Establishment of the Manchester Society for Women's Suffrage

In the booming 1860's of Manchester, a collection of men and women saw an opportunity to mobilize local working class women by forming a society: specifically, the Manchester Society for Women's Suffrage.  Their environment was one where women already had a sense of independence - the burgeoning cotton fields and textile plants were employed largely by women, and it was their callused hands and weary eyes looking over some of the first suffrage petitions to be presented to Parliament.  Originally founded by Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy, Lydia Becker, and a handful of men including Richard Pankhurst (future husband of Emmeline Pankhurst, another key member in the development of the Manchester Society for Women's Suffrage and more widespread campaign groups such as the Women's Social and Political Union).  While overshadowed historically by the more famous London suffrage movements, the Manchester Society for Women's Suffrage survived well into the 20th century under a variety of names.  Even from the beginning, their existence was crucial to the establishment of other organizations and largely encouraging working class women to join the movement, which led to the ultimate success for suffrage.

Manchester was a notable hub for the textile industry, and held a large working-class population of men and women who were politically inclined.  While there are few online records available, there exists a series of records from the time which briefly cover the meetings.  In these, one can notice some of the names mentioned above, as well as a synopsis of the group discussions on motivation and success.  A series of examinations into the MSWS' beginnings and their lesser known players by Jill Liddington, titled "Rediscovering Suffrage History", endeavours to look at the lives of contributors whose names are seldom the focus of history: Eva Gore-Booth and her partner Esther Roper, Selina Cooper, Sarah Reddish, and so on.  

Liddington, Jill. “Rediscovering Suffrage History.” History Workshop, no. 4, 1977, pp. 192–202

"Manchester Society for Women's Suffrage". Women's Signal, vol. 6, no. 149, 1896. 

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

The middle of the month Winter 1867

Parent Chronology: