How was suffrage reported in East Devon?
PUBLISHED: 16:30 06 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:10 09 February 2018
Organisations and individuals across the district have carefully looked through the history books to mark 100 year since women first won the right to vote.
Throughout East Devon there was a hub of activity with meetings and groups forming to campaign for women’s right.
Neil Rainbird, a keen amateur historian from Exmouth, discovered a clipping from the Exmouth Journal of a suffragette meeting held in Exmouth’s Temperance Hall in November 1909.
It appeared women had travelled from across the country and even as far as Finland to speak.
A ‘strong force’ of police had been at the scene and also escorted the ladies to the train station following the conclusion of the meeting.
The report said: “There was a very poor attendance, composed wholly of ladies when the meeting was due to commence, and the arrival of a couple of Pressman – the only ‘bashful males’ who could pluck up the courage to enter – was the cause of much merriment to the audience.”
A Mrs Montague opened the meeting and said there was a misconception in the minds of many people as to what the suffragettes wanted.
The report continued: “Some said they [the suffragettes] were asking for votes for all women, but that would not be fair, for all men had not got the vote. They simply asked for the franchise on the same terms as it was held by men.”
The Sidmouth Herald also documented the work of the Sidmouth and District Women’s Suffrage Society but often published work from the equally active anti-suffrage group.
The editions have been kept safe by Sidmouth Museum which is currently working on a new display to mark the anniversary. Among the museum’s archives is a minute book of the Sidmouth and District Women’s Suffrage Society dating from 1913 to 1916 – sharing the outcome of meetings held by the group.
One of the most interesting items is the Sidmouth and District Women’s Suffrage Society banner which has been restored through funding from the National Lottery and South West Museum.
Museum volunteer Beryl McIndoe has also worked with younger members of the community and created a ‘story bag’ of suffrage and suffragette items.
The bag proved a central attraction, and visiting children, including the town’s Guides, Beavers, Cubs and Scouts have learnt about the events which led to women finally winning the right to vote.
She also arranged a tea party for elderly residents, two of whom were more than 100 years old, sharing their memories of suffrage.