Alice Schofield

Alice Schofield

Alice Schofield was born in Cleveland in 1881. The family was very poor and she was sent to Manchester to be brought up by an uncle and aunt. She gained a teacher-training certificate from Stockwell Training College and taught mathematics at a school in Crumpsall. A fellow member of staff was Teresa Billington and the two women both became active in politics.

Billington-Greig refused to teach religious instruction and this led to the Manchester Education Committee threatening to sack her. Emmeline Pankhurst, a member of the Manchester Education Committee, was impressed by Teresa's spirit and arranged for her to be transferred to a Jewish school where she would not have to teach religion.

Schofield and Teresa Billington both became members of the Independent Labour Party in Manchester. During this period the women became friendly with Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper. All four women became strong supporters of women's suffrage.

In 1904 Schofield joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). Alice, like other suffrages at the time, questioned the way that Emmeline Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst were running the WSPU. She objected to the way they made decisions without consulting members. In 1907 she left the WSPU with Charlotte Despard and Teresa Billington to form the Women's Freedom League.

Schofield became a paid organizer for the WFL. Based in Middlesbrough she was arrested in February 1909 after taking part in a demonstration outside the House of Commons and was sentenced to one month's imprisonment. In February 1910 she was attacked at an open-air WFL meeting in Guisborough. She was rescued by Charles Coates, a coal exporter, who later married her.

Alice Schofield had two daughters and one son. Her husband was very wealthy and the children were brought up in a household on several servants, including a governess and nurse. She continued her political activities and was a member of the Women's Freedom League national executive.

In 1920 she was a delegate for the WFL at the conference of the International Women's Suffrage Alliance in Geneva. A vegetarian, she ran a health-food restaurant in Middlesbrough. She also worked as an organizer for the National Union of Women Teachers.

Alice Schofield Coates died in 1975.