Charlotte, born in 1859, was the youngest of nine children of successful Settle solicitor Henry Robinson and his wife Epsey Dale, whose parents manufactured pianos in London. This was an immensely talented and progressive family.
Soon after Charlotte’s birth, her mother died. When Henry died in 1870, he left a fortune equivalent to millions of pounds today. With a legacy like that, Henry’s children could easily have spent the rest of their lives mixing with high society and enjoying the finer things in life, but they all chose to break the mould and become political and social activists, campaigning especially for the equality of women.
Charlotte’s brothers continued in business as local solicitors and were active Liberal reformers. Charlotte and her sisters attended Queen’s College, London, an independent girls’ school ‘promoting a non-competitive spirit to produce confident, open-minded young women.’
Charlotte and her sisters, Ann and Epsey, were talented artists who ran their own interior design businesses — it was unusual for women to run a business in those days. They were also active in the Society of Female Artists, set up to promote women’s art.
Charlotte was so successful she was appointed to serve Queen Victoria as her Home Art Decorator.
Two of Charlotte’s sisters had arranged marriages to wealthy men, but lived apart from their husbands for their whole adult lives. Charlotte chose not to marry and lived with her lover Emily Faithfull, who ran a publishing company to promote women’s issues, and was also appointed as Printer and Publisher in Ordinary to the Queen. Charlotte’s niece, Elspeth McClelland, was England’s first female architect and was an active suffragette, actively campaigning at Downing Street in 1909 with Christabel Pankhurst as a ‘Human Letter’.
The ornate family tomb is to be found here in Settle.