Explore the forgotten suffrage pilgrimage of 1913.
Inspiration for the Women’s suffrage pilgrimage must have come from a march that arrived in London from Edinburgh the previous autumn.
The ‘Women’s March’, involving a small number of women, was organised by Florence de Fonblanque in October 1912. They were known as the Brown women because of their brown dresses.
It had a spiritual overtone, which the NUWSS wanted to emulate for the 1913 pilgrimage.
Katherine Harley initiated the idea of the women’s suffrage pilgrimage in April 1913. Her sister was Charlotte Despard, president of the Women’s Freedom League.
Katherine herself was treasurer of the West Midlands Federation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, and then president of the Shropshire Society of the NUWSS. She was also active in the Church League for Women’s Suffrage.
Here is Katherine speaking at one of the suffrage pilgrimage meetings at Olton in the West Midlands.
Pilgrims were encouraged to wear a uniform.
It was suggested that marchers wear white, grey, black or navy blue coats or dresses, with either a white blouse or one the same colour as the skirt.
Hats were to be in the same colours, and worn with a raffia badge in the NUWSS colours of red, white and green.
They also had satchels with red, white and green ribbons on the shoulder strap and red band across the front.
About 20 pilgrims began their walk from Land’s End to London on 19 June 1913.
Mrs Annie Ramsay was encouraged by her daughter, Dr Mabel, to join the pilgrimage at Plymouth because she, herself, was busy with ‘too many babies due to arrive...’.
Annie intended to walk for just a few miles but ended up walking the entire route to London.
Dr Mabel joined the pilgrims as and when she could.
A group from Littlehampton set off on 19 July 1913 with Lady Maud Parry leading the way.
Her husband, Hubert, joined them together with Mrs Bertrand Russell and Julia Strachey.
They joined a group from Brighton before the walk to London.
Mrs Bertrand Russell, Mrs Merrifield, and four others walked the whole route.