral before joining his nephew Thomas Markenfield to attack Ripon Cathedral.
Markenfield was Margaret Dames Dawson’s ancestral cousin. The rebellion was
defeated and both Norton and Markenfield fled to Flanders where they died.
Markenfield’s aunt married
Robert Aske, the nephew and namesake of the leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace,
another attempt to depose Queen Elizabeth in favour of the Catholic Duke of
Having taken arms
against the monarch both Robert Aske (Margaret’s ancestral uncle) and Thomas
Markenfield (her ancestral cousin) were found guilty of the ultimate crime of
treason. Even though Markenfield managed to escape Robert Aske was hanged.
Several members of both families were imprisoned for their parts in both
rebellions. Even Lord Chief Justice Sir Roger Cholmeley I mentioned earlier didn’t
escape the prison cell for opposing a Tudor monarch. In 1553 he added his
signature to the proclamation of Lady Jane Grey’s succession to the throne,
leading the Catholic Queen Mary I to imprison him and not reappoint him.
All these examples of law,
crime and campaigning in Margaret Damer Dawson’s ancestry may not have had much
of an effect on her decision to become a pioneering female police officer.
Whoever may have influenced her the most it is certain that Margaret herself
was an inspiration to many hundreds of women in the first half of the 20th
century who fought for their place in the modern police force.