21 November 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Parliament(Qualification of Women) Act, by which women were for the first time able to stand for election as members of Parliament.
It was only earlier in the year, on 6 February, that some women (over 30 and fulfilling a small property qualification) had at long last been granted the parliamentary vote and now, as the Great War had come to an end, women actually had the prospect of sitting in the House of Commons.
The short bill, passing rapidly through all stages of the parliamentary process with little opposition, granted the right to stand for election to all women over the age of 21, although any woman of that age would have been unable to vote. A curious situation.
With a general election called for 14 December, there was little time for women to organize election campaigns, but in the event 17 women took to the hustings. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll tell you something about each one of these pioneers, taking them alphabetically.
This is the sixth:
Norah Dacre Fox
Mrs Dacre Fox, standing as an Independent in Richmond, Surrey. Although born in Ireland, she had lived for many years in south-west London so it was a constituency with which she was familiar.
Norah Dacre Fox (1878-1961) had risen to prominence in the Women’s Social and Political Union during 1913 and 1914 and between May and July 1914 was imprisoned three times, on hunger strike. During the First World War she joined Mrs Pankhurst’s campaigns to mobilise workers into munition factories and to prevent industrial unrest.
During these war-time campaigns she supported the Pankhursts’ virulently anti-German policy and carried this forward into her Election Address. The Derby Daily Telegraph (26 November 1918) noted that she confined ‘her programme to the barring of all Germans from responsible public positions inn England, and excluding the Huns for ever from our trade and business. Nothing from her election address appears to have been reproduced in The Common Cause or The Vote – or, rather surprisingly, in Britannia, the Pankhursts’ paper..
However, this message seems to have had some appeal to the Richmond electors as Mrs Dacre Fox took second place at the election, with 3615 votes. The Unionist candidate won, with 8364 votes, but she beat the Liberal and another Independent candidate.
She never stood again for Parliament although, having in the 1930s become a leading member of the women’s section of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, she was from 1937 the prospective BUF candidate for Northampton. However, war intervened, the general election did not take place, and Norah Dacre Fox (now Norah Elam) was interned in Holloway as a Nazi sympathiser.