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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
West: Succour to the Suffragettes

Paul Barltrop
Producer, Politics Show West

100 years since votes for women and the Politics Show determines how the West gave succour to the Suffragettes.

Annie Kenney, Mary Blathwayt, Emmeline Pankhurst in the suffragette garden
Emmeline Pankhurst set up the Women's Social and Political Union

A hundred years ago, fed up with asking nicely for votes for women, Emmeline Pankhurst set up the Women's Social and Political Union, otherwise known as the Suffragettes. Their motto was 'Deeds not words'.

A big house in a small village near Bath was to play a pivotal role in the movement.

Eagle House in Batheaston was owned by the Blathwayt family; father Colonel Linley Blathwayt, mother Emily and daughter Mary.

Eagle House as it is now
Eagle House in Batheaston played a pivotal role

It became a place for rest and recuperation for all the Suffragettes after nationwide speaking tours and exhausting force-feeding for those who went on hunger strike while in prison.

A hundred years on, it's hard to imagine how radical the Suffragettes were. By modern standards, women had few rights e.g. no vote and no property ownership.

So they took direct action including;

  • throwing stones at the prime minister
  • chaining themselves to railings
  • breaking windows
  • pushing burning material through letter boxes,
This was considered to be a scandal.

Well connected support

It is also hard to imagine the well connected and conservative Blathwayt family supporting the movement. But their home, Eagle House, became something of a retreat for all the women.

These included the Pankhursts and Annie Kenney, a charismatic mill worker who was the first suffragette to be arrested. She was given the job of starting the movement in Bristol and Bath.

The Suffragette field at the back of Eagle House was named after her. It was a place where the women planted trees with commemorative plaques.

The trees have gone but some of the plaques have survived.

Unique photographic record

Colonel Linley Blathwayt
The women were extensively photographed by Colonel Blathwayt

The women and the tree planting were extensively photographed by Colonel Blathwayt. The pictures were undiscovered until the house was developed in the 1960's and have never been published.

In the West the Suffragettes were very active; twice they hid in the organ of Bristol's Colston Hall in order to leap out and shout down ministers.

Take that in the name of the insulted women of England!
Teresa Garnett

Teresa Garnett attacked Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary, at the city's Temple Meads railway station, shouting "Take that in the name of the insulted women of England!" as she attempted to hit him with a dog whip.

However the Blathwayts resigned from the movement when an arson campaign was started in 1913. Arsonists burned a Bristol timber yard, a mansion at Frenchay and another at Stoke Bishop.

University students wrecked the Suffragette headquarters in Park Street in retaliation for their sports pavilion going up in smoke.

Spirit still burns?

The suffragettes died for my right to vote
Jo Wilding

A hundred years on is the spirit of the Suffragette still alive? Protestor Jo Wilding, who was arrested after throwing tomatoes at Tony Blair in Bristol, says the struggle has evolved.

"There is always the argument that Suffragettes died for my right to vote and people all over the world are still dying for the right to vote, but it's become an empty gesture."

Teresa Garnett, the woman who attacked Churchill at Temple Meads station
Teresa Garnett attacked Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary

Jo Wilding found prominence recently as an anti-war protestor who took her campaign all the way to Baghdad.

However, many historians think it was the efforts of ordinary women supporting the home front during World War One which won them the right to vote, rather than the militancy of the Suffragettes.

Have your say

Have your say on the Suffragette campaign. Use the comments form below.

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SEE ALSO:
Meet presenter David Garmston
21 Feb 03  |  Politics Show
Women's battle for the vote
06 Feb 98  |  UK News


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