On 6 February 1918, the Representation of the People Act received royal assent, enfranchising approximately 5.6 million more men and 8.4 million women.
As the centenary of partial votes for women is fast approaching, we would like to encourage you to share any stories that may have passed down the generations about members of your family who helped campaign for the vote.
The women’s suffrage movement touched every part of the country and would have, at times, appeared daily in local and national newspapers. The history of this movement is woven into streets and buildings all around us – memories of marches, pilgrimages, mass meetings and even destruction of property.
This vast political movement mobilised many for the cause, to greater and lesser extents and through many different means of campaigning. The centenary is a wonderful chance to shine a light on little-known campaigners, from the foot-soldiers aiding the militant movement to the seller’s of pro-suffrage newspapers, such as the ‘The Common Cause’.
- Did your ancestor have a distant suffrage connection?
- Did they get arrested for the cause?
- Maybe there’s a family rumour they were involved in the dramatic Black Friday protests?
- Did they attend mass open-air meetings?
- Did one of your female forebears have copies of ‘The Suffragette’?
We would love to hear all sorts of stories of people involved in the movement: so often it is largely the figureheads who are remembered. In our government files we often find names of less well-known suffrage supporters – indeed the index we hold has the names of 1,333 suffragettes arrested for the cause, including over 100 men. This Home Office suffrage amnesty is one of the single best sources in our collection, providing a rich source for tracing suffragettes, militant campaigners, and family history.
The societies we talk generally talk about in relation to suffrage history are often the same ones, but maybe you have a relative who was part of the Actresses Franchise League or the Tax Resistance League. Or perhaps they boycotted the 1911 census?
A colleague’s chance meeting with a suffrage descendant wonderfully united The National Archives Home Office records on Eileen Casey with family memories. Read more about Eileen’s suffrage story on this blog. If you’ve found an ancestor in our suffrage records, please do let us know!
Our collection reflects the interests of the government and offers an insight into how it responded to civil disobedience and changes to public opinion. If you are interested in trying to trace a family member involved in the suffrage movement you can use our Women’s Suffrage research guide or the London School of Economics blog on Was your (great) grandmother a suffragette?
We would love it if 2018, and the build up to it, is the time you take the chance to delve through some family records or ask a relative what they remember of the generation before them.
With this momentous anniversary looming, maybe it’s time to have another root around in your attic?
Please share your stories and comment below.
Our new events programme is now online: find our suffrage listings until the end of March.
Find suffrage events listings from across the UK at https://www.vote100.uk/event-directory