New online resource for the Suffrage movement in Surrey

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Scrapbook for the Reigate, Redhill and District Society for Women’s Suffrage, which participated in the 40,000 strong march to the Albert Hall in 1908. Compiled by Helena Aurbach (SHC ref 3266/1)

With less than a year to go to the centenary of women first gaining the vote, we recommend you take a look at Surrey History Centre’s excellent new online local suffrage history resource.  Here, Archivist Di Stiff explores some of the material you will be able to access.

Surrey Heritage has prepared a new online resource on the Exploring Surrey’s Past website featuring various aspects of the suffrage movement in Surrey . Located under the ‘People/Politics and Activism’ theme, the resource shows the varied range of archive and library collections held at Surrey History Centre. The Suffrage themed sub pages give an overview of notable Surrey suffragettes and suffragists, links to relevant theme pages already featured on the site. All of the web pages feature sources and other useful links, with links to our online archives Collections Catalogue.

The roots of the women’s suffrage movement in England lie in the aftermath of the Reform Act of 1832, which extended voting rights among men but not women. A chronology of the growth of the movement across the county and the key people involved is featured in the main resource section, ‘The women’s suffrage movement in Surrey’.  The movement appears to have been active from the 1870s, with the first suffrage meeting allegedly being held in Guildford in January 1871, featuring speakers from the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage. Key activists resided in Surrey. Many had links to political parties, or came from landed families, such as Dorothy Hunter, Lady Betty Balfour and the Farrers of Abinger; others were educated, working women like Constance Maud of Sanderstead, who used her experiences to pen No Surrender (1911), and one-time Royal Holloway student, Emily Wilding Davison.

Many suffragettes had homes in the Surrey hills. Peaslake, in particular, became something of a hub and in 1912 Edwin Waterhouse described the village as ‘rather a nest of suffragettes…there are fourteen ladies there of very advanced views’. One of these was Marion Wallace-Dunlop, the first member of the Women’s Social and Political Union to go on hunger strike after imprisonment in July 1908. Just a few miles away in Holmwood, near Dorking, suffrage stalwarts, Emmeline and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, provided a safe haven for women who had endured the horrors of force-feeding and imprisonment.

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Surrey Constabulary case file papers relating to the bombing of Oxted station, 3 April 1913 (SHC ref CC98/11/2)

The county also witnessed the rift between peaceful suffrage protesters and militant suffragettes, as featured in the section ‘Activism and militant suffragettes in Surrey’ . Helena Auerbach, president of Reigate, Redhill and District Society for Women’s Suffrage, persistently wrote to local and national newspapers decrying the violent tactics used by other groups for tarnishing the reputation of pro-Suffrage societies, she claimed that ‘aggressive political coercion is as little suited to our sex as the exercise of physical force’ (SHC ref.3266/1). Surrey was the scene of militant suffragette violence, including not only the fateful 1913 Epsom Derby but the bombing of Lloyd George’s house at Walton-on-the-Hill, and the bombing of Oxted railway station, among other incidents.

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Front cover of  The March of the Women,  1911 (SHC ref 9180/5)

Dame Ethel Smyth, the Woking composer and suffragette, is featured is some detail on the resource. She took up the suffrage cause after meeting the Pankhursts and in 1911 was one of the many women who used that year’s census to protest ‘No vote, no census!’  In March 1912, she served part of her prison sentence for smashing the window of a politician in Holloway prison and is said to have used her toothbrush to conduct female prisoners to sing The March of the Women, the suffragette anthem which she had composed the year before.

Early suffrage debates and bills, the impact of the First World War, and the final hurdle to securing the vote are featured in a section ‘Women get the vote!’  A final section on sources for researching the women’s suffrage movement in Surrey comprises a fairly comprehensive list of suffrage related archive and library sources held at Surrey History Centre, including a downloadable bibliography, online sources list and useful web links – we hope researchers will find these useful and encourage them to discover more.

In the lead up to the 2018 ‘Vote 100’ centenary we expect an increased demand for information from our users and expressions of interest from those researching new areas of the subject. We also very much hope to have a commemorative project up and running which, through community outreach and partnership working, will expand our online suffrage resource and reveal more about Surrey’s road to the vote.

Di Stiff is the Collections Development Archivist at

Surrey History Centre
130 Goldsworth Road
Woking
Surrey
GU21 6ND

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Celebrating the past to shape the future of women in law

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“Get thee behind me (Mrs) Satan!”  A caricature of American suffragist and presidential candidate Victoria Woodhull by Thomas Nast, published in Harpers’ Weekly (February, 1872)    [Wikimedia Commons]

Women’s history has always been ‘political’ but following the US Presidential election it has taken on a new significance, as campaigners for Hillary Clinton revived memories of American suffragists and  the media sought comparisons with previous female presidential candidates.  Former lawyer Katie Broomfield teamed up with fellow Public History MA student Emily Petretta to write this post about the effect the US election result had on them and a conference run by the First 100 Years campaign, which aims to promote gender equality by commemorating inspirational female lawyers.

 

Waking to a cold, rainy, November morning last week, many of us were hoping to hear that America had elected its first female president and despite losing, former lawyer Hillary Clinton certainly came closer than any woman before her.   She was not, however, the first woman to run for president nor was she the first woman to seek selection as the Democratic Party’s nominee.  Those honours fall to Victoria Woodhull, who announced her intention to run for president in the New York Herald in April 1870; and to the first black congresswoman  Shirley Chisholm, who in 1972 also became the first woman to contend (albeit unsuccessfully) for the Democratic Party’s nomination.  Unsurprisingly, at a time when women were still denied the vote, in both Britain and America, Victoria Woodhull also failed to win the nomination of any major party.  A prominent women’s rights campaigner and advocate of Free Love,  she was known as Wicked Woodhull and spent election day in prison after having been arrested under the Comstock Laws for sending ‘obscene’ letters.  Hillary Clinton faced similar media attacks and, following accusations that she should be in jail for her use of a private email server, was dubbed Crooked Hillary by supporters of Donald Trump.  Many commentators have viewed these as misogynistic,  and speaking in 1982, Shirley Chisholm was clear that she ‘met more discrimination as a woman than for being black’.

have-women-been-trumpedPanel, chaired by Dame Jenni Murray, discussing ‘Have Women Been Trumped?’   [Image: Katie Broomfield]

On the day of the election results a more positive outlook for women was presented at the Second Annual Spark 21 Conference organised by the First 100 Years project with the aim of celebrating the past to shape the future of women in law.  Starting with a video interview of Baroness Hale, the first and still the only female Justice of the Supreme Court, the overriding theme of the day was one of optimism and courage.  A panel discussion on ‘Have Women Been Trumped?’ ended in spontaneous applause following a comment from the audience that Hillary Clinton should not be dismissed as a loser but celebrated for her courage, resilience and tenacity.  She gave it a go and as Chantal-Aimee Doerries QC said this is the best advice for success.  Sharing advice that she was once given Vanessa Davies urged women to have courage and remember that we have as good a chance as any and a better chance than many.

Speakers highlighted that by supporting each other women can achieve greater equality and diversity. Caroline Criado-Perez emphasized that she tries never to criticise other women on social media; Sarah Davis explained that by exerting their buying power women can and should support each other to force change; and Funke Abimbola emphasised how mentoring, coaching and sponsorship can provide mutual help and support.  Of course, this does not always happen.  On Tuesday, we assumed that the women pictured on twitter queuing to place ‘I voted’ stickers on the grave of suffragist Susan B Anthony were representative of broad female support for Hillary but, while New York State voted for her, over 50% of white women who voted, did so for Trump.  This highlights the importance of women’s history and the need for more public role models, like the suffragists, to remind women what we can achieve when we work together.

Underlining why the First 100 Years project is so important, Katherine McMahon revealed that when she was researching her book The Crimson Rooms she found virtually nothing written about early female lawyers.  In an attempt to rectify the absence of pioneering women from our public history, Caroline Criado-Perez, having already led a successful campaign for a woman (Jane Austen) to appear on a Bank of England bank note, outlined her next campaign to put the statue of a suffragist in Parliament Square in celebration of the centenary of votes for (some) women in 2018.

 

liz-trussLiz Truss speaking at the Second Annual Spark 21 Conference before presenting the Inspirational Women in Law Award [Image: Katie Broomfield]

 

As public role models go, Liz Truss, the first female Lord Chancellor in 800 years, is surely high on the list.  Although her appearance at the conference was overshadowed by recent events she certainly had some promising things to say about the judiciary, gender equality and diversity before presenting the Inspirational Women in Law Award to Keily Blair.  Keily’s prize was a limited edition toilet roll in a presentation bell jar symbolising the alleged lack of female toilet facilities at law firms and legal institutions which was used as an excuse to avoid the employment of women.  It is a striking visual representation of the barriers put up to women entering the legal profession; a reminder that these barriers can be overcome; and a demonstration that learning about women’s history can give us courage to overcome the barriers put up today.

 

Katie Broomfield (@KRBroomfield) and Emily Petretta (@EmilyPetretta) are both students on Royal Holloway’s MA in Public History

 

Commemorating Sarah Parker Remond: Pioneering abolitionist and anti-racism campaigner

by Nicola Raimes and Nicola Phillips

Commemorative plaque to Sarah Parker Remond in Rome [Image: Marilyn Richardson]

Commemorative plaque to Sarah Parker Remond in Rome [Image: Marilyn Richardson, Sarah Parker Remond: a Daughter of Salem]

Last month Royal Holloway launched the Women Inspire campaign and one of our most inspiring alumna from Bedford College (the first Higher Education College for women which opened in 1849) was Sarah Parker Remond (1824-1894). She was an African-American anti-slavery campaigner with a passion for education and equality who spoke to huge crowds all over Britain and practiced medicine in Italy. Remond is frequently commemorated online in America and a plaque has been erected in Rome where she died. In 1861 The English Woman’s Journal included an autobiographical article in their ‘Lives of Distinguished Women’ feature but as yet there is nothing material to commemorate her achievements here in the UK where she became a naturalized citizen in 1865.

Sarah Parker Remond [Image: WikiCommons]

Sarah Parker Remond [Image: WikiCommons]

Remond grew up a free Black woman in Salem, Massachusetts, where her brother Charles Lennox Remond was also a prominent slavery abolitionist. By 1857 Remond had been appointed as a travelling lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society. An impassioned and accomplished speaker – she was just sixteen when she made her first anti-slavery speech – Remond came to Britain to spread the abolitionist message in January 1859.

As well as wanting to serve the anti-slavery cause here, Remond also sought freedom from discrimination in racially segregated America. She was equally determined to pursue the further education denied to her in America as a Black woman. Over the next two years she combined an extensive lecture tour of the British Isles with her studies at Bedford College because:

“My strongest desire through life has been to be educated. I found the most exquisite pleasure in reading and as we had no library, I read every book which came in my way, and I longed for more. Again and again mother would endeavor to have us placed in some private school, but being colored we were refused.”
‘A Colored Lady Lecturer’, The English Woman’s Journal (June 1861)

A number of Black American abolitionists came to Britain in the 1850s and 1860s, but Remond’s contribution stands apart for several reasons. Most notably, she was the first woman in her own right to address the question of slavery before mass audiences here. In contrast to the fugitive slave Ellen Craft who appeared before audiences but did not speak, Remond challenged the prevailing notion of Black women as helpless victims. Here was a free Black woman whose calm, forceful delivery belied the often emotive appeals she made to white women on behalf of suffering female slaves, and was able to cut across the partisan divisions that plagued the British anti-slavery movement at that time.

Women were integral to the development of a transatlantic anti-slavery movement from the late 1830s and it was through this network that Sarah Parker Remond met Elizabeth Jesser Reid, philanthropist, founder of Bedford College and keen opponent of slavery. In October 1859 Remond enrolled at Bedford College and boarded with Jesser Reid at her home in nearby Grenville Street.

Thought to have been the first Black student at the College, Remond studied a range of subjects, including arithmetic, ancient history and Latin. However, by the third term she had enrolled in far fewer classes and an addendum to Remond’s College records hints at the challenges she might have been facing both as a mature student and as a touring anti-slavery speaker:

“These classes were found to be quite unsuitable owing to the peculiar circumstances and age of the student.”

Register of Student Courses BC AR/202/1/1

Entry for Sarah Parker Remond in Bedford College Student Register, (1849-1870). Ref: BCAR 201/1/1 [Image: Nicola Raimes]

Entry for Sarah Parker Remond in Bedford College Student Register, (1849-1870). Ref: BCAR 201/1/1
[Image: Nicola Raimes]

During 1861, following the outbreak of the Civil War, Remond urged Britain to oppose the Confederacy and to use cotton from India, rather than slave-produced imports from America. She supported the American antislavery press and was active in the Ladies’ London Emancipation Society founded by her friend and women’s rights activist Clementia Taylor.

In the aftermath of the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion Remond wrote to the London Daily News expressing her outrage at the treatment of Black Jamaicans by British troops, and citing a change for the worse in British attitudes towards Black people. It has been suggested that Remond was so disappointed by this change that she left Britain to make a new life in Italy. However, Remond’s application for British naturalization offers an alternative explanation. These documents demonstrate both her wish to settle permanently in Britain and her intention to visit Italy temporarily.

We can only speculate about Remond’s subsequent decision to settle permanently in Italy, rather than in Britain. She already had contacts there through her friendship with the Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini and her support for the unification movement. Perhaps the opportunity to study medicine was a factor. Remond qualified as a doctor in Florence in 1868.

Following her death in 1894, Remond was buried in the Protestant cemetery in Rome where a plaque in her memory was installed in 2013. Remond stayed with Clementia Taylor at Aubrey House, London, where a plaque naming Taylor and other radicals who associated there has been erected but Remond is not listed among them. We are currently discussing ideas about how best to commemorate Remond’s remarkable contribution to anti-slavery and anti-racism in Great Britain, and her lifelong battle to gain an education. If you have any suggestions please do contact us.

Nicola Raimes is an MA Public History graduate from Royal Holloway and producer of a series of podcasts about women and slavery for Historic England. She was interviewed for the article in The Independent, ‘Slavery: How Women’s Key Role in Abolition has yet to receive the attention it deserves’.

Nicola Phillips is the lead editor for this Blog and Co-Directs the MA in Public History and The Bedford Centre for the History of Women at Royal Holloway.