Thursday, 7 March 2013

Working-Class Suffragettes of Lancashire: International Women's Month at the Library

Image from the Lancashire Archive
Historical documentation about the women's suffrage movement in Lancashire will go on display in the county's libraries this month. 'Suffrage' means having the right to vote in a democracy, and to stand for election.

Lancashire County Council's Community Heritage Team have been researching the history of the women's suffrage movement which had some very active members in Lancashire. The displays will coincide with International Women’s Month.

Susan Holden, a community heritage manager at the county council, said: "The suffrage movement campaigned over many years to improve the lot of women all over the world, and particularly to get them the vote.

"In 1913, women in Lancashire were at the forefront of the campaign for suffrage both locally and further afield. It is appropriate that 100 years later, during International Women's Month, the displays in several Lancashire libraries will chart the history of the movement and will explain the differences between the various factions.

"What distinguished the suffrage movement in Lancashire from other areas of the country was that many of its leaders came not from the educated middle classes, but from working class women.

"They became involved in the movement as a result of their experience of factory work and of organising working women. It is difficult to say how many women were involved in the radical suffragists’ campaign. Only the names of the most active are known and only a handful of these leading suffragists have been considered in any detail.

"The displays will be on show from March 8 and I have no doubt that, for people who are interested in the history of the early 20th century, they will find the material to be totally fascinating."

It is not the first time that working class women have been written out of history. Many schools of left-wing political theory dismiss campaigns for women's rights as predominantly the interest of female middle-class academics and a diversion from the 'true' struggle. This they see as being rooted in class divisions and certainly nothing whatsoever to do with male middle-class academics.  (And if your union holds that policy it might be wise to shop around.)  On the plus side, they don't shoot them in the head on the way to school, which is encouraging. VL welcomes your dissertations in the comments below.

Current displays at Lancaster Library include a shelf selection entitled 'Fifty Shades...', a study in sado-masochistic literature available to borrow, which, when last seen, featured covers depicting a blissfully blindfolded woman and heavy innuendo about 'discipline'. Someone artistic has drawn a lipstick on the sign and a stilleto-heeled shoe, which will be helpful to junior readers struggling with the gist. Is there nowhere you can take your kids these days without them having to face some tediously programmed invitation to w***k over the dehumanisation of women?

The history of the suffrage movement is about solidarity, democracy and social cohesion and has also provided the inspiration for a national campaign to encourage people to learn basic computer skills.

“Start something special online” is a national campaign currently under way to encourage people to learn basic computer skills.

Beginning on March 4 and throughout the week, the Community Heritage team will be conducting learning sessions at many library locations throughout Lancashire. The sessions will give participants a tour of some of the websites that can be used for family history and local history using two local suffragettes as examples.

The Library offers drop-in sessions every Monday and Thursday from 2pm - 4pm  for people who want to learn how to use computers and the internet. Library staff and volunteers are on hand to provide one-to-one support in a relaxed atmosphere. Learn at your own pace, from using a mouse and keyboard to email and internet use.
Tel: 01524 580700

More information about the courses available at local libraries is online at

For further information please contact: Tom Walker on 01772 534372

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