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

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

Surrey was home to a number of active suffragist groups, largely affiliated to the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), who both campaigned locally and participated in national demonstrations.

The Guildford and District Women’s Suffrage Society was formed in 1910 following a local petition which gained 580 signatures supporting votes for women. In the first report of the society, membership stood at 51. Lady Roberts was listed as president, Noeline Baker as honorary secretary, and, amongst the male supporters, were vice-presidents Lord Farrer and Sir William Chance. The society occupied a shop on Guildford High Street from 1913 until 1919 – a prime position to showcase the cause and exploit every opportunity to promote the campaign.

Helena Auerbach in The Common Cause, the newspaper of the NUWSS, 19 Oct 1911 (The Women’s Library collection, LSE Library)

A branch of the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage had been formed in Reigate by 1906 and by 1909 had affiliated to the NUWSS to become the Reigate, Redhill and District Society for Women’s Suffrage. Helena Auerbach, who lived at Hethersett, Reigate, was the president and chaired many meetings at Reigate Town Hall featuring speakers such as Millicent Fawcett, Ethel Snowden and local MP, Colonel Rawson. On two occasions members of the Society participated in marches to the Albert Hall in London, boarding specially arranged trains for the events – the first was on 13 June 1908 when over 10,000 women attended, and the second was on 17 June 1911 when numbers reached 40,000.

Newspaper cutting from the scrapbook of the Reigate, Redhill and District Society for Women’s Suffrage, 20 June 1908 (SHC ref 3266/1)

Helena served as treasurer of the NUWSS as well as on a national Jewish committee for women’s suffrage. Taking the cause to an international stage, she was a key speaker at suffrage meetings in France, Germany and South Africa. Helena later co-founded the Surrey County Federation of the Women’s Institute.

NUWSS banner designed by Gertrude Jekyll [c.1910] (The Women’s Library collection, LSE Library, Mary Lowndes album)

There were a number of other suffrage groups within the county. The Church League for Women’s Suffrage had a branch in Godalming by 1913 which counted Mrs Theodore Williams, chairman of the Women’s Local Government Society, as a member. The West Surrey branch of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage was formed in January 1914. The chairman, Sir William Chance, was a key supporter and declared that it was ‘important the men should come forward to support actively the women in their great cause’.

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 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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