This will be the 21th Plaque Event. The idea is to celebrate plaques that may be missed by the casual observer.
A municipal plaque is a permanent sign installed in a public place in the United Kingdom and elsewhere to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker.
This plaque commemorates the first suffrage meeting held in Chorley in 1910. Before 1918 women had almost no role in British politics – they didn’t even have the right to vote.
A woman’s role was domestic, encompassing little outside having children and taking care of the home. The suffragettes changed this.
The 19th century was an era of massive change. The Industrial Revolution and numerous reforms, including the abolition of slavery in 1833, saw society changed forever. Women did see some progress – in 1859 the first female doctor was registered, in 1878 women could graduate from university, and in 1882 women were allowed to keep inherited property and wages. But they still couldn’t vote.
In 1832 Mary Smith presented the first women’s suffrage petition to Parliament
1866 A women’s suffrage committee was formed in London
1867 Lydia Becker founded the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage
1897 National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) was founded
1903 Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested, tried and imprisoned on a number of occasions over the next decade
1907 Women’s Freedom League founded by Charlotte Despard and Teresa Billington-Grieg.
1909 Hunger strikes and force-feeding began
1914 First World War begins and WSPU and NUWSS cease campaigning
1918 Representation of the People Act passed allowing men over 21 and women over 30 to vote.
1919 Nancy Astor is the first female MP to sit in the House of Commons
1928 Representation of the People Act is amended and allows everyone over the age of 21 to vote
1970 Equal Pay Act – men and women get the same wage for same job
Campaigns for women’s rights, including the right to vote, started around the mid-19th century, after Mary Smith delivered the first women's suffrage petition to parliament in 1832.
But it wasn’t really until 1897, when Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, that the campaign for women’s suffrage really gained momentum.
These campaigners were known as suffragists and they believed debate, petitions and peaceful protest were the keys to success. But the suffragists failed to get results, and many campaigners decided a more militant approach was required.
In 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst, and her two daughters Christabel and Sylvia, set up the Women’s Political and Social Union in Manchester with its slogan ‘deeds not words’. These women became known as suffragettes and soon made headlines up and down the country.
Suffragettes were a shock to Edwardian society. They interrupted political meetings, chained themselves to railings, yelled while waving banners emblazoned with ‘VOTES FORWOMEN’, were regularly arrested, went on hunger strike, cut phone lines and one, Emily Davidson, even threw herself under a horse to get the suffragette message heard.
But the suffragettes’ fight paid off. In 1918, the Representation of the People Act was passed, giving women over the age of 30, and who owned a certain amount of property, the right to vote. It would be a further 10 years until the vote was extended to all women, when the Equal Franchise Act was passed, but it was a major step in the right direction.
The meeting will be a casual style of meeting with geochat, all welcome between 12:00 – 12:00pm.
The plaque is outside, so please dress appropriately for the weather.
Footnote: If anyone wants to run a Plaque Event please contact snaffler, and the host will be eligible for a badge for their profile.