The Women’s Suffrage movement was active in Surrey from the 1870s, and by 1913 all areas of the county had representation with the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).
Prominent campaigners resided in the county, including Dame Ethel Smyth, Gertrude Jekyll, Emmeline and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, Constance Maud, and Helena Auerbach, to name a few. Find out more about the women’s suffrage movement in Surrey.
The 1911 Census took place against a background of a threatened boycott by the Women’s Suffrage movement. Discover which Surrey suffragettes evaded the census here.
The same year as the Women’s Suffrage supporters were boycotting the 1911 census, Constance Maud, the elder daughter of Rev. Henry Landon Maud, the rector of Sanderstead, wrote and published No Surrender, probably the first Suffragette novel.
Surrey also saw its fair share of activism. In February 1913, the house of Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, which was under construction on edge of Walton Heath golf course, was damaged by an explosion, for which Emmeline Pankhurst was sentenced to three years in prison. There was also an explosion of a bomb in the gentlemen’s toilet at Oxted railway station, two months later. The ultimate activism came in June that year when Emily Wilding Davison gave her life for the Women’s Suffrage Movement, dying as a result of injuries she received from throwing herself under the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. Find out more about activism and militant suffragettes in Surrey.
In the Surrey History Centre collections is this postcard of St Catherine’s Church, Hatcham, South East London, the target of a Suffragette bomb on 6 May 1913. The card was sent to Miss Muriel Flint in Bulawayo, South Africa, from “Blanche” of 35 Astbury Road, Peckham, 13 June 1913, and reads:
“My dear Muriel, this is the promised P[ost].C[ard] of the burnt church. The Salvage Corps afterwards found a copy of “The Suffragette” and matches and paraffin etc. in the organ chamber where the fire broke out; a suffragette attacked the King’s horse at the Derby and died last Sunday of her injuries. I expect they will make a fuss about their first martyr. Hope all are well, fondest love Blanche”. Postscript: “Weather has not been at all June-like, so windy and showery”.
The women’s suffrage campaign had considerable support by 1910, winning over major politicians and becoming a key voting issue for prospective Members of Parliament. Although several Bills in favour of women’s suffrage were presented in Parliament and had wide support, it was not enough to pass. The Representation of the People Act of 1918 finally allowed some women to vote but it was not until 1928 that women were granted the same voting rights as men. Find out how women finally got the vote.
With thanks to Elizabeth Crawford for additional content.
Emmeline and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence lived in a house called Mascot (now the Dutch House) in Holmwood. Dorking Museum in partnership with Royal Holloway College and the ‘Citizens’ 800 project, have produced a video, Suffragettes in the Surrey Hills: The Pethick Lawrences, which looks at the story of the Pethick Lawrences, leaders with the Pankhursts of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Watch the video on YouTube
Discover how to research women’s suffrage in Surrey with our list of sources and bibliography.