Partner Christine Murrell, Honor Bone, Anne Blake

Queer Places:
4 Guilford St, Holborn, London WC1N 1EH, UK
27 Gordon Square, Kings Cross, London WC1E, UK
21 North Gate, Prince Albert Rd, St John's Wood, London NW8 7EL, UK
Four Winds, Old Guildford Rd, Frimley Green, Camberley GU16 6PG, UK
High Holborn House, 52/54 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 6RL, UK
44 Mount St, Mayfair, London W1K 2RY, UK

Marie Lawson, a leading member of the Women's Freedom League at the Green, Gold and White Fair, c.1909Marie Lawson (1881-1975) was born in Sunderland, one of six children of a solicitor. Dr Christine Murrell, about whom Christopher St. John wrote a biography, joined forces with her ‘beloved friend and colleague’ Dr Honor Bone early in her professional life and lived with her for over 30 years, the last of these spent in a ménage à trois with Marie Lawson, a printer, editor and tax resister. Murrell and Bone worked in general practice together in West London; Murrell, who also used the forename ‘Christopher’, ran one of the first infant welfare clinics, helped with the aftercare of imprisoned suffragettes and became the first woman elected to the Council of the British Medical Association in 1924 and to the General Medical Council in 1933.

The family of Marie Lawson was Liberal, her mother was president of the local Women's Liberal Association, and politics was a staple topic of conversation at the lunch table. She was (badly) educated at home by a daily governess, attended Milton House School (later the High School) in Sunderland, and after coming to London at the age of 16, on her father's retirement, attended classes in mathematics at the University Tutorial College, where one of the tutors was H.G. Wells, and in law at the London School of Economics. Law being a profession then closed to women, Marie Lawson learned to type and found employment as a clerk in an engineering firm, the Sheridan Machinery Company, with which she remained for 50 years, for much of the time as chairman and owner. Unusually for the time, she left the family home in Dulwich when she was 21 and took a flat on her own at 4 Guilford Street in Bloomsbury, then considered a rather disreputable area. As she remarked when interviewed, it was thought "very forward" to live in such a manner. She joined the Women's Social and Political Union in London in 1907, and was present at the meeting at the Essex Hall in the Strand when Emmeline Pankhurst revealed that the WSPU was no longer to be a democratic body with a constitution. Marie Lawson was shocked that women were not to be considered worthy of a vote in their own society and had no hesitation in leaving the WSPU and joining the Women's Freedom League. She was elected to the national executive committee of the WFL in 1908 and took part in the main WFL activities, such as sandwich board parades, picketing of the House of Commons and census resistance. In 1909, in order to produce the Vote, she formed the Minerva Publishing Company and became its managing director until 1910 when, in the furtherance of her business career, she left for the USA. The engineering company for which she worked produced printing and binding machinery and her expertise in this area was of use to the WFL. In 1909 Marie Lawson refused to pay income tax and in December some of her jewellery was distrained and sold in lieu; in 1910 she joined the newly founded Tax Resistance League. In 1911 Marie was one of the women who ‘vanished for the vote’ by refusing to register for the census. The records describe her and Emily Ridler, both “over 30,” as follows: “4 Guilford Street… Census night: resisters. Occupation: secretaries to suffragettes.” Although not a member of the WSPU, at some point between 1912 and 1914 she went to Paris to take instruction from Christabel Pankhurst about the Suffragette. In 1913 she was a member of the advisory committee of the International Suffrage Shop.

In 1920-23 Marie Lawson was vice-president and honorary organizer of the Women's Election Committee and was a member of the committee of the International Women's Franchise Club. She was made a freeman of the City of London in 1928. In 1947 she was a member of the committee that organized the Record Room for the Suffragette Fellowship, having donated £50 towards the cost of its establishment.

From 1922 Marie Lawson had shared "a common life" for over 30 years with Honor Bone and Christine Murrell, from 1930 living with them in a menage a trois. Christine Murrell, to whom she was greatly attached, had guaranteed the money that allowed her to buy the Sheridan Company. Christopher St. John had a dual dedication, to Honor Bone and Marie Lawson, in her biography Christine Murrell M.D. (1935). Written at the request of Honor Bone, Christine Murrell's lover, the book acknowledge the fact that Murrell lived with two women, both of whom had loving significance for her. By 1925 all three women were able to move into a house which Murrell had herself designed, The Four Winds, Frimley Green, near Aldershot. In 1930, the triple domestic partnership was extended to London, where Murrell and Bone were already living together. After Murrell's death, Bone was still living at Four Winds in 1941, but Marie Lawson, although in regular and fond contact with her, was no longer living with her.

Nina Boyle’s political and friendship network was far-reaching and on her death in 1943, a memorial fund was set up by her women colleagues specifically to keep alive the political issues that Nina Boyle fought for all her feminist career. The Nina Boyle Memorial Committee comprised Cicely Hamilton as chairwoman, Elsa Gye as honorary secretary and Marie Lawson, honorary treasurer. Members of Parliament who were also patrons to the Nina Boyle Memorial Fund included Eleanor Rathbone, Nancy Astor, Ellen Wilkinson, Irene Ward, Dr. Edith Summerskill and Megan Lloyd George.

Marie Lawson died at Menton, in the south of France, where she had enjoyed the food, wine and casinos. Her last companion had been Mrs Anne Blake.. In her will she left, after specific bequests, two-thirds of her estate to the Christine Murrell Fellowship of the Medical Women's Federation "which commemorates the work of my dear friend Christine Murrell M.D."


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