Suffragettes100: How Kilburn joined the fight

Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst, members of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU)

Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst, members of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) - Credit: Archant

One hundred years ago a group of suffragettes based in Kilburn where part of the movement to secure voting rights for women.

Whether they are making their voices heard in parliament, the council, or out on the street campaigning, Brent has a rich history of spirited women whose desire for change has spurred them to act.

In January 1910 The North West London branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) at 215 Kilburn High Road, opened for business.

The shop, run by Eleanor Gaskell, was a key element in the campaign for women’s suffrage which was started by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel seven years earlier.

The women gave out leaflets, and staged demonstrations and rallies aimed at securing one of the biggest changes in UK law - the right for all women to vote.

Historian Dick Weindling, who blogs about Kilburn and Willesden history, said: “Quite a lot of men were opposed to this, the women had to fight very hard, Emmeline Pankhurst gave up her life. Even then they didn’t get full rights.”

A peaceful meeting opposite a sports shop in Messina Avenue in 1911 resulted in court action when suffragettes upset a local tradesman, Richard Annenberg, who tried to stop it. A crowd of 500 opponents opposed to the movement gathered blocking the pavements and the traffic.

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But years later The Representation of the People Act in 1918 was passed allowing women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification to vote.

It wasn’t until 1928 and the Equal Franchise Act that finally allowed women over 21 to vote.

Mr Weindling added: “One hundred years on, groups of women continue to fight on all sorts of different aspects of life. They organise protests, they get publicicy to gain support.”

To mark the centenary we are supporting Amnesty’s campaign to create a map of women who embody the spirit of the suffragette movement today through campaigning.

Dawn Butler MP said: “The right to vote was achieved because of the sacrifice of many brave women all over the country who just wanted women to have the same basic rights as men. We must celebrate these remarkable women.”

She hailed “phenomenal” Brent women who have made a difference, including the late Mary Turner, a dinner lady who became the GMB trade union leader.