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"I am defeated, but I am not beaten"

Thursday 28 March 2019

"I am defeated, but I am not beaten"

There are 14 women currently sitting in the States Assembly - but their political journey really started 97 years ago with a bold St. Helier woman, who battled criticism and setbacks as she fought for a seat in the Chamber.

Caroline Trachy, née Smallcombe, broke the mould in 1922 by putting her name forward for Deputy in St. Helier No. 3 District.

As we celebrate 100 years' of women's voting this year, Jersey Heritage is keeping her memory alive...

"Even after women were granted the vote in 1919, the path into politics for them was not an easy one and Caroline faced opposition and criticism from the community.

Caroline was born on 20 June 1874, according to her Occupation Registration Card, although other records suggest she was actually born a few years earlier: she appears on the 1871 census as a two-year-old, living with her parents and family in Bristol.

She moved to Jersey and married Philip Trachy at the Town Church on 14 March 1911. The couple went to live at 19, Pier Road before moving to a house at Mont Cochon.


Pictured: Caroline Trachy's Occupation registration card.

Caroline was an advocate for the poor in the local community and worked towards fairer conditions for workers. This led to her first foray into politics when she put her name forward in the 1922 local elections.

Her campaign was punctuated with letters to the local media defending herself from attacks on her credentials, as well as question marks over her eligibility.

Nominations night took place in early December and took a dramatic turn when the Constable read through the names of the candidates and announced that Caroline’s nomination had been rejected. This was done on the basis that, even though the law for enfranchisement had changed, the law on who could qualify for the office of Deputy had not.

In 1923, the first meeting of the Women’s Jersey Political Union, which was set up to achieve full political and civil rights for women in Jersey, took place. Caroline was named as Chair of the group and continued her work.

She stood for election as a Deputy for St. Helier No. 3 in 1925 but her political aspirations were thwarted again. Despite the law being changed to allow women to stand, she was disqualified, this time on the grounds that she wasn’t separated from her husband in terms of property. 


Pictured: Caroline stood for election three times but was never elected.

Caroline stood for election for a final time in 1928. Her candidature was finally accepted but she came last out of four candidates. When making remarks after the election, she said: “You may cheer away, but if you had only voted for me, I would have been at the top of the poll instead of the bottom. However, I am defeated, but I am not beaten.”

She was never to enter the States Assembly as a politician but did see the first woman Deputy, Ivy Forster, win election 20 years later.

Caroline died in January 1952 and was buried at Mont á L’Abbé Cemetery."

This story is the first of a new series in partnership with Jersey Heritage. To uncover more stories like Caroline's, head to Jersey Archive for the 'What’s Her Street’s Story' talk at 10:00 on the third Saturday of every month. 

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