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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Edith How Martyn

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 twelfth:

Edith How Martyn, wearing her WFL ‘Holloway’ brooch

Mrs Edith How Martyn, who stood as an Independent candidate (Women’s Parliamentary League) for the Hendon constituency in Middlesex. Unlike many of the women candidates, she did live close to her constituency, in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Edith How Martyn (1875-1954)  was a lecturer in Mathematics at Westfield College, London,  and a member of the Independent Labour party when she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1906, one of its first London members. She soon gave up her teaching post to devote herself full time to the suffrage movement and in October 1906 was one of the women arrested in the Lobby of the House of Commons, receiving a two-month prison sentence.

In 1907, with Mrs Charlotte Despard, Edith How Martyn broke away from the WSPU to found the Women’s Freedom League. She believed in passive resistance but not in violent militancy. She was honorary secretary of the WFL from October 1907 until 1911 and was then head of the WFL’s Political and Militant department until 1912, when she resigned, ostensibly through illness, but very disappointed with the results achieved by the League.

At one of her first Hendon  election meetings the chair was taken by Miss Councillor E.C. Growse and Alison Neilans, a very active member of the WFL spoke from the platform, mentioning that Edith How Martyn had great experience in political movements, and had taken honors at London University in political science and public administration. Mrs How Martyn mentioned that She stood for sane reform in all directions, and would support any measure which would tend to bring about better conditions of life. She trusted the people of this country did not intend to return in many respects to the kind of life that was tolerated before the war. They had tolerated poverty, disease, ill-health, unequal conditions of income, sweated work and slums. During the war it was realised we had a greater responsibility towards our fellow creatures. She might say, almost without reservation, that she was heartily in support of the Coalition programme, and so long as the Coalition Government carried out that programme, she would be a loyal and hearty supporter of it. But if it departed from the programme or did not attempt to carry it out, then the members of the House of Commons should vote against the Government.

She was in favour of a League of Nations and suggested that the claims of the widows and orphans in the war could be voiced in Parliament just as well by women as by men. She was in favour of everyone having a fair chance in life and more equality between the sexes. Especially did they want the diplomatic profession and the Foreign Office open to women.

She believed Germany and her Allies should make full reparation for all the crimes they had committed.

She was in favour of just as much Free Trade as they could get.

She was in favour of the reform of the House of Lords. One of the first reforms would be to put a few women there; and then the House should be made a more useful Second Chamber than it was now.

Ireland should have Home Rule as quickly as possible, but she did not believe in forcing it upon Ulster by means of machine guns or bayonets. She hoped in time to see separate Parliaments for Ireland, Scotland and Wales – and perhaps two English Home Rule Parliaments – one for the South and one for the North – and then an Imperial Parliament.

She was in favour of the nationalisation of land.

Although it might not be brought about in the next Parliament, some practical steps might be taken in the way of giving more powers to local authorities.

In the 20 December issue of the Hendon and Finchley Times Mrs How Martyn commented ‘Saturday was doubly noteworthy for women, as not only could they vote but could vote for a woman candidate. It was a satisfaction and delight to see women pouring to into the polling stations to use their newly-acquired rights of citizenship.’ She said that she did not really expect to win, although she might have had success in a straight fight with either of the two other candidates. In the event she polled 2067 votes, coming last behind the Unionist (14,431 votes) and Labour (3159 votes). One woman who did turn out to vote for her was Mrs Alice Singer, who, before the War, had been treasurer of the Hendon and Golders Green WSPU. On 14 December 1918 Alice wrote in her diary:   I recorded in favour of Mrs Edith How-Martyn for the new constituency of Hendon. 

Edith How Martyn did not stand again for Parliament, but in 1919 became the first woman member of the Middlesex County Council and was its first woman chairman. She was also actively involved in the birth-control movement and became honorary direction of the Birth Control Information Centre. In 1926 she was founder and first president of the Suffragette Fellowship, which aimed to perpetuate the ‘suffragette spirit’. At the outbreak of the Second World War she emigrated with her husband to Australia.

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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Constance Markevicz

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 eleventh:

Constance Markevicz (courtesy of Glasnevin Trust)

Mme Constance Markevicz, standing as a Sinn Féin candidate in the St Patrick’s constituency in Dublin, the only woman – of the 17 that stood – to win her seat.

Constance Markevicz (née Gore-Booth) was a member of a landed Anglo-Irish family, with an estate at Lissadell House in Co Sligo. She studied art at the Académie Julien in Paris, where she shared a studio with Australian artist Dora Meeson (later Meeson Coates), who later, once she had settled in London,  became a founder member of the Artists’ Suffrage League. In Paris Constance met and married a Polish count, Casimir Markevicz, before returning to Ireland in 1903 and eventually joining the nationalist organisation, the Daughters of Erin.

Constance’s sister, Eva, moved to Manchester, where she worked with radical suffragists to campaign for the vote and improve the lot of working women, while Constance continued to campaign for Irish independence, took part in the Easter Rising in 1916 and, as a member of the Citizen Army, was condemned to death.  However, because she was a woman, the sentence was immediately commuted to one of life imprisonment and, under a general amnesty, she was released in 1917.

In 1918 she was once again in prison, this time in Holloway, sentenced for taking part in anti-conscription activity, and it was while there that she stood for parliament in December 1918. As the Sinn Féin candidate she took 7835 votes, beating the Irish Parliamentary party candidate (3752 votes), however, like all Sinn Féin elected MPs, then as now, she refused to take her seat in the British House of Commons.

She was still in prison when the first Dail met, but, once released, served as minister of Labour from 1919 to January 1922., becoming the first Irish woman to be a member of the cabinet.

Constance Markievicz took part in the Irish Civil War, opposing the Anglo-Irish treaty. She was re-elected to the Dail in 1923, but, like other Republican members, did not take her seat. In 1926 she joined the new party, Fianna Fáil, and was re-elected as a Fianna Fáil candidate in 1927, but died a few weeks later, before she could take her seat.

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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Millicent MacKenzie

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 tenth:

Millicent MacKenzie

 

Mrs Millicent MacKenzie, who stood as a Labour candidate for the University of Wales seat.

Millicent MacKenzie (1863-1942) had been the first female professor in Wales, appointed as the professor of education (women) in 1910 having, most unusually, been allowed to keep her teaching position after her marriage in 1898. She had also been the co-founder of the Cardiff branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

Millicent MacKenzie had retired by 1918, when she was the only woman parliamentary candidate standing in Wales.  In fact the existing male Labour candidate, Professor Joseph Jones, had given up his place to her.

Millicent MacKenzie’s election platform does not appear to have caught the attention of the press. Her only comment that I can find is a rather bland statement in Common Cause, to the effect that ‘Women have won the vote, let them see to it that it is used to forward the highest interests of humanity’.

At the election Millicent MacKenzie polled 176 votes, the winner, The Rt Hon Herbert Lewis, vice president of the Board of Education, a Coalition Liberal, won with 739 votes. She did not stand again for parliament, devoting her energies to promoting the educational theories of Rudolph Steiner.

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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Janet McEwan

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 ninth:

(image courtesy of Mirror Online)

Mrs Janet McEwan, who stood as a Liberal in the Enfield constituency in Middlesex, having taken the place of her husband, John McEwan, as prospective candidate after a breakdown in his health. John McEwan presided over the first campaign meeting that she held in Enfield in early December 1918. Janet (or Jenny) McEwan (1860-1921), mother of five, had been an active member of the Free Church League for Women’s Suffrage, holding drawing-room meetings at her home, ‘Carisbrooke’, Culloden Road, Enfield.

Janet McEwan had worked for many years ‘at the maternity centres and on the care committees, the education organisations, and the numerous local agencies which seek to give help wisely where it is needed.

She seeks to place the understanding born of experience and first-hand knowledge at the service of her country in the wider sphere of Westminster. She declares that Parliament will be better for the presence of women, and the work of reconstruction more wisely carried out if men and women of all parties work together in friendly co-operation. ‘(The Vote, 6 December 1918.)

Although Janet McEwan supported the Coalition Government, the Coalition’s backing (its ‘coupon’) had been given to the Unionist candidate, making her chances of success slim. She was reported in Common Cause (13 December 1918) as saying:

It is urgently required that women in general should be stirred from their apathy and led to realise the responsibility upon them to record their votes. There are indications that the poll will be a very small one in proportion to the large electorate. Workers and canvassers are almost unobtainable. This seat might be won by a women if adequate help could be thrown into the division on Polling Day.

Alas, Mrs McEwan suffered the fate of many other unsupported Liberals, and came a poor third (with 1987 votes) behind the Unionist (8290 votes) and the Labour (6176) candidates. She never had a chance of repeating her candidature, dying in 1921, before the next General Election.

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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Emmeline Pethick Lawrence

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 eighth:

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence (centre) with her husband, Frederick and Christabel Pankhurst

Mrs Pethick Lawrence, who was standing as a Labour candidate in the Rusholme constituency of Manchester.

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence had been one of the leaders of the Women’s Social and Political Union until, in the autumn of 1912, ousted, along with her husband, Frederick, after they had both spent a term in prison on a charge of conspiracy to commit damage. They then set up a new organisation, the Votes for Women Fellowship, centring around their paper, Votes for Women. In July 1914 the Pethick Lawrences joined the United Suffragists and gave their paper to the new society.

During the First World war Emmeline Pethick Lawrence was one of those women who backed the idea of a negotiated peace and was one of only three British women able to attend the Women’s Peace Congress, held in the Hague in 1915. She worked for peace during the remainder of the war and when she stood at the 1918 General Election her platform was partly devoted to the idea that the only chance for permanent peace in Europe was a just settlement with Germany.

In her Election Address on domestic matters she wrote:

Social Reconstruction is the business of the next Parliament. I support the resolutions adopted at the Labour Conference of June 1918. These include:

  1. The Restitution of Trade Union Conditions.
  2. National Scheme of Housing carried out with capital supplied by National Government.
  3. National Non-Militaristic Education on basis of social equality from nursery school to University.
  4. Prevention of Unemployment.
  5. Minimum Wage.
  6. Equal Pay for Equal Work.
  7. Increased Old-Age Pensions.
  8. Nationalisation of Railways, Shipping, Canals, Mines, Banks, and Land.
  9. Nationalisation of the Drink Traffic.
  10. Abolition o the Poor Law and Development of Municipal Health Service.
  11. Free Trade and the Open Door in Commerce.
  12. Admission of women to full political rights on an equality with men.
  13. Pensions for Mother, who, deprived of the breadwinner of the family,, have to tend and provide for dependent children. 

Repeal of Repressive Legislation

  1. I stand for the immediate repeal of Military Conscription  and of every form of Industrial Conscription, believing Conscription to be the supreme expression of arbitrary force in contra-distinction to self-governing freedom.
  2. For the Repeal of D.O.R.A.
  3. For the immediate restoration of civil liberties.
  4. The immediate release of all political prisoners.

The vital question of sex morality can only be dealt with my men and women taking counsel together.

Rusholme was a new seat created in Manchester. In the event Emmeline Pethick Lawrence came third, polling 2985 votes, not far behind the Liberal candidate with 3690 votes. The winning Unionist candidate took 12,447 votes

The Vote, the paper of the Women’s Freedom League, carried a post-election piece in its 17 January 1919 issue, in which Mrs Pethick Lawrence declared: ‘that candidates should make a closer study of the psychology of their electors. Feeling counts infinitely more than opinions at great national crises. Last month the electors were actuated for the most part by a passion for justice, expressed in the minds of many by the demand for “the hanging of the Kaiser”. Appeals to enlightened self-interest,, the prospects of better housing, better wages – nothing moved them as much as this passionate devotion to an idea. “We have learnt at this election we must study the feelings and ideals of the people.”‘ Polling day, Mrs Pethick Lawrence declared, was the happiest day of her life in seeing women carrying out the rights of citizenship, even though the vote of the young and enthusiastic women is still to come.’

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence continued to campaign on women’s issues for the rest of her life , becoming president of the Women’s Freedom League and a vice-president of the Six Point Group.

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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Alison Garland

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:

Alison Garland

Miss Alison Garlandwho 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

  1. the upbringing and  protection of children
  2. the maintenance of an equal moral standard for men and women
  3. the housing of the people
  4. the formation of a Ministry of Health
  5. 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.

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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Norah Dacre Fox

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.

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