Panel 2: The Growth of the Suffrage Movement in Surrey

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

Although women could not vote in national elections prior to 1918, they could vote in parish elections if they held the necessary property. From 1869, single and widowed rate-paying women also could vote in town council elections.

Women could also serve on Poor Law Boards of Guardians which managed workhouses and later on School Boards, and by 1907 they could participate in all aspects of local government. However, many people argued that Britain could not be a true democracy whilst a large proportion of the population were unable to vote because they were female.

Suffrage leaflets, c.1874 (SHC ref 2185/BMB/7/1)

On 7 June 1866 the first petition calling for women’s suffrage, bearing the signatures of 1,499 women, was presented to Parliament by John Stuart Mill MP. Among the signatures of notable supporters such as Josephine Butler, Emily Davies and Elizabeth Garrett was that of Augusta Spottiswoode, who owned property around Peaslake and later served as a Guildford Poor Law Guardian. The petition was unsuccessful but it raised public awareness and led to the first debate on votes for women in parliament a year later.

Surrey’s first suffrage petition was presented to parliament on 2 May 1870 from Capel, Ockley and the surrounding area. A suffrage meeting held in Guildford on 27 January 1871 is thought to be Surrey’s first but there appears to have been little else until 22 January 1890 when Dr Kate Mitchell addressed the Guildford Women’s Liberal Association.

The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) was founded in 1897 to unite a growing number of separate non-militant societies campaigning for the vote. Millicent Garrett Fawcett was one of its founders and became President in 1907. Known as suffragists, NUWSS members favoured peaceful demonstration over violent protest. By 1914 there were affiliated societies right across Surrey.

Impatient at the lack of progress in the fight for the vote, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded in 1903, led by the charismatic Emmeline Pankhurst. The WSPU motto was ‘Deeds not Words’ and members, known as suffragettes, employed militant tactics which were impossible to ignore. WSPU meetings were held in several locations around Surrey.

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

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 10 – The Anti-Suffrage Campaign in Surrey

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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