PrimroseRosa Frances Emily Swiney née Biggs.Primrose

(Rosa) Frances Emily Swiney, née Biggs, was born in Pune, India, in 1847, the daughter of Ensign John Biggs of H.M. 8th Regiment of Foot (Liverpool Regiment), later to become a Major in the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, and of Frances Charlotte Malden. She spent most of her childhood in Ireland, returning to India apparently in early adulthood. Her first main interest was in painting and she had even intended taking up painting as a profession, but in 1871 she married Major (later Major-General) John Swiney of Donegal, who was fifteen years her senior, and became a full-time wife and mother of six (four sons and two daughters). In 1877 she returned to Great Britain and settled in Cheltenham, her husband finally joining her some ten years later.
She soon became involved in political activity, first as a Dame of the Primrose League (becoming a member of its executive council, although she later left, or was asked to leave, the 'League') and writing pamphlets on Irish Home Rule of a generally Unionist character. Was Vice-President of the Cheltenham Food Reform and Health Association.
She held many ideas popular with the radical progressive intelligentsia of her day, being an active member of such bodies as the Malthusian League, the Secular Education League and the Eugenic Education Society. She became involved with the Women's Emancipation Union, and in 1896 joined with Harriet McIlquham and others to form the Cheltenham Women's Suffrage Society, of which she remained the president until its merging with the local Women Citizens' Association in 1920. Campaigning in Cheltenham was found to be very hard, as few believed her views to be right, and on one occasion in 1913 she was mobbed while attempting to address a meeting on women's suffrage. Although her main official position linked her to the eventually non-militant National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, she also joined the highly militant Women's Social and Political Union and the Women's Freedom League, and strongly defended militant action. In addition, from about 1907 she was a moving force behind the League of Isis. The object of the League was to promote the protection of maternity and more rational and humane sex relations generally. The League regularly met in the Eustace Miles Restaurant, London, and by 1911 it also had branches in New York, South Africa, and India.
The writer of articles in many feminist journals and magazines plus numerous books and booklets.
She did not long outlive her husband, dying of bronchial asthma on the 3rd May 1922, at the family home, Sandford Lawn, Bath Road, Cheltenham. She was survived by a daughter and four sons, all of whom had seen distinguished service in the Great War. Her daughter, Mrs Gladys MacSwiney, was her sole legatee.

Major-General John Swiney, Madras Staff Corps.

Biographical entries consulted (Who's Who and Kelly's) are extremely brief giving little more than name, rank and address or nothing at all. General Swiney retired in 1890 and died in 1921 aged 86.

Index Page.
Kelly's Handbook of the Titled, Landed and Official Classes. 1899.
London Gazette, various dates.
Various Web Documents.
Who's Who. 1900, 1901.
Monthly Army List November 1887.