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 thirteenth:
Eunice Murray (c 1922)
Miss Eunice Murray, who was standing as an Independent in the Bridgeton constituency in Glasgow. She was the only woman candidate in Scotland.
Eunice Guthrie Murray (1877-1960), the daughter of a Glasgow lawyer, became president of the Glasgow branch of the Women’s Freedom League and by 1913 was president of the WFL in Scotland. During the First World War she worked in a munitions factory and in 1917 she published a novel, The Hidden Tragedy, that centres on the heroine’s involvement in the militant suffrage movement.
Even before the passing of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act Eunice Murray declared as early as April 1918 that she would stand as a parliamentary candidate for Bridgeton at the next general election. The Daily Record and Mail, 23 May 1918, reported that she stood for:
Victory of Britain in the war
Women on the reconstruction boards
The restoration of Alsace and Lorraine to France, with the restoration of Belgium, Rumania, Servia, Poland, and Armenia.
The same treatment for Ireland as for other parts of the Empire. If Ireland wished Home Rule, Ireland ought to support herself, and not require our money.
She hoped that when the local veto came into operation in 1920, the bulk of the people would decide to shut the whisky shops.
In the settlement of peace terms, we must demand ton for ton from the enemy in respect of torpedoed vessels.
When the election was called Eunice Murray was supported in her candidature by the Glasgow branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. Just before polling day Eunice Murray stated in The Common Cause (13 December 1918)
As the only woman candidate nominated in Scotland, i want to place on record my strong appreciation of the sincerity with which my candidature has been accepted. it has been an honest election contest, and I have met no treatment that would not have been dealt out to a man candidate. My opponents are both strong men; and should I be so fortunate as to secure a victory, I shall feel really proud. My woman agent has mapped out the campaign in a masterly fashion; and I have had splendid support.
In the event she forfeited her deposit, polling 991 votes and coming third behind the Liberal (10,887 votes) and Labour (7860 votes).
In the event she forfeited her deposit, polling 991 votes and coming third behind the Liberal (10,887 votes) and Labour (7860 votes). She never again stood for parliament although in 1938 she chaired a Status of Women Conference in Glasgow. She became interested in folk history, writing books on the history of costume and on Scottish Women in Bygone Days (1930), and serving on the committee of the National Trust for Scotland.