Panel 10: The Anti-Suffrage Campaign in Surrey

Click on the image to see a larger copy of the original exhibition panel.

As the suffrage movement strengthened so did the opposition, with groups, including many women, campaigning countrywide against women gaining the right to vote.

Women were already able to vote in local government elections and could be elected to local boards and councils. For anti-suffragists this showed that women did not need the parliamentary vote because they could already participate in their natural sphere of ‘domestic’ politics. The Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League was founded in 1908 in response to a petition signed by 37,000 women who believed that the vote would ‘destroy, rather than add to’ their influence in local government. The League was led by author, Mary Ward (known as Mrs Humphrey Ward), who lived for a short time in Haslemere.

In 1910 the League merged with the Men’s League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage to form the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage (NLOWS) which had branches across Surrey.

The 1911 annual meeting of the South East Surrey branch of the NLOWS was reported in The Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser. The report stated that in November 1910, a postal canvass was made of the 906 women municipal electors of Reigate Borough as to whether they supported votes for women in national elections. 199 women were in favour, 338 against and 369 votes were either neutral, not returned or not counted on other grounds. The group took this to be a ‘satisfactory result’ and declared that ‘the majority of women municipal electors in the Borough did not desire the Parliamentary vote’.

Many people became alienated by the militant tactics used by the Women’s Social and Political Union. Local newspapers reveal moments of public anger towards the suffragettes. In November 1906, the crowd at the Guy Fawkes Carnival at Brockham cheered when the guy ‘which represented one of the suffragettes with a placard in front on which was inscribed Votes for Women’ caught fire.

Panel 1 – The March of the Women: Surrey’s Road to the Vote

Panel 2 – The Growth of the Suffrage Movement in Surrey

Panel 3 – Suffragists in Surrey: The Peaceful Protest

Panel 4 – Suffragists in Surrey: The Long Road to the Vote

Panel 5 – Suffragists in Surrey: The Great Pilgrimage

Panel 6 – Leading Suffrage Supporters in Surrey: Peaceful vs Militant

Panel 7 – Suffragettes in Surrey: Early Activism

Panel 8 – Suffragettes in Surrey: Militancy Continues

Panel 9 – Suffragettes in Surrey: the Ultimate Sacrifice

Panel 11 – Anti-Suffragists in Surrey: Active Women in the Community

Panel 12 – The March is Over: Women get the Vote!

Click here to read more about The March of the Women project

Click here to read The March of the Women blog

Explore more about Surrey’s road to votes for women and the county’s role in the national women’s suffrage campaign

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