Mary Anne Rawson

Mary Anne Rawson (1801–1887) was a slavery abolitionist. She was a campaigner with the Tract Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society, Italian nationalism, child labour, but above all anti-slavery. She was first involved with a Sheffield group who successfully campaigned for people to boycott sugar from the West Indies, as it was produced by slave labor.[2] She is pictured attending the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840.[1]

Mary Anne Rawson
Mary Anne Rawson 1840.jpg
Rawson in 1840.[1]
Mary Anne Read

Sheffield, England
Known forAbolitionism
Parent(s)Joseph and Elizabeth Read


Mary Anne Read was born to Joseph and Elizabeth Read, wealthy parents who encouraged her involvement with good causes. Her abiding interest from the mid-1820s to the 1850s was to lead the campaign for anti-slavery in the Sheffield area. Rawson was a founding member in 1825 of the Sheffield Female Anti-Slavery Society, which campaigned for the rights of the slaves in the British Empire.[2] The Sheffield society was the first Anti-Slavery Society to campaign not for a gradual and managed end, but an immediate end to slavery.[3] By lectures and pamphlets, the society successfully boycotted to decrease sales of West Indian goods produced by slaves, such as coffee and sugar. Following passage of the abolition legislation, the society formally ended in 1833.[2]

Mrs Rawson

In 1837 Rawson became secretary of the Sheffield Ladies Association for the Universal Abolition of Slavery,[2] which continued the case for enslaved workers across the world.[2] The anti-slavery organisations run by women were first started by Lucy Townsend and they were sometimes dismissed as of marginal interest, but recent research has revealed that these groups had a national impact.[4]

Rawson corresponded with figures such as George Thompson in Britain as well as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison in the United States.[5] Her visitors included Lord Shaftesbury and William Wilberforce.[6] With her mother Elizabeth Read as treasurer, Rawson was prominent in the Sheffield Female Anti-Slavery Society. Her father Joseph Read owned a business involved in the smelting of precious metals.[5]

Her father had built up a business until he was able to buy a substantial house called Wincobank Hall. However his business declined and he was forced to move out of this house. Rawson's father died at the age of 72.

Isaac Crewdson (Beaconite) writerSamuel Jackman Prescod - Barbadian JournalistWilliam Morgan from BirminghamWilliam Forster - Quaker leaderGeorge Stacey - Quaker leaderWilliam Forster - Anti-Slavery ambassadorJohn Burnet -Abolitionist SpeakerWilliam Knibb -Missionary to JamaicaJoseph Ketley from GuyanaGeorge Thompson - UK & US abolitionistJ. Harfield Tredgold - British South African (secretary)Josiah Forster - Quaker leaderSamuel Gurney - the Banker's BankerSir John Eardley-WilmotDr Stephen Lushington - MP and JudgeSir Thomas Fowell BuxtonJames Gillespie Birney - AmericanJohn BeaumontGeorge Bradburn - Massachusetts politicianGeorge William Alexander - Banker and TreasurerBenjamin Godwin - Baptist activistVice Admiral MoorsonWilliam TaylorWilliam TaylorJohn MorrisonGK PrinceJosiah ConderJoseph SoulJames Dean (abolitionist)John Keep - Ohio fund raiserJoseph EatonJoseph Sturge - Organiser from BirminghamJames WhitehorneJoseph MarriageGeorge BennettRichard AllenStafford AllenWilliam Leatham, bankerWilliam BeaumontSir Edward Baines - JournalistSamuel LucasFrancis August CoxAbraham BeaumontSamuel Fox, Nottingham grocerLouis Celeste LecesneJonathan BackhouseSamuel BowlyWilliam Dawes - Ohio fund raiserRobert Kaye Greville - BotanistJoseph Pease, railway pioneerW.T.BlairM.M. Isambert (sic)Mary Clarkson -Thomas Clarkson's daughter in lawWilliam TatumSaxe Bannister - PamphleteerRichard Davis Webb - IrishNathaniel Colver - Americannot knownJohn Cropper - Most generous LiverpudlianThomas ScalesWilliam JamesWilliam WilsonThomas SwanEdward Steane from CamberwellWilliam BrockEdward BaldwinJonathon MillerCapt. Charles Stuart from JamaicaSir John Jeremie - JudgeCharles Stovel - BaptistRichard Peek, ex-Sheriff of LondonJohn SturgeElon GalushaCyrus Pitt GrosvenorRev. Isaac BassHenry SterryPeter Clare -; sec. of Literary & Phil. Soc. ManchesterJ.H. JohnsonThomas PriceJoseph ReynoldsSamuel WheelerWilliam BoultbeeDaniel O'Connell - "The Liberator"William FairbankJohn WoodmarkWilliam Smeal from GlasgowJames Carlile - Irish Minister and educationalistRev. Dr. Thomas BinneyEdward Barrett - Freed slaveJohn Howard Hinton - Baptist ministerJohn Angell James - clergymanJoseph CooperDr. Richard Robert Madden - IrishThomas BulleyIsaac HodgsonEdward SmithSir John Bowring - diplomat and linguistJohn EllisC. Edwards Lester - American writerTapper Cadbury - Businessmannot knownThomas PinchesDavid Turnbull - Cuban linkEdward AdeyRichard BarrettJohn SteerHenry TuckettJames Mott - American on honeymoonRobert Forster (brother of William and Josiah)Richard RathboneJohn BirtWendell Phillips - AmericanM. L'Instant from HaitiHenry Stanton - AmericanProf William AdamMrs Elizabeth Tredgold - British South AfricanT.M. McDonnellMrs John BeaumontAnne Knight - FeministElizabeth Pease - SuffragistJacob Post - Religious writerAnne Isabella, Lady Byron - mathematician and estranged wifeAmelia Opie - Novelist and poetMrs Rawson - Sheffield campaignerThomas Clarkson's grandson Thomas ClarksonThomas MorganThomas Clarkson - main speakerGeorge Head Head - Banker from CarlisleWilliam AllenJohn ScobleHenry Beckford - emancipated slave and abolitionistUse your cursor to explore (or Click "i" to enlarge) 
Rawson is to the far right in this painting which is of the 1840 Anti-Slavery Convention.[1] Move your cursor to the right hand side to identify her or click icon to enlarge

Rawson's early widowhood after her Nottingham banker husband died, allowed her to return and pay off her father's debts. She and her mother retook residence at Wincobank Hall. They both led politically active lives.[7]

The painting shows Rawson in a commemorative painting of the world's first international anti-slavery conference, which attracted delegates from America, France, Haiti, Australia, Ireland, Jamaica and Barbados in 1840.[1] With the exception of Mary Clarkson, all of the women in the painting are shown to the far right and none of them is in the foreground of the painting. No females were allowed into the main body of the convention. This caused some difficulties with the American delegation. Women included in the painting included Elizabeth Pease, Amelia Opie, Baroness Byron, Anne Knight, Mrs John Beaumont, Elizabeth Tredgold, Thomas Clarkson's daughter Mary and right at the back Lucretia Mott. After the convention she played host to Charles Lenox Remond as well as Nathaniel Peabody Rogers.[8]

In 1841, Rawson and her sister, Emily Read, arranged for a day school to be created in the chapel on the grounds of Wincobank Hall. The school was open to local children. In 1860 the sisters created a trust to provide for its financial endowment and management. The school continued until 1905.

In 1899, Wincobank Hall was opened as a ‘rescue home’ by the Salvation Army, which ran on the site until 1915. By 1921, Wincobank Hall was said to be in ‘a state of desolation’. The hall was subsequently demolished to make way for the Flower Estate, a housing estate so-called as all the streets are named after flowers and plants.[9]

Today the chapel has been restored for community use.[6]


In 1834, Rawson compiled a collection of original writings against slavery and in favour of its abolition in the British colonies.[10] The contributions came from fifty writers.[2]


The Indiana University's Lilly library has an extensive collection of Rawson's letters and photographs, including a collection of her watercolours of Italy.[11] The University of Sheffield holds a collection of Rawson's materials related to the poet James Montgomery.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1841, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG599, Given by British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1880.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Mary Ann Rawson Archived 2011-07-23 at the Wayback Machine, Museums Sheffield, Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  3. ^ Women's Anti-Slavery Societies, Spartacus, Retrieved 30 July 2015
  4. ^ Clare Midgley, "Lloyd, Mary (1795–1865)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online ed., September 2013 accessed 30 July 2015.
  5. ^ a b Women Against Slavery, Clare Midgley, Ebooks Corporation, accessed April 2009.
  6. ^ a b "Upper Wincobank Chapel", Heritage Inspired, accessed April 2009.
  7. ^ "Wincobank Hall", Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 12 & 14 March 1921, accessed April 2009.
  8. ^ N.P.Rogers, A Collection from the Miscellaneous Writings of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers, 1949, p. 106, accessed April 2009.
  9. ^ "Wincobank Living History - Wincobank Hall", Wincobank Living History, accessed November 2018.
  10. ^ The Bow in the Cloud; or, the Negro's memorial, Mary Ann Rawson, ed., Jackson & Walford, 1834
  11. ^ Rawson Manuscripts, Lilly Library Manuscript Collections, University of Indiana, accessed April 2009.
  12. ^ "Montgomery Collection", University of Sheffield, accessed April 2009.