And they’ll sing in grateful chorus…

Edith New was a particularly active member of the WSPU between 1907 and 1909 when she committed several illegal acts. She had, until this point, been a law-abiding teacher and described herself as ‘of a peaceful disposition’ commenting that she admired and respected the bravery of her (much more militant) comrade, Mary Leigh. On her release from prison, she is quoted in Votes for Women such “She had been ablaze with indignation, and she was sure many others felt equally strongly. She was only sorry that they could not resent it in a way that hurt their enemies still more.”


On this centenary anniversary of partial suffrage – the 1918 Representation of the People Act only gave some women the vote – we would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who fought for our eventual right to vote.

Whether the women (and men) were paid up members of unions and societies or were financially incapable; whether they attended protest marches and rallies or instead had to stay at home or work; whether they chained themselves to railings, threw stones and were imprisoned or campaigned lawfully – every single person who raised their voice and demanded that women be given the right to vote, has our gratitude.  We never take our rights for granted and we admire the courage and sacrifice of all who campaigned.

Edith New was a particularly active member of the WSPU between 1907 and 1909 when she committed several illegal and militant acts.  This included smashing windows at Downing Street alongside Mary Leigh, one of the first instances of this type of vandalism during the campaign.  She had, until this point, been a law-abiding teacher and described herself as ‘of a peaceful disposition’ commenting that she admired and respected the bravery of her (much more militant) comrade, Mary Leigh.  On her release from prison, she is quoted in Votes for Women: “She had been ablaze with indignation, and she was sure many others felt equally strongly.  She was only sorry that they could not resent it in a way that hurt their enemies still more.”

She was right, millions of others in the UK did feel similarly ablaze and they fought long and hard so that women would have a democratic voice, and they hoped that this would spill into other areas of life and society.  Their spirit and determination continue to inspire us wherever we see inequality and injustice and empower us to speak our truths.

Well done Sister Suffragette!

Centenary Reading List

During this centenary year, there are lots of new books being published which tie in with the suffrage movement so we thought we’d put together a list of those we are aware of.  If we have missed any please let us know, especially if you are self-publishing or using small/local presses and we may not have seen them yet.  These are in no order so we can update easily!

Edit: We have now included a few previously published books too, let us know your favourites in the comments so we can provide lots of inspiration for people new to the subject.

Previously published books about suffrage, votes for women, campaigners/revolutionaries:

Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revoluntionary by Anita Anand

Various titles by Elizabeth Crawford including Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary; The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide; Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle

Eleanor Marx: A Life by Rachel Holmes

Suffragettes: The Fight for Votes for Women Edited by Joyce Marlow

The Prison Diary of Annie Cobden-Sanderson edited by Marianne Tidcombe

Rebel Girls: Their Fight for the Vote by Jill Liddington

Recent, new and forthcoming:

Bad Girls: A History of Rebels and Renegades by Caitlin Davies – A history of a century of women, punishment and crime in HM Prison Holloway, where many suffragettes were imprisoned, including Edith New.


Women’s London by Rachel Kolsky –  Inspired by her walking tours this guide book to London profiles the impact women have had on its society, heritage and streetscape; from scientists and suffragettes, reformers and royals to authors and artists.  After leaving Swindon Edith lived in Lewisham throughout her teaching career.


Death in Ten Minutes. Kitty Marion: Activist. Arsonist. Suffragette by Fern Riddell – The never before told story of radical suffragette Kitty Marion. Historian Fern Riddell finds a hidden diary and uses Kitty’s own words to tell the story of her sensational life and explosive actions.  Kitty and Edith were both arrested in June 1908 at the same demonstration and sentenced to Holloway so there is every chance they knew each other, or at least met.


Deeds Not Words. The Story of Women’s Rights – Then and Now by Helen Pankhurst – On the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote, Helen Pankhurst – great-granddaughter of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst and a leading women’s rights campaigner – charts how women’s lives have changed over the last century, and offers a powerful and positive argument for the way forward.  Edith was an organiser for the WSPU, working closely alongside the Pankhursts.


Rise Up Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes by Diane Atkinson – Marking the centenary of female suffrage, this definitive history charts women’s fight for the vote through the lives of those who took part, in a timely celebration of an extraordinary struggle.


Christabel Pankhurst: A Biography by June Purvis – Now in paperback.  Together with her mother, Emmeline, Christabel Pankhurst co-led the single-sex Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded in 1903 and soon regarded as the most notorious of the groupings campaigning for the parliamentary vote for women.


Hearts And Minds. The Untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and How Women Won the Vote by Jane Robinson – Set against the colourful background of the entire campaign for women to win the vote, Hearts and Minds tells the remarkable and inspiring story of the suffragists’ march on London.


The Stalled Revolution: Is Equality for Women an Impossible Dream? by Eva Tutchell and John Edmonds – 100 years ago women in the UK won the vote, this boook draws upon historical perspectives and contemporary interviews to convey what it felt like to be in the heart of the campaigns—the excitement, the solidarity, the suffering and the humour.   It also asks why the revolution has stalled and equality for women is still a distant dream.  Are women ready to draw inspiration from past successes and take a third leap forward towards equality?


Indian Suffragettes: Female Identities and Transnational Networks by Sumita Mukherjee – this book discusses the experiences of the Indian suffragettes who travelled around the world to lobby the British parliament, attend international women’s conferences, and conduct speaking tours to gather support for Indian women.

Art and Suffrage: a biographical dictionary of suffrage artists by Elizabeth Crawford – covers the lives of over 100 artists, men and women (although mainly women), who worked to promote the suffrage cause.


The Remarkable Rhoda Garrett by Graeme Taylor – she was a cousin to both Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and along with her cousin Agnes their interior design firm was the first business registered and run by women.  Rhoda was also to have two pieces dedicated to her by the composer’s Dame Ethel Smyth and Sir Hubert Parry.








Swindon Suffragette Festival

We are pleased to announce that in June 2018 we will be holding a series of events to celebrate and commemorate the contribution of Swindon Suffragette Edith New, to the campaign for Votes for Women.

Our first confirmed event will be our Women’s Art and Craft Sale on 10th June at Christ Church Community Centre, Swindon.  We first held this event in 2016 and had almost 20 talented women from Swindon selling art, cards, jewellery, upcycled furniture, knitted and crocheted goods, cupcakes, books and more.  We are now taking bookings for tables so if you would like any more information please email us.  Doors open 1.30pm and close at 4.30pm.

At 2pm on the same day you can join local historian Frances Bevan on a guided walk around the graveyard at Christ Church.  As well as visiting the graves of Edith New’s family Frances will share the stories of other fascinating Swindon women buried here.

Our second confirmed event will be a Guided Walk around Old Town on 12th June, starting outside Swindon Museum and Art Gallery at 7.30pm.  Join local historian Frances Bevan for a short guided walk following in the footsteps of Edith New.  See the house she was born in and site of a Swindon Heritage blue plaque; the school she attended; and where she came to recuperate on her release from Holloway.  Learn about how different her life in London was and get a flavour of her experiences as a suffragette.  Route: starts outside the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery; along Victoria Road to the corner of Union Row; along Prospect Place to North Street; up Eastcott Road and along to King William Street School; across Bath Road and along Avenue Road to finish on Lethbridge Road.  Total walking time approximately 20 minutes – please note that the Eastcott Road section is uphill and there are uneven surfaces on the route.

Hold the 24th June for more information about our EqualiTeas event with Eastcott Community Organisation at Savernake Street Social Hall.  We are planning a family friendly day of theatre, art and craft activities to celebrate Edith New’s contribution to the campaign for Votes for Women and to inspire you to take your own action on equality issues close to your heart.  This event is dependent on a pending external grant application.

Our final confirmed event is an illustrated talk ‘Worth the Whipping’ on 29th June at Savernake Street Social Hall at 7.30pm.  Join local historian Frances Bevan and Swindon Suffragette event organiser Leah Bevan-Haines for a talk about Edith New and her contribution to the campaign for Votes for Women.  Sharing photographs and newspaper articles they will give an overview of the suffrage campaign starting with the suffragists in the 1860s; through to the actions of the militant suffragettes which included Edith New, and beyond to the Equal Franchise Act in 1928.  This talk is suitable for secondary school age children at their responsible adult’s discretion.


Suffragette Diary from Clavis and Claustra:



Edith New in art

Edith New features in the Illustrated Women in History exhibition which is currently on at Central Library, Swindon.  This is a free exhibition and includes work from the curator, Julie Gough, alongside submissions from other artists, all celebrating women’s achievements.  You can also buy a zine which features Edith on the cover – but get in quick as there are limited copies available –

From Illustrated Women in History artist: Julie Gough

The first time we saw Edith depicted in art was when artist Julie featured her in the project ‘Illustrated Women in History’ but we’ve since seen her cropping up in lots of different mediums. 

Art student Stacy Crasto was able to use photographs and letters held by Edith’s great-niece to create her textile art-work below.

Photo of New College art students’ exhibition displayed in the Outlet Village, Swindon September 2016. Artist: Stacy Crasto
Artist: Stacy Crasto
Artist: Stacy Crasto
You can’t see from the photo but this is the text of a letter written by Edith while in prison and is supposed to depict her words trapped behind bars, but still shared. Artist: Stacy Crasto

Swindon Heritage magazine commissioned local artist Lynette Thomas of Artkore Mosaics to create one of her iconic teapots commemorating Edith New.

Teapot commissioned from Artkore Mosaics
Teapot commissioned from Artkore Mosaics

At the Swindon Suffragette Women’s Exhibition and Craft Sale in October 2016 there was a small display of various portraits of Edith created by the United Community Art Group.

Portraits by various members of the United Community Art Group, exhibited October 2016

Back in September 2016 we were very excited when someone posted on our Facebook page that they had just seen some grafitti artists spraying an image that looked a lot like Edith! We were even more pleased to see the finished mural on Cambria Bridge in Swindon.

Edith features in a mural created by Ed Russell and James Habgood of The Visual Drop in collaboration with young people from ‘The Railway Kids’ youth club organised by the Mechanics’ Institution Trust, in partnership with Swindon Borough Council

And finally, on International Women’s Day 2017 we were sent a song about Edith New by local band the Erin Bardwell Collective, have a listen here:

Do you have any Edith inspired art you’d like to share with us?  Check back soon for more information about our art exhibition planned for 2018…


On this day 140 years ago…

Edith New was born – Happy Birthday Edith!

We are very fortunate to be able to share some family photos of Edith, before and after her career as a suffragette, these are owned by her great-niece and held in a private collection (copyright applies).

Edith (left), brother Frederick, mother Isabella (centre), sister Ellen (standing), as yet unidentified young man
Another family photo, Edith is at the front, now wearing her hair up
Edith was a teacher, here she is with her class at St Mary’s School in Lewisham
74 Edith and Nea
Edith and her companion Nea, who she was still living with at her death in 1951
Edith in Cornwall, she is buried in Polperro where she lived after retiring
Edith (without hat) and friend
Edith (with hat) and friends
Edith (back row)
75 Edith and Nea
Edith (without hat) and Nea
Edith with her sister Ellen and great-niece Mary

Who was Edith New?

The following is taken from history blog ‘Swindon in the Past Lane’ and reproduced by permission of the author, Frances Bevan, who retains all rights to the text and images as appropriate.

Edith Bessie New was born 17th March, 1877 at 24 North Street, Swindon, the fourth of Frederic and Isabelle New’s five children. Frederic worked as a railway clerk at the GWR Works and Isabelle was a music teacher.

An assistant mistress at Queenstown Infant School from 1899-1901, Edith subsequently left her Swindon home to teach in the deprived areas of Deptford and Lewisham. It was after hearing the charismatic Emmeline Pankhurst speak at a meeting in Trafalgar Square that Edith joined the Women’s Social and Political Union.

In February 1907 a deputation of suffragettes marched on the House of Commons in protest at the omission of votes for women from the King’s speech. What had begun as a peaceful demonstration ended in a violent confrontation with police. A second raide occured on 20th March 1907 and this time Edith was among those arrested and sentenced to two weeks in Holloway gaol.

She continued to be at the forefront of innovative and dangerous protest methods. In January 1908 Edith chained herself to the railings at 10 Downing Street, the first time suffragettes had employed such tactics. It took the unprepared police sometime to release her, allowing Edith to make her protest heard by the assembled Cabinet gathered there. A three-week sentence in Holloway followed.

The hugely successful Women’s Day rally held in Hyde Park on June 21,1908 attracted an estimated crowd of 250,000. Edith, by now an experienced and informative speaker, took her place alongside suffragette leaders.

Later that same month Edith, accompanied by Mary Leigh, broke windows at 10 Downing Street, another new headline grabbing tactic which would be increasingly employed by suffragettes. The women served two months in Holloway. On their release they were taken to a celebratory breakfast party in a carriage drawn by six suffragettes.

Edith resigned from teaching in 1908 to join the WSPU paid workforce. She travelled the country organising support for parliamentary candidates sympathetic to women’s suffrage. In September 1909 she campaigned in Scotland where she was arrested for causing a breach of the peace during a meeting in Dundee. Sentenced to seven days imprisonment, Edith and her fellow prisoners went on hunger strike, the first to do so in Scotland.

Edith returned to teaching in 1911, where she continued to campaign for women’s rights and equal pay within her profession.

Edith died aged 73 on 2nd January 1951 at The Croft, Landaviddy Lane, Polperro, Cornwall. She left property valued at £3,771 to her two nieces.  She never married and her death was registered by her companion of over 40 years, Nea Campion, a fellow teacher from the Lewisham days.

Swindon in the Past Lane – original post