THE WOMEN'S SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT
Over the next forty years, suffrage groups sprung up all over the country.
The first in Hastings & St Leonards was the London National Society,
which was began in the 1870s-80s and later came under the umbrella of the
NUWSS. There was also a Hastings Association
for the Promotion of Women's Rights which, in 1876, presented MP Thomas Brassey with a
suffrage petition, which he took to Parliament. In 1890 Brassey married Sybil De Vere Capell
and, as Earl and Countess Brassey, they later became NUWSS activists.
Around 1908 a branch of the militant suffragettes, the WSPU, was established.
There were also branches of the Tax Resistance League,
the Free Church League for Women's Suffrage (Chairman: Mrs Jane E. Strickland), the Catholic Women's
Suffrage League (Secretary: Miss Isabel Willis), the Men's League for Women's Suffrage, the Women's
Suffrage Propaganda League (secretary: Mrs Eliza Darent Harrison)and the Women's Freedom League.
The societies in Hastings were very active: each held weekly meetings plus ad hoc talks and
lectures. Plays, films and church services were attended and sometimes interrupted.
Open air meetings were held in Wellington Square and on the beach in
front of the De Luxe Cinema, Pelham Place. Public rallies with famous national speakers drew huge crowds
to the Public and Metropole halls. There were poster-parades, processions, and self-denial
weeks to raise funds. Women chalked the pavements to advertise forthcoming events and sold
copies of The Suffragette and Votes for Women in the streets. Some very prominent local people and clergy lent their support.
A meeting in Havelock Road, Hastings, turned into an anti-suffrage riot!
When Mary Sophia Allen took over the Hastings branch
in 1912 she had already achieved national fame (or notoriety). She introduced herself to
local suffragettes by giving a talk at the WSPU at 8 Trinity Street describing her window smashing
raids on Government buildings in London and Bristol, three terms of imprisonment, her hunger
strike and force-feeding.
In February 1918 female householders aged over 30 were granted the vote, 62 years after Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon's petition.
Two post-suffrage items of local interest are included on this site: former suffragette Muriel Matters ran for election as Hastings' MP in 1924, and the notorious militant suffragette Mary 'Slasher' Richardson retired to Hastings and died here in 1961.
The Appeal of Womanhood
The WSPU newspaper - The Suffragette