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 seventh:
Miss Alison Garland, who was standing as a Liberal for Portsmouth South, but did not have the backing of the Coalition Government.
Alison Garland (1862-1939) was speaking, as a Liberal, at meetings of the Central and West of England Society for Women’s Suffrage as early as 1897 and in 1899 was elected president of the Devon Union of the Women’s Liberal Association. In 1899 she was the first woman to address the Indian National Congress, sent by the British Indian Parliamentary Committee.
By 1905 Alison Garland was a member of the executive committee of the Women’s Liberal Federation. She took part in the NUWSS ‘Mud March’ in February 1907 and in 1913 published a suffrage play, The Better Half’, which received glowing reviews in the daily press.
In her 1918 Election Address she wrote:
In the difficult period of Reconstruction there will be industrial problems specially affecting women, and I appeal to the women voters to elect me to speak and work on their behalf.
Women have helped to win the war, and their voice must be heard in the winning of Peace. They have their special point of view in such questions as
- the upbringing and protection of children
- the maintenance of an equal moral standard for men and women
- the housing of the people
- the formation of a Ministry of Health
- national education
I have been all my life an ardent worker for the emancipation of women, and I would like to complete my labours by advocating their cause in the House of Commons.
I pledge myself to support a Coalition Government, led by Mr Lloyd George, in the settlement of the terms of Peace and any and every measure of Reconstruciton on progressive democratic lines. We have been a united nation to win the war. May this unity be preserved in rebuilding a new and better Britain. We entered into war to end all wars, therefore a League of Nations must be formed to secure the preservation of Peace.
I believe in self-determination for municipalities on all questions relating to Local Government,; therefore I am in favour of full popular control of the Liquor Traffic. Bright and cheerful places of public resort where men and women could gather for social intercourse should be provided.
As ‘self-governing’ nations alone are free, and free people alone are essentially progressive, I would vote for Home Rule for Ireland (with reasonable safeguards for Ulster) and a generous measure of self-government for India.
I favour the continuance of our Free Trade system which, having given us nearly one-half of the world’s Merchant Shipping, has enabled us to save the Allied cause from disaster. I stand by Free Trade because Protection impoverishes industry, encourages profiteering, and probably will be necessary to protect our key industries, but care must be taken that the resulting profits shall go to the State.
The crying need of the nation is the proper Housing of its people both in town and country. The Empire on which the sun never sets should not contain hovels on which the sun never shines. The Government has promised this national task, and they will have my loyal support in this and all measures taken to secure the health of the people.
A minimum wage should be established in every branch of employment to secure a reasonable standard of comfort. This should be regarded as the first charge on every trade and industry.
Alison Garland polled 4283 votes in the 1918 General Election, coming second to the Unionist candidate (with 15,842 votes). Labour came last (3070 votes). She stood again as a Liberal at Dartford (Kent) in the 1922 General Election, coming a very poor third, with 2175 votes. The winner was the National Liberal candidate. She came third again as the Liberal candidate in the Warrington constituency in the 1929 General Election, when the seat was taken by Labour.
Alison Garland did not stand for election again. She was president of the Women’s National Liberal Federation, 1934-36, to whom in her will she eventually left £50, and in 1937 was awarded an OBE for political and public service.