Antoinette (Tonie) Rowntree
Joseph Rowntree’s second wife, and cousin of his first wife, Julia. Emma Antoinette Seebohm was born in Hamburg in 1846, the daughter of a wool merchant. She and Joseph Rowntree met in 1866 at the home of her cousin Frederic Seebohm in Hitchin. After their marriage Antoinette and Joseph lived in ‘Top House’ on the corner of Bootham and St Mary’s, sharing it with Joseph’s mother Sarah and his younger brother Henry Isaac, as well as with Lilley, Joseph’s daughter from his first marriage. She became a Quaker after they married, but appears not to have fitted easily into the Quaker way of life, her interest in music and the arts being an example of her leisure-time pursuits.
The couple’s first child, John Wilhelm, was born in 1868. The second child, Agnes Julia, was born in 1870; the third, Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, better known as Seebohm, was born in 1871. As the family grew in size they moved to rent a larger home across the road at No.19 Bootham (today 49 Bootham). Joseph Stephenson or ‘Stephen’ was born in 1875 and Oscar was born in 1879. Their last child, Winifred, was born in 1884, by which point the family had moved twice more – first to the bottom of St Mary’s to a house that proved too small, and then to a house next door to Sarah’s at the top end of St Mary’s. Although Joseph went abroad nearly every year, it was usually one of the children, rather than Antoinette, who accompanied him. The children were initially taught by a governess. John Wilhelm, Seebohm and Stephen all went to Bootham School at age twelve; Agnes went first to York High School and then the Quaker school at The Mount; and Oscar started day school at eight.
After Sarah Rowntree’s death Joseph bought her share in the house, and he and Antoinette lived there for many years, sharing for a time with the widow of his brother Henry Isaac and her children. In 1901 they had electricity installed and a telephone a year later. In the later years their marriage, Joseph rented Westow Croft in a village eleven miles away, which he used as a retreat in order to concentrate on his researches and writing on temperance. In 1905 the couple moved to Clifton Lodge, a large house on the outskirts of the city. Antoinette died in 1924, five days after they celebrated their fifty-seventh wedding anniversary. Joseph died the following year, in 1925.
Ann Vernon, A Quaker Businessman
See downloadable file for a longer essay written by a Rowntree Society intern.