A to Z of Leeds: The suffragette who valiantly fought for women’s right to vote

We all know Leeds is a great city, right?

Wednesday, 9th December 2020, 11:30 am
Mary Gawthorpe (far left) pictured alongside Christabel Pankhurst.
Mary Gawthorpe (far left) pictured alongside Christabel Pankhurst.

There are many reasons for this bold claim, from the people who've called this place home, to the history of the region, the developments underway and the talent and creativity we see on a daily basis. Here, we go through the alphabet to give you some reasons to be proud.

G IS FOR MARY GAWTHORPE

Woodhouse-born Mary Gawthorpe fought strongly for women’s rights from a young age.

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After qualifying as a teacher in the city, Gawthorpe became a socialist and was extremely active in the local branch of the National Union of Teachers, before becoming increasingly involved in the Women's Suffrage movement.

In 1905, she joined the WSPU, just two years after it was founded. In 1906, Gawthorpe left teaching to become a full-time, paid organiser for the WSPU in Leeds.

After attending a London demonstration Gawthorpe was arrested and sentenced to two months in Holloway Prison, where she continue to demonstrate her campaign through going on hunger-strike.

Several months later, in November 1907, Gawthorpe was again arrested, alongside Dora Marsden and Rona Robinson at Manchester University, after asking Lord Morley about the imprisoned women at Birmingham.

The three women were ejected from Lord Morley's meeting and were violently arrested by the police.

In October 1909 she received serious internal injuries when she was struck by one of the stewards at a political rally she was disrupting, the candidate of which was Winston Churchill.

At the time, this violence was reported by a young journalist named Cicily Fairfield, who was later better known as Rebecca West.

However, a charge of assault brought by Gawthorpe and another woman who was also injured at this rally was dismissed in court.

Gawthorpe also spoke at national events, including a rally in Hyde Park in 1908, which was attended by over 200,000 people.

Alongside Dora Marsden, Gawthorpe also was the co-editor of the radical periodical ‘The Freewoman: A Weekly Feminist Review’, which discussed topics such as women's wage work, housework, motherhood, suffrage movement and literature.

Gawthorpe then emigrated to New York City in 1916, where she was continued to campaign for women’s rights, being active in the American suffrage movement and later in the Trade Union movement, becoming an official of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union.

Gawthorpe chronicled her early life and campaigning efforts in her 1962 autobiography ‘Up Hill to Holloway’.

She died at the age of 92 in a New York nursing home in March 1973.

MORE A TO Z OF LEEDS:

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Thank you

Laura Collins