From Surrey to Budapest: where volunteering has taken me!

October 30, 20185:07 pmLeave a Comment
A photograph of volunteer Jackie Palmer

Jackie Palmer

Guest blog: Jackie Palmer, retired teacher and volunteer newspaper indexer for ‘The March of The Women: Surrey’s Road to the Vote’ project

On Tuesday 19th June 2018 as part of the research project entitled ‘The March of the Women: Surrey’s Road to the Vote’, I was working on indexing articles about women’s suffrage from The Surrey Advertiser newspaper for the first week of July 1914 using The British Newspaper Archive website. With a planned visit to Budapest, Hungary to visit a Hungarian friend the following week, I was surprised to see mentioned in an article on Saturday 18th July 1914, page 5 “… and others at the Budapest International Suffrage Congress last summer.”

So, being of a curious nature, I just had to find out more!

With the briefest look on Google and then Wikipedia I discovered that 105 years ago, in the same week as I was reading the article, namely 15th – 21st June, the Seventh Conference of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA) had taken place at The Academy of Music, Budapest. The IWSA (now the International Alliance of Women) sought to promote the enfranchisement of women around the world. I decided there and then that I would ask my Hungarian friend to take me to the building and have a photograph of me taken standing outside!

Reading this particular article just a week before my planned visit to Budapest was just the first amazing coincidence in this story. And so on 25th June a two hour flight from London Heathrow saw me arrive in Budapest for my five day visit. As I arrived I found myself wondering how different the journey for the delegates must have been 105 years ago.

Yellow, purple, and white stamp with an illustration of two women holding hands over the Earth.

Poster stamp created for the International Woman Suffrage Congress, Budapest, 15-20 June 1913. From the collection of Ann Lewis and Mike Sponder

I mentioned to my friend that I would like to find The Academy of Music in the city and her son kindly looked it up on the Internet for us and we decided to visit it to get my photograph on my second day as events were already planned for the first day of my visit.

As The Music Academy in Budapest, founded by the composer Franz Liszt and opened in 1907, is still a functioning international music teaching establishment my friend and I already knew that it was not open to the public, and so, when we found it, I posed for this photograph. However, my friend decided to enquire as to whether or not I could get another photograph just inside and so we went in. Then the second amazing coincidence happened!

Female volunteer stood outside the grand entrance to the Academy of Music in Budapest

Jackie outside The Academy of Music

Inside we met two security guards and a lady who was a member of the Academy staff and I was introduced with a brief explanation of my visit by my Hungarian friend. Eva, who spoke excellent, fluent English, then asked if we had noticed the young people sitting on the steps of The Academy as we came in. They were members of The Wolfson College Choir from Cambridge in the UK who were there for a private tour of The Academy, starting in five minutes time, and would we care to join them! What excellent timing! So we did!

An elaborate decorative memorial with gold tiles and a mural of four women

A plaque inside The Academy of Music

We spent over an hour being shown around this wonderful building and were even taken out on to the balcony over the entrance to have a photograph taken next to the huge statue of the composer Lizst who founded The Academy which was finished and opened to its first students after his death.

Elaborate mural of nude angels and women at a fountain

A mural inside The Academy of Music

The absolute “icing on the cake” of this amazing opportunity was, when we were shown into one of the concert rehearsal rooms, that The Wolfson College Choir then sang for us. It was incredibly moving and the highlight of my visit. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Matthew Woolhouse who was with the choir on their visit to Budapest and to say to the Director, Lyn Alcantara, of Wolfson College Choir, Cambridge that their impromptu performance for us was breath-takingly excellent!

Volunteer Jackie stood in front of a large statue of the composer Liszt sat in a chair

Jackie with the statue of Franz Liszt on the balcony of The Academy of Music

And so, as you can see, volunteering at Surrey History Centre has already taken me on one wonderful adventure.

And now I know that…

  • the sixth conference was in Stockholm in 1911
  • the fifth in London in 1909
  • the fourth in Amsterdam in 1908
  • the third in Copenhagen in 1906
  • the second in Berlin in 1904
  • the first, where the International Woman Suffrage Alliance was formed, was in Washington D.C in 1902.

So perhaps I can now plan to visit the locations of all of them!

Written by Rosie Everritt

4 thoughts on “From Surrey to Budapest: where volunteering has taken me!”

  1. Augusta Lemon says:

    What a wonderful story – thank you for sharing!

  2. Sue Adams says:

    What an interesting adventure Jackie. You should definitely visit the other locations.

  3. What a wonderful blog. Absolutely fascinating.

  4. Nigel Randall says:

    What a fantastic series of happenstance! Thank you for sharing.

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