Articles and Blogs on Women’s Suffrage

A selection of guest blogs, articles, and research published on my own blog (

Spotlight on…Helen Margaret Nightingale (1883-1921)

The latest Spotlight On is about Helen Margaret Nightingale (1883-1921), a writer whose suffrage play A Change of Tenant was frequently performed by suffrage societies. She served as a clerk at the Third London General Hospital during the First World War and wrote many articles for the Hospital Gazette. Read ‘Helen Margaret Nightingale (1883-1921)’ on my blog.

The aim of Spotlight On, published on Lucienne Boyce’s Blog, is to remember some of the people and places associated with the suffrage campaign. Read previous Spotlight Ons here Spotlight On Archive (pdf document).

‘A fine thing gone wrong’: Winifred Coombe Tennant and the Suffragettes

Suffragist or suffragette: what’s the difference and does it matter? Welsh suffragist Winifred Coombe Tennant thought so. Winifred Coombe Tennant (1874-1956) was president of the Neath branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. She was a Liberal, a patron of Welsh art, a member of the Gorsedd of Bards, and a campaigner for social reform in Wales. She was the first woman JP for Glamorgan, and the first woman to be appointed as a delegate to the League of Nations. Read about the life and work of this remarkable woman in South Wales.

In an increasingly violent atmosphere it became harder to obtain a hearing for women’s suffrage arguments. The root of the problem, Winifred thought, was the ‘confusion and prejudice in the mind of the public’ created by the misapplication of the words ‘suffragist’ and ‘suffragette’.

Download ‘A fine thing gone wrong’: Winifred Coombe Tennant and the Suffragettes

A long and loving association and friendship: Esther Knowles and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

In December 2019 Esther Knowles’s great niece in New Zealand sent me a copy of a letter from Esther to her employer, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, written in 1950. Esther Knowles worked at WSPU head office and subsequently for WSPU leaders Emmeline and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, and was for many years Frederick’s private political secretary. In this article I look at the contents of the letter and explore its context. The article is available on this website as a free download, and has also been published on my blog.

The letter is dated 25 February 1950, two days after the British General Election. In it, Esther wrote about her response to the election results, her wish to know what Emmeline thought about it, and her longing that the two should meet to talk it over. Relying on their “long and loving association and friendship”, she was confident that “you and I…understand each other wholly. You will know therefore that I feel this impulse to commune with you, in a sense of deep humility in the confident knowledge that you will not construe it into presumption”.

Download A long and loving association and friendship: Esther Knowles and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Picture: Emmeline Pethick Lawrence (Women’s Library on Flickr, No Known Copyright Restrictions)

Thanks to the woman who did the typing 

“My thanks are due also to my secretaries, Miss Esther Knowles and Miss Gladys Groom, for turning their task of typing the MS into a labour of love”.  

With these words Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, one-time leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union, Labour MP, and secretary of state for India acknowledged the work of the women who typed the manuscript of his autobiography, Fate Has Been Kind (1943). It’s often struck me how many books include thanks to the women who did the typing. In a blog published on the Women’s History Network blog I take a closer look at the women whose work was so essential but rarely visible. Read Thanks to the woman who did the typing on the WHN blog


Picture Credit: The Women’s Library on Flickr, No Known Copyright Restrictions

Writing the Life of Suffrage Campaigner, Millicent Price

In a guest blog for the national Women’s History Network Blog I look at why I chose to write a biography of suffrage campaigner, Millicent Price (née Browne). She’s not particularly well known, and although she started out in the WSPU, she later rejected suffragette militancy. And that’s one of the things that makes her so interesting! Find out why in Writing the Life of Suffrage Campaigner, Millicent Price

See also Giants and Geniuses, an earlier blog for WHN in which I ponder the question of who gets a biography written about them. Read Giants and Geniuses here.

Suffrage Autographs – Cicely Hamilton

I have acquired an autograph by one of my favourite authors and suffrage campaigners, Cicely Hamilton. Collecting autographs was very popular amongst suffrage campaigners, who often gathered one another’s signatures while in prison.

Cicely Hamilton was a member of the Women’s Freedom League and the Actresses’ Franchise League, wrote the words to the suffragette anthem The March of the Women, and wrote the suffrage plays How the Vote Was Won and A Pageant of Great Women. You can find out more about suffrage autographs in my blog Suffrage Autographs – Cicely Hamilton.

Four Suffrage Books Reviewed in The Local Historian

The British Association for Local History has very generously made all issues of its journal, The Local Historian, available to view free of charge. The January 2020 issue contains my review of four books on local women’s suffrage campaigns published by Pen and Sword. The books cover Halifax, Bristol, Scotland and Liverpool. Not only can you browse past issues on the BALH website, you can read the review here.




Picture Credit: The Women’s Library on Flickr, No Known Copyright Restrictions

Walking in her Shoes

In 2018 Elaine Martel spent her weekends walking in the footsteps of the women who helped to win votes for women, to raise funds for CARE International, who work to empower women worldwide. In April she came to Bristol and, using the walk in The Bristol Suffragettes as one of her guides, visited some of the city’s suffrage sites. She also caught up with me for a quick interview. You can read about Elaine’s Bristol walk here.  You can read our interview here.


Photo: 23 Gordon Road, the home of Annie Kenney

Commemorating Votes for Women 100

2018 was the one hundredth anniversary of the enfranchisement of (some) women (full franchise equality was not achieved until 1928). It was a milestone in women’s history and here in Bristol we organised lots of events to mark the occasion. I wrote an article for Local History News (Summer 2017) outlining some of the events in the pipeline, and making suggestions for anyone who was thinking of getting involved in their own area. You can read the article as a pdf or on the British Association for Local History website.


Read Votes for Women 2018 as a pdf document.

Suffragettes and Insanity

“The suffragettes’ demand for justice was dismissed as a form of madness.”

On 2 November 2016 I was a guest on David Lawlor’s blog, History With a Twist, with a blog about how the government tried to use laws designed to cope with the mentally ill to deal with militant campaigners. You can read the blog here.

The Bristol Suffragettes who fought fire with fire

“By the autumn of 1913, women campaigning for the right to vote had put up with years of violence and repression from street thugs and the state alike…” The opening of Eugene Byrne’s feature on the suffragette campaign in Bristol and my book The Bristol Suffragettes, in the Bristol Times on 17 September 2013.

The Right Stuff

An article about the Bristol suffragettes published in the August 2013 issue of Clifton Life – pp 50-51.

Lady Constance Lytton: Book Review

I reviewed Lyndsey Jenkins’s readable biography, Lady Constance Lytton: Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr, for Bristol 24/7 on 8 May 2015. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the suffragette movement generally, and also for those who would like to know more about a suffragette with many Bristol connections. You can read the review here.

A is for Arson, Nonesuch, Spring 2003

Find out why University of Bristol students attacked the Bristol WSPU shop in 1913 – an article written for Nonesuch, the University of Bristol Alumni magazine. Read A is for Arson.