Memento from 'Practical Suffragists' to Anna M. Priestman, Mary Priestman, Margaret A. Tanner and 'honoured friends'

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Bound and illuminated volume, Sep 1903, comprising a form of thanks and list of names; manuscript key to the symbolism used in the illumination; signed letter of thanks from Anna and Mary Priestman, Nov 1903.

Administrative / Biographical History

The sisters Anna Maria (1828-1914), Mary (1830-1914) and Margaret (1817-1905) Priestman were daughters of Rachel Bragg, religious worker and anti-slavery campaigner, and Jonathan Priestman. They were born into Liberal and Quaker family networks, being sisters-in-law of John Bright (1811-1889) and friends of his sisters, including Priscilla Bright McLaren (1815-1906). All three Priestman sisters were born in Newcastle. In 1846 Margaret married Daniel Wheeler and moved away. Daniel died within a few years and she then married Arthur Tanner. Meanwhile, her sisters had moved to Bristol and Margaret also went to live there after the death of her second husband in 1869. All three were active in the suffrage campaigns and signed the 1866 suffrage petition and Anna Maria and Margaret were also involved in the Enfranchisement of Women Committee, 1866-1867. The sisters went on to be members of the Bristol and West of England Women's Suffrage Society, and the Central National Society for Women's Suffrage. They were also instrumental in founding the Women's Liberal Association in Bristol in 1881, the first in the country, and were involved in temperance and social work and in anti-Contagious Diseases legislation agitation. The Union of Practical Suffragists was formed within the Women's Liberal Federation in c.1896. Three years previously, Anna Maria Priestman had moved an amendment at a Women's Liberal Federation meeting to the effect that potential Liberal parliamentary candidates should be questioned about their support for women's suffrage before selection. The amendment was defeated but the 'test question' issue remained a live one for the Federation in subsequent years. In 1894 Anna Maria Priestman became president of a small organisation of those in sympathy with her position and by 1895 this group called themselves 'practical suffragists'. In 1896 they merged with a pre-existing Union of Practical Suffragists within the Women's Liberal Federation with the objective: 'to induce the Women's Liberal Associations to work for no Liberal candidate who would vote against Women's Suffrage in the House of Commons.' Mary Priestman was a member of the organisation's executive committee and Anna Maria Priestman was President from 1898-1899. Other members included Ursula Bright, Annie Leigh Browne, Louisa Martindale and Mary Kilgour. The Union was wound up in 1903 after it seemed that it had won its objective, although two years later the debate within the Women's Liberal Federation was re-opened. Margaret Priestman died in 1905, but both Anna Maria and Mary Priestman joined the Women's Social and Political Union in 1907 and carried on active support for suffrage activities in the Bristol area. They died, within a few days of each other, in October 1914.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for consultation. Intending readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Note

Information for administrative and biographical history drawn mainly from Elizabeth Crawford, The women's suffrage movement : a reference guide, 1866-1928 (London : Routledge, 2001).

Description prepared by Jennifer Haynes, Head of Special Collections, The Women's Library

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Handlist

Related Material

Further papers of the Priestman sisters may be found amongst the Millfield Papers, as part of the archives of C&J Clark, Ltd, Street, Somerset. The Women's Library also holds records of the Bristol and West of England Society for Women's Suffrage ( GB 106 2/BWS). Records of the Women's Liberal Federation are held at the University of Bristol.