Vanishing for the vote

Suffrage, citizenship and the battle for the census

Author: Jill Liddington

On census night, 2 April 1911, Asquith's Liberal government, which still denied women the vote, ordered every household to comply with its census requirements. So suffragette organizations urged women, all still unenfranchised, to boycott this census. Many did. Some inscribed their census schedules with the words ‘No Vote, No Census’. Others evaded the enumerator by sheltering in darkened houses ~ or, in the case of Emily Wilding Davison, by hiding inside a cupboard within the Houses of Parliament. Yet many decided against boycotting. Even some suffragettes, who might have been expected to rebel, decided to comply with the census ~ and handed over a perfectly accurate schedule. Why? The book investigates the ‘battle for the census’ arguments that raged across Edwardian England in spring 1911. It explores why many committed campaigners decided this act of civil disobedience would be highly effective propaganda; and why many others decided to prioritize providing the government with accurate census data for its health and welfare reforms, rather than ‘Votes for Women’. This book is based upon a wealth of brand new documentary sources, which can be read in the participants’ own hand. Interrogating this dramatic new evidence, the book sheds crucial new light on the turbulent world of Edwardian politics. It includes a substantial Gazetteer of 500 campaigners’ census schedules, compiled jointly with Elizabeth Crawford.

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