Votes for Women
‘Votes for women!’ would have been a slogan familiar to people in Doncaster. They would have heard it shouted at public meetings and seen it chalked on the pavements. Doncaster played a key role in the fight for the vote. Famous suffragettes such as Emmeline Pankhurst came to speak at public rallies, using Doncaster’s links to the railway network.
The town also had its own suffragettes, such as Kathleen Brown, who was imprisoned three times, and Violet Key-Jones, who was Doncaster’s organiser for the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
There were also local suffragists, such as Hannah Clark and Nina Hutchinson, who preferred non-violence to militancy.
When the First World War started, the WSPU ordered its members to stop campaigning and support the war effort. Violet Key-Jones was rare in that she fought on after 1914, still running her office on Hall Gate and her market stall near the Corn Exchange.
Although the push for women’s rights had already made great strides before war broke out, the wartime contribution of women in industry, munitions work and on the land continued to change the way that they were perceived. The 1918 Representation of People Act gave the vote to women over 30 with property, or married to property owners. This meant that the young and unmarried wartime workers of the munitions factories and other industries did not receive the vote. It took another ten years for women to receive the same voting rights as men.
Researched and written by Joanna Nurse of the Rebel Daughters of Doncaster
Hannah Clark: Doncaster’s first female councillor
Hannah Clark (1881 – 1963) was the first woman to be elected as a town councillor and also the first female Freeman of the Borough. She was elected in 1920 to represent Wheatley and between the two world wars she was returned a total of seven times.
Hannah came from a notable family of Doncaster Quakers. Like her brother Oswald, who was a conscientious objector, Hannah was opposed to the First World War.
She was active in the ‘votes for women’ movement, but unlike many campaigners in Doncaster she was a suffragist rather than a suffragette, opposing violent tactics to earn the vote.
While campaigning in 1920, Hannah was often challenged about the role of women in politics. One male councillor told her that “women’s place is in the home.” Hannah replied “Therefore women ought to have a better say in the making of the homes in which they have their place.”
Throughout her political career, Hannah campaigned for better schools and housing, and the rights of working women and mothers.
After 37 years of service to Doncaster and its people, Hannah decided to retire from public life. She lived all her life in Doncaster, sharing a house with her family on Thorne Road, and then with her brother Oswald on Lawn Avenue in Town Moor. She died aged 82.