Muriel Dowbiggin, suffragist and peace activist, spent a lifetime in public service and was one of the first women Mayors of Lancaster in 1940/1. Born in Lancaster in 1891, her father was a joiner and caretaker of the Midland Bank where the family lived. At 20, Muriel worked as a ‘secretary to a lady.’ (1) The family was Congregational and she became a prominent member in the church, although she may also have been a Quaker ‘attender.’ (2) In 1915, she married Ernest Dowbiggin, shortly before he joined up. He served in France in the War, becoming a sergeant. He spent the rest of his working life at Storey’s Heron Chemical Works. In October 1920 the Lancaster Branch of the League of Nations Union was formed, among whose founding members were a number of prominent Congregationalists. By 1922, Muriel was ‘Assistant Secretary.’ As a married woman without children she may have had the time to be involved with an organisation that coincided with her beliefs and suited her skills.
At the 1922 AGM of the Lancaster LNU, obviously frustrated by the lack of action and possibly acting as a self-appointed spokeswoman for the female members, Muriel said if more was not done, the women would ‘affiliate direct with the Union.’ A compromise was reached. In 1924 she became ‘Organising Secretary,’ still playing a secondary role to the Hon. Secretary. Chance gave her the opportunity to take over from him in 1925 although her husband Ernest was made Assistant Secretary. (3) She remained in this post for the next 14 years, during which time she was extremely active in Lancaster LNU.
(1) Ancestry. 1891-1911 Lancaster Census Returns.
(2) Z. Barbarachild, 2016. Muriel Dowbiggin: World War 1 Lancaster Peace Activist
(3) Lancaster Guardian, 25 Feb 1955, Oct 1920, 19 Mar 1921, 22 Apr 1922 & 21 Mar 1925.
C. Morrison, 1996. World Without War: A Study of Women’s Involvement in the Peace Movement 1914-1939. PhD thesis, Lancaster: Lancaster University.