Posts Tagged 1918 General Election

Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Alice Lucas

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 seventeenth – and last:

Mrs Alice Lucas, who stood as a Conservative candidate for the Kennington constituency in London. In fact she was the only woman candidate to stand as a Conservative, having taken over the nomination at the last minute from her husband, who died suddenly in the ‘flu epidemic three days before the election. Lucas had been MP for Lowestoft from 1900 until 1906 and had unsuccessfully contested Kennington in the two 1910 elections. In 1918 neither he nor Mrs Lucas received the Coalition government’s ‘coupon’, which went to the Liberal candidate. Alice Lucas was known in the area, having been chairman of the Lambeth Auxiliary Hospital during the war

Alice Lucas (1853-1924) was a member of a Jewish family and after her nomination a false rumour circulated that she was an enemy alien, born in Germany. This was vigorously denied by her agent. In fact her election address was vehemently anti-German, stating that she wished:

to bring the Kaiser and his associates to trial

to make Germany pay the full cost of the war

to deal most generously with returning soldiers and sailors

and for ‘imprisoned conscientious objectors to remain under government control until it was impossible for them to snatch jobs from returning heroes’ (South London Press, 20 December 1918)

Because she took over the nomination so close to polling day, voting in Kennington was postponed until 20 December when Alice Lucas came second to the Liberal candidate. In fact, by polling 3573 votes she gained 63 more votes for the Conservatives than her husband had polled in December 1910. In 1918 the Liberal winner took 4705 votes and the Labour candidate 2817.

Although Alice Lucas was unsuccessful, it was to be in similar circumstances – that of a woman standing in a seat in which her husband had an interest – that the first woman MP – and several others who closely followed – was to be elected. It was not until 1923, with the election of Margaret Bondfield, that a woman became an MP solely through her own effort.

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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: 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: 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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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Charlotte Despard

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 fifth:

 

Mrs Charlotte Despard, who stood as the Labour candidate for North Battersea, a new constituency, backed by support from the Women’s Freedom League. She had been selected by the Labour party after John Burns withdrew his candidature.

Charlotte Despard (1844-1939) had been the leader of the Women’s Freedom League  since its formation in 1907, when she led a group away from the Women’s Social and Political Union, dissatisfied with the autocratic style of Emmeline and and Christabel Pankhurst’s leadership. Charlotte Despard advocated, within the structure of a democratic organization, civil disobedience that broke no ‘moral law’, and a need for an awareness of the reality of the social and economic ills that could be remedied if women were enfranchised. During the campaign she was imprisoned on a couple of occasions

Mrs Despard was a vegetarian, a Theosophist and a supporter of the Labour party – or  at least she was so long as it was prepared to back women’s suffrage. Thus after 1912, when the Labour party passed a resolution to include women’s suffrage in its programme, the Women’s Freedom League backed Labour party candidates in by-elections.

And so it was that in December 1918 Charlotte Despard was selected as the Labour party candidate for the North Battersea constituency, an area in which she had lived since 1890 and where she ran youth clubs, a welfare clinic, and a soup kitchen. Her election agent was John Archer, who had been the first person of colour to have been elected a mayor in London (for more about him see https://wp.me/p2AEiO-1kg).

Mrs Despard’s Election Address made the following points:

  1. Equal political rights for men and women 
  2. Equal pay for equal work
  3. The child as a most important factor in the State
  4. Children to have first consideration in all food schemes
  5. Boys and girls should go to work at a later age
  6. Rigorous inspection of shops and factories where boys and girls work
  7. Adequate provision for disabled men and women
  8. Abolition of Defence of the Realm Act, especially 40D
  9. Free speech, free press, and liberty of individual action
  10. A League of Free Nations

In the NUWSS paper, Common Cause, Mrs Despard wrote:

As a woman Parliamentary candidate, standing for the cause that is nearest to my heart – the cause of the people, I send a word of greeting and recognition to our fellow-workers of the National Union [of Women’s Suffrage Societies] and the ‘Common Cause’. 

You, my sisters, have for many years through good and ill report, stood for righteousness in public life and for those urgent reforms in our social system through which alone we can hope for social salvation; and your reward has come in these marvellous, unprecedented changes that have come to pass.

Now that the door of opportunity stands open for women, as well as men, it is good to feel that, in organisations such as yours, the training requisite to success in service has been given. I hope the new Parliament will have women amongst its members; and I firmly believe that their influence and help will be of special use to the nation now. On the ruins of the old world of privilege and convention we are building a new world – just, strong, free. Unity if the only firm basis of such a world. Therefore women must be there.

Mrs Despard polled 5634 votes. The Liberal candidate, her only rival, polled 11,231, winning by a comfortable majority. She never stood again for Parliament, subsequently devoting her remarkable energies to the cause of Irish freedom and Irish socialism.

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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Violet Markham

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 fourth:

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR VIOLET MARKHAM (WWC D15) Assistant Director Violet Markham CH, National Service Department. Copyright: © IWM (WWC D15)

Mrs Carruthers (Miss Violet Markham), who stood as an Independent Liberal candidate for Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. She married in 1915 but continued to use her maiden name for her public work.

Violet Markham (1872-1959), daughter of an industrialist and grand-daughter of Sir Joseph Paxton, was an independently wealthy social reformer who, in the years before the First World War, was a leader of the anti-women’s suffrage campaign. However, her views modified during the War and in 1918 she stood as an Asquithian Liberal in Mansfield, where her brother, Sir Arthur Markham, had before his death in 1916, been the MP.  It was ironic that Mansfield, which had had a very active suffrage society since the 1890s, should have been contested by a woman candidate who, until very recently, had been so vehemently anti-suffrage.

In her election manifesto Violet Markham declared:

  1. I am proud to feel that the Mansfield Liberals are willing in this contest to give me the same measure of political independence as they accorded to my dear brother. My Radical and Democratic convictions have only been strengthened by the experience of the war. The war has proved in the end a splendid vindication of democracy. I have come forward, therefore, as an Independent Liberal, giving a general support to the Coalition Government in carrying out the Peace on the basis of President Wilson’s fourteen points; but not bound by pledges, and with a free hand to deal with the issues of Reconstruction as they arise on any other matters of Government policy. I am a warm supporter of the ideal of the League of Nations.
  2. I remain a convinced Free Trader, but recognise that the abnormal situation created by the war calls for certain modifications in its practice. I am prepared to consider the question of the protection of Key Industries, which ought to be viewed as part of the nation’s system of defence. Industries to which this protection is accorded should, however, be controlled by the State and their profits devoted to national purposes, not to private gain. Cases of dumping would, I think, be a suitable subject for investigation by one of the Standing Committees of Enquiry, which I hope to see set up by the League of Nations.
  3. As Liberals, we deeply deplore that the war has added yet another chapter entailing much mutual bitterness to the fatal record of misunderstanding between England and Ireland. I have always been a Home Ruler, and am prepared to support a Home Rule Bill or any measure on which the Irish would themselves agree; but I am not prepared after the experience of the war to coerce N.E. Ulster, for which separate arrangements must be made.
  4. Measures concerned with Housing, Health, Wages, Land, will, if adequate, receive my warm support. Such measures must deal fearlessly with the vested interests involved, or they will prove of no account.
  5. In industry we must work for the establishment of a new social order based, not as in the past,, on profit-making and strife, but on the principle of a public service to which all contribute and in which all share.

Violet Markham took third place in the election contest, polling 4000 votes. The Labour candidate took the seat with 8957 votes. The Coalition ‘coupon’ went to a National Democratic candidate who came second. An Independent trailed in fourth place with 878 votes.

Violet Markham never again stood as a parliamentary candidate, but was one of the first women to be appointed a justice of the peace, and in 1924 was elected a town councillor in Chesterfield, her home town, becoming mayor in 1927. By 1937 she was deputy chairman of the Unemployment Assistance Board and in 1945 was the co-author of a report on the Postwar Organisation of Private Domestic Employment.

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Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Winifred Carney

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 third:

Winifred Carney

Miss Winifred Carney, who stood as a Sínn Féin candidate for the Victoria constituency in Belfast.

Winifred Carney (1887-1943), a Catholic brought up in the Falls Road area of Belfast, was by 1912 in charge of the Women’s Section of the Irish Textile Workers’ Union, before becoming secretary to James Connolly, founder of the Irish Socialist Republican Party. In 1914 she joined Cumann na mBan, the women’s auxiliary of the Irish Volunteers and was present at its first meeting.

Winifred Carney took part in the 1916 Easter Rising and was with Connolly in the Dublin GPO as he was wounded. She was arrested and was eventually moved to England, to Aylesbury Jail, finally released at the end of 1916.

At the 1918 election Winifred Carney polled 539 votes and was heavily defeated, coming last of the three candidates, her defeat due more to politics than to gender, for the Victoria constituency in East Belfast covered the dock area and was traditionally Unionist. It was unsurprising that Winifred Carney lost to a Labour Unionist candidate, even though in other constituencies Sínn Féin were very successful. winning 73 out of the 105 seats they contested.

It is to be noted that, other than including Winifred Carney in the list of women standing for election, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies did not give any space in their paper, Common Cause, to her manifesto – or give any details of her campaign.

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