Suffragists & Suffragettes

Suffragists & Suffragettes

The building of the Suburb began in 1907. By this time, the campaign for women’s suffrage had been running for many years, but the lack of progress had led more and more women to become involved and a variety of campaigning organisations had sprung up. The decade leading up to the outbreak of World War 1 saw a considerable amount of activity in pursuit of the extension of the franchise to women and there was considerable activity in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Although arson attacks, notably on the Free Church, as well as the existence of different groups were known about, the stimulus to research and bring together more information about the Votes for Women campaign in the early days of the Suburb came with the publication of the 1911 Census returns. As well as being the first census after the foundation of the Suburb, it was also the first where householders were asked to record information about their households themselves. This was too good an opportunity for civil disobedience to be missed by some suffragists and a campaign to boycott the Census was taken up by two of the major suffrage organisations, The Women’s Freedom League and the Women’s Social and Political Union. This was a campaign which was initiated by a suffragette, Edith How Martyn, who lived in HGS and was taken up by several other residents who withheld their details and, in some cases, wrote slogans supporting the “Votes for Women” campaign on their forms.

Suffrage Societies

The campaign for women’s suffrage had started during the 19th century, but by the early 20th century there were several different national groups campaigning for the vote to be extended to women.

1) NUWSS – National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies

This was the first group to be established and the largest. It was founded by Millicent Garrett Fawcett in 1897 by the amalgamation of many other organisations campaigning for the vote to be extended to women. Members were known as ‘Suffragists’ because they non-militant and aimed to achieve vote through peaceful and legal means. The group was also organised democratically.


Golders Green NUWSS banner held by the Museum of London (photo: Museum of London)

2) WSPU – Women’s Social and Political Union

This group formed in 1903 when it split away from the NUWSS to pursue a more militant approach. It was led by Emmeline Pankhurst and other members of her family. This was the main ‘suffragette’ group.

3) WFL –Women’s Freedom League

Founded in 1907 when a group who were concerned about Emmeline Pankhurst’s undemocratic  leadership of the WSPU, split away. The new organisation would be strictly democratic. Two women who were soon to live in Hampstead Garden Suburb were among the leaders of this new group: Edith How Martyn and Betty Drysdale.

There were also numerous smaller suffrage groups: some were organised around religion, such as the CLWS - Church League for Women’s Suffrage, whilst others were related to jobs and professions.

All three major organisations had members or even groups in Hampstead Garden Suburb, as did the Church League for Women’s Suffrage and the MLWS - Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage. HGS was part of the Hendon and Golders Green branch of the WSPU (which had an office in The Parade in Golders Green). There were other individuals who campaigned for universal suffrage for both men and women, whilst others were against women’s suffrage. Some of these people became well known, others were involved in campaigns on a much more local scale.

The Suffragette Collection

Often whole families belonged to the suffragette movement. The Fairfield family consisted of Mrs Isabella Fairfield and her 3 daughters. They were all census evaders. The form was completed by the enumerator who said he’d been “informed by Mrs Fairfield that she intended avoiding the census”. Nothing further known about Mrs Fairfield’s pro-suffrage activities. She was Scottish and an accomplished pianist. Her journalist husband was financially irresponsible and serially unfaithful resulting in the breakdown of the marriage. Following this, Isabella and her daughters, were without financial support forced to move to Scotland to live with relatives.

The Conciliation Bill and Black Friday 1910
This poster below was provoked by the decision of Prime Minister Asquith to kill the Conciliation Bill of 1910. Although it would only have given one million women the vote (on the basis of property ownership), it was regarded as a key breakthrough and was supported by suffragettes and suffragists alike who had suspended militant activities. The Bill had cross-party support; it was introduced to the House of Commons by Labour MP and Suburb resident David Shackleton and achieved a majority of 110 before being vetoed by Asquith.

In protest, the suffrage organisations had arranged the rally which became known as ‘Black Friday’ on 18 November 1910. During the gathering of the Women’s Parliament at Caxton Hall, Westminster news came that Asquith had called a General Election, as a result of which the Bill would definitely be lost. A march to Parliament was already planned, but Asquith refused to meet a delegation from the WSPU. During the afternoon many women of all ages suffered violence, both from the police and male bystanders. Some women were also sexually assaulted.

Many women were arrested, but photographs and reports in the newspapers of the excessive force used caused Churchill, then Home Secretary, to order that all women be released without charge. Those arrested included Doris Mary Bartrum who lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Black Friday was a turning point in the women’s suffrage campaign; many in the WSPU were now in favour of greater civil disobedience resulting in the window smashing campaign, and the later arson campaign and attacks on churches and golf courses, all of which happened in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Concilliation Bill poster
This Suffragette poster was created in response to the Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith's suppression of the 1910 Conciliation Bill, which proposed extending the vote in Britain and Ireland to around one million wealthy, property-owning women. The design shows King George V painting the text 'We Bow to the Will of the People' onto a poster, a man wearing brown overalls and a flat-cap is painting onto the King's back, whilst a suffragette paints onto the man's back. The poster attempts to show how Asquith had gone against the will of Parliament and theirfore the people of the United Kingdom. It calls on male voters to register their protest by voting against Liberal candidates in the next election.

The Suffragettes were particularly adept at using posters to get their message across. This poster was published by the Woman's Press, who oversaw the publishing and propaganda for the Suffragettes. It was designed by Alfred Pearse, under the pseudonym 'A. Patriot', Pearse was a dedicated supporter of the campaign and designed many posters and cartoons for the Suffragettes.

The 1911 Women's Coronation Procession and HGS
Coronation Procession handbill

In addition to those suffragettes and suffragists from Hampstead Garden Suburb whose names we know,  there were others who supported Women’s Suffrage. So many in fact, that Hampstead Garden Suburb had its own special position in the 1911 Women’s Coronation March and other similar marches. Although organised by the WSPU, other suffrage organisations also participated. The Hampstead Garden Suburb delegation was made up of women from all groups (enlarge to see image of part of the Procession plan which shows HGS delegation at H2).

Coronation Procecession map
News of the Coronation March featured in the Town Crier (one of the Suburb newspapers of the time) both before and after the procession. “The Garden Suburb contingent will march behind its own beautiful banner, and the women will carry flowers or specially designed green and silver bannerettes. All who are in favour of the enfranchisement of women are invited to join the contingent, even if they are not members of any suffrage society……….A beautiful design, the “New Crusaders” has been drawn by Mr Ellwood, and will be carried out by residents in the Garden Suburb and others.”
[George Montague Ellwood was a designer who lived in Erskine Hill at this time and presumably sympathetic to the cause].

The images below show the grouping called ‘The New Crusaders’ led by Joan of Arc on horseback and a group of women dressed as crusaders. This is believed to be the group described above. Suburb resident Carol(ine) Kelsey (Hampstead Way) was also involved in the design of costumes for this. She was also joint Secretary of the HGS branch of WSPU and apparently a friend of Emmeline Pankhurst.

Coronation Procession crusaders
Following the March, there is a further account in the Town Crier. As well as describing their position in the procession (close to the Fabians and the London WSPU groups), it was said that the Garden Suburb group got “at least its full share of attention and comment”.

Suffragists and Suffragettes with connections to HGS for the 1911 Census

The women and two men described below were living in HGS at the time of the 1911 Census and in many cases either avoided being recorded (evaders) or were resisters, whereby they annotated the census form with slogans and gave either no information or incomplete information.

Doris Mary Bartrum
Margaret Grace Bondfield
Kate Kelson Brown
Charlotte Charlton

Alice Vickery Drysdale
Bessie Drysdale
Charles Vickery Drysdale
Cicily Fairfield
Letitia Fairfield
Winifred Fairfield
Alice Glover
Lucy Henderson
Edith How-Martyn
Caroline Apsland Jones
Miss ELE Kelsall
Carol(ine) Eliza Kelsey
Ethel Layton
Beatrice Le Mesurier
Marion Leighfield
Kathleen Roy Rothwell
David Shackleton
Alice Singer

Margaret Stockman
Jessey Wade
Marion Maud Adelaide Ward


Suffragists and Suffragettes with connections to Hampstead Garden Suburb

These activists came to live in Hampstead Garden Suburb after the 1911 Census had taken place.

Henrietta Barnett
Dora Beedham
Helen Bosanquet
Cicely Dean Corbett
Gladice Georgina Keevil
Catherine Marshall
Irene Parley
Dorothy Pethick
Maude Royden
Mary Sheepshanks
Dorothy Thurtle


Other suffragists and suffragettes with connections to HGS or living nearby

Alison Neilans

Ethel Snowden
Madge Turner
Rosabel Watson


The Women’s Tax Resistance League in Hampstead Garden Suburb
Edith How Martyn not only organised the Census boycott, but was closely involved with the foundation of this group which was another example of passive civil disobedience.

Women who had their own incomes and careers were particularly affronted that they were not responsible for their own tax returns, didn’t have the vote, but were expected to pay local taxes where they were householders. Their resistance to paying tax was rooted in themes going back to Magna Carta and John Hampden’s campaign against the Ship Tax during the reign of Charles 1, hence the logo and slogan.

No Vote, No TaxSeveral Suburb women were visited by bailiffs due to their non-payment of taxes and objects removed and sent to the sale room. Frequently, supporters would attend the sales, sometimes buying back objects for ‘resisters’. There would also be meetings in prominent locations near the sale rooms.

In 1913 Dr Vickery had goods distrained again (not for the first time) and according to the Hendon and Finchley Times the meeting took place in poor weather in Temple Fortune Lane. The paper reported, that “The whole spirit the meeting was that there should be “no taxation without representation,”

Alison Neilans (prominent in this group and WFL) was main speaker said that the refusal of the government to extend the franchise meant that; “women were no better off than criminals or lunatics”. The meeting concluded by passing a motion criticising the government’s ‘illegal’ taxation and calling for the vote to be given to women.

Alison Neilans said "that in resisting the payment of this tax I desire to emphasise my conviction that the action of the Prime Minister and of ihe House of Commons in refusing Parliamentary representation to women is entirely unconstitutional. Constitutional government means government by consent of the governed. Women are suffering from the violation of this principle. No other class is permanently excluded".

In 1914, Mrs. Roy Rothwell had goods distrained. The Votes for Women reports that she was mentioned in the annual report of the Women's Tax Resistance League as someone “who had barricaded her house against the tax collector”. This time the public meeting was held following the auction in Willesden Green.


Kate Webster January 2023