Mrs Alfred Benjamin Chibnall (Edith Martha, late Bowerman, née Barber) was born in Badingham, Suffolk on 27 February 1864, the daughter of Chase Barber (a draper) and his wife Eliza. The family later moved to St Clements, Hastings, Sussex.
Edith Barber came to live at Sinnock Cottage, Hastings Old Town, and worked as a draper's assistant. About 1888 she married her employer, William Bowerman1. He was a town councillor from 1885-88 and owned rental properties and a chain of drapers' shops in Hastings and St. Leonards, in which he employed ten people. William was 58 and Edith 25 when Elsie was born, on 18th December 1889 at Tunbridge Wells. In 1890 William sold his chain of shops and retired. The 1891 Census indicates that he was 'living on own means' at 145 London Road, St Leonards, with his wife, baby daughter Elsie, and two servants. William died in 1895 bequeathing to Elsie and Edith a string of rental properties in Hastings which provided a handsome income for them. Edith erected choir-stalls in his memory in St. Matthew's Church, Silverhill. A commemorative brass plaque is attached, facing the organ.
In 1907, Edith, now 43, married 67-year-old Alfred Chibnall2, a wealthy farmer. This union is somewhat mysterious: it appears that they split up within two years, certainly before 1910, from which time Edith began to use the name "Mrs. Bowerman Chibnall" instead of "Mrs. Chibnall". He is omitted from Elsie?s correspondence, is missing from her photograph collections and did not accompany Edith and Elsie on their holidays. When Alfred died in 1929 he left his entire estate of £10,000 to male friends.
Perhaps he disapproved of his wife?s involvement in politics. By 1910 there were six societies in Hastings campaigning for women to have the parliamentary vote. Edith and Elsie joined the most militant: the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), which had been founded in 1903 by Mrs. Pankhurst in Manchester and spread throughout Britain. Edith was, in addition, an official of the Women?s Tax Resistance League and, during the university holidays. Edith joined a deputation to Parliament in 1910, which the police obstructed and which turned violent, resulting in 119 arrests and many injuries. She was herself injured on her second deputation in Parliament Square, London on 22nd November 1910.
Edith and Elsie boarded the Titanic at Southampton as first class passengers (ticket number 113505, cabin E-33). They were travelling to New York in the first instance and then on to Cleveland, Ohio where it was reported, they were to be the guests of Mr T. W. Guthrie.
They were both rescued in lifeboat 6.
Edith Martha Chibnall (late Bowerman, née Barber) died on 8th October 1953 of heart failure. She was 89 years old and still lived in St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex.
Bowerman gravestone at Hastings Cemetery.
© Helena Wojtczak, UK