Inspirational Women Evening with a talk by Lucienne Boyce on the Bristol Suffragette Movement

The evening began, as always, with W.I. matters and reminders by Claire-Louise Partridge 

  • Gloucester Road WI celebrate the WI Centenary this year with a display of 100 inspirational women chosen by you 100 Random Acts of Kindness carried out by you
  • And 100 pennants sewn and made into celebratory bunting …by you
  • India reported back on a very successful Tea and Tents. Clearly great fun and she’s got the t-shirt (or, in this case, the hoodie) to prove it!
  • Fundraising for Mothers for Mothers
  • Tickets will be on sale next month for a Charity Quiz Night to be held in October (exact date yet to be decided)
  • Raise money for the Avon Ambulance Service by donating your unwanted bras
  • The Green Treasure Hunt
    The map for this will be available soon.
    WI  members are invited to help create a Street Pocket on Overton Road. Get involved in the graffiti workshop there Sunday 26 July.
  • The new website has launched
    All feedback and suggestions welcome.

Then came the talk, given by Lucienne Boyce, on the Bristol Suffragette Movement – a fascinating, informative and inspiring look at the women who fought with such commitment to get us the vote.

The Bristol Suffragette Movement : a talk by Lucienne Boyce

This evening Lucienne Boyce gave an inspiring talk, highlighting how hard the suffragettes fought in their struggle to win the vote for women in this country, and explaining why their tactics became increasingly militant.

In Bristol, 1868, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Society was founded. The group lobbied relentlessly to achieve its aim, yet, 50 years on and women still didn’t have the vote.

A change of tactics was therefore deemed necessary, causing Emmeline Pankhurst to set up the more militant Women’s Social and Political Union in Manchester in 1903.

Time for action! The slogan became ‘Deeds not Words’ and banners emblazoned with this call to arms were carried on suffrage demonstrations up and down the country.

It was high time this new women’s suffrage ‘army’ had a ‘uniform’ to reflect their values and aspirations. And so they chose to dress in white with green and purple –purple to express their instinct of freedom and dignity, white for purity and green for hope.

When marching they made an eye-catching group, the colours rendering them clearly identifiable as the women’s suffrage movement.

They cleverly employed these colours still further to harness the power of merchandising, using them to decorate packaging for items as diverse as chocolate, cigarettes and soap which they sold in a WSPU shop they opened in Queen’s Road, Bristol. Sadly, the shop was smashed up in 1913 by hundreds of male undergraduates from Bristol University, in retaliation for the burning down of the Combe Dingle Sports Pavilion by Mary Richardson.

Mary’s arson attack reflected the new tactics increasingly employed by suffragettes all over the country. Suffragettes were now expected to –




break windows

and carry out other destructive acts.

The Pankhursts led the way, infuriated and frustrated by society’s blatant gender inequality, Christabel’s inability to practise law despite having a first class law degree being a case in point. To change the law they were prepared to break the law and suffer the punitive consequences.

And they were not alone. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, leader of the WSPU in Bristol, went to prison six times.

The fact that 3 of the 4 Bristol MP’s  were Liberal, thus representing the government, made the city a major suffragette target.

Attacks became more serious.

However the vote still didn’t come, leading to increasingly militant tactics which saw greater numbers of women imprisoned. Many went on hunger strike to draw attention to their cause, only to be abused still further by the painful practice of forcible feeding.

In many cases the controversial Cat and Mouse Act was introduced where women were released only to be re-incarcerated when they recovered.

Many opponents of women’s suffrage regarded the women’s behaviour as the result of an insurgent hysteria brought on by either menstruation or the menopause. Clearly incapable of rational thought they were not to be given the vote!

This led Mary Richardson to petition King George V when he visited Bristol July 1913.

Further arson attacks followed, notably at Begbrook and the Boathouse at Eastville Park.

When war broke out all suffrage prisoners were released.

By 1918 women over 30 had achieved the vote, extending to women over 21 by 1928.

Want to know more?

For more information about Bristol and the Suffragettes go to

For a suffrage timeline to see when women got the vote around the world go to

For key events in suffragette history go to