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9 March 2022
2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
All ages welcome
Working Class Movement Library
We mark this year’s International Women’s Day by welcoming historian and biographer Joanna Williams to talk to us about the subject of her new book, The great Miss Lydia Becker: suffragist, scientist and trailblazer.
Fifty years before women were enfranchised, a legal loophole allowed a thousand women to vote in the general election of 1868. This surprising event occurred due to the feisty and single-minded dedication of Lydia Becker, the acknowledged leader of the women’s suffrage movement in the later 19th century.
Brought up in a middle-class family as the eldest of fifteen children, she broke away from convention, remaining single and entering the sphere of men by engaging in politics. Although it was considered immoral for a woman to speak in public, Lydia addressed innumerable audiences, not only on women’s votes, but also on the position of wives, female education and rights at work. And unlike most contemporary campaigners, she exhibited a genuine desire to engage the women of the lower classes, to improve their education and to encourage them to agitate for rights and political power. She reached all parts of Britain and beyond through her publication, the Women’s Suffrage Journal, which kept countless supporters abreast of all the women’s campaigns.
Steamrollering her way to Parliament as chief lobbyist for women, she influenced MPs in a way that no woman, and few men, had done before. In the 1860s the idea of enfranchising women was compared in the Commons to persuading dogs to dance; it was dismissed as ridiculous and unnatural. By the time that Lydia died there was an acceptance that the enfranchisement of women would soon happen. In the early 1900s the torch was picked up by a woman she had inspired as a teenager, Emmeline Pankhurst; the rest is History.
We are aiming to run this talk both in person and online – keep an eye on the event Web page via www.wcml.org.uk/events.
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