Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Bearwood (well...Smethwick) firsts...votes for women!

Mary Bodfish, local historian and Chair of Smethwick Local History Society has written a brillant article about Christabel Pankhurst. Welovebearwood never knew that the Pankhurst family had such strong connections with Smethwick.

Mary told us that...."Following the armistice that ended the First World War in 1918 a general election was held that December, and this was the first in which Smethwick became a single parliamentary constituency. It was also the first election in which women were allowed to stand as candidates. Christabel Pankhust, the Women’s Party candidate, decided that as it was a new constituency, she would try to get into Parliament via the Smethwick seat, even though she had never set foot in the town before. A few days after her campaign opened, her mother, Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, one of the most famous women of our 20th century history, came to speak on her behalf at a public meeting held outside the Blue Gates public house on Smethwick High Street.

However they might have felt about “Votes for Women”, Mrs Pankhurst failed to sway the Smethwick voters. The leading Liberal politicians of the day, David Lloyd George and Arthur Balfour, wanted Christabel Pankurst to get in, and they had put pressure on the local Liberal candidate to withdraw from the contest. This was Major Samuel Thompson, who lived at the Uplands, had a large local maltings business, and was very well known for his distinguished record of public service in Smethwick. Not surprisingly, his forced withdrawal caused great indignation locally, and Christabel Pankhurst was defeated by 775 votes in favour of a Labour party candidate. And she never did get into Parliament."

In the words of Christabel Pankhurst "It is our duty to make this world a better place for women."

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