The Seat Of Power

The Londoners who campaigned across the capital for women's suffrage. #BehindEveryGreatCity

By Mayor of London

Hyde Park rally, London (1908-06-21) by Lloyd, Edward Ltd (photographer)Original Source: LSE Library


London was a key location for the suffrage movement, with women lobbying Parliament, and holding huge suffrage rallies at Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square. The city was home to the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) offices and, in 1906, the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) also moved their headquarters to London (from Manchester) to be closer to the seat of government. London's suffrage campaigners were a varied bunch - from the middle class intellectuals of Millicent Fawcett's Kensington Society, to the factory workers of the east end.

The vast expanse of Hyde Park, central London, where suffragists and suffragettes from around the UK congregated, demanding 'Votes for Women!'

London. Suffragette Riots at Westminster (1910) | BFI National ArchiveMayor of London

Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence (c. 1910)Original Source: LSE Library

Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and her husband Frederick provided the WSPU's London offices when, in 1906, the organisation relocated its headquarters from Manchester to the capital. The couple were editors of Votes for Women, the suffragette newspaper launched in 1907.

The WSPU's original London office was at 4 Clement's Inn, on The Strand. The building is now occupied by the London School of Economics (LSE) – which also houses the Women's Library.

Plaque to commemorate the location of the headquarters of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) (1960)Original Source: LSE Library

WSPU London offices (1908)Original Source: LSE Library

Suffragettes outside the WSPU headquarters at Clement's Inn.

Lolita Roy and Indian Suffragettes, Coronation Procession (1911-06-17) by Museum of LondonOriginal Source: Museum of London

Lolita Roy

Lolita Roy was President of the London Indian Union (an Indian nationalist organisation) from 1908 until 1911. She was the wife of Piera Lal Roy, director of public prosecutions in Calcutta, and had been living in London with her children since 1901. Lolita co-organised the Indian section of the suffragettes' 1911 Coronation Procession.

Lady Frances Balfour and Millicent Fawcett, 1911-06-17, Original Source: LSE Library
Show lessRead more

Lady Frances Balfour was a member of the Liberal Women’s Suffrage Society, and was on the executive committee of the NUWSS.

She was also sister-in-law to the Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, and sister-in-law of Lady Constance Lytton.

Henrietta Franklin, c. 1928, Original Source: LSE Library
Show lessRead more

Henrietta Franklin was an education reformer, and leader of Jewish League for Woman Suffrage (JLWS).

Mary Lowndes, Charlotte Trounce, Original Source: Mayor of London
Show lessRead more

Mary Lowndes was a stained-glass artist, who founded the Artists' Suffrage League in 1907.

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh selling 'Suffragette' subscriptions (1913/1913) by Museum of LondonOriginal Source: Museum of London

Sophia Duleep Singh

Sophia Duleep Singh was a WSPU member who campaigned for women's suffrage in Richmond and Kingston upon Thames. She was the daughter of the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, and goddaughter of Queen Victoria. Sophia lived in apartment rooms at Hampton Court Palace, and was often seen selling the Suffragette newspaper outside its gates. She was also prosecuted for refusing to pay tax, as part of the Women's Tax Resistance League, whose slogan was "No Vote, No Tax".

Minnie Lansbury by Charlotte TrounceOriginal Source: Mayor of London

Minnie Lansbury

Minnie Lansbury was the daughter-in-law of George Lansbury, a staunch supporter of women's suffrage. Minnie was a member of the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS).

Minnie Lansbury is honoured by the Minnie Lansbury Memorial Clock on Electric House in Bow Road.

Maud Lady Selborne, Charlotte Trounce, Original Source: Mayor of London
Show lessRead more

Maud Palmer, Countess of Selborne, was President of the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association until 1913. After the war, she became a Justice of the Peace in Hampshire.

Ray Strachey, Beach, 1914, Original Source: LSE Library
Show lessRead more

Ray Strachey was chair of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage. From 1916 until 1921 she was parliamentary secretary of the NUWSS, responsible for supervising the passage of the 1918 Reform Bill.

Emmeline, Christabel, Sylvia and Adela Pankhurst by Charlotte TrounceOriginal Source: Mayor of London

After moving from Manchester to London in 1906, leading suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, and her daughters Christabel, Adela, and Sylvia, spent much of their time campaigning in the capital.

Palace Pandemonium (1914) - Emmeline Pankhurst | BFI National ArchiveMayor of London

Adela Pankhurst (1907/1912)Original Source: LSE Library

Adela Pankhurst was the youngest and least well known of the three Pankhurst sisters.

Political differences split the Pankhurst family - with socialist sisters Adela and Sylvia falling out with their mother Emmeline and sister Christabel over the WSPU's focus on votes for middle class women.

Adela was estranged from the family and emigrated to Australia, while Sylvia turned her attention to supporting the working class women of London's east end.

Dame Margery Corbett Ashby (c. 1940)Original Source: LSE Library

Dame Margery Irene Corbett Ashby

Dame Margery Irene Corbett Ashby was a Liberal politician, and internationalist. She was secretary of NUWSS, and later President of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance. After campaigning for the vote, Dame Corbett Ashby went on to become president of the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship, co-founder of the Townswomen’s Guild, president of the Women’s Freedom League, vice-president of the Fawcett Society, and president of the British Commonwealth League. She also supported the Women's Liberation Movement in the 1970s.

Christabel Pankhurst (c. 1910)Original Source: LSE Library

Dame Christabel Pankhurst

As the eldest daughter of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel was the chief strategist of the WSPU, and a brilliant orator. Nicknamed 'Queen of the Mob' by the media, Christabel was repeatedly arrested and imprisoned for her militant activism.

Between 1917 and 1919, Christabel stayed with her mother Emmeline Pankhurst at 50 Clarendon Road in Notting Hill.

Their home is today honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque.

Sadiq Khan #BehindEveryGreatCity by GLA/Caroline TeoOriginal Source: Mayor of London

The political landscape of London and the UK looks very different today as a result of these courageous Londoners and their tireless campaigning.

Credits: Story

#BehindEveryGreatCity: celebrating the centenary of the first women winning the right to vote and tackling gender inequality in London

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Road to Equality
Celebrating the stories behind 100 years of women's rights in the UK
View theme
Google apps