Mrs Mary Catherine BROWN was initiated into the Golden Dawn in April 1894 and chose the motto ‘Pax’. She remained a member for 18 months or so, resigning in December 1895.
WHO DID SHE KNOW IN THE GOLDEN DAWN? I start with this, because I only came across two clues about who Mary Catherine Brown was: the address she gave when invited to join the Golden Dawn; and some details of membership of the Theosophical Society (the TS) of a woman with that name, and I always assume that TS members with the same name as a GD member are the same person, because they are the same person so often.
In April 1894 Mary Catherine Brown was living at 11 Marlborough Crescent in Bedford Park, the housing estate most closely associated with the architect Norman Shaw and then very recently built, convenient for travel into London but with relatively low rents. Several other GD members also lived in or very near to the estate: John Todhunter, Henrietta and Henry Marriott Paget, W B Yeats and Florence Farr. It’s a reasonably safe bet that Mary Catherine Brown had got to know one of them since she had arrived in the area; but I don’t know which one.
I thought that knowing Mary Catherine’s address would be a help when I tried to find out more about her; but it wasn’t. Her TS membership details give 5 different addresses for her in the 10 years she was a member, starting in Harrow and ending in Godalming with none of them being in Bedford Park - she was a lady who kept moving on. And I couldn’t identify her for certain on the censuses in 1891, 1901 or 1911: there are just too many Mary Catherine Browns, and none of them were living in any of the right areas to be the woman I was after.
One thing I can say about Mary Catherine from her TS membership is that she knew at least one senior member there. In order to join the TS you had to be recommended by people who were already members. Mary Catherine was recommended by G R S Mead, TS general secretary and editor of its magazine Lucifer. The TS was divided into lodges; most members joined the one that met nearest their home. Mary Catherine joined Blavatsky Lodge, which met at the TS headquarters near Regent’s Park and had many members who had known Helena Petrovna Blavatsky personally; but later moved to the West London lodge.
That’s all I know about her. She is one of my failures.
BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.
Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert. Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986. Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914. The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation. All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden.
Family history: freebmd; ancestry.co.uk (census and probate); findmypast.co.uk; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families; thepeerage.com; and a wide variety of family trees on the web.
Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.
Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.
Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources. I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historian’s point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
23 April 2012