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May 13, 2015

Lady Florence Norman, a Suffragette, on Her Motor-Scooter in 1916

Lady Florence Norman, a suffragette, on her motor-scooter in 1916, traveling to work at offices in London where she was a supervisor. The scooter was a birthday present from her husband, the journalist and Liberal politician Sir Henry Norman. According to Oldbike, this motor-scooter, known as the Autoped in the US, should be the world’s first scooter.

Lady Norman on her scooter, 1916. (Photo: Paul Thompson/Getty Images)

Lady Florence Norman (née McLaren, 1883 – 1964) was the fourth child and second daughter of Charles McLaren, 1st Baron Aberconway and Laura Elizabeth Pochin. Her brothers were the Liberal politicians Henry D McLaren and Francis McLaren.

In 1907 she married, as his second wife, Sir Henry Norman, 1st Baronet, a noted journalist and then Liberal MP for Wolverhampton South, who lost this seat in the first election of 1910 but then gained Blackburn in the second election of that year. Amongst the causes Sir Henry helped promote as a politician was women’s suffrage of which Lady Norman was herself an active supporter of women's suffrage but not a militant. She held the post of Hon. Treasurer of the Liberal Women’s Suffrage Union. Like her grandparents who started Bodnant Gardens, Florence was a keen horticulturist. When she and her husband acquired Ramster Hall, Surrey she was instrumental in setting out Rhododendrons and Azaleas in the gardens. The gardens were opened to public view under the National Gardens Scheme from 1927 and continue to be opened under that scheme.

Portrait of Florence Norman in 1917.

Like her mother, she was active in the cause of women’s suffrage through the Liberal Women’s Suffrage Union and the Women’s Liberal Federation. During the First World War, she ran a voluntary hospital in Wimereux, France with her husband. She was awarded the Mons Star for her services and created a CBE for her war services.

After the creation of the Imperial War Museum in 1917 she became chair of one of its subcommittees and was instrumental in ensuring that the contributions of women during the war were recorded and included in the museum's collections. Having an interest in mental health issues, she became the first woman to be appointed to the board of the Royal Earlswood Hospital in 1926. During the Second World War she was a driver for the Women's Voluntary Service in London.

The archives of Lady Norman are held at the Women’s Library in London.


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