Researchers in north-west England are seeking the descendants of local pioneers of the “votes for women” Suffragette movement following the discovery of historic minutes dating back more than a century.
The minutes, dating from May 1907 to November 1915, record details of the Rochdale branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, the organisation founded in 1903 in Manchester by the Pankhursts and other campaigners for women to get the vote.
The minutes have been handed to Salford’s Working Class Movement Library.
They include a list of almost 50 members and friends who attended a “monster demonstration” on June 21 1908, when between 200,000 and 300,000 women gathered in Hyde Park supporting their campaign for votes for women.
The minutes of June 12 1913, record that a special meeting was held to “consider the matter of sending delegates to represent Rochdale at the funeral of Miss Emily Wilding Davison who laid down her life in the cause of women.”
Ms Davison, who was 40 and was a teacher before devoting herself to full-time activism for the women’s movement, was trampled to death by the “King’s horse” after stepping in front of it at the Epsom Derby on June 4 1913.
She died of her injuries four days later.
As a campaigner she had been sent to jail nine times, and was brutally force-fed 49 times while on hunger strike in prison.
Her final sacrifice drew attention to the women’s cause in Britain and around the world, and Ms Davison’s name lives on as a martyr in the struggle for votes for women.
The Rochdale group decided to send three delegates and flowers to the funeral. It took place in London on June 14 1913. Thousands of Suffragettes walked with the coffin and tens of thousands more lined the streets as the cortege passed.
After a service in Bloomsbury her coffin was taken by train to the family grave in Morpeth in Northumberland.
The Rochdale minutes have been donated to the Working Class Movement Library by two supporters of its work in collecting, cataloguing and making accessible materials recording working-class history.
Library manager Lynette Cawthra said: “I don’t know where the donors originally got them from but I think they had had them for a long time.
“But there is no direct link between them and the movement. They have been friends of the library for a long time and knew that this was a place where these treasures would be looked after, and also be accessible which is, of course, a very important part of our work.”
Ms Cawthra said the minutes showed that the meetings were not all serious business.
“Members also had picnics, tea parties, dances and socials to raise much-needed funds,” she said.
“At one tea party, attended by about 50 people, the women were presented with a tea urn by a ‘gentleman sympathiser.’
“The library is extremely grateful to the donors of this minute book, which will be added to its collection of Suffragette material which includes photos, books, the journal Votes for Women and a badge which was presented to a woman who had been imprisoned for her Suffragette activities. Everyone is welcome to come and browse what’s here.”
The library is making public the list of names of Rochdale campaigners who attended the London rally in the hope that descendants will come forward.
Ms Cawthra said: “If you spot the name of your great-gran or another family member in the list, please do contact the Library on firstname.lastname@example.org or (0161) 736-3601 and tell us more about them.”
The Working Class Movement Library is based at Jubilee House, 61, The Crescent, Salford M5 4WX.
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