While writing this post I had the very creative title of “The Micro-cremator part 2” but after going with the flow of the writing this title above seems more appropriate. Don’t worry more of the micro-cremator is coming.
So, no more of the usual beating about the bush, lets get straight into where we left off. If you read my last post, you know we have a scarcity of any hard facts to tell us what motivates Kate to invent the Micro-cremator and to expose herself to the ridicule that she must have known would have been aimed at her, considering the time she was living in. But there are some pretty big clues that I know will help us. This would be Kate’s first motivating factor. (refer photo to the right)
Her Mum and her own life experiences. (By the way, how is that for a photo?) Rob Tunnock who so generously shared it with me just happened to stumble onto my blog late last year and sent me a message. His Great Grandfather was our Kate’s cousin, how awesome is that. Back to Kate’s mum, I have discussed in an earlier post some of the traits that were attributed to her from her small obituary but since then I have also discovered a little more about Kate Hooppell (Kate senior). I was stunned to find her listed in the 1841 Census, she is two years of age.
This census was taken on the night of Sunday the 6th of June. Kate Senior is 2 years of age living with her parents Robert and Ellen, within a month her own mother Ellen is dead. I can’t find an exact cause of death for Ellen but in early Victorian England Tuberculosis or Consumption as it was commonly called, was one of the leading causes of Adult death. By the time our Kate is studying Pharmacy in 1897 it was responsible for killing 1 out of every 7 people living in all of Europe and the United States. (https://www.cdc.gov/tb/worldtbday/history.htm) (https://livingwithdying.leeds.ac.uk/2017/08/09/top-ten-ways-to-die-in-victorian-britain/)
Now if this 1851 Census is the correct census listing for Kate senior, (I’m fairly certain it is) then she is still living with her father Robert, as well as two other family members, two cousins. Catherine, performing as the housekeeper and the other, Anne acting as Kate’s Governess. You will note that Kate’s father Robert is listed as a “…Landed Proprietor…”. This and the fact they also have a servant living in the household lets us safely assume they have money.
My reasoning behind my certainty this is their census?, we have quite a few points that are lining up. The area they are from, Ringmore, Bigbury and Devon all match with the 1841 listing. Kate’s age, she is now 12, 10 years older than 1841. The fact that Ellen is not listed and also the fact that there are no other children listed. I can confirm that Kate senior was an only child.
Next factor that adds to Kate seniors story, her father dies 3 years later in 1854, she is just 15 years of age. I’m not sure what happens to her immediately after this, but amazingly I found her in the 1861 census.
Kate senior is now living with George and Catherine Andrews and Kate is listed as cousin. Looking back at the 1851 census we see Robert’s niece Catherine (i.e. Kate’s Cousin) listed as Housekeeper. I bet this is the same Catherine who is now married to George Andrews and who names one of their daughters “…Kate Hooppell Andrews…” listed above. What a wonderful way to show how close they all were. Note also that Kate is 22 years of age and listed as “…Landed Property…” further facts lining up with the previous census.
At this time Kate senior is a wealthy independent young woman who is 9 years away from marrying Ebenezer Thorne, so what does she do? Well her obituary gives us a great clue. It explains that she aligns herself with the ideals of a long forgotten hero of Birmingham, that great industrial city of 19th century England, George Dawson.
Remember, I’m talking about clues as to what motivates our Kate, and I’m suggesting her own mother’s history is the number one motivating factor. This is why we are taking this very shallow dive into this relationship with George Dawson. He was a “…non conformist preacher, lecturer and politician.” He was also know to be an “…advocate of free education and also served on the school board.” (https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/directory_record/112144/george_dawson_1821_to_1876)
George I can only imagine must have been a huge influencing figure for Kate Senior. A young orphaned, unmarried woman who has the means at hand to provide assistance. Her obituary again gives us a great clue as to her civic character. It states that she had…, on second thoughts have a look yourself.
I know I have shared this with you a few posts back now, but I don’t expect you to remember, and I think this gives good context to the discussion. See how it states that Kate has the “…purse and personal efforts…” in maintaining the schools set up by Dawson and that she devoted herself to assisting with the education of the factory girls. I would expect no mean feat for a young woman in the mid-1860s. Imagine the manuscript Kate senior might have written and her collection of correspondence, which most likely was all destroyed once she had passed. There is that ache again for what is lost.
Dawson was known for his philosophy of “Civic Gospel” This explanation from Wikipedia, “…a town is a solemn organism through which shall flow, and in which shall be shaped, all the highest, loftiest and truest ends of man’s moral nature…” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civic_Gospel Dawson obviously passed this on to Kate Senior who has then passed it on to her own daughter. This is most evident to me, in the fact that in 1904 our Kate offers over the patent for the Microcremator to the NSW Government for free, so everyone might benefit from it. This article below is a rare find as it is a letter written for the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald from someone who I suspect had no connection to Kate or the micro-cremator but had an opinion they needed to express about it.
I only gave you a clipped excerpt of the article. Click the link if you are interested in reading the whole thing. Mr J. Martin Cleary talks about in his “Letter to the Editor” the fact that at the time, the government had put out the tenders to build a National Library and the lowest one that came back was 77 000 pounds and that if they were considering this sum to house books, certainly they could cover the cost of actually doing something about Consumption? How wonderful for us that he took the time to mention Kate and the Micro-cremator and to mention that they were successful trials that she conducted. I haven’t come across any resources discussing the outcome of the trials as yet, so this is gold. (I know I say that often.) Can you see how were are getting some good data here to support my original hypothesis way back at the beginning of my last post?
Now, just going back for a minute. Scroll back up and check out Kate Senior’s headstone. That wonderful quote from Reverend Mitchell. They are pretty powerful words to be reading about your own mother from our Kate’s point of view. I mean that quote is a story in itself, isn’t it. Why does Reverend Mitchell have the privilege of having his quote engraved on here and there is nothing from Ebenezer her husband or any other family members? It just makes me want to know more.
I was lucky enough to stumble on to a couple of lines about Rev’ Mitchell that just highlights again the type of thinking that our Kate was exposed to. This following quote comes from a blog on the history of Churches in Brisbane. “… D. F. Mitchell was a tall, active Scot, not much of a preacher, but well loved over at the Park Presbyterian Church in South Brisbane, and a very familiar figure. On an occasion I heard the remark that he instinctively knew where there was want for sickness, and that he did not care a two penny – (something not at all clerical) whether they were Christians, Jews, pagans, or “Freethinkers.” ” http://www.chapelhill.homeip.net/FamilyHistory/Other/QueenslandHistory/browne5.htm There is a real trend here with the type of people that our Kate is being exposed to. Reverend Mitchell fits perfectly with the ethos Kate senior came from.
And talking about wanting to know more, the Park Presbyterian Church is still standing. Wow! This I’m sure will be the same church where Kate senior and Kate would have attended. Our Kate was born in Woolloongabba a 20-minute walk from the church or 10-minute sulky ride.
I believe the other main motivation for Kate is the number of people suffering from disease in her life. I know it doesn’t state specifically but her mother’s obit indicates that she was a “…long time sufferer“. We haven’t received the death certificate yet to confirm, but I suspect that she was battling consumption. You’ll remember I have shared a few times the article of Kate and her best friend, Thirza Zahel, George’s cousin living in Sydney and battling life’s battles. I think those battles were with consumption. Then there are also a few articles that state that Kate had consumption and that at one stage her father Ebenezer leaves Brisbane to come down to reside in Sydney to take care of her.
The final thoughts I have on Kate’s motivations are a bit harder to put into words. A bit of a problem as this is a blog that really relies on me being able to do that to some success so that you might have a chance of understanding me. A big ask each time I sit down to this screen, I know, for me that is. Anyhow, here goes.
I think another influencing factor on her motivations might have been the mix of the time that Kate was living in with the societal expectations that were on any woman at that time and really the person that Kate had become because of the exposure of the different civic and social duty philosophies that she had been exposed to. To roll into that, she came from wealth which afforded her the luxury of having her basic needs meet to enable her to work on these higher-order needs. How did I go? Hopefully I’m making sense.
I’m getting into a bit of a routine with my research now in trying to find some supporting literature to fill out what I’m actually talking about in these blog posts. This time this particular gem of a book is really what has got me thinking like this about Kate. Again it is purely my speculation, but it feels like the pieces might fit.
What a find this book was. I have literally made it in 30 pages and already can see so many potential links with what I suspect might have been occurring for Kate. The frustrating thing for me so far is that there is little that I can find that focuses on Australian Women Chemists of the time. This is wonderful even if it is a British focus and I mean technically Kate is at this stage very much British and under the same system only 11 000 miles away.
The Rayner-Canham’s set out in their first 30 pages a fantastic picture of what challenges these pioneer women, such as Kate really faced and that was, the patriarchal view. Whether that be from men or other women who thought they were breaking the bonds of tradition. I know, jam packed first 30 pages but wait there is more. (Rayner-Canham & Rayner-Canham 2009)
Some issues they highlight were even starting back at the school level. Having teaching staff that allowed girls the opportunity of studying stem subjects in the first place. This was not the norm. There were male teaching staff that were absolutely opposed to the idea of allowing this to happen for girls let alone to allow them to make it into higher education. (Rayner-Canham & Rayner-Canham 2009)
They then describe how the big debate that consumed faculties when women were begrudgingly allowed into these higher education settings was whether their studies focused on pure scientific outcomes such as men were afforded or should it be curtailed to a domestic brand of science to assist women in their duties at home. I mean it is even uncomfortable typing this now in 2021 but also frustrating knowing that women still face many challenges like these today, 120 years later. (Rayner-Canham & Rayner-Canham 2009)
The Rayner-Canhams also managed to fit into these 30 pages that there were some factors assisting women as well. Many men at the time were also allies and fought for women to have a place beside them. I think we can probably safely say that Ebenezer, George and his brother’s and father would all have fit into this bracket for Kate and her aspirations. They also suggested that in their research an interesting trend presented itself, that in a lot of the cases it was the women’s complete lack of rivalry for their male counterparts that enabled them to just get on with the job of learning and that they were grateful for whatever assistance these males were able to give them. (Rayner-Canham & Rayner-Canham 2009) I have a feeling that Kate may not have fit into this category, but my reasoning for that will become more evident in our next post.
This next clipping from Trove gives in a small way an example of what I have been trying to express to you above and also explains further the title of this post.
So I feel that with this accumulation of evidence and my ramblings above that we can be confident in knowing what Kate’s motivations were for doggedly pursuing her studies, her research and putting herself to the task of inventing and developing the micro-cremator. She wanted to do good for her community and the people suffering in it and use the skills and knowledge she had in making that come about. She was very much a product of her mother and the attitudes and values she had developed over her life. And I think we can optimistically assume that with what I have shared already in my previous posts of Kate’s story and the micro-cremator that she was successful in her endeavours. The next post will celebrate that success but also show that it came with a cost.