Panel 5: Suffragists in Surrey: the Great Pilgrimage

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

In 1913 the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) led a ‘Women’s Suffrage Pilgrimage’ in which supporters from around the country marched in large numbers to demonstrate the level of support for the cause in a non-militant way. The Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire Federation of the NUWSS joined the South-Western and West of England Federations, following the route from Lands End to Hyde Park and gathering supporters along the way. Setting out on 18 June, they arrived in Hyde Park on 26 July for a mass rally where Millicent Fawcett addressed the crowd.

Suffragist Harriet Blessley of Portsmouth took the route from her home town, marching along the Portsmouth Road with her fellow pilgrims through Haslemere, Godalming and Guildford, carrying banners. They received mixed reactions along the route including cheers but also ridicule. In her diary, Harriet wrote of her journey through Guildford, ‘July 22nd… Big crowd. Tea at Suffrage Shop … march up hill with band to Market Place. Crowd laughs at us. Find these laughs very trying, especially when tired. Several men march with us, which is plucky, as they are ridiculed by the onlookers. Few cheers and waving of handkerchiefs’.

With the arrival of the pilgrims, a public meeting was held in North Street, Guildford, on 22 July 1913. Haslemere suffragist, Dorothy Hunter, was one of the speakers. Dorothy was a successful ‘girl orator’ (public speaker) for the Liberal Party and considered ‘one of the foremost lady speakers of the day’ on free trade and the enfranchisement of women. The public meeting was thought to be the largest ever held in the town with a crowd numbering 8,000 people.

Suffragists were repeatedly faced with hostility during such peaceful demonstrations as they were often mistaken for militant suffragettes which fuelled rising tensions between the two factions. Harriet wrote ‘The old story – we are taken for militants. It is difficult to feel a holy pilgrim when one is called a brazen hussy’. The public meeting in Guildford caused so much heckling and disturbance that the speakers’ wagonette was nearly overturned and, fearing riot, police closed the meeting.

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 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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