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Titanic survivor's portrait up for auction

Suffragette: Elsie Bowerman
Suffragette: Elsie Bowerman

By Rod Minchin

A rare portrait of an early suffragette and Titanic survivor has been discovered by an auctioneer whose own ancestor shared a lifeboat with her after the liner sank.

Timothy Medhurst was researching the astonishing life of Elsie Bowerman when he discovered his connection with her.

The expert's great-great-grandfather Robert Hitchens was a quartermaster on the ship and was in lifeboat number six, along with Ms Bowerman and around 22 others.

Bowerman joined Emmeline Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) two years before boarding the Titanic in 1912.

After her return to the UK she continued her work with the WSPU, then in the First World War joined a Scottish women's hospital unit and witnessed the Russian Revolution first-hand.

She became secretary of the Women's Guild of Empire and the first female barrister at the Old Bailey.

In the Second World War she worked with the Woman's Royal Volunteer Services, the Ministry of Information and the BBC.

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In 1947 she went to the United States to help set up the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

She died in 1973 after a stroke, and a blue plaque marks the site in East Sussex where she lived.

Now her portrait is going under the hammer at Duke's auction house in Dorchester.

Auctioneer Tim said: "It is a wonderful thing to be able to look at the same lady who would have looked at my great-great-grandfather over 100 years ago on board a lifeboat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

"It is a nice painting in oils and it is unusual to see a female subject dressed in service clothes - she is wearing the uniform of the Scottish Women's Hospital.

"We don't know who the artist was, but clearly this lot will have interest for collectors of memorabilia in the Titanic and the suffragette movement."

The portrait, found by a man who was cleaning out his home, will be sold in March with an estimate of up to £1,000.

Belfast Telegraph


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