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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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