Elizabeth Anne Gardner

by her Great Grandchildren, Jean Jenkins and Kevin Morton

Our Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Anne, was born in Poplar in 1863 to parents Daniel Gardner who hailed from Essex, and Jane, who was born in Devon. She was one of at least eight children. Her Father, Daniel, was in the Royal Navy for many years and served on many ships, including the HMS Sampson during the Crimean War, from 1854 to 1856. He made it to Captain of the Main Top before retiring from the Navy in 1863, the year Elizabeth was born.

By 1881, Elizabeth, aged 15 years old, was a Match Maker, most likely at the Bryant and May factory, although there were other factories in the area. At that time she appeared to be the only child still living at home with her parents, in Providence Place in Poplar. We don’t think Elizabeth was still at the factory in 1888, or involved in the Strike, as she was married by then. However, there is an ‘L Donovan’ and a ‘Liz Donovan’ on the Strike Register. The former was listed as ‘Single’ so that was unlikely to be her but the latter is listed as ‘Married’. It is possible that she went back to work after getting married but Elizabeth and Denis already had at least two small children by the summer of 1888, so unlikely. Elizabeth had sisters too, so they may also have worked at the factory.

Elizabeth married Denis Donovan, a French Polisher, on 4 April 1885. At that time, Elizabeth had no occupation, so it is assumed she had stopped being a Match Maker. Denis’s parents were James and Ellen, both from Cork in Ireland – they had come over to England in the famine. Denis had a sister, also Ellen, who had also worked as a Match Maker in 1881. Perhaps Ellen and Elizabeth had worked together and Ellen had introduced Elizabeth and Denis together? The name Ellen was often interchanged with Nelly in those days and the 1888 Strike Register does list ‘N Donovan’ but we cannot tell if it was our Ellen or not. If it was, she was still single and living with her parents but we couldn’t find her in the 1891 census. It may well have been her as there are four generations of Ellen in our family, Jean's Mother was also Ellen and they were all known as Nelly, or as with her Grandmother, Nell, so it is quite possible that this N Donovan  could be Nelly on the strike register.

Jean's Mother told her years ago that Elizabeth’s and Denis’s daughter, Ellen (Jean's Grandmother), who was born in April 1891, was a suffragette and chained herself to the gates of the Bryant & May factory! Jean doesn't think she ever worked there though as she was a seam mistress by trade.

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