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Page last updated at 13:40 GMT, Sunday, 20 March 2011
Gillingham suffragette led a boycott of the 1911 census
Laura Ainsworth
Laura Ainsworth was lodging in Gillingham at the time of the 1911 census

A local organiser for the suffragettes led a boycott of the 1911 census by women in Gillingham.

Nationally, the suffragette movement had decided to boycott the census. Its slogan was: "If we don't count - we are not going to be counted".

Laura Ainsworth had already achieved some national notoriety by going on hunger strike when she was in prison.

In April 1911, she was lodging at 32 Stuart Road, Gillingham at the home of the Gundy family.

Mrs Gundy was the secretary of the Rochester branch of the Women's Social and Political Union.

On census night, Sunday 2 April 1911, Laura Ainsworth hired a nearby hall. She and 40 other Medway towns women vacated their houses so they would not be counted in the census.

Laura Ainsworth and suffragettes in Bath
Laura (far right) and her fellow suffragettes boycotted the 1911 census

"They spent the night in the hall dancing, singing and playing cards," said Medway towns historian, Brian Joyce.

"There were two lots of breakfasts, one at two in the morning and one at six in the morning.

"The police were called by local residents who were worried about the noise during the night but the police just warned them, they didn't do anything to them."

The census enumerator left the census forms at the hall for the women to complete, but they refused.

About Laura Ainsworth

Laura Ainsworth was sentenced to two weeks in prison after a rooftop protest in Birmingham.

She was taken to Winson Green prison where she was one of four women to go on hunger-strike - a new strategy used by suffragettes at the time.

However, she was force-fed and on her release took criminal proceedings against the prison authorities.

She stayed at a refuge in Bath for women who were recovering from harsh treatment they had received during imprisonment for their political activism.

The suffragette guests were encouraged to plant trees and bushes in recognition of their protest efforts and their hopes for women's political equality.


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