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Women’s Suffrage and Political Activism

3rd February 2018

Womens suffrage

A conference to commemorate the Centenary of the 1918 Reform Act

Saturday February 3rd 2018, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge

For many British and Irish suffragists the vote was essential to obtaining justice for working women, peace and wider social reform. Yet in practice, working relationships between suffragists, peace activists and socialists were often troubled. This conference explores the ideas, strategies and controversies relating to the women’s movement in the years leading up to the 1918 Reform Act and its aftermath. The conference is held in collaboration the Labour History Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin University, and the University of Cambridge University Library.

Registration is now open for this conference, please click here to book online.


9.00-9.45 – coffee and pastries

9.45-10.30 – Plenary – Jill Liddington, Reflecting on suffrage history across four decades: if all campaigners wanted the vote, why did relationships grow so complex?

10.30-12 – Parallel session one

1a.        Rethinking Class in the Suffrage Movement

Karen Hunt (University of Keele), ‘Class and Adult Suffrage during the Great War’

Lyndsey Jenkins (University of Oxford), ‘The politics of class and suffrage in the clogs and shawl’

Laura Schwartz (University of Warwick), ‘The wrong kind of working-class woman? Domestic servants in British suffrage novels’ 

1b.        British suffrage in North American contexts

Kate Connolly (Arcadia), ‘‘Miss Pankhurst Has Some Jolts in Store’: Sylvia Pankhurst’s Tours of North America and their Place in Suffrage History’

Joan Sangster (Trent University, Canada), ‘Exporting British Suffrage: Transnational Influences on the Canadian Suffrage Movement’

Veronica Strong-Boag (University of British Columbia, Canada) ‘From Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Nanaimo and Vancouver:  The Evolution of a Liberal-Labour Suffragist on the Edge of Empire, Mary Ellen Spear Smith’

1c.         Women’s work and working class women

Helen Glew (University of Westminster), ‘Visions of a Future Workplace: the Connections between Enfranchisement and Paid Work Opportunities for Women in the Writings of Helena Swanwick’

Bernadette Cahill (Glasgow University), ‘A Wummin’s place is in the Home!’ Miss McCann, Madam Lenton and the Freedom League on Clydeside 1908-1933

Ruth Cohen (Independent Scholar), ‘Votes for which women? Margaret Llewelyn Davies, the Women's Co-operative Guild and the suffrage’ 

12.00-1pm – Parallel session two

2a.        Victoria and Victorian voters

Arianne Chernock (Boston University), Queen Victoria in the late Victorian and Edwardian Suffrage and Anti-Suffrage Campaigns

Ann Dingsdale (lndependent Scholar), Emily Davies, Women Ratepayers and the 1870 London School Board Election in Greenwich 

2b.        The women’s movement and peace activism

June Hannam (University of the West of England), Annie Townley and Mabel Tothill: campaigning for Suffrage, Peace and Socialism in Bristol, 1912-1920s.

Jane Grant and Helen Kay (Independent Scholars), Politics are Personal: the Relationship Between Women of the Suffrage and Peace Movements 

2c.          Tactics, strategies and social reform

Wendy Tuxill (Anglia Ruskin University), ‘Constance Lytton: Privilege, Protest, Prison’

Jane Robinson (Independent Scholar), ‘Hearts and Minds: The Great Suffragist Pilgrimage of 1913’ 

1pm-1.45 lunch and coffee 

1.45-3.15 – Parallel session three

3a.        Feminism, Democracy and Socialism

Carey Snyder (Ohio University, Athens, USA), 'The Speediest Way to Democracy’: Teresa Billington-Greig's New Age Writings

Lise Shapiro Sanders (Hampshire College, Amherst, USA), ‘Sex Equality Versus Adult Suffrage’: Margaret Bondfield, Socialism, and Women’s Suffrage

Claire Eustance (University of Greenwich), Building a ‘constructive revolutionary programme’: The Women’s Freedom League’s Feminist and Socialist Aspirations, 1918-1928 

3b         It was Rarely ‘Suffrage First, Above all Else’; Women, Activism and the Vote in Ireland, 1900-1918

Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley, NUIG, Professor Linda Connolly, Maynooth University, Dr Mary McAuliffe, UCD, Donna Gilligan (Education Officer for the National Print Museum, Dublin)

3c          Religion, Politics and Woman’s Public Voice; Sarah Louise Donaldson (nee Eagleston), 1861-1950, Writer, Speaker, Campaigner

Catherine Sloan (University of Oxford), ‘The Making of a Suffragist’

Mary Clare Martin (University of Greenwich), ‘Class, Gender and Labour: a Suffragist’s Perspective, 1861-1950’

Robert Saunders (Queen Mary), ‘A Movement of the Holy Ghost’: The Church League for Women's Suffrage, 1909-1918’

3.15-3.45 tea break

3.45-4.30 – Plenary - Sheila Rowbotham, Suffrage links across the Atlantic from the 1880s to the early twentieth century. 

4.30-5.15 – Parallel session four

4a.        Roundtable: Beyond the Militant Myth: The Heritage Approach to the Centenary

4b.        Women’s suffrage and theatre

Sos Eltis (Brasenose College, Oxford University, UK) ‘Long Live the Hen’s Union!’: Class Interests and the Politics of Unity in Pre-War Feminist Theatre

Naomi Paxton (University of Lincoln and Vote 100),  ‘Very Much Alive and Kicking’: the Actresses’ Franchise League from 1914-1928.

5.15-.5.30 – transport to University Library

5.30-6.30 – wine and poster viewing at University Library

6.30-7.30 – Public lecture by Elizabeth Crawford: Pictures and Politics: the art of suffrage propaganda

See the Abstracts

Convenors: Prof Lucy Bland (, Dr Lucy Delap (, Dr Ben Griffin (, Prof Mary Joannou (