Oldham Historical Research Group


Women's suffrge 1867-1928


'Votes for Women"' & the 1913 Pilgrimage'

Image link to the Youtube embedded
15 minute audio-visual sequence,
"Votes for Women!" & the 1913 Pilgrimage

'Oldham Women's Suffrage Society'
Non-Party..................... Non-Militant

A little about them through their Annual General Meeting Reports:

1910 - 1911

July 1913 Pilgrimage Diary
kept by Marjory Lees, President of 'Oldham Women's Suffrage Society'.

To commemorate the Pilgrimage centenary the diary was written up on a blog from Oldham Local Studies & Archives.
You can read the pages here:

Image link to the Youtube embedded
8 minute sequence
"Votes for Women!" an introduction to the story of Women's Suffrage
a quick overview of suffrage from 1066 to 1867

In autumn, 2012, I was asked to do a little bit of research on the NUWSS Pilgrimage in 1913, in which Oldham Women's Suffrage Society, with its president Marjory Lees, took part for a full 2 weeks, walking from Stockport to London, with 2 horse-drawn caravans. The intention was that I would make a short audio-visual sequence for the 100 year anniversary. I quickly realised that for a sequence, about just one event in the campaign for Women's Suffrage, to make sense, I would have to fit it into some sort of context. The final result was the 2 audio visal sequences plus the illustrated talk (links above), 'Votes for Women! The Story of Women's Suffrage from 1867 - 1928'

The stand-alone sequence is called "Votes for Women!" & the 1913 Pilgrimage
The second sequence is shorter and is just a very quick look at the significant events in the development of democracy.
(The image in each box takes you to an embedded Youtube video)

When I started the research I'm ashamed to say that what I knew was minimal to say the least! As I read more and more, and was getting more and more hooked, I assembled a stack of information from various sources which came from contemporaneous, post suffage, and modern publications. It became obvious that to do the story any sort of justice wasn't possible in just a brief sequence.

Because I feel that theirs is a story that shouldn't be overlooked, mis-interpreted or forgotten, I've written it up more fully in an effort to provide a more insightful background for the sequence. If you then feel inclined to know a little more, then that would be a bonus!!

The lengthy 60+ years of organised Suffragist activity was almost equally divided across two centuries. Queen Victoria died in January 1901 and a new era and attitudes, came into being with the new century.

In the first part of the story, covering 1867 to 1900, the things that came across to me most clearly were:

  • the 19th century beginnings were in the homes of intelligent, educated women who were stifled by the social dictates of the times in which they lived.
  • the decorous but insistent tactics of the suffragist campaign in the 19th century.
  • the public being constantly made aware of the issues through lectures, journals and newspapers.
  • the slow but evident progress towards eventual suffrage as seen in successful campaigns concerning women's rights in general and in the extension of the Local Government franchise to include some women.
  • the issues of Class and Party loyalty, of both women and MPs, conflicting with that of suffrage
  • the late 19th century shift from its being a solely middle-class movement to the involvement of the working class women through their own trade-union activists.

MAINLY I wanted to convey the frustrations of women:

  • who wanted to use their skills and education in the professions.
  • who wanted to have a say in how their lives should be lived.
  • who saw the injustice in the many acts of law which discriminated against women financially, socially and professionally.
  • the dominance of men who used and abused women whilst assuming a superiority of intellect and ability and refusing to concede any reforms that would undermine their own position.
  • the cynical disregard of successive governments for women's rights or welfare masked by hypocisy and protestations that it 'was for the protection of their feminine virtues and the tranquility of the family home'.
  • The dishonesty, lies and underhand tactics employed by Prime Ministers to undermine any suffrage bills .

The Second part of the campaign, from 1900 to 1928 would be different. 'Persistence' and 'Persuasion', with reluctant 'Patience', had been the tactics for change in the previous century. The early movement hadn't touched the lives of working women ..... it wasn't happening in their streets or 'Downstairs' ......... it was happening 'Upstairs' and in the corridors of Power.
Most women, catching a glimpse of it, would have felt it had absolutely nothing to do with them..

In this new century, 'Persistence' and 'Persuasion' would remain but 'Patience' had died.
Changes, for working women, that had begun slowly in the last decade of the 19th century would turn into a gallop as women across all classes of society realised the injustice of their situation and set about changing it .......... but not always by the same methods.

The things that stood out most clearly, were::

  • that the popular perception that Mrs. Pankhurst and the 'Suffragettes' got the vote for women solely by THEIR efforts is a mis-conception.
  • the realisation that the vote was won by a combination of the equally strenuous efforts of women union-activists, non-militant suffragists, militant suffragists and suffragettes.
  • that, until 1910, militant activity, excited the crowds, raised public awareness, and transformed THEIR movement into a crusade with an aura of 'Arthurian valour' and romance. It had emotional as well as intellectual appeal.
  • that the WSPU campaign of destruction was ulitmately responsible for 'killing' any possiblilty of public or parliamentary backbench support for suffrage by 1914,
  • that class and party loyalty issues still played a big part.
  • that Politicians, mainly led by Asquith, still lied, deceived and manipulated events to prevent suffrage bills progressing.
  • that the horrors and injustice of imprisonment and force feeding, and the brutality at meetings and demonstrations was not exaggerated.
  • the NUWSS Pilgrimage was a 'damage limitation' event to convince the public: men, women and MPs, that women with the vote would act responsibly and rationally.

The audio-visual sequence 'happened' but these pages are the result of my becoming so engrossed in the story. As I read on it made me ashamed to admit that I had taken for granted so many of the privileges that I enjoy and which I owe to those thousands of women who marched, demonstrated and made their voices heard but whose names are lost in time.


(it opens in its own window)
:Getting everything into some sort of chronological order, to see how they related to one another, and influenced developments, wasn't the easiest things. To help my own understanding I made a list of them. It's not complete and it's rough and ready, but it may be of help.

Innumerable websites and old newspapers that filled in the details of background information etc.

text lists - with links to individual on-line books and journals



suffrage journals

Suffrage Journals on-line

internet archive sources

Old publications
to read on-line or download

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