Records of the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of pamphlets, leaflets, an associate card, a league manifesto and a constitution.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Women's National Anti-Suffrage League (1908-1918) was established in 1908, at a time when there was a resurgence of support for the women's suffrage movement. An Anti-suffrage correspondence had taken place in the pages of the Times through 1906-1907, with further calls for leadership of the anti-suffrage movement being placed in the Spectator in Feb 1908. Possibly as early as 1907, a letter was circulated to announce the creation of a National Women's Anti-Suffrage Association and inviting recipients to become a member of the Central Organising Committee or a member. It was issued under the names of thirty peeresses who would become prominent anti-suffragists, as well as a number of peers and MPs. However, the first meeting of the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League only took place on the 21 Jul the following year at the Westminster Palace Hotel with Lady Jersey as the Chair. Seventeen others were nominated to the central committee at this meeting, including Mrs Humphrey Ward as the chair of the Literary Committee, Gertrude Bell as the secretary, and Mrs Frederick Harrison, Miss Lonsdale, Violet Markham and Miss Beatrice Chamberlain as other members. Its aims were to oppose women being granted the parliamentary franchise, though it did support their having votes in local and municipal elections. The group established the Anti-Suffrage review from Dec 1908, gathered 337,018 signatures on an anti-suffrage petition, and founding the first local branch in Hawkenhurst in Kent. The first London branch was established in South Kensington under the auspices of Mary, Countess of Ilchester. Whilst soon after in May 1910 a Scottish branch was organised into the Scottish National Anti-Suffrage League by the Duchess of Montrose. By Dec of that year there were 26 branches or sub-branches in the country, a total which grew to 82 by Apr 1909 and 104 in Jul 1910. Similarly, it was announced that 2000 subscriptions had been received by Dec 1908, rising to 9000 in Jul 1909. In 1910, the group amalgamated with the Men's National League for Opposing Women's Franchise to form the National League for Opposing Women's Suffrage with Lord Cromer as president and Lady Jersey as Vice-President. In 1912 Lord Curzon and Lord Weardale became joint presidents and the organisation continued its activities and the publication of the Anti-Suffrage Review until 1918 when both came to an end as women's suffrage was granted.

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

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Related Material

Correspondence by the London Society for Women's Suffrage on the topic of opposition to their work and a suffragist reply to WASL's manifesto is held in the latter's collection in the Women's Library reference 2LSW. For further leaflets and pamphlets by the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League see the TWL Printed Collections especially the UDC collection 396.11 : 336.2.

Further papers related to the League are contained in held at University College London in the Ward Family Papers (reference MS ADD 202)