This year 2004 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of the Ladies’ Kennel Association, although research through the archives of Our Dogs has revealed that the original LKA was actually founded in 1895. The story of this discrepancy and the scandal surrounding the original Association resulting in ‘Incorporation’ makes fascinating reading.
The first mention of a Ladies’ Kennel Association appears in Our Dogs dated January 19th 1895, soon after the organisation has been established and prior to their first show. The secretary was ‘the indefatigable Mrs Robinson’ who had just published athe first edition of the Ladies’ Kennel Journal, in which is was announced that the Association intended to hold a dog show restricted to ‘Ladies only’.
The report goes on, ‘this show will be a novelty and mark an epoch in the English Dog Fancy… One of the latest recruits to this important feminine organisation is the Countess of Warwick who, as Lady Brooke, was regarded as one of the types of English beauty. The writer also remarked that one of the proposed judges, a Mons Reussens, had been invited to judge and ‘the Joppe Schipperke incident’ at the Crystal Palace show is referred to in terms that reflects little credit on the gentleman.
Coincidentally, the next item on the page refers to the ‘Aquarium Pet Dog Show’. This event later figures prominently in the history of the LKA and led directly to its disbandment and bankruptcy and so to its Incorporation the following year in 1904.
But to start us off, here is the report of the very first and very successful show, held at the Ranelagh Club, Barn Elms, near London on 8th June 1895 in the presence of their Royal Highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Wales.
It was the first women’s dog show to be held under kennel club rules and a press report of May 25th says ‘Apart from the fact of its being purely a women’s dog show, this schedule surpasses in many respects any previous prize list ever promulgated, not excepting the Kennel Club nor yet Cruft’s record breaking efforts’ and ‘the regulations have been framed to prevent any irregularity or dishonesty as well as to ensure decorum and ‘the latest London sport, Whippet Racing, will be a feature’. Finally, ‘It is a stupendous affair, especially for a ladies’ undertaking, and although we are not certain that our lady friends have not attempted too much, yet we sincerely hope the show may be crowned with the success such a laudable enterprise merits.’
How did it go?
We reproduce here the original report that appeared in Our Dogs June 15th, one week later. Also included in that issue were all the results and the judges reports or ringside commentaries. The judges included S E Shirley, the founder of the Kennel Club.
The quote from Byron appeared over many of the LKA’s reports and press releases of the time.
The LKA had a surprisingly tempestuous few years until it was finally incorporated in 1904. In 1899 Our Dogs reported that the Association was to promote what was designed to be a direct rival to the Kennel Club itself ‘founded on a more representative basis’. Even in those days it was felt that the KC was too closed a shop! It was to be called the International Kennel Association with a minimum of one thousand members with a two-tier membership. The difference was not made clear but founders were to be charged a joining fee of five guineas with an annual subscription of three guineas, while ordinary members were to be charged a two guinea joining fee with an annual subscription of one guinea.
The expenses of launching the new venture were to be met by the LKA and ‘convenient club premises’ were to be provided with the LKA as guarantors. There had already been several serious disagreements with the Kennel Club by 1899, mainly about representation and the way in which the KC demanded that the LKA shows had to be run in accordance with their own regulations and at a fee determined by them, while what the ladies felt were unreasonable demands on their shows were being made. This culminated in a major show being denied championship status because only dogs owned by ladies were eligible for competition. The ladies felt very strongly that they were ‘being taxed without representation’, a cry that has echoed down the decades and is still not resolved.
Later in 1899 there was a further bruising dispute with the KC, clearly some of it based on the formation of the new association. There was much disagreement within the LKA itself and there was a series of well publicised and high profile resignations that eventually resulted in the Kennel Club’s formation of a ‘Ladies Branch’.
The LKA was run by a formidable lady (the first of a long line, incidentally) called Mrs Stennard Robinson. She was a force to be reckoned with not just in the world of dogs, she was a major figure in the world of cats too and was Secretary and Treasurer of the National Cat Club (The National Cat Club's first President was Harrison Weir, but he resigned because he felt that members were more interested in winning prizes than in promoting the welfare of cats - the reason he organised its first show in 1871). Much paper and ink was spent on each side insisting that it was ‘only acting in the best interests of the world of dogs’.
Letters were read and not replied to, letters were replied to and not received, apologies were sought, given, withdrawn, reaffirmed until almost no-one knew what was going on. Private meetings between groups of gentlemen and ladies were held to try to sort matters out but they seemed only to inflame the situation. Writs were served, rejected, applicants kept waiting and counter claims made. By December Our Dogs noted ‘ the decision of the Kennel Club, it will be seen, has proved to be the last straw so far as any hope of reconciliation or rapprochement between the two bodies is concerned’. Readers may wonder if anything has changed? Stalemate was declared – unofficially at least.
By 1902, the Ladies Kennel Association took formal possession of premises in the West End to be used as a Club House. Mrs Stennard Robinson’s first decision was to sack all male members of staff (including the chief office clerk) so that only women were appointed. A decision was also taken that a future show should be held ‘for the benefit of Mrs Stennard Robinson’. This appears to be something like a sporting benefit with the profits going the named beneficiary.
In the event it was not profitable (it lost £300) and later that year it was decided that such a benefit show would be held the following year. Mrs Stannard Robinson does not appear to have needed the money and in the event got up at the AGM in March of that year and begged that the Ladies reconsider their proposal as she ‘did not want to appear a pauper’.
At this AGM there were high hopes of the Association recouping its loss at its summer show and many plans were put forward, one of which was to create a special show committee and that it should be confined to members. To this day the LKA has its separate show committee – as of course, does the Kennel Club.
By May of 1902 arrangements for the summer show were well advanced but there were still problems within the committee. At one point Mrs Stennard Robinson wrote a letter that said ‘if my committee will not help me, others will’, so she clearly did not have the support which those outside felt that she had. Our Dogs waxed lyrical about the number of classes and the value of the prizes. The show appeared to be successful and by the end of that year Mrs Stennard Robinson was running a series of shows under the title of the ‘Grand Dog Festival’. At the Toy event Queen Victoria had entered some of her pugs but ‘was not successful.’
The extent of the ensuing scandal began to appear at the turn of the year and things started to go seriously wrong at the beginning of 1903. Mrs Stennard Robinson resigned in January along with others, including Lady Aberdeen. The acting secretary Mr Gerald Manley circulated a notice of the AGM, to be held on the second Day of Crufts Show in March but no details of the reason for the resignation were given. In fact, it appeared that the Association was still running at a substantial loss. Mr Manley and Lady Aberdeen (now back on board) told that AGM that the Association’s debt stood at £3,000 but that it ‘was no time for recrimination’.
A subscription list was opened and among others, Queen Victoria donated £100. The Kennel Club felt able to ‘deal’ with the new executive and agreed to put the disputes of the past behind them. Our Dogs opinion was that ‘the calibre of the association’s clientele is such as to quickly clear off its liabilities and so avert failure and disgrace’. Our Dogs has never pretended to be right all the time and this was one of the occasions when it wasn’t!
Lady Aberdeen took the Chair and a General Meeting was called in April 1903 to ‘completely re-organise the structure of the association’. A letter was read from Mrs Stennard Robinson claiming £1,000 expenses but as it had proved impossible to find the grounds for this figure from the Association’s books the matter was not progressed. The full details of the Association’s debt were revealed and a proposal was put forward by a Lady Evelyn Ewart that the Association be wound up. However, each and every member would be liable for its debts even though, as Lady Evelyn pointed out, the committee had not been formally elected. After a lengthy and complex meeting the ladies decided to carry on.
Immense efforts were made to regularise the position through coffee mornings, private collections, bazaars and the donation of a suitable dog for sale on behalf of the funds. Lady Aberdeen wrote to all members requesting donations with the promise that the whole list would be sent to Queen Victoria for her consideration. She said ‘as ‘our gracious patroness has stood by us and sent us a handsome subscription can we do less?’. Our Dogs made its own contribution by offering the use of its Manchester office for those ladies resident in the North of England for meetings.
In early July, now with the cooperation of the KC Ladies Branch, a further meeting was held at which a change of name to the Ladies Kennel Union was discussed. This proposal was defeated and the debate, fully reported in Our Dogs, was long and complex (mirroring much of the discussion that is still a feature of so many canine societies today).
By September, it was clear that attempts to reduce the debt were not going to succeed and the LKA was dissolved so that a Ladies Kennel Association (incorporated) could be formed. In October a formal meeting took place to make an application to create the new Association although little progress was made, as there were still so many problems to be resolved regarding the debt. All the trophies had been sold and every attempt had been made to consolidate the total – but £3,000 was still outstanding.
The matter continued to rumble on for many months with writs and counterclaims flying but finally, the Incorporated Ladies Kennel Association was established in 1904, holding their first show in the summer of that year. OUR DOGS provided a comprehensive report on the show, part of which is reproduced on these pages.
Additional research by Polly Farman and original pages taken from our dogs Christmas annuals of 1922 and 1929.