New views of the women’ suffrage campaign:
Liberal women and regional perspectives
This chapter seeks to reveal hitherto hidden facets of the British women’s
movement by focusing on Glasgow suffragists’ view of a London-led
campaign and the contribution of the SWLF to constitutional suffragism.
An analysis of the minute books of the GWSAWS reveals the influence
of early twentieth-century trends towards Scottish Home Rule on the
relationship of suffragists in Glasgow and London and on the character
of the women’s movement in Scotland. The GWSAWS was established
Ellen La Motte: nurse, writer, activist, is a biography of La Motte that
traces the arc of her life, from her birth in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1873 to
her death in Washington, D.C. in 1961. It integrates original unexamined sources
such as diaries, unpublished manuscripts, and publishing contracts along with
primary sources—letters, newspaper articles, health department reports, and
public records—with an examination of her prolific published writings, about
topics as diverse as tuberculosis nursing, women’s suffrage, nursing during the
Great War, and the opium trade. It considers of how she developed as a nurse,
writer, and activist once she entered the Johns Hopkins Training School for
Nurses in 1898 and grew into a potent force in the anti-tuberculosis campaign.
Gaining experience speaking and writing on behalf of controversial causes, La
Motte put her talents to use on behalf of the fight for the vote for women,
nursing during World War I and the anti-opium campaign.
holidays for her prior
to her journey to Copenhagen to represent the WSPU at the Congress
of the International Alliance of WomenSuffrage Societies.40 Wishing
only good for Dora, Elizabeth classed her ‘next to Christabel . . . in the
category of active workers’, a ‘brave fighter [and a] true soul’ who needed
support rather than censure.41
During the next few months things changed, and though in February 1907 Elizabeth still referred to Montefiore as ‘dear’, by May she felt
that she could no longer ‘go on receiving the cruelly unjust complaints
of Mrs M & trying to reason
Middle-class women made use the informal power structures of Victorian and Edwardian associationalism in order to participate actively as citizens. This investigation of women's role in civic life provides a fresh approach to the ‘public sphere’, illuminates women as agents of a middle-class identity and develops the notion of a ‘feminine public sphere’, or the web of associations, institutions and discourses used by disenfranchised middle-class women to express their citizenship. The extent of middle-class women's contribution to civic life is examined through their involvement in reforming and philanthropic associations as well as local government. Feminist historians have developed increasingly nuanced understandings of the relationship between ‘separate spheres’ and women's public lives, yet many analyses of middle-class civic identity in nineteenth-century Britain have conformed to over-rigid interpretations of separate spheres to largely exclude an exploration of the role of women. By examining under-used Scottish material, new light is shed on these issues by highlighting the active contribution of women to in this process. Employing a case study of women's temperance, Liberal and suffrage organisations, this analysis considers the relationship between separate spheres ideology and women's public lives; the contribution to suffrage of organisations not normally associated with the Victorian and Edwardian women's movement; and the importance of regional and international perspectives for British history.
After the publication of Poems, Eva Gore-Booth concentrated on social and economic reform in Manchester. Gore-Booth was inspired by Esther Roper's suffrage work. When she returned to Lissadell, she immediately set about organising a local campaign to secure votes for women at general elections. Gore-Booth called the first official meeting of the Sligo Irish Women's Suffrage and Local Government Association (IWSLGA) on Friday 18 December 1896 at Milltown National Protestant School in Drumcliffe, Sligo. The Sligo Champion dedicated a large section of the weekly paper to a detailed account of the events. Gore-Booth stressed the importance of gaining votes for women in order to improve their position in the workplace. She became actively involved with the work of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), attending a conference of their parliamentary friends in the House of Commons on 7 February 1899.
After a long and arduous battle to gain equality, Eva Gore-Booth's perseverance was rewarded in 1904. Within days of Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst's threat, Christabel Pankhurst and Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) member Annie Kenney arrived at a Liberal Party meeting in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. Pankhurst was an executive committee member of the North of England Society for Women's Suffrage (NESWS). Before the end of 1905 they formed the National Industrial and Professional Women's Suffrage Society (NIPWSS). Gore-Booth immediately distanced herself from this new, militant wing of the feminist movement and from Pankhurst. On 19 May 1906, women from suffrage organisations all over Britain arrived in London to meet with Campbell-Bannerman. A report in an American newspaper clearly favoured Gore-Booth's delivery style.
By the end of the nineteenth century, women had won the right to act as poor law guardians, an achievement hailed as an important milestone on the road to women's suffrage. Middle-class women had long been involved in poor law administration on an informal basis. Ann Magill's supporters on the Clogher board of guardians made frequent reference to the wider debate about women's rights. The poor law system catered predominantly for women, but was administered and staffed predominantly by men. Until the end of the nineteenth century, most boards of guardians employed workhouse inmates as infirmary nurses. The campaign for women poor law guardians was established and conducted as an adjunct to the women's suffrage movement. Aware of the politicised nature of Irish poor law elections, suffragists endeavoured to involve women of all political persuasions in the campaign to get women elected.
This chapter investigates Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy's ‘single-handed’ campaign to secure guardianship rights for mothers to their own children. It also demonstrates her broad challenge to every aspect of patriarchal dominion—even the effects on children of the ‘dead hand’ of their father's will. The way Elizabeth elected to describe the inauguration of the infants' campaign provides a different insight into her character from that ‘loyal unselfishness’ with which she was often credited by her friends. The Guardianship of Infants Act provided a catalyst to rejuvenate the campaign for the parliamentary vote. Elizabeth continued to support the women's suffrage campaign. The Women's Franchise League's (WFrL) campaign strategy sought the removal of the effects of inequality of opportunity for women. It promoted ‘a communion of middle-class and working-class women in their shared labour, both productive and reproductive’.
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.
Manchester remained ‘suffrage city’, and needed a regional WSPU organizer. Jessie Stephenson, a great admirer of Emmeline Pankhurst, was dispatched north. Her job included looking after the stellar suffrage speakers who arrived in Manchester ~ like Laurence Housman. She also had to persuade one of the city's most influential men, C. P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian, to cover WSPU activities in his newspaper. Not an easy job. Then on 6 February 1911, the King's Speech was read to the House of Commons. Its omission of women's suffrage was the trigger for the WFL to publicize its census boycott plans. Speakers and writers like Laurence Housman were now even more in demand. But the boycott publicity quickly provoked fierce opposition. Professor Michael Sadler of Manchester University lambasted the WFL: ‘to boycott the Census would be a crime against science’ ~ that is, against social science and the accurate collection of data on which to base future reforms. Battle was joined.