Ruth Cavendish Bentinck

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Ruth Mary Cavendish-Bentinck (née St Maur; 21 October 1867 – 28 January 1953) was a Morocco-born British aristocrat, suffragist and socialist. Her library was the basis for what is now the Women's Library.

Ruth Cavendish Bentinck
Ruth Cavendish Bentinck, c1912 (25544134597).jpg
Ruth Mary St Maur

21 October 1867
Died28 January 1953(1953-01-28) (aged 85)
Known forSuffragette and founding a Women's Library
Frederick Cavendish-Bentinck
(after 1885)
Parent(s)Ferdinand Seymour, Earl St. Maur
Rosina Elizabeth Swan

Early lifeEdit

Bentinck was born in Tangier in 1867. Her father was the aristocrat Ferdinand Seymour, Earl St. Maur, while her mother, Rosina Elizabeth Swan, was a maid.[1] Her father was the son and heir of Edward, 12th Duke of Somerset and his wife, Georgiana Sheridan (a daughter of Thomas Sheridan and the novelist Caroline Callander).[2]

Her parents brought her to England, where they had a son, Harold St. Maur, but her father died in 1869 and they never married. She and her brother were brought up by her paternal grandparents after her mother married again and her stepfather died.[3] Her illegitimacy was a problem during her childhood but this was balanced by the education and care that her de facto parents gave her. They also gave her their surname.[4] When her grandmother died she was left £80,000.[3]

Political involvementEdit

In 1909, she joined the Women's Social and Political Union. This was a militant organisation who believed in "Deeds not Words". Bentinck did wear a sandwich board but unlike many of its members she was never arrested. She wrote The Point Of Honour: A Correspondence On Aristocracy And Socialism in 1909.[3] The third key event in 1909 was founding a library that was to become in time the Women's Library.[5]

In 1912, Bentinck and Florence Gertrude de Fonblanque organised a suffrage demonstration that involved women dressed in brown, green and white walking from Edinburgh to London.[3] The "Brown Women" gathered signatures for a petition and national attention. The following year de Fonblanque and Bentick decided to set up the Qui Vive Corps. The idea was that these brown, green and white uniformed volunteers would appear at suffrage events organised by any organisation.[4] It was intended that these would attend any suffrage inspired event.[4] The Qui Vive Corps were involved in campaigning among the miners for the Labour Party in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. The reason for their support for Labour was because the suffragettes objected to the governing Liberal Party's policy of not supporting women's suffrage.[3]

In 1913, she was involved with the Northern Men's Federation for Women's Suffrage which she was helping to organise. In 1918, her library was given to the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) although Bentinck still took a strong interest. The library is considered her most important legacy. The NUWSS gave the library to the Women's (Service) Library in 1931.[3] Her collection is considered to be the core of what is now the important Women's Library.[5]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1885, she married an aristocrat named Frederick Cavendish-Bentinck (1856–1948). Frederick, a son of the Rt. Hon. George Cavendish-Bentinck, inherited his father's debts when he died.[3][6] His older brother was William George Cavendish-Bentinck, British Member of Parliament who married the American heiress, Elizabeth Livingston (who had two girls but no boys).[7] Together, Ruth and Frederick were the parents of four surviving children, including:[8]

Bentinck died at her home on Marylebone Road in London in 1953.[4]


  1. ^ Law, Kate; Murphy, Dr. Gillian (1 May 2019). "Ruth Cavendish-Bentinck by Dr. Gillian Murphy". Women's History Network. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  2. ^ "Somerset, Duke of (E, 1546/7)". Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Archives, The National. "The Discovery Service". Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d David Doughan, "Bentinck, Ruth Mary Cavendish (1867–1953)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  5. ^ a b Crampton, Caroline (15 May 2014). "The Women's Library: a treasure house of women's literature". Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  6. ^ "DUKE OF PORTLAND, FRIEND OF ROYALTY; Sixth to Hold the Title, Who Was Noted as a Sportsman, Dies at the Age of 85 TWICE WINNER OF DERBY His Prize Moneys on Turf Put at Nearly £350,000 Sterling--183,000 Acres in Estates" (PDF). The New York Times. 27 April 1943. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  7. ^ "THE BENTINCKS.; THE LATE DUKE OF PORTLAND AND HIS FAMILY". The New York Times. 25 December 1879. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Portland, Duke of (GB, 1716 - 1990)". Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  9. ^ "Lady Anne Cavendish-Bentinck Landowner who inherited a ducal fortune and refused the hand of a Belgian prince by staying in bed". Daily Telegraph. 31 December 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  10. ^ "Sir Reginald Hoare, British Diplomat, 72" (PDF). The New York Times. 13 August 1954. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  11. ^ "A Friend of the King". Liverpool Echo. 2 May 1917. p. 3.

External linksEdit