The Hon. Mrs Franklin

The Hon. Henrietta Franklin 1920 © National Portrait Gallery, London[1]
Mrs. Henrietta (Netta) Franklin née Montagu, 66, (1866-1964) was the Hon. Secretary of the P.N.E.U. and Chairman of the Charlotte Mason Foundation. Someone with wealth looking for a cause, she found just that – education, women’s suffrage and peace – and her name is now etched into the plinth of the Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square, along with another 58 great achievers in the cause of women (including Lady Rhondda). She was the eldest child of the first Baron Swaythling, the founder of bankers Samuel Montagu.


To talk shop she would have been seated with Evelyn Whyte – but she may indeed have enjoyed the pleasure to be seated with her fellow PNEU and education pioneer as they enjoyed the evening of celebration. She may well have enjoyed the lively company of Ismay Fitzgerald. (Louisa Martindale and Ismay had visited Glenalla, Netta’s house in Donegal in the past). Otherwise she would have found much to talk about with the other three high achievers. So seated anywhere would be the verdict.


On an evening of reflection on someone’s career she may have been thinking about what further goals she had herself. She sounds like someone who was not ready to sit back and let someone else take up the baton – but was probably very happy to inspire others to her causes.


Henrietta Montagu was born in London on 9th April 1866, the eldest of the ten children (six girls, four boys) of Ellen Cohen and Samuel Montagu, the first Baron Swaythling, founder of bankers Samuel Montagu.[2] “Netta” was educated at home, at Doreck College and at King’s College for Ladies, London. She married, on 7th October 1885, her cousin Ernest Louis Franklin (1860-1950) in the New West End Synagogue, Bayswater. They had four sons and two daughters between 1886 and 1903. With an artificial leg since 1911, she is quoted as saying “Well, I would rather lose a leg than an arm”.[3] [4] [5] [6]

In 1894 (though the ODNB entry suggests 1890) Henrietta first met Charlotte Mason, the founder of the P.N.E.U., in 1894. She had read a copy of the Parents’ Review, cover to cover, and had decided to join the union. “I at once felt that the P.N.E.U. was the one “cause” which appealed to me. Though still a young woman, I had married so early that I already had children approaching school age….I was determined to learn all I could and to help others to avoid those first mistakes which so often mean tears and sorrow.” Henrietta became Hon. Secretary of the Bayswater branch of the union (holding that position for the rest of her life). Lectures were held at her home at 9 Pembridge Gardens, including “Christmas holiday lectures for children over eight…a small carpentering class…..lessons in drawing and brushwork”. [7]

She supported her sister Lily Montagu in the establishment of a Liberal Jewish path, differing from their orthodox father. In 1922 they published Daily Readings from the Old Testament, stressing passages affirming the unity of man and peace as the culmination of the religious ideal.

A feminist and committed suffragist, she was an early member of the National Council of Women, becoming both its Vice President and President, serving on the executive committee of the Jewish League for Woman Suffrage and chairing the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship.[8] She supported The Women’s International Congress at The Hague in 1915 and of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Like many others at the dinner she was a member of the London and National Society for Women’s Service, others present being Theodora Bosanquet, Josephine Collier, Winifred Cullis, Cicely Hamilton, Laura Wallis Mills, Hélène Reynard, and Lady Rhondda.  Also members of the Society were The Lady Camrose (not at the dinner but wife of dinner speaker Lord Camrose), possibly the Mrs. Crosfield, and Mrs. G.F Watts of Table 23.


The Hon. Henrietta Franklin 24th February 1936, © National Portrait Gallery, London[9]
Although almost 67 at the time of the dinner, with much achieved already, Netta lived for another 30 years, dying at the age of 97 on 7th January 1964, outliving all but two of her siblings.

In 2018 her name was one of the fifty nine etched into the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, along with, inter alia, Lady Rhondda.[10]


[1] Hon. Henrietta Franklin (née Montagu) by Bassano Ltd whole-plate glass negative, 24th March 1920 NPG x120385 © National Portrait Gallery, London.

[2] Samuel Montagu

[3] Sybil Oldfield (2015) Franklin (née Montagu) Henrietta (Netta), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 16.1.2018

[4] Franklin, H. (1951). The Parents’ Union School. In PUS Diamond Jubilee 1891-1951. Ambleside: Parents’ Union School (PUS). Reproduced in The Parents’ Union School by the Hon. Mrs. Franklin, C.B.E., The Charlotte Mason Institute, 28.6.2014.  On a personal note I attended a PNEU school myself – one of the five primary schools I attended.



[7] Essex Cholmondeley, The Story of Charlotte Mason, 1842 – 1923, J.M.Dent, 1960, pp 52 – 55, a section headed Henrietta Franklin.

[8] Full name of NUSEC from communication for Angela V. John 21.3.2018

[9] The Hon. Henrietta Franklin by Bassano Ltd, whole-plate film negative, 24th February 1936, NPG x152092 © National Portrait Gallery, London

[10] Henrietta Franklin, The Telegraph, 12.3.2018

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