A BRIEF HISTORY OF WOMEN & POLITICS IN PLYMOUTH

Roland Lewinsky Building at Plymouth University & the Suffragettes of 2018

Photo: Ian Parson
Plymouth University as a backdrop to Women’s Rights

History books will show that in 2021 only 35% of the electorate bothered turning out for the Plymouth Local Elections.

That’s embarrassing enough, but in some wards of the city it was closer to 20%. The statistics for women voting are even worse, for young women laughable.

It seems the heroes of the past were wasting their time. They risked life, limb and liberty, for what?

So young men could play XBox and get drunk it seems? It’s almost definitely too late for them to save the world.

We must now rely on the women to get organised. And there isn’t much time. You better start multi tasking. The future of humanity depends on it.

Young women today live in a moment when they could genuinely improve things for the greater good of all women, for generations to come.

In Plymouth most can’t even be bothered to walk the hundred yards to the nearest polling station.

I don’t get it. I mean, nobody is expecting you to queue for hours. This isn’t America. This is Plymouth, Devon, this is Britain, where voting couldn’t be more convenient. But still, you know, it was a bit rainy and Eastenders was on.

Emily Pankhurst would be turning in her grave.

But I don’t blame the young women of Plymouth, not entirely.

I blame the dinosaurs who fly into a fury every time anything of use in the modern world is in danger of being added to the school curriculum.

I blame the ‘English Exceptionalists‘  who grow apoplectic with rage at the thought of the National Trust teaching history. They aren’t scared of the re-writing of history, they are terrified of actual history being written down for all to see.

They muddy the waters, peddle lies and young people don’t know where to turn.

Plymouth has a long history of women turning to each other, working together using politics to try and improve their lot.

In the 1870s women’s meetings took place throughout Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse.

Married women wanted the right to own property.

Unmarried women wanted the right to look after their own affairs.

All women wanted the right to vote.

The rights of women have been hard fought every step of the way. Keyboard warriors get stuck in an echo chamber, activists get stuck in.
photo: Ian Parson
Gloria Steinem & Dorothy Pitman Hughes
2 giants in the history of women’s liberation

In 1884 a branch of the Women’s Liberal Association was started in Plymouth. In 1889 it was affiliated to the National Association for Women’s Suffrage.

Plymouth women were officially prepared to throw their hats into the ring with the notorious Mrs Pankhurst.

And Mrs Pankhurst was coming to Plymouth.

Statue of Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, London. 
photo: Ian Parson
Memorial of Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst,
Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, London

It was 1913 and she was returning from the United States to attend a rally in London.

The liner she travelled across the Atlantic on, The Majestic, was due in Plymouth Dock on December the 4th.

Thousands of Suffragettes gathered to greet it and the authorities were concerned. At the last minute Chief Inspector Sowerby of Plymouth announced that he feared trouble from the Stonehouse women in particular and ordered Mrs Pankhurst arrested on board.

She and her travelling companion, an American lady smuggling funds, were brought ashore at Bull Point, St. Budeaux in order to avoid the crowds. Had the police tried taking her into custody surrounded by a crowd estimated to be upwards of five thousand there might well have been a riot.

Bull Point was perfect. It was down river from the dock, it was Ministry of Defence land, there were no trespassers allowed.

Once ashore Emily Pankhurst’s companion was allowed to go free unmolested. Her illicit funds for the cause remained hidden.

Chief Inspector Sowerby handed Mrs Pankhurst over to Scotland Yard detectives at Bull Point and the famous activist’s brief visit to Plymouth was over.

She was taken the long way round to Exeter prison, across Dartmoor away from prying eyes, and then on to London.

Emmeline Pankhurst was a political activist. She was instrumental in getting women the vote. Her story should be required reading in schools throughout Britain.
photo:Ian Parson
The leader and public face of the Suffragette movement was Emmeline Pankhurst. Her words are still an inspiration to millions of young women in the early years of the 21st Century

At the time the Suffragette women were akin to modern day terrorists. Like Extinction Rebellion today it was risky to be involved. They were in real danger of losing all they held dear.

Nowadays all you are asked to do is walk to the end of your street and put your cross next to the least worst option.

If you continue not to, your future is going to be decided by less than half of 40% of the population and most of them haven’t a clue about modern life or about you.

And bear in mind, all the bigots and racists, every single one, they always vote, come rain or shine.

Do you want them deciding the future of your country?

Ian Parson,    May ‘21

In 2018 a group of women marched through Plymouth city centre to commemorate the Suffragettes.
'Let us never forget those who suffered so that others might benefit'
photo:Ian Parson
Suffragettes at Plymouth University

All Novels by Ian Parson are available from Amazon, Waterstones, W H Smith and all good retailers

Visit Us On Facebook