On 9 February 1907, in the rain, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies held the first large-scale women’s procession through London. The finishing point was Exeter Hall on the Strand, now the site of the Strand Palace Hotel. LSE Curator Gillian Murphy introduces the LSE archive material on the “mud march”, and the speech given at Exeter Hall by Jewish novelist Israel Zangwill.
Exeter Hall stood on the site of what is now the Strand Palace Hotel from 1831 until 1907. This image shows the interior of the Hall hosting an anti-slavery meeting in 1841.
Before the Hall was demolished in 1907, it hosted a meeting for the people who took part in the first large-scale women’s procession through London. This procession was organised by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and took place on 9 February 1907. Around 3,000 women, representing 40 organisations, took part. Here are examples of the posters and napkins used to advertise the event:
Women marched resolutely through torrential rain, from Hyde Park Corner to Exeter Hall, in what became known as the “mud march”. Kate Frye described this procession in her diary entry which is given in this blog by Elizabeth Crawford.
The reason for the procession and meeting was to raise public awareness for a private member’s bill for women’s suffrage at the opening of the Parliament, which used to be held in February. Walter McLaren chaired the meeting, and his wife, Eva, a member of the Women’s Liberal Federation, gave a speech. Other speakers were the couple, Eva Gore Booth (Women’s Trades Council) and Esther Roper (Women’s Textile Workers’ Committee). Lady Strachey had supported women’s suffrage from the 1860s. Millicent Garrett Fawcett, who also campaigned from 1866, becoming president of the NUWSS in 1907, spoke too. Israel Zangwill, a Jewish novelist, pacifist and Zionist activist, was noted by Kate Frye as a witty speaker.
Israel Zangwill’s speech was published word-for-word in a pamphlet One and One are Two. What follows is a closer look at what he said. He began by posing the question:
How do they justify their monstrous proposition that one half of the human race shall have no political rights?
Israel then puts forward the case:
Our case, I say, is so simple, that it is like having to prove that one and one are two. Indeed, this is precisely what the opposition denies. It says that one and one are not two; that in politics, one man and one woman are only one, and man is that one.
Israel continues by pointing out the differences between men and women:
Woman is a separate and individual personality; a human soul, and what is more to the point, a tax-payer…her standpoint, her interests, differ vastly from man. How dare we then leave her out of the reckoning?
After observing how the male half of the population had dealt with the recent Education Bill in Parliament, Israel suggested that:
Our Constitution would work not only better, but with a fairer balance of powers, if the House of Lords were replaced by a House of Ladies.
Israel also acknowledged the importance of the Provinces. London is the “metropolitan exotic” but the roots of women’s suffrage “go deep into our national soil, and draw their sustenance and vitality from all those myriads of obscure underground working women.” He ended with a rousing definition of the contemporary woman:
Today she calls upon Parliament to have done with this flabby friendliness, this police of endless evasion. Today she cries: I fight for justice, and I answer that I shall have it.
Elizabeth Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (1999)
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Suffrage 18 is a series of posts to mark the 2018 centenary of the first votes for women, sharing stories from The Women’s Library about the campaign for women’s suffrage.