Oldham Historical Research Group

Chronology of some signifcant events + some working notes

Year / Month




Publication of 'Vindication of the Rights of Woman'

by Mary Wollstonecraft

August 16th

'Massacre of Peterloo', Manchester

Mass reform meeting ... thousands walked to a rally on St. Peter's F, which was broken up when monted yeaomanry and cavalry swept through the crowds.ields


Lydia Becker born

founded and edited the 'Women's Suffrage Journal' until her death in 1890


Reform Riots in Bristol


Robert Owen, social reform activities

New Lanark Mills - Model Factory 1800-1825


General Election

Whigs with Earl Grey formed government


First Reform Act

Franchise property based - enfranchised some men but 'tidied women away'


King William IV died and Victoria came to the throne.

1838 - 1848

Chartist Movement strongest during these years.

movement died away after leaders were charged with treason and imprisoned or transported.


Sarah Ann Buckley (married Lees) born



Emmeline (nee Goulden) Pankhurst born in Manchester

Parents middle class reformers


General Election in which John Stuart Mill elected as MP

Liberal government with Earl Russell


MP John Stuart Mill presented women's suffrage petition to Parliament

after 1500 signatures in support obtained.


MP John Stuart Mill's proposed ammendment to Reform bill being debated

Ammendment to include women's suffrage.


London National Society for Women's Suffrage formed
Manchester Suffrage Society formed



Reform Act

The word 'man' used instead of 'male person' (as previously) in the terms of the franchise. Led to test case on whether or not this was a generic term including women.


Marjory Lees born

Oldham reg. 4th quarter of year.


Emmeline married Richard P

barrister; over 20 years older


Annie Kenney born



Christabel Pankhurst born



Syvlia Pankhurst born



Conservative 'Primrose League' and 'Women's Liberal Federation' formed

unpaid women workers for election work


Francis Henry Pankhurst born



Reform Act



Adela Pankhurst born



Pankhurst family move to London

members of Fabian society


Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act.



Baby 'Frank Pankhurst' (b. 1884) died.

family living in London


NSWS split over proposed affiliation of political associations.

Millicent G Fawcett & Lydia Becker formed a new non-political Soc. - Central Committee of NSWS


Henry Francis Pankhurst born



Women's Franchise League formed by Emmeline Pankhurst and Elizabeth W. Elmy.

instrumental in Local Gov. franchise reform


Keir Hardie elected as first Independent Labour MP - first socialist MP

for West Ham South, London's East end.


Pankhurst family returned to Manchester



ILP Manchester branch formed by Pankhursts.



Issues of coverture finally removed with Local Government Franchise Act

Extended franchise to married women. Enfranchised women could vote in County and Borough elections and be elected to sit on Rural and District councils, School Boards and act as Poor Law Guardians. 1907 before women could sit on County and Borough councils


Emmeline Pankhurst became a Poor Law Guardian



Women's Co-operative guild formally endorsed Women's suffrage

North of England Suff. Soc. (Manchester), with Eva Gore-Booth & Esther Roper involved union activists for suffrage.


General election in which Keir Hardie lost seat.



National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies created under Millicent Garrett Fawcett - a federation of the suffrage socs..

NUWSS - stated aim: Parliamentary suffrage for women 'on the same terms as it is, or may be, granted to men'


Richard Pankhurst died



Formation of Labour Representation Committee

would eventually become the 'Labour Party'


General election: Keir Hardie elected as MP for Merthyr Tydfil



Christabel P joined the North of England Society for Women's Suffrage (NESWS)- working with Esther Roper and Eva Gore Booth.

worked to include working class women's support by working with labour and trade union organisations.


Women's Liberal Fed. (WLF) annual council resolved to forbid the support of anti-suffrage Parliamentary candidates



Women's Social and Political Union founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and joined by daughter Christabel.

Keir Hardie a supporter
M/c; ILP wives mainly; + Women's Franchise League activists, Elizabeth WE and Dora Montefiore


NUWSS convened National convention of Defence of the Civic Rights of Women


1905 May

First suffrage bill of 20th c brought by Keir Hardie.
Labour MP



Annie Kenney heard Christabel speak at Oldham Clarion Vocal Club.

joined WSPU

1905 October

Christabel & Annie demonstrated at M/c Free Trade Hall at Liberal Party Election rally.

deliberately set out to be arrested, for the publicity.


Keir Hardie introduced Emmeline Pankhurst to the Pethick Lawrences

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence would serve 6 jail terms


WSPU headquarters, with Emmeline & Christabel Pankhurst moved to London, from Manchester.

Annie Kenney went with them


Liberal landslide victory in General Election - Campbell Bannerman PM

PM met NUWSS deputation - refused to make any promise for suffrage reform.


No Taxation without Representation activist Dora Montefiore besieged by bailiffs in London.
for 6 weeks



WSPU started severing links with ILP


1906 March

Flora Drummond arrested; for protest at 10 Downing St.

arrested 9 times in total


Daily Mail tagged them 'Suffragettes'



Dora Montefiore left the WSPU

reasons : the autocratic leadership and the anti-labour policy


WSPU started chaining themselves to railings



Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst formally resigned from the ILP


1907 Feb 7th

NUWSS Mud March

named for atrocious weather


Women allowed to sit on County and Borough Councils.


1907 Feb 13th

WSPU first 'Women's Parliament' at Caxton Hall


1907 Sept

First WSPU conference

First resistance to democratic suggestions for committee

after Sept.

Freedom League formed by WSPU members, Teresa Billington Greig and Charlotte Despard.

reasons : the autocratic leadership and the anti-labour policy of WSPU.
About 1/5 of WSPU members followed them, inc. Hannah Mitchell

1907 October

Pethick Lawrences established journal 'Votes for Women' for WSPU



Men's League for Women's Suffrage founded
in London



NUWSS re-constituted.

No longer delegates; elected committee; more powers; policy making;
Millicent G Fawcett elected President.


Manchester Men's League for Women's Suffrage founded in Manchester



WSPU watershed .... moved from civil disobedience to destruction of property and throwing stones, etc


1908 early

Liberal MP Henry Stanger introduced Private Member's Bill on Women's Suffrage.

Passed its 2nd reading; not granted further Parl. time.

1908 February
Emmeline Pankhurst's first arrest

1908 June 21st

First WSPU rally in Hyde Park.
Colours - to be purple, white and green

Procession followed by rally.
Always to be mainly in white, any added colour should be purple or green

1908 July

Anti-suffragists started to organise.- Women's National Anti Suffrage League founded;

later in same year joined with men's anti suffrage league to form
National League for Opposing Women's Suffrage.
Lord Rothschild became main financial supporter

1908 October 13th

WSPU 'Rush to parliament'


1908 late

Asquith takes over as Liberal PM.

Campbell Bannerman stepped down with ill health (died days later)
Starts the ploys of not allowing further time and offering 'carrots' etc.

1908 November

NUWSS dissociated itself from WSPU violence in a letter to MPs and the press.



NUWSS required members to commit to only'constitutional' methods.



People's Suffrage Federation (PSF) formed to work for full adult suffrage.

Women trade unionists joined with the Women's co-operative Guild. Led by Margaret Llewellyn Davies.
Became known as 'Democratic Suffragists'


NUWSS started publishing 'Common Cause' journal
ed. Helena Swanwick



Women's Freedom League members also started the Women's Tax Resistance League.

Refused to pay tax without the vote

1909 July

Hunger-striking begun by Wallace Dunlop

Wanted to be treated as 'political prisoners'

1909 September

Force feeding started


1909 late

WSPU invited NUWSS to join them in a united demo. NUWSS declined.


1910 January

General Election; Liberals lost overall majority; formed gov. relying on Irish Nationalist and Labour support.



All Party Conciliation Committee created (54 MPs)

Produced Conciliation Bills


Sarah Ann Lees becomes 2nd Lady Mayor in the country.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson first (in Aldebourgh) by a couple of years, in 1908.

Oldham Women's Suffrage Society formed in September


WSPU militancy - truce whilst Conciliation Bill debated

Bill refused further Parliamentary time in November. Resulted in Black Friday

1910 November 18th

Black Friday.

Militancy truce ended

1910 December

General Election; Liberals lost overall majority; formed gov. relying on Irish Nationalist and Labour support.

situation unchanged


2nd Conciliation bill introduced

1911 April


WSPU members evaded enumerators

1911 June

WSPU celebratory Coronation procession week before that of King George & Queen Mary



2nd Conciliation bill passed 2nd reading..

Then Asquith indicated would be happier to consider 'manhood suffrage' with an ammendment to include women.

1911 late

Lloyd George offers draft alternative to Conciliation Bill;

a 'carrot' of a wider suffrage ammendment to proposed 'manhood suffrage bill' ;
urged suffragists to reject Conciliation Bill in favour of new proposal.
NUWSS willing to accept conciliation Bill - saw a trick in offer of wider suffrage.


WSPU break with Labour Party


1912 March 1st

Windows smashed in West End shops

approx 270 premises had damage

1912 March

With a warrant out for her arrest, Christabel escaped to Paris

She didn't return until after war broke out - directed operations through members going almost daily for 'orders'.


Emmeline went to jail for window smashing

Emmeline Pankhurst joined Christabel in Paris when released from prison.

1912 March 28th

Conciliation Bill defeated & Franchise Bill collapsed when Speaker ruled the amendment out of order.

Militancy, which had already alienated public and Parliament, escalated even further as a result


Millicent G Fawcett started to forge links of 'expediency' with Labour Party

some of the middle class women not too keen!

1912 May

NUWSS council - to consider electoral alliance with Labour,

Eleanor Rathbone against the resolution.

Council agreed to:
1. stance on suffrage of both party and candidate would be assessed;
2. Labour candidates to be supported where Liberal candidate had poor suffrage record;
3. Fund created for fighting elections (EFF)

EFF funds - they were initially to be kept separate to accommodate staunch liberal feelings.

1912 May

NUWSS created 'Friends of Women's suffrage at same time as EFF

by 1914, 39,500 enrolled


NUWSS campaigned in 4 by-elections

had impact on Liberal votes and seats - advantaged Labour.
Employed working class organisers, eg. Ada Nield Chew.


Pethick Lawrence's visited Paris to try to dissuade them from further aggression -

resulted in their expulsion from WSPU.

1912 summer

Acid attacks, arson, bombings etc.

post boxes, railway stations, piers, Kew Gardens, cricket pavilions, racecourse buildings, private houses, hotels and churches.
Even in post sent to Lloyd George and Asquith


Pethwick Lawrences ousted from WSPU


1912 November

Labour MP George Lansbury resigned his Parl. seat in protest against Labour's reluctance to prioritise women's' suffrage

Campaigned for re-election but WSPU had alienated support; he was unsuccessful. Good MP lost.

1912 after November

Sylvia P developed the the WSPU's East London branches into a semi-autonomous org., 'The East London Federation of the WSPU. (ELF)

rejecting WSPU policy in several areas.
wanted: adult suffrage; did not support the arson campaign; no anti-male policy; relied on public demos and violence against police interference


Press and gov policy tried to create the impression that the militants were mentally ill, and tried to have some of the prisoners certified as insane.


1913 February

NUWSS council passed resolutions expanding scope of EFF

Resolved: 1. no government (Liberal) candidate would be supported although a 'friend' wouldn't be actively opposed;
2.. to attack the seat of anti-suffragist Liberals especially ministers.;
4. authorised to transfer money from general fund to EFF.


NUWSS northern socs. pressed for stronger Labour ties.


1913 - 1914

NUWSS Intervened in 4 by-elections for Labour



Northern Men's Federation for Women's Suffrage
Scottish men



'Cat and Mouse' Act - Prisoner's (Temporary Discharge of Ill Health) Act.

the sentence was suspended whilst under house arrest

1913 June 4th

Emily Wilding Davison injured at Epsom Derby
died a few days later, in hospital


1913 June 14th

London funeral procession of EW Davison


1913 July

NUWSS Pilgrimage



Sylvia Pankhurst's East London Fed. of Suffragettes was terminated as a branch of the WSPU


1914 January

NUWSS sent deputation to the ILP Exec. meeting to explain that if the Liberal Party included suffrage in its election programme the NUWSS would not continue opposition to Liberal Party but neither would it abandon its current commitments to the Labour candidates, nor oppose any Labour candidate if a suffrage supporter.

Result of rumours about NUWSS policy

1914 - early
Emmeline Pethick Lawrence and husband Frederick ousted from WSPU. WSPU 'Women members only' policy

1914 February

United Suffragists Movement formed
(militant but not arson etc.).

Breakaway militants from WSPU - anti arson etc.
Pethick-Larences + 'Votes for Women', official journal from June

1914 March

NUWSS agreement with ILP triggered revolt on grounds it was changing NUWSS non-party policy.

Revolt defeated.
Eleanor Rathbone instigator - with 3 supporters she resigned from Exec.


NUWSS continued support of Labour party
Conservatives often benefited from NUWSS labour support when the Liberal was ousted but Labour didn't win.



NUWSS working to get a commitment from conservatives for support on suffrage if they won the next General election.


1914 June

Asquith, alarmed by NUWSS activities met a deputation of East London Federation of Suffragettes (Sylvia P's society) - indicated willingness to accept suffrage provided it was 'democratic in its basis' ie that it included working class women.

After the meeting LLoyd George started talks with Sylvia Pankhurst. and George Lansbury.
The continuing WSPU militancy killed talks.


WSPU militancy intensified:further - arson, bombings, destruction of public buildings etc.

Jan to July 107 instances of arson; mutilation of famous art works (Rokesby 'Venus' and others)
Hundreds of thousands of pounds in damage

1914 May

WSPU petition to King - unsuccessful march to Buckingham Palace.

this was last mass demo. of WSPU

1914 August

WSPU considered to have 'shot its bolt'


1914 August

Britain at War


1914 August

WSPU suspended militancy to support war effort.

membership down, suffragettes ill health;

1914 on

Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst threw all energy into supporting recruitment and advocating conscription etc.


1914 August

NUWSS over 100,000 members (inc 'Friends'); Annual revenue £45,000


1914 August 4th

NUWSS took part in the women's peace rally organised by the Women's Labour League and the Women's Co-operative guild.

concern about how men would perceive the pacific women - not strong enough to vote! Led to split in the movement.

1914 August

Millicent G Fawcett announced in 'Common Cause' that women should 'show themselves worthy of citizenship'.

It was feared that pacifist initiatives would show women as 'too fearful' to take tough decisions'.

1914 September

Union of Democratic Control established to work for a negotiated peace.

Helena Swanwick , Ethel Snowden and other NUWSS women joined.
Laid them open to charge of disloyalty in time of war.

Millicent G Fawcett angry


NUWSS council approved resolution calling for an educational campaign to promote a European partnership based on equal rights not force.

They hoped this middle ground would reconcile the 2 factions in the NUWSS ie. pro war v. negotiated peace.


Women's organisations for medical aid, transport and defence all offered their services

- refused Initially sent home and told to 'sit quietly'


Initially suffrage societies frustrated in their efforts to help.



It was proposed that the International Women's Suffrage Alliance (IWSA) should still meet, as previously arranged, in a neutral country.

M G Fawcett opposed it strongly and aggressively and threatened to resign as vice pres. (of IWSA.) if it went ahead.
Principle accepted at first;
It was perceived as an issue that Women from hostile nations would be meeting together.
April - half the NUWSS exec resigned in protest that MG Fawcett considered them as 'traitors' wanting a conference regardless of war status.

1915 March

'Shells scandal'
shortage of munitions led to a disaster.


1915 May

'Shells scandal' a factor in fall of Lib. Gov. New coalition gov.


1915 June

NUWSS council passed a vote of confidence in MGFawcett

her close friend, Ray Strachey became parliamentary secretary.

1915 July

Emmeline Pankhurst organised a 'Call to Women' march (brokered by treasury funds at Lloyd George's instigation) urging women to register for war work.
Banners with slogan 'We demand the right to serve.'
Result - thousands of women went to work in the factories and businesses.

Suffrage organisations, epscially Sylvia Pankhurst and the East London Federation, kept active fighting for better working conditions, and equal pay for women.


David Lloyd George took over as PM
in office, as Liberal PM, in coalition gov. with Conservatives, until 1922



Speaker's Conference on electoral reform appointed.



The issue of franchise raised in Parl.

Basic Terms proposed:
1.All male householders and servicemen,
2. women over 30 with property limitation.

the Qualification of Women clause in the Representation of the People Act was passed in the Commons in December 1917

Alderman Sarah Ann Lees, of Oldham, created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, in August 1917, in recognition of her service in WW1.

1918 February 6th

Qualification of Women clause in the Representation of the People Act became law.


Representation of the People Act also gave the vote to servicemen fighting in the War, aged 19 or over.
Absent voters lists created for men serving elsewhere other than their home.


The NUWSS reformed itself as the National Union of Societies for Equal citizenship (NUSEC).

Oldham Women's Suffrage society dissolved itself in November 1918 (at their AGM) and reformed as a society for equal citizenship.

Eleanor Rathbone became its President when Millicent G. Fawcett stepped down in 1919.

1918 November
Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act passed.
This allowed women to stand as Parliamentary candidates in the the General Election of 1918. The first woman MP ever to be elected was Constance, Countess Markievicz. She was elected as the Sinn Fein Member for St. Patrick's Division, Dublin. She did not take up her seat at Westminster. Constance was the sister of Esther Gore-Booth, Manchester suffragist


Labour's General Election manifesto - pledged support for women's suffrage age to be lowered to 21.


1918 December 14th

General Election - Women had the vote.

The coalition gov was returned with David Lloyd George still as PM.
Bonar law led Conservatives.


Labour Party introduced Women's Emancipation Bill
would give women over 21 the vote.

NUSEC & SJCIWO sent joint deputation to Home Sec. in support; sponsored a rally to promote support.

Nancy, Lady Astor, after a by-election in 1919, was the first woman MP to take her seat at Westminster.
Lady Astor's husband was elevated to the Peerage on the death of his father and vacated his seat as an M.P. in the Commons. Lady Aster stood for election in his constituency and was returned as M.P.


Coalition alarm at Emancipation Bill
Blocked by gov. whips.



Societies campaigning to gain equal franchise:
National Council for Women,
National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (NUSEC)

Equal Franchise bills almost yearly in 1920s- all blocked by Gov. opposition.
Many brought about by NUSEC


Equal Franchise Special Committee formed inc. co-opted members from various federations and societies.

'Women's Freedom League rep.
Their policy was to apply pressure by peaceful means.


Suffrage divisions 1919, 1920, 1924

mainly conservative opposition.


SPG (Six point Group) founded by Lady Rhondda.

Implicit threat of militant action if demands not met.
Didn't really materialise and most support was for law-abiding pressure and rallies ....

1922 November

General election - Andrew Bonar Law MP returned with Conservatives

Scandal involving Lloyd George
Labour gained seats. Had almost 25% of seats in Parl.

1923 December

General election - Stanley Baldwin - Conservatives won most seats but hung Parl.
Ramsey MacDonald PM headed coalition gov with Liberals


1924 October

General election - Stanley Baldwin Conservative PM
Landslide for Cons.

Position on extended suffrage just as unclear and uncommitted as ever.

1925 February

Private Member's Equal Franchise Bill introduced.

Forced cabinet to think about its course of action.

1926 May

General Strike

heightened class loyalties and undermined feminist movement links with Labour when Labour Party interfered on policy.

1927 April

Cabinet reluctantly agree to suffrage at age 21

Forced into it, wanting the 'gratitude vote' and knowing that Labour would grant it the next time they were in power.

1927 end

Conservative party had come round to accepting equal franchise at age 21 as an expediency.

Conservative backbenchers were hostile to extending Women's suffrage throught the 20s.

1928 March 28th

Representation of the People (Equal franchise) Bill introduced.

Passed readings with massive majority,

1928 July 2nd

Representation of the People (Equal franchise) received Royal Assent

and became law after 61 years of continuous campaigning.

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