• March of the Women

The March of the Women: Surrey’s Road to the Vote Project

Front cover of Ethel Smyth's composition The March of the Women, dedicated to the Women's Social and Political Union, 1911 (SHC Ref. 9180/9/5)

Front cover of Ethel Smyth’s composition The March of the Women, dedicated to the Women’s Social and Political Union, 1911 (SHC ref 9180/9/5)

To mark the 2018 centenary of the 1918 Act of Parliament which gave the vote to some women over the age of 30, Surrey Heritage was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund (now the Heritage Fund) of £99,300 grant to explore and celebrate Surrey’s role in winning the vote for women. The project, called ‘The March of the Women: Surrey’s Road to the Vote’ focused on Surrey’s hugely significant role in the long campaign for women’s suffrage and explored the contributions made by local women and men to the cause.
The project officially finished in July 2019 but research into the people who drove the suffrage campaign in Surrey will continue and be added to the Women’s Suffrage Theme pages on this website.

Click here to explore the story behind women’s suffrage in Surrey and read about the county’s pro and anti-suffrage campaigners.

Read the project blog.

View the online exhibition

Explore biographies of Surrey’s pro and anti suffrage campaigners.


Project background

From the 1870s onwards, Surrey was home to suffragists, suffragettes (militant activists) and groups on all sides of the fierce debate which raged for decades. Surrey was home to many notable activists and organisations, including Mary Seton Watts, wife of the famous Compton artist GF Watts, and Dame Ethel Smyth, the Woking composer who was imprisoned for her suffragette activities. Surrey witnessed key moments in the long-running campaign, including Emily Davison stepping out in front of the King’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby, suffering fatal injuries, and Emmeline Pankhurst’s part in the blowing up of a house in Walton-on-the-Hill being built for David Lloyd George, then Chancellor.

Therefore, the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, 1918, was both a timely and important landmark for Surrey Heritage to commemorate. The key achievements of the project are featured below.

Archive cataloguing

Surrey History Centre cares for many significant letters, books and documents which shed light on how the battle for the vote was fought and ultimately won. The project gave us the opportunity to employ a project archivist, Rosie Everritt, along with three archive cataloguers, to bring many of these papers, and newly acquired items, to a wider audience. The catalogues of the following material have been either enhanced to highlight the suffrage content, or been catalogued from scratch. The catalogues are available to view on the Surrey History Centre Collections Catalogue, or by searching here on the Exploring Surrey’s Past website:

  • Papers of Dorothy Hunter (SHC refs 1260/22/1-28, -/23/1-3, -/25-26, -/27/1-22, -/28/1-44, -/30-31, -/33, -/38. -/44, -/74, -/82, -/87, and -/100)
  • Papers of T C Farrer and his wife Lady (Evangeline) Farrer, references to the suffrage campaign and known individuals highlighted (SHC refs 2572 and 9793)
  • Papers of Bertha Marion Broadwood, anti-suffragist content enhanced (SHC refs 2185/BMB/7/1/1/1-37, 2185/BMB/4/32, 62, 67, 72, and 17/6, 2185/BMB/1/1158, 2185/BMB/6/12/7, 2185/BMB/5/6/5, and 2185/BMB/8/10/1-7
  • Reigate & Redhill District Suffrage Society scrapbook, 1908-1913, compiled by Helena Auerbach (SHC ref 3266/1)
  • Reigate and Banstead Conservative and Unionist Association, all minutes and Women’s Branch items up to 1924 enhanced (SHC ref 353)
  • Guildford & District Suffrage Society (SHC ref G122/7/1)
  • Onslow papers references to the Suffrage campaign highlighted (SHC refs G173/20/1, G173/77/6-8 and G173/149/1-4.
  • Papers relating to the Auerbach family, including Helena Auerbach, suffragist (SHC Z/709)
  • Glass plate negatives of work by Joan Harvey Drew, local suffrage artist (SHC ref 9937/1)
  • Copy correspondence and visitor book entry relating to Ethel Smyth, at St Andrew’s University, 1928-1929 (SHC ref Z/699/1-3)
  • Copy unpublished memoir by Ethel Smyth, ‘A Fresh Start’, c.1942 (Z/711/1)
  • Guildford Trades and Labour Council minute book, 1913-1918, references to suffrage highlighted (SHC ref 1364/1/1)
  • Copy diary entries of Harriet Blessley, in Surrey en route for the ‘Great Pilgrimage’, 1913 (SHC ref Z/708/1)
  • Printed cartoon by Marie Brackenbury, suffragette of Peaslake, 1908 (SHC ref 6536)
  • Postcards of Emmeline Pethick Lawrence and Charlotte Despard, c.1908 (SHC ref 10065/1-2)
  • Hubert Rendell diaries, reference to suffragettes highlighted, 1908-1909 (SHC ref 6815/6-7)
  • Limpsfield Land Club minute book, 1909-1921, reference to the suffrage movement highlighted, 1914 (SHC ref 8154/1)
  • Farnham Labour Party minute book, 1919-30, references to women members and the 1918 election highlighted from 1919-1924 (SHC ref 6575/1/1)

Through project funds we were also able to purchase the Emily Wilding Davison memorial edition of The Suffragette. We were also able to acquire key suffrage reference works relating to Surrey people for our library.

New online resources

Photograph of Dorothy Hunter, c.1890 (SHC ref.1260/84)

Miss Dorothy Hunter, c.1890 (SHC ref 1260/84)

A dedicated team of 27 project volunteers interrogated newspapers and other published sources to help produce the following online resources for Surrey’s suffrage movement:

Museums Audit

Image of Suffragette stockings, circa 1908-1910 (courtesy of Chertsey Museum, ref M.2016.31, photo by John Chase Photography)

Suffragette stockings, circa 1908-1910
(courtesy of Chertsey Museum, ref M.2016.31,
photo by John Chase Photography)

Our March of the Women Project Officer, Holly Parsons, worked with five Surrey museums to investigate their local suffrage collections and produce an audit. The audit is available online and features each museum’s suffrage collection as a downloadable PDF. Read more about preparation for the museums suffrage audit in The March of the Women project blog.

Travelling exhibition

The March of the Women project travelling exhibition was created to raise awareness of the key people and events involved in the Surrey’s suffrage campaign set against the national context. The 12 panel display travelled to venues across the county. Each panel has now been digitised and the virtual version of the exhibition can be viewed here.

Image of The March of the Women travelling exhibition at Surrey History Centre

The March of the Women travelling exhibition at Surrey History Centre

Schools online learning resource

Through workshops with three Surrey schools pupils discovered the stories behind the votes for women campaign in Surrey and learnt of six key suffrage events covering all aspects of the suffrage argument using primary and secondary sources. Working with playwright, Grant Watson, these have been used as the core of a newly commissioned radio play. The radio play script and podcast forms the core of a new freely available online learning resource has been created to enable teachers of Key Stages 3 and 4 History, Drama and Citizenship to include local suffrage stories (set against the national scene) in their lesson plans.

Find out more and access the learning resource.

Iamge of a School workshop group at Surrey History Centre

School workshop group at Surrey History Centre

Outreach events

Members of the project delivered a wide range of outreach events, including talks, Half-Term family activities and community days. In fact, such was the appetite for the centenary of the vote that we undertook 40 promotional outreach events and supported dozens of other suffrage centenary projects and events in the region. Our public events were accessible to everyone and we enjoyed talks and book signings from Jane Robinson speaking about Hearts and Minds (24 Mar 2018), a Suffrage Arts Past and Present day, with Dr Lucy Ella Rose revealing the link between suffrage and Mary Watts, and Mary Branson speaking about her ‘New Dawn Women’ installation at Westminster (19 May 2018). Our project finale event was a Community Day (24 Nov 2018), with talks, book sales and even a Suffrage Selfie Booth, equipped with costumes and placards! We were joined by authors Elizabeth Crawford, Tessa Boase, and Kathy Atherton, local historian Carol Brown, and LynchPin Theatre performed a rousing musical extract from their suffragette play When the Cat’s Away.

Project publicity and social media

The March of the Women Project Blog disseminated monthly news, events and discoveries from the archives across 22 blogs. Guest bloggers included academics, project volunteers and local historians, all keen to share their research wider. The @MarchoftheWomen twitter feed posted over 800 tweets raising awareness of the project and is now archived. We recorded a series of interviews with Radio Redhill, who provide the hospital radio service at East Surrey Hospital, and this also featured extracts from the Schools’ radio play.

That’s Surrey TV interviewed Rosie Everritt (Project Archivist at Surrey History Centre) about the project, watch the interview by clicking on the YouTube link below.

They also caught up us with us after our March of the Women Community Day finale

Project Archivist, Rosie Everritt, was interviewed by Radio Redhill about this project. You can listen again at http://radioredhill.co.uk/listenagain/. The interview is in two parts and can be found in ‘The Sunday Colour Supplement’. The first part is 16:45 minutes into the ‘Sun 11 Mar 2018 – 2:02pm’ recording and the second part is at 33:20 minutes.

Find out about the 2018 anniversaries of the suffrage movement

Participating partners

Surrey Heritage worked with a number of community partners, including Haslemere Educational Museum, Godalming Museum, Chertsey Museum, and Bourne Hall Museum, Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre, Watts Gallery Artists’ Village, Royal Holloway University, and London Bedford Centre for the History of Women. We also received support for the project from Surrey History Trust, Surrey Federation of Women’s Institutes, and Soroptimists International.

Royal Holloway University of London, Bedford Centre for the History of Women https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/history/research/researchcentres/bedfordcentre/home.aspx. Follow the Bedford Centre Blog on Women’s and Gender History

Soroptimists International: Woking branch https://sigbi.org/woking-and-district/ and Epsom branch https://sigbi.org/epsom-and-district/.

Surrey Federation of Women’s Institutes https://www.thewi.org.uk/become-a-member/structure-of-the-wi/england/surrey/about-us.

Surrey History Trust https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/heritage-culture-and-recreation/archives-and-history/surrey-history-centre/make-a-donation-to-surrey-heritage/surrey-history-trust.

Bourne Hall Museum, Ewell http://www.epsom.townpage.co.uk/bhmuseum.htm.

Dorking Museum & Heritage Centre https://www.dorkingmuseum.org.uk/.

Haslemere Educational Museum http://www.haslemeremuseum.co.uk/.

Godalming Museum http://www.godalmingmuseum.org.uk/.

Watts Gallery Artists’ Village, Compton http://www.wattsgallery.org.uk/.

Chertsey Museum http://www.chertseymuseum.org.uk/.

UK Vote 100 project celebrating 100 years of the vote in the UK Parliament https://ukvote100.org/author/ukvote100/.

Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) https://www.hlf.org.uk/.

Useful links

Find out more about the women’s suffrage movement in Surrey, including how the movement grew, activism and militant suffragettes, how suffragettes evaded the 1911 census, sources for researching suffrage in Surrey, and how the vote was won.

Discover more about key people in Surrey’s Suffrage campaign with our March of the Women Suffrage Biographies.

Search the Suffrage Indexes for names and organisations involved in Surrey’s Suffrage campaign

Find out how Surrey’s women contributed to the county’s First World War effort http://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *