Tag Archives: Voting

The Kings Norton Fifty Club

Leaflet advertising a meeting for new women voters, 1st May 1929 (MS 2371/2/2/1)

The Representation of the People Act finally received Royal Assent on 6 February 1918. This meant that women over thirty who were householders, wives of householders, occupiers of property of £5 or more annual value, or University graduates, could now vote. However, this meant a considerable number of women – and men- were still excluded, and had to wait until 1928 when all persons over 21 became entitled to vote.

In 1929, the Kings Norton Fifty Club (MS 2731) decided to hold a public meeting to make sure that women in particular were informed about their new right to vote, and the responsibilities that entailed.

What was the Kings Norton Fifty Club?

The following comes from the Minutes of the Club [MS 2731/2/2/1] (Acc.2009/068):

On December 14th and 21st 1922, a small committee, called together by Miss Viccars, met to discuss the possibility of forming a local club for the purpose of spreading information and getting discussion on affairs of public interest. Miss Jordan, Mrs H. Norman, Mrs Impey and Miss Viccars comprised the committee….

A tentative list of speakers included Miss Dewar (The Birmingham Settlement), Dame Ethel Shakespeare (Citizenship), Mr Woulston Lee (The W.E.A.), Miss Ethel Trent (Labour & Employment), Mr Horace Alexander (League of Nations), Mr Ted Bigland (Social Work amongst boys), Miss Backhouse (Camp Fire Girls), Mrs H. L. Wilson (Maternity), Miss Bennett (Cripples), Miss F. Barrow (Poland), Dr Shakespeare (Physics), Mr Totham (Jamaica – Population – Trade).

A number of names for the club were discussed, ‘The Forward Relief Workers’, ‘Hopeful’, ‘Excelsior’, ‘Drawing Room’,. ‘The Fifty Club was provisionally adopted in 1923, January 22nd.

Membership was limited to fifty persons, which would allow gatherings of the dimensions of a drawing room [in large houses, obviously!].

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Guest blogger: Fight for the Right: the Birmingham Suffragettes

film scene - the arrest of Hilda Burkitt

Film scene – the arrest of Hilda Burkitt

Fight for the Right: the Birmingham Suffragettes is a history project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Two groups of students from Kings Norton Girls’ School and Waverley School have looked at archive material about the different ways of campaigning and protesting by women who wanted to gain the vote. They then used that material as inspiration for a short film which focuses on the activities of the suffragettes and their more peaceful counterparts, the suffragists. While a few of the young people involved had some previous knowledge of the suffragettes, very little was known about activities that took place in Birmingham: Fight for the Right aims to change that. Although primarily a history project, these two diverse communities of young women have also explored voting, politics and women’s rights today.

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International Women’s Day

National Council of Women Birmingham Branch Certificate of Merit, nd. [early 20th cent.] Ref: MS 841B/273

National Council of Women Birmingham Branch Certificate of Merit, nd. [early 20th cent.] Ref: MS 841B/273

In celebration of International Women’s Day, here is an interesting item (printed) from the archives of the National Council of Women, Birmingham Branch (MS 841).

It is a petition addressed to The Right Honourable Benjamin Disraeli, M.P. thanking him for previous support and again asking him to give his ‘support and influence as leader of the Conservative Party, to the measure to be proposed by Mr Jacob Bright in the House of Commons for removing the Electoral Disabilities of Women.’ The petition (undated) was probably penned c1870 and contains the signatures of many prominent female activists, – Ursula Bright, Lydia Becker, Margaret Lucas, the Ashworth sisters, Florence Nightingale no less, – many of whom came from non-conformist backgrounds.

Petition to Benjamin Disraeli M.P

Petition to Benjamin Disraeli M.P, nd. [19th cent], Ref: MS 841

From a local perspective, Eliza Sturge, also a signatory, was born in Birmingham into a prominent Quaker family. She was an active speaker for the suffrage movement and secretary of the Birmingham Society For Women’s Suffrage in the 1870s. She was also the first woman to be elected to the Birmingham School Board in 1873. It is interesting to reflect that the women’s suffrage movement had its roots in political lobbying and debate well before the time we traditionally think of the movement taking a militant stance in the early 1900s.

Close up of signatures in petition to Benjamin Disraeli M.P

Close up of signatures in petition to Benjamin Disraeli M.P, n.d. [19th cent], Ref MS 841

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Good Crowd for Right to Vote Walk

(Ref: LV/36)

Thanks to everyone who came on the Right to Vote Walk on Saturday to explore Birmingham’s Voting History with local historian Don Hazzard. We had a great crowd of 17  people, two of whom had travelled from Northampton to be there.

Everyone seemed to find it an informative and entertaining walk but don’t take our word for it, read the blog by a participant David Morgan .

If you missed Don’s tour but would like to do the walk yourself you can download the trail from the Connecting Histories Website.

Nikki Thorpe

Right to Vote City Centre Walk – Free event

Join Historian, Don Hazzard, on Saturday 5th November to explore the city’s voting history.

Meet Central Library entrance 10.00am (walk 2hrs).
Booking advisable. Phone 0121 303 4620 or e-mail nikki.thorpe@birmingham.gov.uk

For further information about project work on Birmingham’s Voting History, please see these links..
Women’s right to vote case study
Chartists’ case study

Nikki Thorpe