Records of the Bristol and West of England Society for Women's Suffrage

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of volume of division lists for votes in the House of Commons on suffrage motions and bills. With manuscript list on front cover of 'Lords known to be friendly' endorse 'copied from one made by Miss Becker'.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bristol & West of England Society for Women's Suffrage (1868-1914) was founded in 1868. After the failure of JS Mills' amendment to the Reform Bill in 1867 which was to have given women equal voting rights with men, individuals interested in suffrage began to organise their efforts. With this in mind, the earliest societies in Edinburgh, London, Manchester and Dublin affiliated to a new organisation, the National Society for Women's Suffrage in 1867. The following year, this parent body helped establish a Bristol and Clifton branch with committee status. The name was changed the next year to the Bristol and West of England Society for Women's Suffrage, retaining the original executive committee of Agnes Beddoe, Mrs Alfred Brittain, Rev. J Estlin Carpenter, Mary Estlin, Florence Davenport Hill, Prof. FW Newman, J F Norris, Mrs Mill Colman (sister of JS Mill) and Lilias Ashworth (from 1869). Anna Priestman joined the following year. The National Society suffered from a lack of co-ordination between constituent branches and was replaced by the Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage in 1872. This contained members who were closely associated with the campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts that caused splits in the organisation. However, the Bristol branch chose to affiliate to it in 1872. By 1875, the committee had been enlarged to twenty members to reflect the size of the group. It was active in the area and this effort culminated in a 'Grand Demonstration' at the local Colston Hall in Nov 1880. At this event, a deputation was appointed to wait on the Prime Minister, but this was indefinitely postponed due to the known hostility of ministers. Despite this, there was great support for the Liberal Party in the ranks of members and two of those, Anna Priestman and Emily Sturge themselves founded the first Women's Liberal Association in England. In 1898, the BWESWS affiliated to the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in the West of England Federation. However, when the NUWSS' Election Fighting Fund policy began to urge support for Labour candidates in 1912's general election, a number of the most strongly Liberal members resigned. On the outbreak of the First World War, the political activities of the group were suspended and action was concentrated on ventures such as the Scottish Women's Hospitals supported by the NUWSS and the opening of clubs for women.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Other Finding Aids

Fonds Description (1 folder only)

Custodial History

Unknown: the archive was listed c.1989, so the records must have been deposited prior to that date.

Geographical Names