Manchester Men's League for Women's Suffrage Archive

Scope and Content

The archive relates primarily to the campaign for the enfranchisement of women. Information can be found not only on the League's activities but also on the activities of other women's suffrage groups on a local, national and occasionally international level. As part of this, material is included on the contemporary position of women and the arguments against their enfranchisement.

There is some information on life during the war, with the emphasis on emergency work done by women. The material occasionally touches on other campaigns of the early twentieth century; the campaigns against venereal disease and "white slavery" or the procurement of girls for prostitution; the campaign for change in the divorce laws; and the temperance campaign.

Administrative / Biographical History

On 3rd June 1908 a group of some 50 or 60 men and women met at the Portland Cafe, Portland Street, Manchester to hear Professor Samuel Alexander (1859-1938), Professor of Philosophy in the University of Manchester, speak about the work of the London Men's League for Women's Suffrage. It was decided to form a Manchester branch and its first formal meeting was held on 9th July in the same year. It was to remain affiliated to the head branch until 1911 after which it was to be independent until its dissolution in 1918. Its aim was to promote the enfranchisement of women on the same terms as the enfranchisement of men.

Throughout the 10 years of its existence its Presidents were: Canon Edward Lee Hicks (1843-1919), Lord Bishop of Lincoln; Professor Samuel Alexander; Mr A.M. Langden, KC; and Dr H. Thiselton Mark. The bulk of its work, however, was probably carried out by its successive Chairmen and Secretaries, particularly prominent amongst whom was John Beanland who wrote the pamphlet Christian Chivalry published by the League.

The League cooperated with other Suffrage Societies; its own activities involved public meetings of a propagandist nature, correspondence in the press, interviewing candidates in local and parliamentary elections, sending resolutions to the government and the dissemination of suffrage literature. In common with other suffrage societies, propagandist activity was suspended during the war, a time when conscription caused the League severe personnel problems.

After the war, the Representation of the People Act, which received royal assent on 6 February 1918, was the partial realisation of the League's aims, enfranchising some 8,000,000 new voters, around 6,000,000 of whom were women. The Act gave the vote to women, over the age of 30, who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property of an annual value of £5 or who had graduated, or passed the qualifications for graduation, at a British University.

Many women were still without the vote but the League felt that sufficient women were now in possession of the vote to fight effectively for full enfranchisement on equal terms with men and, in view of the personnel difficulties which conscription had caused the League, the decision was taken to disband in April 1918. Individual members of the League were encouraged to join other suffrage societies.

A more detailed history of the League is given in MML/1/2/3 written in 1918 by the then Chairman of the League, Mr D.M. Humphreys.


the archive contains 5 distinct series of material and its arrangement reflects this. The series are:

  • MML/1 Minutes 1912-1918
  • MML/2 Correspondence 1913-1918
  • MML/3 League Ephemera 1915-1917 and n.d.
  • MML/4 Ephemera Collected by the League 1914-1918
  • MML/5 Indexed News Cuttings 1909-1915 and n.d.

Access Information

The archive is open to any accredited user.

This finding aid may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Individuals have the right to make a request to see data relating to them held by the JRUL which falls under the provisions of the DPA. Access requests must be made formally in accordance with the provisions set out in the DPA and all enquiries should be directed to the University's Data Protection Officer.

Other Finding Aids


Alternative Form Available

The archive of the Manchester Men's League for Women's Suffrage is published in Reels 8-10 of the microfilmCampaign for Women's Suffrage 1895-1920: Papers of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, the Parliamentary Committee for Women's Suffrage, and the Manchester Men's League for Women's Suffrage, from the John Rylands University Library, Manchester (Woodbridge: Research Publications, 1990).

The collection was microfilmed before it was listed and consequently the order of items on the microfilm is not the same as the order of items in this list. This list is a recreation of original order; location on the microfilm is given in the catalogue description for each item or class of items.

Under normal circumstances the microfilm, rather than the original, will be issued to readers.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PP.

Custodial History

It is unclear what happened to the archive of the Manchester Men's League for Women's Suffrage following its dissolution in 1918. It seems likely that it was deposited in or around 1923 when other women's suffrage archives came to the Library but there are no records of its existence until 1975.

Related Material

The Library holds the papers of Samuel Alexander (ALEX), one time President of the Manchester Men's League, and there are some items in this collection which touch on Alexander's support of and role in the women's suffrage movement.

The Library also holds archives of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA), the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWS) and the Parliamentary Committee for Women's Suffrage (PCWS). See also the correspondence of C.P. Scott with Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst within the Guardian Archive. There are also volumes of a number of Suffrage journals. Researchers may find it useful to consult Margaret Barrow Women 1870-1928: A Select Guide to Printed and Archival Sources in the United Kingdom (London: Mansell, 1981), a copy of which is held at the Main Library.


Constance Rover Women's Suffrage and Party Politics in Britain 1866- 1914 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967)

Roger Fulford Votes for Women: The Story of a Struggle (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 1957)

E. Sylvia Pankhurst The Suffragette Movement: An Intimate Account of Persons and Ideals (London: Longmans, Green and Company, 1931).

Geographical Names