About forty people joined the Swindon Suffragette team on a guided walk around Old Town today visiting the places significant to Edith New, the Swindon born suffragette, who was the first to to chain herself to railings and to break windows at 10 Downing Street as a means of protest in the Votes for Women campaign.
Following her release from Holloway prison in August 1908, Edith returned to Swindon to recuperate from her ordeal.
She stayed with her mother at 29 Lethbridge Road where a reporter from the Swindon Advertiser visited her and the following account was published in the newspaper.
Swindon Advertiser Monday, September 7, 1908.
Votes For Women
Miss Edith New in Swindon
The Active Suffragist interviewed
Swindon to be visited
Miss Edith New, whose name has been so prominently before the public in connection with the votes for women campaign, and who is a native of Swindon, has been taking a well earned rest in the railway town during the past few days, prior to commencing another busy round of engagements. It was at 29 Lethbridge Road, where Miss New has been staying, that an “Advertiser reporter found her this morning, and she granted a brief interview with cheerful readiness, despite the fact that she has been under strict orders to take a complete rest and for a time to, if possible dismiss from her mind the worries naturally associated with a movement which has grown so wonderfully of late.
Miss New, although she has undoubtedly derived benefit from her rest, still bears some traces of the fatigue and worry of the exceptional period of activity through which she has passed. A glance is quite sufficient to satisfy one that she is full of the enthusiasm of the cause, and is intensely in earnest. She is of an extremely vivacious disposition, and her vivacity is wholly given over to the furthering of the principles for which she and so many of her sex are fighting.
Almost her first remark indicates how intensely in earnest she is, and how her whole existence seems to depend upon her ability to find some fresh channel through which to advance the campaign.
“If I had not been ordered strict rest,” she said, “I should have hired a trolley and addressed the men as they left the GWR factory. I believe they would have listened to me. I was very much tempted to speak to them last week, and you may depend upon it as soon as I get the chance I shall come back again and do so. We want to fire the whole of London with the truth of our cause, and then we shall seek to do similar things in the provinces. Already we have a splendid organisation in the North of England and in Scotland, and great progress is being made. On Saturday, Sept. 19th, we hope to wake up the West of England to a sense of the justice of our claim that women shall be granted the Parliamentary vote, in order, as our official journal so well points out, we may have the power to establish equality of rights and opportunities between the sexes, and so practically assist in the social and industrial well being of the community. On Sept. 19th we are going to have a big demonstration on Durdham Down, Bristol, when addresses will be given by Mrs Pankhurst, Mrs Pethwick [sic] Lawrence, Mrs Christabel Pankhurst, and many other of our well known women speakers. As the result of this demonstration we hope to organise a series of meetings to be held in many towns in the West of England, including Swindon. Only this morning I received a letter from Mrs Pethwick [sic] Lawrence, who speaks in very bright terms of the general outlook, and says she has important meetings booked up right away to the end of next July. I hope you will make it clear,” Miss New added, “that we are working entirely independent of all political parties: we hope to achieve our end as the result of thorough national organisation.”
“When do you take up your active duties again, Miss New?”
“Tomorrow I return to London, and from there I expect to be sent to Newcastle on Tyne, where there is a bye election on the way. We intend to be in at the bye elections for all we are worth. If there happens to be a bye election in Swindon, you may expect a lively time, or at least your Mr Massie may, after some of the views he expressed in London.”
“You were the lady who smashed the Prime Minister’s windows, are you not, Miss New?” ventured the Advertiser man.
“Yes,” replied Miss New, proudly. “We are not violent by nature, but we are driven to do these things. Mrs Leigh and I, as you know, got two months’ hard labour each. We did the two months, but not the hard labour, though we would cheerfully have done that if it had been imposed upon us. We do not shrink from prison. We have every intention of winning our cause, and we shall succeed. I feel ever so much better for my little rest in Swindon, and I hope to do a lot of useful work as soon as I get into harness again.”
Miss New showed the Advertiser man a memento presented to her by Mrs Pethwick [sic]Lawrence on her release from Holloway Gaol on August 22nd. It is a neatly executed miniature of the Boadicea Statue on Westminster Bridge. A similar one was presented to Mrs Leigh.
Miss New continued: “We are going to have a big ‘do’ on Wednesday, Sept 16, when some more of our workers are released from Holloway, and also on Friday Sept. 18th when Miss Mary Phillips is released.
“One of the most encouraging features of our campaign is the progress that the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage is making. You should see how the men of Camden Town rallied round us the other day. When we get men – real men – to work with us throughout the country we shall not be far off the goal we are seeking to attain. Please put Votes for Women in the biggest type you’ve got. [ they did]
“You won’t come round and put a brick through the office window if we don’t, will you, Miss New?” meekly queried the reporter.
“No,” smilingly answered Miss New. “I have a big lot of faith in Swindon, and I believe that the Advertiser would give us a whole page if Mrs Leigh and I came round and used a little mild persuasive argument.”
Miss New’s slender frame was already vibrating with suppressed excitement, and the Advertiser man deemed it prudent to wish the lady the best of luck and success, and to politely withdraw.
Five minutes’ chat with Miss New is quite sufficient to convince anyone that she is not a young lady to be trifled with on the subject of women’s suffrage. Her very presence breathes “Votes for women;” her being literally thrills with the battle cry of the movement! She has caught the fire of Mrs Pankhurst, Mrs Pethwick [sic] Lawrence, and their kindred spirits, while the sufferings of Holloway have but whetted her appetite for the accomplishment of still greater achievements for the cause.
The Swindon Suffragette celebrations continue this week as we build to the highlight of our Edith New festival with a costumed March and Rally on Sunday, October 25. Meet at the High Street entrance to the Lawns at 11 am.
We will march through Old Town to the chapel in Radnor Street Cemetery where there will be a rally and a chance to hear rousing speeches from the day.
For more information visit the Swindon Suffragette facebook page.
Edith's Boudica brooch - described as the Suffragette's Victoria Cross
29 Lethbridge Road - the New family home for more than 30 years.
Edith's birth certificate
Edith (foreground) and her sister Nell, brother Frederick and mother Isabella.
The Swindon Suffragette festival is sponsored by AMCS Total Analytical Specialists, Swindon Heritage and Amanda Adams Frances4lifeskills Claire Bennett Maggie Brunger Tamara Dugdale Willows Counselling Service