Charlotte Despard and John Burns, the Colossus of Battersea
in Vanishing for the vote
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Battersea in south London was an impoverished neighbourhood, shared by Charlotte Despard and John Burns. Holding strong political views that would inevitably conflict, both played a crucial role in the 1911 census and plots to boycott it. A well-to-do eccentric widow, Charlotte Despard chose to leave her spacious Surrey home for Battersea's cramped and noisy streets down by the Thames wharves. One-time socialist, from 1906 she shifted whole-heartedly to women's suffrage and the Pankhursts’ WSPU. Indeed, she was among the rebels who soon broke away from the WSPU and formed the Women's Freedom League, becoming its president. By contrast, John Burns, one of eighteen children, grew up in cellar-dwelling poverty nearby. A powerful orator, he became MP for Battersea. From 1905-6, Burns joined the Cabinet, its first working-class member. Appointed President of the Local Government Board (LGB), he would be responsible for administering the coming census.

Vanishing for the vote

Suffrage, citizenship and the battle for the census

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