Posts Tagged 1918 General Election

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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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: 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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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: 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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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: 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.

Copyright

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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