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Votes for Women Centenary 2018

Finding Suffragettes in the Deceased Online Database

Today, Tuesday 6th February 2018, marks 100 years since the Representation of the People Act received royal assent. The passing of this Act of Parliament reformed the British and Irish electoral system, enabling almost all men and some 8.4 million women to vote in national elections.
Emmeline Pankhurst c.1913 (1)

Although single and widowed female ratepayers had been able to vote in local municipal elections since 1869 (married ratepayers 1869-1872), the struggle for to extend the franchise to women nationally was hard fought. After John Stuart Mill MP's failed attempt at amending the
Reform Act 1866 with the presentation of the first mass women's suffrage petition to the House of Commons on 7 June 1866, women in the capital grouped together to form the London Society for Women's Suffrage. The movement grew across Britain, and in 1872, women formed the National Society for Women's Suffrage, creating a nationwide struggle. In 1897, seventeen separate suffrage groups united under the leadership of Millicent Fawcett to create the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

One of the most famous political women to feature in the Deceased Online records is suffragette leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, who was buried in Brompton Cemetery in west London. Emmeline and her daughter, Christabel, are also remembered by a plaque in the House of Lords. 

Born in Manchester in 1858, Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903. Unlike other leading suffrage groups at the time, the WSPU was focused on 'deeds, not words'. This moved away from peaceful protest to militant activism, including arson and attacks on property.  Pankhurst engaged in speaking tours to raise awareness of the cause. From 1909, their members engaged in hunger strikes as part of their campaign. Not all suffragettes agreed with the tactics of the WSPU. Two of Pankhurst's daughters, Adela and Sylvia, left the group in 1913. WSPU militancy was put on hold for the duration of the war, and the Representation of the People Act has been seen, in part, as a reward for women's contribution to the war effort.
Pankhurst died on 14 June 1928 in Hampstead, north London. She was 69 years old.
Burial place of Emmeline Pankhurst in London's magnificent Brompton Cemetery

Deceased Online also has the burial record of another WSPU organiser, Aeta Adelaide Lamb (1886-1928). Lamb was buried on 7 June 1928 at Hampstead Cemetery, administered by the London borough of Camden. Lamb's unusual name came from the palm that her botanist father, William Davis Lamb, discovered in Demerara (then British Guiana), where Aeta was born. Lamb was raised in London's Notting Hill and joined the WSPU in 1906. She participated in deputations to the House of Commons, and, like Pankhurst, served time in Holloway Prison. Lamb became a national organiser of the WSPU, travelling across the country until her health weakened, from when she returned to London. Although she became increasingly concerned about the rise in violent militancy, she remained a member of the WSPU and assisted in War Depots between 1914 and 1918.

Aeta Lamb died of cancer, while being treated in the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in St Pancras, north London.  Lamb was 41 years old and was buried in Hampstead Cemetery on 7 June 1928 - just seven days before the death of her former colleague and fellow suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst.

In 1911 at Eagle House Aeta Lamb planted a tree to celebrate her imprisonment. The picture was taken by Colonel Linley Blathwayt (3)

Although the 1918 Representation of the People Act is worthy of celebration, the suffragettes and their supporters were well aware that it was not enough. The 1918 Act extended the franchise only to women over 30 years who met minimum property qualifications. Many of my female ancestors did not fit this category and could still not vote in the 1919 elections. It would be another ten years until women in Britain received the right to vote on the same terms as men under the terms of Equal Franchise Act (1928). This Act received royal assent on 2 July - just under a month after the deaths of Aeta Lamb and Emmeline Pankhurst. 

Were any of your female ancestors suffragettes or suffragists? Were they part of 8.4 million women who were able to vote from 1918?

We love to hear from you! Please share details of your female ancestors with us in the Comments Box below, or on our Twitter and Facebook platforms.

(1) By Matzene, ChicagoRestored by Adam Cuerden -, Public Domain,
2) Emmeline Pankhurst Wikipedia
3) Aeta Lamb Wikipedia
4) Suffragists - British Library; Learning: Dreamers and Dissenters


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