Women’s Suffrage Procession through Cambridge of Sat 19th July 1913

Reported in the Cambridge Independent Press – Fri 25 July 1913. 

The British Newspaper Archive have scanned the newspaper article (here but requires £subscription) and because of inevitable limitations of the OCR software due to the age of the publication, the auto-transcript doesn’t come out too well. So I have transcribed it below for the purposes of Cambridge’s preparations for celebrating the centenary of Votes for Women. Some of them – full suffrage was not granted for another decade.

This article matters as it describes who took part, what they were wearing, the route they took, and the reaction of the crowds. For those in Cambridge working with Cambridge City Council on the preparations for 2018 events, the text below is from an incredibly significant local source document and contains the sort of detail that you just would not get in a local newspaper today. (At the same time, we have social media and online video that they did not have). We also know from this article that photographs of the day exist somewhere. I’m looking to Newnham and Girton College members and alumni for their assistance in locating such photographs.

The clips below are from the historical goldmine that is the British Newspaper Archive’s digitised collection. They are only 20million pages into scanning over 700million pages, so only a fraction of Cambridge’s newspapers have been scanned. Fortunately Cambridge’s first public librarian under the Public Libraries Act of 1850, the civic legend that is John Pink, started collecting every single local newspaper that was published in Cambridge as soon as our public library opened in 1854. Today that archive, scanned onto microfiche by Mike Petty MBE and team just over a century and a quarter later, are in the Cambridgeshire Collection in the Central Library in Lion Yard, Cambridge. See here for more details.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading the article below.

130718 WomensSuffragePilgrimageAdvert

The advert was carried in the local newspapers as above. (British Newspaper Archive).

130725 Suffrage Pilgrimage Headline

…with the event written up the following week as above. (British Newspaper Archive)

“The procession arranged in connection with the suffrage pilgrimage took place in Cambridge on Saturday and aroused enormous interested, the streets through which the suffragists passed being lined with people. The procession had a twofold object. It was organised to provide a welcome and encouragement to the suffrage pilgrims who are walking from the Eastern Counties to London, and also to show to the people of Cambridge that the law-abiding women of England want the vote as much as those who adopt militant methods.

The demonstrators proceeded without other molestation than more or less good-humoured ratliery, mostly from boys, an occasional hiss or boo from a man or a woman, and such cries as “There’s Mrs Pankhurst!” from small urchins. In fact, the procession was practically without incident until Castle Hill was reached, where a man proclaiming himself to be “a working man” placed upon the road immediately in front of the foremost processionists some clothing, a pick and a shovel.

After the man and his impediments had been removed, the procession marched on as far as Buckingham Road, where a short and noisy meeting was held, and addresses were given by some of the pilgrims. Another meeting was held in Mr and Mrs Ramsey’s garden before the processionists disbanded, and but for the intervention of the police, a number of roughs would have broken in upon this meeting also.


The Pilgrims


The Pilgrims who invaded Cambridge left Burwell at 10.30 in the morning and arrived at Barnwell Junction at about 3 o’clock. There they had tea with a number of Cambridge ladies who had gone to meet them. They left Barnwell Junction in ample time to reach Maid’s Causeway before the time they were expected.

Those who arrived from Barnwell Junction were:

Mrs Cowmeadow (Salisbury) who walked from Cromer, Mrs Garlick (Sheffield), Mrs Hopkinson (Leeds), Mrs Renton (Leeds), Miss Norma Smith (Sheffield, organiser of the contingent from Sheffield to Huntingdon), Mrs Barton (Carnforth, Lancs), Mrs Tennent (Huckwold Rectory, Secretary of the Huckwold Society), Mrs Pike (Doxford), Miss Rowe (Leeds), Mrs Mandefield (Leeds), Mrs Hill (Bradford), Mrs Thomas (Bradford), Mrs Nash (Derby), Mrs Reeve (Norwich), Miss Edith Willis (Norwich), Miss Margaret Hill (Norwich), Mrs Rackham (Cambridge joined the Pilgrimage at Burwell. There were also accompanying the Pilgrims Miss Creak (Cambridge), Mrs J Ward (Secretary, Cambridge Women’s Suffrage Association), Miss Smyth (Cambridge), Miss Yates and Miss Joseph.

The local processionists had formed up, carrying banners and wearing their colours, some time before the arrival of the Pilgrims. By six o’clock an enormous crowd had gathered on Maid’s Causeway to witness the start off. The scene was quite orderly. Those who were walking, including many prominent members of the University and well-known ladies, lined up on Midsummer Common, while others prepared to follow carriages which were drawn up on Maid’s Causeway. All the processionists wore the colours of the law-abiding suffragists [Green/White/Red as opposed to Purple/White/Green?] and many of them wore hats trimmed with the colours. As well as the banners, bamboos, to which were affixed suffrage flora, were carried by many. Before the procession started, a number of undergraduates, languishing in the “Long,” marched up with a foot bath and a tray, but the services were not required as the Sawston Band had been engaged to play inspiring marches en route.


Cambridge Processionists


The procession was headed by a mounted policeman of the Borough Force, behind whom marched three banner-bearers, Miss Peartz, Miss Thomas and Mrs Harry Few. The banner they carried bore the words: “Cambridge Women’s Suffrage Association. Founded 1883.” The bearers were wearing ‘catchells’ across which was written “The Great North Road”.


Amongst the many people who started with the procession were:

Mrs Heitland (president)

Mrs Ward (Secretary)

Mrs Murray

Miss Julia Kennedy

Dr Dorothy Hare

Mr D S Robertson

Dr McTaggart

Dr W E Johnson

Mrs Layton

Mr W T Layton

Prof Bethune Baker

Mrs Bethune Baker

The Rev St John Parry

Miss Whitehouse

Dr Hopkins

Mr E Kellett

Mr H Rackham

M E Vulliamy

Mr H C Few

Mr HG Cracknell

The Rev S C Carpenter

Mr and Mrs Berry (King’s)

Mr and Mrs Ramsey

Mr C W H Johnson

The Rev CJN and Mrs Child (Cambridge County High School for Boys, now HRSFC)

Mr H D Henderson

Miss K Hare (carrying a banner bearing the words: “NUWSS: The Application to Reason, not to Force”)

Miss Francis

Miss Parker

Miss Fanny Johnson

Mrs and the Misses Ayres

Mr and Mrs Mirrlees,

Miss Clay

Mirs Rolfe

Miss Kirkman

Miss Bailey

Mrs Harold Murray

The Misses Murray

Miss Hinde, Miss Russell,

Miss Blanch, Miss Peacock

Miss Peppercorn, Miss Naylor

Miss Gent, Miss Ewing,

Miss Woolstenholme, Miss Bell

Miss Bowes

Miss Steward

Miss Wilkinson

Mrs McTaggart

Mrs Cockerell

Miss Saunders and Miss Grier (banner “Law-Abiding Suffragists”), Miss D Johnson, Miss Johnson, Miss Sawson, Miss Oram, Miss McIllory, Mrs Plant, Mrs Pitt, Mrs Clark, Mrs Edmonds, Mrs SG Campbell, Mrs Humphreys, Miss E Thompson, Mrs Haslop, Miss Ling, Mrs Lawrence, Mrs and Miss Bidwell, Miss Cross, Mis Crib, Midd Snowden, Miss Filler, Miss James, Miss Jarvis, Miss Nutter, Mrs Wyatt, Mrs Whitehouse, Mrs Kellett, Mrs Burn, Lady Darwin, Mrs Alan Gray, Mrs Ford, Miss Parry, Miss Green, Miss French, The Misses Greene, Miss Macarthur, Mrs Hinde, Miss GF Johnson, Miss Kennedy, Mrs Blanch, Miss Scott, Miss Kinden, Mr and Mrs Tillyard, Mrs Marshall Ward, Mrs Rovertson, Mrs Peck, Miss Freund, Miss Archer, Miss Taylor, Mesdames Thompson, Culpan, Thompson, Fountain, Woods, HS Nutter, Gunston, WT Scruby, Brook, SA Weeks, Hopkins, Albourne, Thompson(Little Shelford), Golding, Meader, Phillips, Misses Walsh, Gunstone Wale (Little Shelford) Spearing, Jepps, Nettleford, N Barker, E Gloria, MC Sewell, M Karn, Sargeant, Linton, Billiongton, Gascoigne, Bach, Fletcher, Burton, Brown, Dale, Tronton, J.Smith, Hanson, Hill, Chase, Buckley, E A Baker, A Grant, Phillips, Meek, King, Waller, McDowell, Woodhead, Thytes, Fox, Schuster, Lebus, Flack, Smith, Levitt, Bates, Jewson, Harrison, Hart, Amery, Rose, T Thoday (Cottenham), M Thoday (Cottenham), Lavender, Tudor Edwards and Welford.


Societies Represented:


Amongst the societies represented were:

NUWSS (banner: “No taxation without representation”) carried by Miss Steinthal and Miss Adams), Misses Maitland, Costellow, Mirlees, Enfield, Darwin (Gwen or Margaret?) Whitehead, Rose Smith, E.M. Spearing, and HC Hudson.

Cambridge Law-Abiding WSA (Banner, Miss Reinherz): Misses Cave, Allen, EN Whitehouse, HB Stephen, Collier and Morris and Mrs Rootham.

NUWSS East and West Cambs Societies (banner Miss Gray and Miss Colson); Mrs de Candole, Misses Webb, Bates, Few, L Whitehouse, Vackstrom, H Jewson and S Jewson, Mrs Rudge, Mrs Stockbridge and Mrs Middlehurst.

Eastern Counties Federation: Mrs E E Kellet (Hon Sect), Mrs Vulliamy, Mrs Dutt (Anne Palme), Miss Tuckey and Miss Hughes

Cambridge Women’s Co-operative Guild: (Banner, Mrs Forster, Mrs Crown): Mrs Chapman, Mrs Pilgrim, Mrs Brown, Mrs Stanley, Mrs Carter, Mrs Fordham, Mrs Gray, Mrs Harland, Mrs Halliday, Mrs Chapman, Mrs Carter, Mrs Hanson, Mrs Bagstaff.

Cambs Branch Conservative and Unionist Women’s Suffrage Association: Miss Flack

Cambridge Church League: Miss LJ Gardiner.

British Women’s Temperance Association, Cambridge: (Banner Miss Knowles, Mrs Skeet): Mrs Wheldale, Mrs Stevenson, Miss Archer, Miss Freund, Miss Wright.

Cambridge University Women (banner, Miss Franklin, Miss Hill)

About fifty students from Girton and Newnham joined the procession dressed in white and wearing the colours.

The procession started off along Jesus Lane. In an upper room of Westcott House some students hailed the procession with a bass drum solo performed fortissimo. From Jesus Lane the procession turned into Sidney Street, and proceeded up St Andrew’s Street and Regent Street, round by Lensfield Road to Trumpington Street and King’s Parade, along Trinity Street, and St John’s Street where they made their way by Bridge Street to Castle Hill and Huntingdon Road.


A noisy crowd


An attempt was made to hold an open air meeting at the junction of Huntington Road and ‘Buckenham Road’ and the processionists withdrew into the grounds of Howfield, the residence of Mr and Mrs Ramsey, after short speeches had been delivered. Two mounted policemen and several constables on foot prevented the crowd from leaving the main road and Mrs Cowmeadow (Salisbury) who had walked from Cromer, endeavoured to speak from a motor. Mrs Rackham tried to introduce her, but there was a continuous uproar and those persons standing close to the side of the car could only catch words now & again. For the most part the noise was made by youths whose intention was to prevent the speakers receiving a hearing. No missiles were thrown, and after a minute or two the car was drawn away. The crowd slowly dispersed a, the mischievous youths content with booing at the suffragists as they left the ground in twos and threes.

Mrs Rackham started a short speech in a tumult, which was kept up throughout. She said: We do not want to have a long meeting. We thought you might like to hear something about the Pilgrims. Of course, if you would like to go home we shall be very glad indeed for you to do so. We have a lady here who has walked all the way from Cromer and if you would like to hear anything of her experiences she will give them to you, but if you would rather not hear her we will drive the motor away.

Mrs Cowmeadow then boarded the ear and immediately she did so the shouting and booing, which stopped when Mrs Rackham left it, restarted. She said: We want to give you some idea of the reason we have taken this unusual step. A good many people do not realise the difference between our Society which is absolutely law-abiding, and the other societies. Mrs Cowmeadow uttered another sentence or two, but seeing it was as useless to attempt a speech, she ended by calling for three cheers for women’s suffrage. This had a mixed reception.


A great idea


The processionists proceeded to the lawn of Howfield, and one or two photographs were taken. Then a short meeting was held.

Mr Mirrlees, the first speaker said that it was not only the militants who went in for good advertising. Of course there were different kinds of advertisements. He thought the Pilgrimage was a very good idea. He had been in several parts and knew that it was producing a great effect. Men were realising that the women had walked long distances and had gone through a great deal of self-sacrifice to show that women of England, law abiding women, wanted the vote.

The pilgrims were welcomed to Cambridge on behalf of the Cambridge Women’s Suffrage Association. The Speaker pointed out that there was no need to point out that great procession showed what they were all feeling. He was delighted with the support Cambridge had given, Cambridge University, Cambridge town and the workers of Cambridge, while perhaps most of all was the feature of young ladies from Newnham and Girton, who with great power and careers before them, would go into the country and in various parts spread the gospel that women were on an equality with men, equal workers and equal sufferers. Then the women Liberals would show the Government that there was a large feeling amongst Liberal women and many men Liberals too, that the Government must do something to solve the suffrage question, for no Government could possibly call itself a democratic Government and leave women as professional women and mothers entirely out in the cold.


Success of the Pilgrimage


Miss Norma Smith remarked that everywhere the Pilgrimage had been it had met with tremendous success. (Applause). Relating her experiences, she said that the largest meeting in the East Midlands Federation was held at Mansfield, where there was a crowd of between 10,000 and 12,000 in the large market square. People packed every window, and where they could not see from the windows they climbed onto the roofs to welcome them. They were very fortunate in having Mrs Henry Fawcett [Millicent Garrett Fawcett] with them three days. (Applause). Everywhere they had been they had had most enthusiastic and well-attended meetings.

There was one point about the Pilgrimage she might mention. It had enabled them to take their message into the outlying villages where hitherto it had not gone. Another delightful thing was the hospitality they had received. Several vicarages had been thrown open. Everywhere they had been welcomed. At Mansfield there was a certain amount of hooliganism for about half an hour, and a rotten egg or two, and a dead rat added to the excitement for a short time. Still, everywhere she could say they had had very friendly receptions.

The Pilgrimage had done an enormous amount of good, and she thought they would appreciate and realise that when they began their autumn campaign in the constituencies.

They had broken down a great deal of prejudice created by the Militants, and that was largely the object of the Pilgrimage. Many people realised that there were enormous numbers of women who wanted the vote very badly, believed in the cause and worked for it by constitutional methods. Through the Eastern Midland Federation, Miss Norma Smith explained that there were never less than 14 Pilgrims – sometimes as many as 50. One act of kindness Miss Smith mentioned. A gentleman over 80 stood right in front of the motor car at Mansfield. He presented them with a rose, saying he wanted them to realise that he was too old to walk but making it known that he had been a suffragist 60 years.

Mrs Renton (organising secretary of the West Riding Federation), Leeds, spoke of the Pilgrims’ progress through Wakefield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Sheffield. At Leeds, she said the people threw flowers in the path of the suffragists.”






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