Margaret Kelly, Suffragist

Margaret Kelly (1877 – 1974), born in Salcombe, was the eldest daughter of Rev. Maitland Kelly and his wife Agnes Clare. She had three full brothers and sisters. Her mother died in 1885 and Maitland married again, two years later, Elfreda Carey, with whom he had a further four children. The Kelly family moved to Ottery St Mary, where Maitland became vicar. Elfreda, whose stepchildren were very fond of her, died in 1891, shortly after the birth of her son Reginald. Although her father’s sister-in-law Ella came to help look after the family, Margaret gradually took on responsibility for the running of the household. Margaret and her sisters were educated at home by a governess.

In 1899 Maitland Kelly inherited Kelly House at Kelly in West Devon from his brother Reginald. He came to live at Kelly as squire and rector, although the church was also served by a vicar. The family had six indoor servants in 1901, in addition to the governess.

The Launceston branch of the NUWSS was established in 1913, after an abortive attempt to launch one in 1911, and covered parishes and communities in West Devon as well as in Cornwall. Alice Wevill of St Mary’s Vicarage Launceston became the secretary and Miss Kelly of Kelly House the treasurer. There is little recorded about the activity of the branch: Frances Balfour was due to speak at a public meeting there in November 1913, and Common Cause advertised a branch garden-party to be held on June 11 1914. 


Margaret Kelly (left holding hat) Photograph from the collection of Sophia Kelly


Margaret Kelly’s WW1 Diary

Margaret Kelly was born in 1879, in Ottery St Mary, Devon. She was the eldest daughter of Rev. Maitland Kelly and Agnes Leigh Clare Kelly, after her Stepmother’s untimely death in 1891, Margaret became matriarch of the Kelly Family, responsible for the running of the household. In 1899 her father inherited Kelly House from his brother Reginald and became squire of Kelly. Margaret came to the property with her father, which remains the family home of the Kelly family to this day

The journal we are publishing here was written at a time of flux. Quite apart from the events of the coming War, Margaret was involved in the Suffrage movement, often acting as chair of the local (Launceston) branch. She was using a horse and cart to take the engine of the motor car to be repaired. She was receiving telegrams, using telephones, and hearing of the latest “wireless telegraphy”. Zeppelins were flying over Europe, Bleriot was navigating the channel, truly massive naval vessels were being launched.


One of Margaret's co-workers at Exeter Photo: 


Exeter's War Hospitals

Exeter’s First World War Red Cross Hospitals were amongst the earliest to be commissioned by the War Office after war broke out. Ready by the end of August, they took their first patients at the beginning of October and by Christmas 1914 they provided more Red Cross beds than any other provincial town in Britain. This was a lead they maintained under their redoubtable administrator Georgiana Buller, the only woman to keep her post as Administrator, in defiance of military protocol, under the War Office takeover of large Red Cross hospitals in 1916. 


Staff of No.2, Temporary Hospital Exeter May 1915

(Margaret is 8 from right back row. The lady in the other picture is 10th from the right back row)

Photograph from the collection of Sophia Kelly

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