Votes for Women (01/Oct/1908) - The Huddersfield Demonstration

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.


A company of nine Manchester Suffragettes journeyed with Miss Gawthorpe from Manchester to Huddersfield to supply the speaking corps for Miss Adela Pankhurst’s Huddersfield demonstration. With the happy forethought which the Suffragettes have shown at all previous demonstrations, we had arranged with Miss Pankhurst to take with us a fine variety of the now famous Suffragette weather. Consequently we surprised Huddersfield people with what seemed to be the return of a summer reckoned dead this six weeks. Huddersfield folk appreciated the boon, and perhaps half — 50,000 — of the total population assembled in the Station Square to give us proof of it. If that were not the reason for their presence, we must surmise that it was to be accounted for by the unsparing use of chalk, whereby the pavements have presented alluring invitations to come and be with us in the great demonstration. In any case, there they were. The most modest member of our band said there were 20,000, the rest computed upwards from that. The square, which holds 50,000, was practically filled, the only spaces being quite in the centre, where the crowds standing at the five platforms almost touched each other. Here there was a constant movement of people trying to get within earshot of the speakers.

The five platforms were arranged in a sort of tuning-fork arrangement, Mrs. Pankhurst, backed up by the monument to Sir Robert Peel, occupying the bridge of the fork. With Mrs. Pankhurst was Miss Rona Robinson, M.Sc., and on the platform to her right were Miss Lillian Williamson, B.A., with Mrs. Morris and Miss Lee. On her left, Miss Drummond and Miss Capper, whilst Miss Gawthorpe with Miss Clarkson, and Miss Adela Pankhurst with Miss Dora Marsden, B.A., held the lorries approaching the tramlines.

The spirit of the crowd was excellent. Knowing, as a native of the district, the strong Liberal bias of the people, I was much astonished at the general consideration and more than attentive hearing given to us. They are not the sort of people who "enthuse" readily — nor did they to-day — but they showed signs of having undergone a chastening discipline in matters relating to the woman question. Almost every argument went home, especially those relating to the industrial position of women. Even the Liberals, of whom there appeared to be many, seemed to realise how the argument was to be turned, and winced in anticipation.

Many little tributes recognising the power of the women in moulding by-election results were paid. When Mrs. Pankhurst was approaching her platform, the cry of "Votes for Women" was changed to "Votes for Newcastle," which, being interpreted, presumably meant that Mrs. Pankhurst standing for "Votes for Women," and Newcastle standing for "Votes for Women," the terms become interchangeable. Therefore, "Votes for Women" or "Votes for Newcastle," as you please. The meeting lasted for about an hour and a-half. When every other speaker had left her platform, and Miss Adela Pankhurst was still holding her audience by alternated eloquence and sallies, a man in the crowd was moved to say: "My, but that is a game 'un!" That is what we also felt. The success of the demonstration showed that a great amount of work must have been done by Miss Pankhurst and her workers, and following as it does so soon after the demonstration held on Woodhouse Moor, Leeds, it is added evidence of the tireless energy with which the mission in Yorkshire is pushed on. The people are impressed and convinced in a large measure. Even the children were glad to see us. One small maiden of perhaps eight, pulled my sleeve, and said: "Will you be open again tonight?" The men around smiled kindly, and patted her head consolingly when I said that we were on show only once that day — another day, perhaps———. The Votes for Women copies went very rapidly; there was a good sale of literature and a good collection. The resolutions put at the different platforms were passed practically unanimously, and one was led to surmise that the Government would have much to meet on the question of Votes for Women should a by-election arise in the district. We left feeling that another strong link had been forged in a chain of successes already long and strong.

Dora Marsden.