Oldham Historical Research Group

Main Suffrage

The General Election, 1918
The First Women to Stand for Parliamentary Election

The First Women to Stand for Parliamentary Election

The February 1918, 'Representation of the People' Act, extended the franchise to all men over the age of 21, and to servicemen age 19 or over. In addition, if was extended to include women age 30 years or more and who fulfilled specific criteria with regard to being householders in their own right or married to a householder.

This opened then opened up the question as to whether or not women should now be allowed to stand as candidates for election to Parliament ... they were already allowed to stand in local government elections.

Just in time for the December 1918 General Election, the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act was rushed through, allowing women to stand for election to Parliament for the first time. In the next 3 short weeks, 17 women came forward to stand as candidates.

Ironically, any woman over age 21 could stand for election but, unless she fulfilled the criteria enabling a woman to vote, she couldn't even cast a vote for herself!

Only one woman was actually elected, and she was Constance, Countess Markievicz. She was elected as the Sinn Fein Member for St. Patrick's Division, Dublin. She ran her campaign from a prison cell in Holloway prison, where she was interned for her alleged part in the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. She did not take up her seat at Westminster but subsequently took up her seat in the Irish Parliament (the Dail) which refused to recognise the authority of the British Parliament. Constance was the sister of Esther Gore-Booth, a Manchester suffragist and women's rights activist.

The other 16 women candidates have more or less slipped through the cracks of history but a small group of 5 researchers, in early 2018, decided to find out who they were and remember them in the centenary of women's suffrage. The results of their research, were exhibited at the People's History Museum, in Manchester, as The Women who said , "Yes!" and which ran from July into September 2018. The 5 Researchers were: Dr. Ali Ronan, Hilary Chuter, Lizzie Gent, Jane Ward and Jill Woodward.

In the 1910 General election, in Oldham, the registered electors had numbered 35,315, with an 86% turnout to vote on the day. The two Liberal candidates, Alfred Emmott and William Barton were both returned.

There would be no General Election held during the war ... a coalition government held office, firstly with Herbert H. Asquith as Prime Minister and then with David Lloyd George (from December 1916).

In the 1918 General Election the number of registered electors in Oldham had doubled. A substantial number would have been servicemen on active service away from home (including servicemen over the age of 19) who were registered for postal votes. However, thousands would be women, voting in their first election. The candidates returned were Edmund Bartley-Denniss (Conservative-Unionist) and William Barton (Liberal), both of whom held a Coalition Coupon which endorsed them as the official representatives of the Coalition Government in office.

In the vengeful weeks following the armistice (and before the Treaties ending the war were signed) the election candidates receiving an endorsement coupon, signed by David Lloyd George (Liberal) or by Bonar Law (Conservative/Unionist) could be deemed to have been true patriots during the war. Those not receiving a coupon could be perceived as having been anti-war or pacifists promoting a negotiated peace. The only woman to receive a coupon was Christabel Pankhurst who, along with her mother and her followers, actively promoted the war and campaigned to encourage enlistment and for women to fill their places in industry.

Some Abbreviations at foot of page

Below, listed, are the 17 women candidates with numerical links to some brief notes below (by no means comprehensive!) and with further links to other relevant or biographical articles:

1. Mrs. W.C. Anderson (nee Macarthur), Labour, Stourbridge
2. Margery Corbett Ashby, Liberal, candidate for Birmingham, Ladywood
3. Winifred Carney, Sinn Fein, candidate for Belfast Victoria
4. Mrs. Carruthers (Violet Markham), Independent, candidate for Mansfield
5. Charlotte Despard, Labour, candidate for Battersea South
6. Norah Dacre Fox (Noral Elam), Independent, candidate for Richmond
7. Alison Vickers Garland, Liberal, candidate for Portsmouth South
8. Janet McEwan, Independent, candidate for Enfield
9. Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, Labour, candidate for Manchester, Rusholme
10. Alice Lucas, Conservative, candidate for Portsmouth South.
11. Mrs. Hester Millicent Hughes Mackenzie, Labour, candidate for University of Wales.
12. Constance, Countess Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth), Sinn Fein, candidate for Dublin, St. Patrick's
13. Edith How Martyn, Independent, candidate for Hendon
14. Eunice Guthrie Murray, Independent, candidate for Glasgow Bridgeton
15. Christabel Pankhurst, Women's Party, candidate for Smethwick (endorsed by Lloyd George)
16. Emily Frost Phipps, Independent, candidate for Chelsea
17. Mrs. Rachel (Ray) Strachey, Independent, candidate for Brentford & Chiswick

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Mrs. W.C. Anderson (Mary Reid, nee Macarthur), Labour, candidate for Stourbridge
1880 - 1921
Born in Gasgow. Her father owned a drapery business.
She was educated at Glasgow Girls' High School and had intentions to become a writer but after a period of study in Germany returned to work as her father's bookkeeper.
Mary was an active suffragist and women's trade unionist.
She became a trade unionist, around the turn of the century, after becoming aware of the conditions in which so many women worked. She served on the committee of the Shop Assistants' Union.
She became the general secretary of the Women's Trade Union League and was involved in the formation of the National Federation of Women Workers and National Anti-Sweating League.

In 1903 Mary moved to London and became Secretary of the Women's Trade Union League.
She was active in the campaign for women's right to vote.
Unlike some factions, in both the NUWSS and the WSPU, who believed a limited franchise was either acceptable or desirable, Mary believed the fight should be for full adult suffrage.
In 1909 she organised the women chain makers of Cradley Heath in their successful fight for a minimum wage.
In 1911, Macarthur married William Crawford Anderson (d. 1919), chairman of the executive committee of the Labour party. Following a by-election in 1914 William became the MP for the Attercliffe division of Sheffield until1918, when he lost his seat to the Liberal candidate who held a coupon of endorsement..
Mary's name and picture (and those of 58 other women's suffrage supporters) are on the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London, unveiled in 2018.

More on-line at :
Working Class Movement Library, Salford
Spartacus Educational

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Margery Irene Corbett Ashby, Liberal, Birmingham, candidate for Ladywood
1882 - 1981
Born in Sussex. Her father was a barrister and, from 1906 to 1910, Liberal MP for East Grinstead.
Her mother was a Liberal feminist and local councillor.
Margery was educated at home by a German governess who was active in campaigns for women's rights. She completed her education at Newnham College, Cambridge.
She married Brian Ashby, a lawyer, in 1910.
An active suffragist from her late teens, she became Secretary of the NUWSS in 1907 and was President of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance from 1923 to 1946.
After WW1 she founded the Townswomen's Guild and also became active politically, as a Liberal. She was a candidate in 8 Parliamentary elections; the final one in 1944. Although never gaining the seat, her results were, nonetheless, creditable.
She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1967

Her name and picture (and those of 58 other women's suffrage supporters) are on the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London, unveiled in 2018

More on-line at :
Encyclopaedia Britannica

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Maria Winifred Carney, Sinn Fein, candidate for Belfast Victoria
1887 - 1943
Born in Bangor, County Down, along with 6 siblings, to a Catholic mother and Protestant father. Their father left home, leaving their mother to support the young family by running a small sweetshop.
Winifred qualified as a secretary and shorthand typist; unusual in Ireland at the time.
Politically strongly motivated she co-founded and ran the women's section of the Irish Textile Workers' Union in 1912.
She met and became personal secretary to James Connolly, whilst working to further women's rights and conditions in the workplace and female suffrage.
She went on to join the women's section of the Irish Volunteers.
During the Easter Rising, in Dublin in 1916, she was in the Post Office alongside Connolly.
She was arrested after the surrender and was eventually detained, with others, as internees in Aylesbury prison.
She was released in December 1916... and after the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in 1921, was arrested a number of times for anti-treaty activities.
After her defeat in the 1918 General Election she continued trade union and political left wing activities.
In 1928 she married a Protestant Orangeman, George McBride ...

More on-line at :
BBC pages
Irish Times
NVTV Documentary

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Mrs. Carruthers (Violet Rosa Markham), Independent, candidate for Mansfield
1872 - 1959.
Born into an affluent family background ... father was part-owner of Markham Collieries and Markham & C0. Engineering works in Chesterfield. Her mother was the daughter of Sir Joseph Paxton.
An early inheritance allowed her to live an independent life, with her own house in London, and wealth enough to support her own charitable causes.
Her overriding interest was the promotion of education.
In 1914 she became a member and later chairman of the Central Committee of Women's Training and Employment.
When war broke out in 1914 she sat on the Executive Committee of the National Relief Fund, dispensing aid to service families and dependents, as well as civilians. This experience left her with a desire to alleviate the effects of poverty and unemployment, especially where women were concerned.

She married Lt. Colonel James Carruthers in 1915, but retained use of her maiden name.
After the war she continued with her political and administrative work and was elected as a town councillor for Chesterfield in 1924; she served as Mayor of Chesterfield in 1927.
In 1934, she became a member of the Unemployment Assistance Board, becoming Deputy chairman in 1937.
Her husband died in 1936.
During WW2, amongst other undertakings, she was on the appeal tribunal of the Defence of the Realm Regulations.

Not always acknowledged, was her early membership of the Anti-suffrage League (membership comprised both men and women, who were actively, often vehemently, opposed to women gaining the right to vote).

More on-line at :
History answers - Anti-Suffrage

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Charlotte Despard (nee French), Labour, candidate for Battersea South
1844 - 1939
Charlotte Despard was a formidable force to be reckoned with in whatever cause she undertook. She was from an Anglo-Irish family ... daughter of Captain John Tracy William French of the Royal Navy (who died in 1855). Her brother was John French who was a military commander in WW1 and later Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Charlotte was an active suffragist, becoming a suffragette with the founding of the WSPU and later leaving to become a founding member of the non-violent but militant WFL.

She had married Maximilian Corden Despard in Hendon, in 1870 ... there were no children of the marriage and he died in 1890

After her husband's death, leaving her without financial concerns, and being shocked by the conditions endured by many women both at home and in the workplace, she threw herself into campaigning for women's rights and became involved with many issues including the Tax Resistance League. She became a Poor Law Guardian in Lambeth.
She was a member of the ILP and, politically very active, was a delegate to the International Socialist Workers and Trade Union Congress, in London in 1896.
She was a deeply committed pacifist, campaigning against the Boer War, conscription in 1916, and
was part of the Women's Peace Crusade beween 1916 and 1918..

Despite her socialist and pacifist convictions she was a supporter of Irish Home Rule, and of Sinn Fein ... none of which sentiments were shared by her brother, Sir John French.

More on-line at
The Working Class Movement Library
Nine Elms Heritage Features : Charlotte Despard

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Norah Dacre Fox (nee Doherty), and also known as Norah Elam. Independent, candidate for Richmond
1878 - 1961, born in Dublin
She married Charles Dacre Fox in 1909
A member of the WSPU she was an active militant and went to prison three times enduring hunger strikes and force-feeding.
In 1918, in collaboration with the anti-German British Empire Union, and the right-wing National Party she campaigned for the internment of 'enemy aliens', regardless of civil status.
In the 1920s she separated from her husband and, with E.D. Dudley D. Elam, was active in the Sussex Conservative Party until they left to join Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists
(soon after it was formed in 1932). She became prominent in the organisation and, in 1940, she, along with Elam, was arrested and interned under the Defence of the Realm regulations.

More at :
Education forum: The WSPU and Fascism: Nora Dacre Fox

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Alison Vickers Garland, Liberal, candidate for Portsmouth South
1862 - 1939
Born in Birkenhead.
Alison was a staunch Liberal supporter and also a member of the Central and West of England Society for Women's Suffrage, at meetings of which, in Devon and Cornwall, she would be a speaker.
In 1898 she was on the executive committee of the Union of Practical Suffragists and in 1899 became President of the Devon Union of the Women's Liberal Associations.
She was a participant in the NUWSS 'Mud March' in 1907

More on-line at :
and in the book :
'Women's Suffrage Movement - A Reference Guide' by Elizabeth Crawford

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Janet (Jenny) McEwan (nee Landells), Liberal, candidate for Enfield
1860 - 1921
Born in Lanarkshire she married another Scot, John McEwan.
Janet was chosen to stand as the candidate in 1918 following the death of her husband, John, who had been the initial Liberal candidate.

More on-line at :

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Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, Labour, candidate for Manchester, Rusholme
Born 1867 in Clifton, near Bristol. Died 1954 in Surrey.
The 2nd of the 13 children born to Henry Pethick, an affluent businessman, and his wife, Fanny. After boarding schools she went to a finishing school; following that she went to school in Germany where she studied Literature and Language.
On her return to England she found that opportunities for an independently minded woman, apart from marriage, were limited.

In 1890 she started to involve herself with the Working Girls Club of the Methodist West London Mission. It was here that she first became more active politically and, strongly influenced by Keir Hardie, supported the ILP.
In 1891 she began her first public speaking activities.
In 1901 Emmeline married wealthy lawyer Frederick Lawrence (b. 1871) ... each took the other's surname along with their own.

The next few years were spent largely in South Africa, in contact with well-known feminists and pacifists, influencing their own thinking.
In 1905 they returned to an England where Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney had just been sent to jail for disrupting a meeting in Manchester with their demands for 'Votes for Women'. Within six months, and after having been introduced to the Pankurst women by Keir Hardie, Emmeline would have become a member, and treasurer of the militant WSPU. So closely involved did both Emmeline and Frederick become, that their London home became the offices for the WSPU and Christabel Pankhurst began living with them. So began the years of WSPU expansion, 'deeds not words', militant lobbying, petitioning, rallies and meetings, encountering much the same governmental stonewalling that had been the norm for over 50 years.

In 1912 the Pethick Lawrences were, imprisoned after being found guilty of conspiring to commit damage', and faced bankruptcy when ordered to pay all costs
In the autumn of 1912, Christabel disbanded the committee of the WSPU and declared herself in sole control of running the campaign. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst's declared intention to ramp up the magnitude of their activities, with destructive attacks on public and private property was the last straw for the Pethick Lawrences, and they left the WSPU. .
Their journal, 'Votes for Women', continued to be circulated but was no longer connected with the WSPU. By 1914, they were involved with the United Suffragists (Militancy without violence) and Frederick Pethick Lawence made 'Votes for Women' their official journal.

The perceived rights and wrongs of Britain's entry into war, in 1914, split suffagists and suffagettes alike. Emmeline and Frederick were pacifists and were active in organising the International Women's Peace Congress, in April 1915, at the Hague.
At this congress, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was founded and, in autumn of 1915, Emmeline became the treasurer of the British branch (with Helena Swanwick in the Chair).
For the rest of the war Emmeline and Frederick campaigned for both women's rights and a negotiated peace (Frederick himself became a Conscientious Objector).

In the General Election of 1918, she stood as a candidate in order to give herself a platform from which to promote 'a just settlement' in the peace negotiations after the war.
Undaunted, by her failure to gain a seat in Parliament, she continued campaigning across Britain, Ireland and war-scarred Europe for women's rights and international peace. Throughout the '20s she served on various committees for women's rights, and to open access to the professions for women.
In 1926 was elected president of the WIFLPF.

After 1928, and universal suffrage in Britain was achieved, she turned her attention back to the economic and social needs of the working class, and suffrage in other parts of the world, travelling extensively, including to the USA, Africa, India, Palestine and Turkey.

At the same time, Frederick, during the years from 1923, had pursued a successful political career after being elected as Labour MP for Leicester, in 1923, which he held until losing his seat in 1931.
He was elected for Edinburgh East in 1935.
From 1942 he was Leader of the Opposition to the Coalition Government.
In 1945 Pethick-Lawrence was elevated to the peerage as Baron Pethick-Lawrence, of Peaslake in the County of Surrey.
From 1945 to 1947 he was Secretary of State for India and Burma.

More on-line at :
Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence entry in the Orlando Project (Women's Writing in the British Isles) of the Cambridge University Press
Youtube short film on her suffrage activities.
Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence entry in a Peace Pledge Union Project
Spartacus educational
Extracts from Emmeline Pethwick Lawence's autobiography on Mary Neal Project

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Alice Lucas, Conservative, candidate for Portsmouth South.
Little is recorded of Alice Lucas other than as an adjunct to her husband, father or brother.
She was the younger daughter of Viscount David de Stern and her brother Sydney was the Liberal peer, Lord Wandsworth.
In 1887 Alice Theresa de Stern married Col. Francis Alfred Lucas in Paddington. Francis was a Company Director, and an aspiring Conservative politician with homes in Suffolk and London. He sat in the Commons from 1900 until 1906. On 3 other occasions when he stood for election he failed to be elected. He was selected as the candidate for Kennington in the1918 General Election but died only days before polling day.
Alice was selected in his place; she did not have Lloyd George's endorsement coupon, and the Kennington poll was taken at a slightly later date on the 20th December.

More on-line at :
Wikipedia Henry Purchase
Wikipedia Francis Lucas

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Mrs. Hester Millicent Hughes Mackenzie, Labour, candidate for Welsh Universitys' Seat
Born in Bristol; nee Hughes.
She was the first women professor in Wales.
Millicent MacKenzie was appointed associate Professor of Education (women) at the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire.
She was a co-founder of the Cardiff and District Women's Suffrage Society in 1908, which by 1914 was the largest outside London with 1200 members.
Her lifelong driving force was the education of women

More on-line at :

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Constance, Countess Markievicz (née Gore-Booth), Sinn Fein, candidate for Dublin, St. Patrick's.
In the the General Election of 1918, the first woman MP to be elected was Constance, Countess Markievicz. She was elected as the Sinn Fein Member for St. Patrick's Division, Dublin. However, as a member of Sinn Fein and someone who had, incidentally conducted her campaign from a prison cell in Holloway Jail [never actually charged with any offence], she did not take up her seat at Westminster.
Constance was the sister of Esther Gore-Booth, Manchester suffragist and campaigner for women's rights.

More at :
BBC pages
Spartacus educational

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Edith How Martyn, Independent, candidate for Hendon
1875 - 1954
Edith Howe was a radical socialist and early member of the WSPU, becoming a joint secretary (with Charlotte Despard) in 1906. In the same year she went to prison for trying to give a speech in the House of Commons.
In 1907, Edith, Charlotte Despard and other concerned WSPU members, left the group to form the Women's Freedom League. Still militant, this new group abandoned violent and destructive actions for acts of non-violent civil disobedience.
After the war she became increasingly involved in campaigning for birth control at both home and abroad,
in 1926, she established the Suffragette Followship (mainly encompassing the activities of the WFL and the WSPU) to collect and archive documents so that the story could be remembered but in the best possible light.

More on-line at :
History today - Sanitising the Suffragettes (the Sufragette Fellowship) by Fern Riddell:

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Eunice Guthrie Murray, Independent, candidate for Glasgow Bridgeton
1878 - 1960
Born in Glasgow.
She joined the Women's Freedom League in 1908 and became secretary for the scattered members (ie. those living outside Edinburgh, Glasgow or Dundee.)
She was one of 3 Scottish representatives on the National Executive of the WFL and in 1913 was technically its Scottish President.
In 1913 she attended the International Woman Suffrage Alliance Conference in Budapest.
Although a militant suffragist, she opposed the absence of democracy in the WSPU.
She was made an MBE in 1945.

More on-line at :
Heroes Centre

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Christabel Pankhurst, Women's Party, candidate for Smethwick (endorsed by Lloyd George coupon)
b. 1880 d. 1958
She was Emmeline Pankhurst's first child and her favourite daughter.
She studied law at the University of Manchester but, as a woman, was not allowed to have a practice.
With her mother, Emmeline, she was a founder member of the Women's Social and Political Union.
With Annie Kenney she started the WSPU campaign of civil disobedience.
Christabel and her mother, were the driving forces behind the WSPU's organisation and agenda ... eventually leading to the loss of any democratic process.

With a warrant out for her arrest in 1912 she fled to France where she remained until the amnesty in 1914, when she returned to England. She had continued to organise the WSPU through Annie Kenney, as members made frequent trips to France for instructions.
She was instrumental in ejecting her sister Sylvia, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and husband Frederick from the WSPU in 1914.

During WW1 Christabel, along with her mother, Annie Kenney and close followers, aligned themselves with the government. Suffrage campaigning was ended and they threw their energies into government supported rallies and meetings urging men to enlist and women to fill their places in the workplace.

More on this website : HERE
More on-line at :
Spartacus Educational

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Emily Frost Phipps, Independent, candidate for Chelsea
1865 - 1943
Born Devonport
Studied at Homerton College, Cambridge, became a teacher and headmistress; was an active member of the NUWT.
MIlitant suffragist, founder member in 1911 of Swansea Branch of the Women's Freedom League.
Boycotted the 1911 census spending census night in a cave on the Gower peninsula
Later studied to become a barrister, qualifying in 1925.
Practiced in London, maintaining her association with the NUWT

More on-line at :
Women and War Wales.

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Mrs. Rachel (Ray) Strachey (nee Pearsall Conn Costelloe), Independent, candidate for Brentford .& Chiswick
1887 - 1940
Born in London in 1887.
Her father was an Irish Barrister and her mother an American. By 1901, she was living in London with her sister and American grandmother.
She went on to study maths at Newnham College, Cambridge and became interested and involved in the campaign for Women's Suffrage.

By 1911, she had finished at Cambridge and was living with her aunt and uncle (Bertand Russell) in London and studying egineering.
That same year she married Oliver Strachey.

A committed supporter of women's suffrage and rights, throughout her life, she became a close friend and ally of Millicent Garrett Fawcett and, at one time, editor of 'The Common Cause', the NUWSS (later NUSEC) journal.

After the war, Ray Strachey, who was a prolific writer and speaker, served on various committees and organisations, and headed the Women's Employment Federation. She would later serve Lady Astor as a Parliamentary Secretary.
(Nancy, Lady Astor was the first woman to actually take a seat in the House of Commons,
in December 1919, after a by-election. Her husband, Waldorf Astor, MP for Plymouth, had inherited the peerage on the death of his father, and had to step down as MP in the Commons. His wife, stood for election in his constituency and was elected.)

One of Ray Strachey's most important literary works was 'The Cause - A Short History of the Women's Movement in Great Britain' published in 1928.

More on-line at :

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With my grateful thanks to the five above mentioned friends and researchers, Dr. Ali Ronan, Hilary Chuter, Lizzie Gent, Jane Ward and Jill Woodward, for pointing me in this new direction.

NUWSS ... National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies
NUSEC .... National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship
WSPU .......Women's Social & Political Union
WFL ........ Women'sFreedom League
IWSA ...... International Woman Suffrage Alliance
WILPF .... Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
NUWT ....... National Union of Women Teachers

Some more reading on-line:
'Women and the Vote: The Parliamentary Path to Equal Franchise, 1918–28' by Mari Takayanagi
click on pdf button (for download of full article)
Parliament and Women, c.1900-1945 by Mari Catherine Takayanagi

Contributed by Sheila Goodyear

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