(1902) Homewood, Park Ln, Knebworth SG3 6PP, UK
(1910) 15 Somerset Terrace, Duke's Road, Euston Road, London NW
Knebworth House, Old Knebworth Ln, Stevenage SG1 2AX
Lytton Mausoleum Knebworth, North Hertfordshire District, Hertfordshire, England
Lady Constance Georgina Bulwer-Lytton (12 February 1869 – 2 May 1923), usually known as Constance Lytton, was an influential British suffragette activist, writer, speaker and campaigner for prison reform, votes for women, and birth control. She sometimes used the name Jane Warton. Olive Schreiner's Woman and Labour is dedicated to Constance Lytton; the two women had first met in 1892 when Lytton visited South Africa with her mother.
Lytton was the third of seven children of Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton and Edith Villiers. She spent some of her early years in India, where her father was the Governor-General; it was he who made the proclamation that Queen Victoria was the Empress of India.[a] Her siblings were: Edward Rowland John Bulwer-Lytton (1865–1871); Lady Elizabeth Edith "Betty" Bulwer-Lytton (1867–1942) who married Gerald Balfour, 2nd Earl of Balfour, brother of the future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour; Henry Meredith Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1872–1874); Lady Emily Bulwer-Lytton (1874–1964) who married the architect Edwin Lutyens; Victor Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton (1876–1947) who married Pamela Chichele-Plowden, an early flame of Sir Winston Churchill, who had met her while playing polo at Secunderabad; Neville Bulwer-Lytton, 3rd Earl of Lytton (1879–1951). In the early years in India, Lytton was educated by a series of governesses and reportedly had a lonely childhood. She apparently met Winston Churchill while living in India, where he was a rival to her brother Victor for the hand of Pamela Chichele-Plowden. She is reported to have said: "The first time you see Winston Churchill you see all his faults, and the rest of your life you spend discovering his virtues. Although she matured in England surrounded by many of the great artistic, political and literary names of the day, she rejected the aristocratic way of life. After her father died, she retired from view to care for her mother, rejecting attempts to interest her in the outside world. Lytton remained unmarried until her death; in 1892 her mother refused her permission to marry a man from a "lower social order". For several years she waited in vain for her mother to change her mind, while refusing to contemplate marrying anyone else. In 1897 her aunt, Theresa Earle, published her gardening guide Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden. She had been encouraged to write this by Lytton who typed some of the text. The book sold quickly and well and in one of the later editions Lytton added a section on Japanese flower arranging.
Edith Villiers, later Countess of Lytton who was Vicereine of India, by George Frederic Watts
The reclusive phase of Lytton's life started to change in 1905 when she was left £1,000 in her great-aunt/godmother, Lady Bloomfield's estate. She donated this to the revival of Morris dancing and her family records state that "Her brother Neville suggested that she gave it to the Esperance Club, a small singing and dancing group for working class girls", where part of their remit was teaching Morris dancing. The Esperance club was founded by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Mary Neal in response to distressing conditions for girls in the London dress trade.
Although born and raised in the privileged ruling class of British society, Lytton rejected this background to join the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), the most militant group of suffragette activists campaigning for "Votes for Women". She was subsequently imprisoned four times, including once in Walton gaol in Liverpool under the nom de guerre of Jane Warton, where she was force fed while on hunger strike. She chose the alias and disguise of Jane Warton, an 'ugly London seamstress', to avoid receiving special treatment and privileges because of her family connections: she was the daughter of a viceroy and the sister of a member of the House of Lords. She wrote pamphlets on women's rights, articles in The Times newspaper, and a book on her experiences, Prisons and Prisoners, which was published in 1914. While imprisoned in Holloway during March 1909, Lytton used a piece of broken enamel from a hairpin to carve the letter "V" into the flesh of her breast, placed exactly over the heart. "V" for Votes for Women. Lytton remained unmarried, because her mother refused her permission to marry a man from a "lower social order", while she refused to contemplate marrying anyone else.
Constance Lytton never fully recovered from her prison treatment, heart attack and strokes, and was nursed at Knebworth by her mother. They lived at Homewood, a house designed by Constance's brother-in-law, Edwin Lutyens. She died in 1923, aged 54, only days after moving out of Homewood to a flat in Paddington, London, in an attempt to restart an active life. She was buried with the purple, white and green Suffragette colours laid on her coffin. Her remains lie in the family mausoleum.
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