14 December 1918: Broadway Women Vote in a UK General Election for the First Time

Votes for Broadway Women

On 14 December 1918, women in Broadway, providing they were over 30 and they or their husbands were an occupier of property, were able to vote in a general election for the first time. The 1918 election had been called by the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, immediately after the Armistice with Germany which ended the First World War.

Eight and a half million women in the UK were eligible to vote following the extension of the franchise in the Representation of the People Act 1918. This amendment to the Act had followed 50 years of campaigning by suffragettes across the world for suffrage or ‘Votes for Women’.

Broadway Suffragette who “Affronted the King by Creating a Scene in the Throne Room” (Daily Mirror, June 1914)

In Broadway, Rose ‘Eleanor’ Cecilia Blomfield (1890-1954) and Mary Esther Blomfield (1888-1950), daughters of Sir Arthur and Lady Sarah Louisa Blomfield of Springfield, were members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Eleanor and Mary established a branch of the Non-Militant National Union Suffrage Society in the village and were founding members of Broadway Women’s Institute.

Mary Blomfield made the headlines in June 1914 when she fell to her knees before HRH King George V and Queen Mary at Buckingham Palace. Mary begged their Majesties to stop the force-feeding of suffragettes who’d gone on hunger strikes in prison, and was forcibly evicted from the Palace by the police.

Mary and Eleanor Blomfield
Mary and Eleanor Blomfield, 1914

 

Polling Day, 14th December 1918

The first polling day for women in Broadway passed without incidence. It was reported in The Evesham Standard on 21 December 1918 that:

Polling day at Broadway passed off with very little excitement. A gentle stream of voters made their way to the polling station during the day, and at no time was there any rush, in fact the last hour was the quietest of the day. It is believed the women polled as strongly as the men. Cars and carriages belonging to Commander Monsell’s supporters were busy, especially during the afternoon, and they are very confident of the result of their efforts at Broadway.

Voter turnout for the election across the country was low, however, the British Conservative Party candidate, Sir Bolton Eyres-Monsell, retained his Evesham seat in the election and continued as a Member of Parliament until October 1935.

 

Next Meeting: Monday 21st January 2019 ‘Sentenced Beyond the Seas, Worcestershire Women Convicts sent to Australia’

Our next meeting and talk by David Clark, entitled ‘Sentenced Beyond the Seas, Worcestershire Women Convicts sent to Australia’, will take place on Monday 21st January 2019, starting at 7pm in the Lifford Memorial Hall.

In 1787, Britain chose Australia as the site of a new penal colony and the first fleet of 11 convict ships set sail for Botany Bay arriving on 20th January 1788 to found Sydney, New South Wales, the first European settlement on the continent. Other penal colonies were later established in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1803 and Queensland in 1824. Western Australia was founded in 1829 as a free colony and received convicts from 1850 onwards. South Australia and Victoria, established in 1836 and 1850 respectively, remained free colonies. Penal transportation to Australia peaked in the 1830s and dropped off significantly the following decade. The last convict ship arrived in Western Australia on 10th January 1868.

The majority of convicts were transported for petty crimes. More serious crimes, such as rape and murder, became transportable offences in the 1830s but since they were also punishable by death, comparatively few convicts were transported for such crimes. Amongst the convicts were women from Worcestershire. David will recount the true and fascinating tale of 8 Worcestershire female convicts sentenced to death or transportation in the 1780s to the ‘Land Beyond the Seas’. One of the women would be the progenitor of the largest living family group in Australia today, another would return to England a rich woman.

David Clark was born and raised in London and has lived and worked in Germany and Australia but returned to the UK in 1970 to live in Worcestershire where he is now retired. His career has included working in a shipping office in London’s dockland, as a rep for foreign newspapers and magazines, at Plumrose Foods, Kalamazoo Business Systems, Mazda cars and Rothmans Cigarettes. David has worked in theatre management, had two shops and ended up working for Age Concern. He was also a City Councillor for 20 years and served as Mayor of Worcester.

All welcome. Non-members £3 on the door.

Refreshment will be served at the end of the meeting.