In 1907, when suffragette Edith New was arrested and imprisoned for the first time, the Prime Minister was Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman of the Liberal Party. He resigned and was succeeded in 1908 by Herbert Henry Asquith and in 1910 the Liberals won for the last time with the support of the Irish Nationalists.
For Edith’s family back at home in Swindon the men in December 1910 voted as part of the Cricklade Parliamentary Borough. They had two choices: Liberal candidate Richard Cornthwaite Lambert and Liberal Unionist Thomas Charles Pleydell Calley and the Liberals won by a majority of 128.
Swindon did not get its own constituency until 1918 when it elected one MP. In 1997 Swindon split into North and South and now elects two MPs. Edith New and her family lived in various homes in Old Town which now falls under the South Swindon constituency.
On June 8th women and men in South Swindon will have the choice of four candidates and we have offered all candidates the opportunity to share their election pledges and campaign.
The candidates are Sarah Church for the Labour Party, Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn for the Green Party, Stan Pajak for Liberal Democrats and Robert Buckland for the Conservatives.
This takes 5 minutes and if you are living in the UK all you will need is your National Insurance number and details of your name and address. If you are living abroad and applying to vote by proxy or postal vote you will need your Passport Number as well.
If you need help registering, learning about your candidates, finding your polling station or voting on the day please get in touch as we know of a number of volunteers, including ourselves who would be happy to help you.
Edith New was imprisoned several times, and went on hunger strike, to enable women to have their voices heard and be able to vote. We implore women and men everywhere to turn out for this important election and vote.
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).
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. 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.