A Song of Their Own
Women are always a chorus joining in men’s songs, never allowed to sing a song of their own.
By the time a Stowmarket woman stood up and said this at a meeting in the early 1900s, women had already been demanding to have the vote, to have a say in the running of the country for the best part of half a century. The legitimate demand for the vote was attracting large numbers of women, who made their protest at the lack of response from the Government in a variety of ways.
Most people have heard of the Pankhursts and the London-based radical acts they organised – huge processions, determined parliamentary protest, window-smashing campaigns – and the high price they sometimes paid – imprisonment, hunger-striking, forcible feeding, poor health and even death. What is less well known is that such activity was supported by thousands of women in towns and villages across the country, who organised their own protests locally.
A Song of their Own is a record of what women in and around Ipswich did to increase the pressure on the Government to allow them the vote. It starts with the local signatories to the first petition in 1866 which was instigated by Aldeburgh’s Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and her friends. It tracks the development of women’s suffrage societies in the town towards the more radical protest after 1909. Details are given of the 1911 Census evasion protest (No Vote, No Census), and of the prosecutions for non-payment of taxes (No Vote, No Tax), and many other varied protests. The women often had to operate in a hostile atmosphere, suffering verbal and physical violence.
Through these stories, we become familiar with the individual women who formed a close, supportive group to achieve their ends. There are brief biographies of all the women so far identified.
Comments about A Song of Their Own
Praise from a national suffrage historian
On her website www.womanandhersphere.co uk, on 21st August 2014, suffrage historian Elizabeth Crawford (who also wrote Enterprising Women: The Garretts and their Circle) mentioned A Song of their Own:
‘I do enjoy reading studies of the work of local suffrage societies – and this is a good one. Without over-explaining the national campaign, Joy Bounds neatly describes the particular work of Ipswich suffrage campaigners, setting their efforts in the wider context. Her research on Constance Andrews, the leading light of the Ipswich branch of the Women’s Freedom League, is particularly welcome – and useful.’
A Song of their Own – R.G. in The Ipswich Society Newsletter (July 2014)
In reviewing the book, R.G said: There is much here to surprise and enjoy, but the grimness of the long struggle [for the vote] is the lasting impression: imprisonment, force-feeding (horrific and akin to torture in many’s view) and political betrayal. An excellent addition to the Ipswich story of non-conformism over the centuries.
A Song of their Own – Lynne Mortimer in East Anglian Daily Times:
Lynne recalled the bravery of local women in campaigning for the Vote over a hundred years ago. She said: Joy has researched the fight for votes for women in Ipswich and her book is a fascinating account of what was happening locally, set in the context of the national movement and the (lack of) political response from the Government. Time and again women’s hopes were dashed as partliamentary debates were scheduled but talked out and promises to address the issue were broken… Joy wanted her book to bring together the tales of these inspirational women whose stories had not been written.
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