Friday, October 7, 2016

March of the Women

As we prepare for the Women's Exhibition and Craft Sale on November 12 at the Christ Church Community Centre, let's revisit the events we took part in last year as we celebrated Edith New, Swindon Suffragette.

Yesterday saw the culmination of our Swindon Suffragette celebrations with a march through Old Town and a rally in the Radnor Street Cemetery chapel.

Members of the Swindon Community Choir greeted the arrival of the procession at the cemetery with a rousing rendition of the suffragette anthem March of the Women and members of the Sixth Sense Youth Theatre Group gave a thought provoking performance in the chapel.

There was pageantry, colourful costumes and beautiful hats, banter with local bobbies and comedy with Perry Barrett dressed in an authentic Edwardian police uniform, but there was much more to our programme of events than dressing up and having a laugh.

The aim was to remember Swindon's own suffragette Edith New and the sacrifices made by her and others in the early 20th century suffrage movement.

In 2018 we will be celebrating the centenary of the Representation of the People Act when women over the age of 30 (and with some property qualifications) attained the vote. It would be another ten years before all women in the UK were enfranchised on equal terms with men.

In their performance the young people from the Sixth Sense Theatre Group reminded us of the worldwide timeline for women's enfranchisement. Women in New Zealand were the first to get the vote in 1893. Black women in South Africa didn't get the vote until 1994 and women in Saudi Arabia were only allowed to vote in elections this year.

I will be 75 years old in 2028 and hope that I am still up to marching through Swindon to celebrate and commemorate those who gave so much to the women's cause. Mrs Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy was 75 when she headed the Euston Road procession (in which Edith New was chief marshal) on Women's Sunday June 21, 1908. Mrs Elmy, who had been campaigning for votes for women for more than 40 years, marched the 2 mile route from Euston Station to Hyde Park with Emmeline Pankhurst and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence.

Meanwhile we are making plans for 2016 when we will hold a tea party in March to celebrate Edith's birthday and a Women's Exhibition of arts and crafts in the summer. Keep visiting the Swindon Heritage website and the Swindon Suffragette facebook page for updates.




Mrs Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy heading the Euston Road procession.


Edith New's great nieces, Tamara and Mary.


Swindon Community Choir greet the procession






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