We have recently been lucky to be given the minutes of the Rochdale branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which was formed on 11 January 1907. The minute book dates from 4 May 1907 and continues until 20 November 1915. There are also some loose pages from 1933, 1934 and 1935.
Included in the minutes there is a list of nearly 50 members and women friends who attended the “monster demonstration” on 21 June 1908, when between 200,000 and 300,000 women gathered in Hyde Park to further their campaign for votes for women. Also minuted is their intention to order a banner from the National Women’s Social and Political Union. It was to be purple with “Rochdale WSPU demand the vote” in white lettering and left in London to be collected on the day and taken on the demonstration.
Intriguingly the minutes for 22 September 1908 read simply “Mov. and sec. that we purchase 15 chains at 1/- each”. Whether the chains were ever purchased or used is unfortunately not minuted.
On 12 June 1913 a special meeting was held to “consider the matter of sending delegates to represent Rochdale at the funeral of Miss Emily Wilding Davison who had laid down her life in the cause of women” and it was decided to send 3 women, along with flowers which were paid for by Mrs Whitworth.
But it was not all serious business members also had picnics, tea parties, dances and socials to raise much needed funds. In fact at one tea party, attended by about 50 people, the women were presented with a tea urn by a “gentleman sympathiser”!
Many thanks are due to Bob Jones and Gina Bridgeland for donating the minute book – which gives such a fascinating insight into a local part of the national struggle for votes for women.