Whitehall Celebrates Women's History Month - Part 2
Whitehall Celebrates Women's History Month -
Written by Nicky Gravestock
This is a fictional account of Maud Müller’s life in the early to mid 1930s at Whitehall recounted through the eyes of a domestic servant at Whitehall.
So where was I? Ah yes. I thank the lord that tomorrow is Sunday, my half day. Miss Maud and Miss Mary always go to the Church over at St Dunstan’s and Miss Maud attends both morning and evening services.
Miss Maud helps out with arranging the flowers on the altar, listens and administers to the poor; she also acts as an unofficial guide for groups of visitors to Lumley Chapel - she’s a real authority on its history. It's across the road and might even be older than this house, of course the shell of this house was built in mediaeval times - fancy that!
She spends a lot of her time at St Dunstan's, but doesn’t always get on with the Preacher Canon Hunter, feeling that she should have sole rights to a certain pew at the front of the Church. Indeed it has always been more or less reserved for the Killick family and their descendants, so she is adamant that it must be put aside for herself and her sister. This arrangement seemed perfectly satisfactory with the previous Vicar, however, the new ‘upstart in town’ (as Miss Maud privately calls him) is not so amenable. I will say that Miss Maud can often be a formidable force, like a hurricane, once she decides to ‘gust and blow’ there’s nothing much anyone can do about it!
Both Miss Maud and Miss Mary like to look ‘just so’ and turned out properly. Today was the last day of the millinery sale at Clara Reid so the Misses Müllers went to buy new hats. Even though it was a real pea souper they still walked a couple of miles into Sutton. Miss Maud always purchases what I call a ‘no-nonsense hat!’
Newspaper, 1930’s, Attic, Whitehall
She keeps it on when sitting on the sunny lawn to have photographs taken in the garden which stretches on forever at the back, down to the family Stables and Park. Miss Mary is quite tall, and mostly doesn’t bother with her hat, her hair having such a nice wave in it; she usually styles it to one side of her head. Miss Maud’s beloved dogs scramble to get in the picture, all three of them yapping and scampering about for Miss Maud’s attention. Miss Maud loves to fuss and pet over them but her favourite is Bruce, her beloved Pomeranian. I have it on good authority from Miss Mary that this particular breed was introduced to our parts by Queen Charlotte and her granddaughter, our late Queen Victoria, who made them popular. Indeed on the latter’s deathbed, her favourite Pomeranian was reported to keep her company (1). Miss Maud is so fond of dogs that she is a member of the RSPCA and the Anti-Vivisection society. I can’t say I’m so sure about the creatures, after all they are descended from wolves! I’m always brushing hairs off the furniture and finding muddy paw prints on the floor.
Oh well, I’d better get the mop out again …
Maud Müller with (almost certainly at least one Pomeranian dog) photo undated, but certainly earlier than 1934, from Photo Album, Attic, Whitehall.
Photograph of the Müller sisters, their pomeranians and their aunt.
Miss Maud and I both remember the passing of the Representation of the People Act in 1918, which gave some women voting rights, only some mind, as they had to be over thirty years of age and a Householder (or married to one). Miss Maud is quite buttoned up about her age, but I know that she was around 45 when the Act was passed and as her aunt Harriett Killick had died in 1914, Miss Maud then became the head of the Household and had to be in charge.
At the time women had to be over 30, whereas men only had to be 21 – Typical! Double standards, is what I say. Apparently Miss Maud knew some distant acquaintances who moved to different places to avoid being recorded on the Census.
The suffragette Emily Davison apparently was found by a Cleaner in the Houses of Parliament broom cupboard, she’d been hiding there for 46 hours! Sitting there for nearly 2 nights in that cramped place, imagine that! (2).
Although Miss Maud wouldn’t have agreed with her methods, even she said she could never predict what was going to happen to Miss Emily two years later in 1913, a sad affair that was, poor love, and it only being down the road at Epsom, a bus ride away and all. After being arrested 9 times, going on hunger strike 7 times, and being force-fed 49 times (3). I can’t ever imagine it. There was no hope for her recovery after being trampled by the king’s horse at the Derby.
Then in 1919 there was the first woman MP to take her seat in the House of Commons, an American called Viscountess Nancy Astor. Well, really, it was about time ...
Plaque commemorating Emily Wilding Davison, Epsom Racecourse (photo taken by Nicky)
The Suffragette newspaper (4)
To be continued …
About the author:
Nicky is a Volunteer at Whitehall Historic House and a member of Sutton Writers. Between September 2021 – December 2022 she enrolled on three courses for Writing for Wellbeing run by Sutton College located at the Museum. She decided to stay … and as they say, the rest is history!
References and Sources:
(2) Later a plaque in her memory was placed in the broom cupboard by Tony Benn,
Helena Kennedy QC and Jeremy Corbyn MP, former leader of the Labour Party, stating
‘…a modest reminder of a great woman with a great cause who never lived to see it
prosper but played a significant part in making it possible’ “No vote, no Census” article,
Historic UK, written by Ellen Castelow.
(4) Original: The Suffragette newspaper This version from Channel Four, Public Domain,