Dawson, Catherina

She was the first woman to be elected as a representative to the Wesleyan Methodist Conference. In the 1890s she was heavily involved with the Wesleyan chapel on Station Road in Redhill, Surrey. She was a district visitor, class leader, treasurer of the sewing society, and leader of the mothers' meeting. She was also a member of the local committee for the British Women's Temperance Association and involved with the East London Mission.

In December 1893 she was elected as a Circuit Steward by the Redhill Circuit. Election to the Third London District Synod followed. From here she was elected to the Representative Session of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference, meeting at Birmingham in July 1894. The Conference established a committee to discuss the issue of women lay representatives to Conference. In January 1895 this committee resolved determinedly in favour of women's admittance. However, the 1895 Conference rejected the committee's recommendation by a vote of 187 to 169. Newspaper reports portray Miss Dawson as a harmless, well-mannered, middle-class woman. It was reported that she did not actively voice women's equality and was initially reluctant to accept her role at Conference. Indeed, she did not speak at the 1894 Conference, although she did vote. Her most open supporters included H.P. Hughes, J.S. Lidgett, J.S. Simon and the Rev. G. Hawtrey Camburn. She died on 17 April 1925.


'It is not probable many women will be elected; but in view of the great services which women render to Methodism, of the increasing activity of women in all spheres of life, and of the fact that women are already eligible for every other lay office in the Church, the Committee recommends that, after due procedure of legislation, the Conference should permit the election of a woman Representative to the Conference, when in the judgment of any District Synod such an election would serve the best interests of the work of God.'

(WM Agenda, Representative Session, 1895)

  • Jennings, L., unpublished thesis, 'Catherina Dawson: Women's Laity Rights in Late Nineteenth-Century Wesleyan Methodism in England' (Oxford, 2004)