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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Ray Strachey

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 sixteenth:

 

Ray Strachey

Mrs Oliver Strachey, who was standing as an Independent for the Brentford and Chiswick constituency in Middlesex, supported by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

Ray Strachey (1887-1940) (née Costelloe) was educated at Newnham College, where she was an active member of the Cambridge University Women’s Suffrage Society. In 1911 she married Oliver Strachey and by 1913 was chairman of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage, of which her sister-in-law, Philippa, was secretary. From 1916 until 1921 Ray was honorary parliamentary secretary to the NUWSS, responsible for supervising the passage of the 1918 Representation of the People Act.

Common Cause (20 December 1918) reported that she was asked to stand by ‘a large section of the electors, who were dissatisfied with Col Grant Morden [the candidate backed by the Coalition ‘coupon’]. Her meetings are always crowded. One of the things most widely resented was the sayin gof Col Grant Morden ‘the lady candidate ought to stay at home and look after her kiddies’. Mrs Strachey replied “She wants to go to Parliament in order to look after the kiddies. They need mothers there”; and Mrs Henry Fawcett, speaking on her behalf, has said it would be well to have among the 707 members of the House of Commons someone who knew one end of a baby from the other. The candidate herself, however, is not appealing for support on account of her sex. She is asking the elector for their votes, not because she is a woman, but because “she is a good candidate, and will represent them well.”

In her election address Ray Strachey declared:

I stand as a supporter of the Coalition Government. We have kept a united front during the war, and we must keep that unity until a good and lasting peace shall be established abroad, and until we have built up a t home those measures of reconstruction for which the whole nation waits.

It falls to us now to see that the victory is not in vain. This war must be the last war. I therefore support the establishment of a League of Nations, with such immediate mutual disarmament as is safe, and I trust that the question of the future economic policies and tariffs of the whole world will be settled through the agency of the League itself.

With regard to domestic reforms, I believe that housing is the most urgent and important question before us. In it I see the solution of many pressing social evils.

I attach the greatest importance to the question of the pensions to be paid to those brave men who have won our safety for us, and to the widows of those who have laid down their lives. Their well-being must be a first charge upon the State.

I care also, very particularly for the drastic improvement of industrial conditions, for education, and the care of public health and infant welfare,, and for all those public matters which affect the domestic life of the community.

I make no apology for asking you to vote for a woman. Women have their contribution to make to public thought and public service. I believe, with a profound conviction, that men and women should work together for the progress and good government of the Nation as they must for that of their homes. I hold the interests of men and women are so closely bound up together that they cannot be divided, and that what is for the good of one sex, must certainly be for the good of the other. It is for this reason that I support the perfect equality of men and women in the eyes of the law and the state.

The 20 December issue of Common Cause mentioned that Col Morden, in a bid to undermine her candidature, issued a large poster stating in ‘bold scarlet letters that “A Vote for Strachey is a Vote for the League of Nations”. Mrs Strachey naturally displayed this poster with pride, and explained that the League of Nations was what she did stand for before anything else.’ ..Mrs Strachey’s Committee Rooms were said by impartial witnesses to be the liveliest Committee Rooms in London. Many old friends met there, members of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage came forward gallantly to the fray. Much devoted voluntary work was done by members of the Chiswick branch of the LSWS, some of whom came from distant constituencies in order to have the pleasure of doing voluntary work for Mrs Strachey.’

Alas, despite this effort, Ray Strachey came last in the contest, polling 1263 votes to Col Morden’s 9077, with a Labour candidate taking 2620 votes. She stood again at Chiswick in 1922 and this time in a straight fight with Morden (now a Unionist) polled 7804 votes against his 10,150.  In 1923, standing again at Chiswick as an Independent, she took 4828 votes, coming second to Morden, with the Labour candidate polling 3216 votes. She did not stand again for Parliament, but in 1931 became private political secretary to the first woman MP, Lady Astor.

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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Emily Phipps

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 fifteenth:

Miss Emily Phipps, who stood as an Independent in Chelsea.

Emily Phipps’ Election Address (courtesy of University of Bristol Special Collections)

Emily Phipps (1865-1943), headmistress of Swansea Girls’ Secondary School, was the founder of the Swansea branch of the Women’s Freedom League, and president of the Swansea branch of the National Union of Teachers. She was an active member of the National Union of Women Teachers (which lobbied for women’s suffrage and equal pay) and was the Union’s president from 1915 to 1917.

She stood as an Independent candidate, backed by the National Federation of Women Teachers, in Chelsea at the 1918 general election. In her election address she stated:

Although standing as a non-party candidate, I heartily support the policy of utterly defeating German militarism, believing that our glorious victory must be confirmed by such peace as will forr generations prevent a resumption of war.

  1. In Trade, on account of the special circumstances arising out of the war, I support a measure of Protection for our national industries, and Preference for our Colonies, but no Food Taxes.
  2. Other necessary reforms are Equal Pay for Equal Work, irrespective of sex
  3. the establishment of a Ministry of Health, with an adequate proportion of women representatives
  4. the presence of women on all Local bodies and all Reconstruction Committees, on Trade Boards, Education and Health committees, and on Watch Committees of Local Councils
  5. the opening of all Trades and Professions to Women on equal terms with men
  6. the appointment of Women Judges and Magistrates

I also advocate better housing, the provision of a pure milk supply, and adequate wages for all workers, since it is better to prevent disease than to spend millions in trying to cure it.

Illegitimate children should be better protected and should be legitimised on the subsequent marriage of their parents

Divorce laws should be equalised as between men and women and there should be an equal moral standard for the sexes.

Greater attention should be paid to Education, every child should have the opportunity of revealing aptitude for languages, science etc. It is only by utilising all available talents that we can develop the resources of our country. We want more teachers, and they should be well qualified.

Emily Phipps’ only opponent at the election was the sitting Conservative MP, who had the Coalition’s ‘coupon’. Although defeated, she did well to retain her deposit, polling 2419 votes against Sir Samuel Hoare’s 9159..

Emily Phipps qualified as a barrister in 1925, resigned her headship and went to London to act as standing counsel for the National Union of Women Teachers.

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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Christabel Pankhurst

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 fourteenth:

Christabel Pankhurst, 1918

Miss Christabel Pankhurst, who stood as the Women’s Party candidate at Smethwick, the only woman to be given the Coalition government’s ‘coupon’.

Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958) had been one of the leaders of the Women’s Social and Political Union as it campaigned for votes for women before the First World War. During the war she had worked alongside her mother, Emmeline Pankhurst, and with Flora Drummond and Annie Kenney, to aid Lloyd George’s war efforts. She was vehemently anti-Asquith, attacking him in the pages of Britannia (the successor to The Suffragette) as pro-German.

In 1917 the Pankhursts relaunched the WSPU as The Women’s Party, the programme of which was based on ‘equality of rights and responsibilities in the social and political life of the nation’. During 1917 and 1918 the Women’s Party campaigned in the industrial heartlands, particularly in South Wales, advocating industrial peace and warning against the dangers of Bolshevism.

When Christabel Pankhurst stood for parliament at Smethwick in 1918 her platform was to:

secure a lasting peace based on obtaining material guarantees against future German aggression

to improve the social conditions of the working classes by a levelling up in society

by industrial salvation and wealth production

to crusade against Bolshevism and ‘shirkers’

Christabel began her two-week campaign in Smethwick at the end of November 1918. At a meeting her mother, Emmeline Pankhurst, explained that Smethwick had been chosen because it was a new constituency – with no sitting member to be aggrieved when the Women’s Party won the seat. As a reward for fighting what Lloyd George termed ‘the Bolshevist and Pacifist element’ Christabel was given a coveted ‘coupon’ of coalition endorsement – and praised the chivalry of the Unionist candidate, who also had a ‘coupon’ but who withdrew to give her a clear run.

Voting took place on 14 December but it was a further two weeks before the results were announced and, in the meantime, Christabel gave her final speech of the campaign on 17 December – not in Smethwick but in London. Her last words, reported in what turned out to be the final edition of Britannia – were –

‘I would not change places with any other MP, because it is like a little bit of the heart of England, is this Smethwick. You have there an intensely patriotic people, a highly progressive people, including a body of working people who have not forgotten that they are citizens as well as workers…It is now for us to rouse ourselves and prepare ourselves for a year more full of duty and of high endeavour than we have ever known since we were born.’  

But it was not to be. Christabel was defeated, polling 8614 votes to the Labour candidate’s 9389. She never repeated the experience, nor again became involved in politics, eventually moving to the USA and devoting herself to Second Adventism.

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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Eunice Murray

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 Murraywho 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.

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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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All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

 

 

 

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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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