For our February meeting we welcomed Jill Liddington, Honorary Research Fellow of the University of Leeds and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society to speak.
Surprisingly, as a historian of Women’s history, this was Jill’s first talk to a WI group. She focused on the 1911 census which was boycotted by many women as a protest against the lack of female suffrage. In fact the suffragette’s slogan for 1911 was ‘No Vote-No Census’.
Jill took us beyond the slogan to put the census of 1911 in the context of the Liberal government’s social reform agenda and by looking at where the suffragettes were, by this year, in their fight for equality. To our delight she did this by taking a local perspective, largely following the trajectory of four suffragettes: Halifax’s Mary Taylor, Dinah Connelly, Laura Wilson and Hebden Bridge’s Lavena Saltonstall (a room at the town hall is named in her honour). Two of these women evaded the census of 1911 by ‘disappearing’ that evening while two complied with the census.
By examining the political and social reform ideas at the time and the personal histories of the individual women Jill has been able to make a calculated guess as to why women tired and brutalised by prison and campaigning might comply with a government order, fill in the census and avoid the £5 fine. She explained both what the women who evaded the census achieved and what the government did (or in this case) didn’t do afterwards.
Jill also put the eventual suffragette achievement in its wider world context of the First World War and Bolshevik Revolution. The talk was illustrated with historical documents which both informed Jill’s debate and bought these West Yorkshire women and their hand-made banners to life.
The evening finished with a lively Q & A and of course WI cake and tea.
For those wishing to continue learning more about local suffragettes, see Jill’s website.
9 Sunday: Walking with Women’s Suffrage ~ 2.30 pm.
Huddersfield: meet at St George’s Square (by Harold Wilson statue), in front of Huddersfield station.
In 1906, the nation’s eyes were trained on Huddersfield. Emmeline Pankhurst swept into town and addressed massive crowds. Join historian Jill Liddington to walk in the footsteps of local suffragettes. Jill’s latest book, Vanishing for the Vote, tells the story of the suffragette boycott of the 1911 census.
Charge: £3; no booking required.
Walk: lasts 1½ ~ 2 hours.
Organizers: Discover Huddersfield: guided walks.
We rarely invite formal speakers at Hebden Bridge WI but the evening was proved to be a great success with the high attendance, visitors from afar and following lively debate. Thank you to all those who made the evening a success.