ADVERTISER 150: It’s 1914 and the men have gone at the Western Front—while Suffragettes set up battle HQ in Bow
PUBLISHED: 19:00 04 December 2016 | UPDATED: 17:45 05 December 2016
Our nightly series looking at the news covered by the East London Advertiser from 1866, celebrating our 150th anniversary this year, is now looking at local events during the Great War. Men are at the Western Front, while there are campaigns for reform on the ‘home front’. Sylvia Pankhurst has her battle HQ in London’s East End fighting for women’s suffrage...
1914: The East London Federation of Suffragettes takes over the Gunmakers’ Arms at 400 Old Ford Road and turns it into the Mothers’ Arms community café serving wholesome meals at cost price and even running a crèche for working mothers who struggle to keep their jobs.
The menfolk have gone off to war, many leaving behind women in the East End to manage in poverty as best they can.
The war on the Western Front doesn’t stop Suffragette leader Sylvia Pankhurst’s battle on the ‘home front’ to fight for universal suffrage—votes for women.
Pankhurst had arrived in the East End in 1912, two years before the outbreak of war, to launch her universal suffrage movement, renting a baker’s shop in the Roman Road for the Women’s Social & Political Union (the Suffragettes).
Her first action is to paint over the old shop name with the slogan ‘Votes for Women’—thus making a public statement right from the start.
She is pictured addressing a crowd outside the federation’s HQ at 198 Bow Road in 1912, where the movement publishes its own weekly newspaper, The Woman’s Dreadnought, giving the movement a national voice.
It also publishes endless flyers and posters produced locally at Arber & Co family printers in the Roman Road.
The Great War, however, doesn’t stop the universal suffrage campaign. By 1916, Pankhurst is making speeches in public in the Bow Road and in Bromley High-street—at one time throwing a stone through an undertaker’s window to attract attention, and is later arrested and charged at Bow Road police station.
The East London Advertiser describes police responding to Suffragette demonstrations in Victoria Park with truncheons and even 300 mounted police. This is followed by police breaking up a Suffragette rally at Bow Baths in Roman-road.
A warrant is made out for Pankhurt’s arrest and this time she goes on the run, taking refuge in ‘safe’ houses until the heat is off, including the home of the local MP nearby.
It is not until Armistice and the end of the great European conflict at arms that society’s attitude turns sympathetic to the Suffragettes’ cause, after women’s contributions to the war effort, and eventually they are give the vote at 30.
It doesn’t quite satisfy the Suffragettes, however, who continue campaigning from their shop at 400 Old Ford Road until 1924 to get the vote for women at 21, claiming universal equality with men.
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