Jill Liddington
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Muriel Matters goes vanning it with Asquith
Campaigning cross country
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When Asquith became Prime Minister in April 1908, the chances of enfranchisement took a nose-dive. Instinctively hostile to giving women the vote, he told a suffrage deputation that first they had to convince ‘the great mass of women’ and then ‘the great mass of men’. How were suffrage organization to persuade the public? As well as the great suffrage processions, campaigners initiated daring caravan propaganda tours. The first was the Women's Freedom League van which set out in May 1908 from Charlotte Despard's country cottage to tour Surrey, Sussex and Kent. Among these intrepid vanners was flamboyant actress Muriel Matters, newly arrived from South Australia. She enjoyed going ‘a-gypsying’ ~ but others joining the caravan tour remembered the hostility of anti-suffrage crowds. Margaret Nevinson from Hampstead joined the tour in Kent and recalled the van being surrounded as ‘the mob howled like wild beasts’. A second 1908 caravan tour was that of suffragists (NUWSS) which travelled down from Scotland to Oxford. Meanwhile, in October Muriel Matters and other suffragettes padlocked themselves to the iron grille of the Ladies’ Gallery in the House of Commons. Would all these imaginative propaganda tactics help persuade Asquith?

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Vanishing for the vote

Suffrage, citizenship and the battle for the census


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