Horatio Bottomley launched one of the most successful magazines of the 20th century, John Bull. He was less successful in launching this weekly magazine for women, Mrs Bull, in 1910. The launch cover of the magazine – by the artist Lawson Wood who is remembered today for his humorous animals, particularly the Gran’ Pop series – is shown above. It lasted until 1913, when it changed its name to Mary Bull, but that closed in March 1915.
As well as being a publisher, Bottomley turned out to be one of the century’s greatest swindlers, through his financial scams, which were promoted in John Bull. So it was interesting to find a full-page advert for Farrow’s Bank for Women at 29 New Bridge Street in London, in the first issue of Mrs Bull. The advert describes the bank as:
The first and only Bank for Women in the United Kingdom which is entirely managed by women
This was the era of the suffragette and the image appears to exploit that connection, showing what could be Emmeline or Sylvia Pankhurst giving a speech at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, which was then a popular place for meetings.
The opening of the bank was noted as a ‘very significant event’ for the women’s movement in an Australian paper, the Courier Home Circle, dated 18 May 1910:
THE FIRST LADY BANK MANAGER
A very significant event in the annals of the women’s movement was the opening lately of Farrow’s Bank for Women, the first women’s bank in England. Even more important, from a woman’s point of view, is the appointment of a woman to the responsible billet of manager, as well as of a staff composed exclusively of women.
To Bliss May Bateman, well known in literary circles as a writer of poems, novels, and articles on foreign literature in the reviews, has fallen the pioneer honour of directing Great Britain’s first bank for women.
In June 1913, the feminist journal The Awakener carried a full page advert for Farrow’s Bank for Women, where ‘ladies find a courteous and obliging staff of their own sex, ready to assist them in any and every detail of Banking and Finance’.
Farrow’s Bank at 1 Cheapside in the City of London, the owner of the women’s bank, described itself as ‘the people’s bank’. However, Farrow’s collapsed just ten years later and has been cited in academic journals as an example of management hubris:
Farrow’s was in a complete state of insolvency when it opened its Women’s Bank, which was merely a desperate attempt to pull in more money. The bank was only kept open through an elaborate system of accounting fraud, which was finally exposed in 1920.
There are some later adverts for Farrow’s Bank for Women online, for example from Weldon’s Ladies Journal in April 1911.