Sat modestly in the storage room of Huddersfield’s Tolson Museum is an old banner from 1907.
It was designed and owned by Florence Lockwood, from Linthwaite, and is emblazoned with the message “Votes For Women”.
The banner is currently being restored to its former glory, but for years has sat quietly in the corner of one of the museum’s rooms just as the women who once held it were expected to do by their husbands and fathers.
Today marks 100 years since all that changed. A law was extended to give women over 25 the vote, turning those who fought for that right, from - to quote Emmeline Pankhurst - law-breakers to law-makers.
Today people round the world look at Pankhurst as a bastion of women’s political rights. But what about the local champions for the cause? We look at three Huddersfield women who fought valiantly for their right to democracy.
Dora was just 16 when she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), and was arrested the same year after joining in with a plan to break into the Houses of Parliament.
But Dora wasn’t the wife or daughter of a rich, London-based MP. She was one of seven children born to local weavers James and Eliza Thewlis in Honley, and the teenager worked in a mill after finishing her education at just 12-years-old.
After seeing Emmeline Pankhurst speak to crowds at Market Cross in Huddersfield town centre in 1906, she became consumed by the fight for suffrage.
Labelled a “Baby Suffragette” by a judge in court, and the “little mill hand” by the press, Dora continued her fight and was even pictured on the front page of The Daily Mirror being escorted from Parliament by police. When it was suggested by the same judge that her parents discipline her, their reply was that she was a person in her own rights and had their full support.
Dora later emigrated to Australia before war broke out in 1918, and was not here to see the law passed. She died in 1976.
Edith owned a music shop on West Parade (now Trinity Street), with her husband Frederick Key, a blind musician. The secretary-organiser of Huddersfield’s branch of the WSPU, she was actively involved in the local suffragette scene and spent several days at Holloway Jail.
The flat above the music shop in which the couple lived later became a sanctuary for militant suffragettes escaping arrest and incarceration, and even sheltered Pankhurst’s daughter Adela.
Edith died in 1937 aged 65, and is buried at Edgerton Cemetery. Her name was commemorated with the Edith Key Building at the University of Huddersfield, which houses the Human and Health Sciences Research Department.
Florence lived at Black Rock Mills in Linthwaite and was known as “a lady of leisure”. She was a keen diarist and kept an autobiography called An Ordinary Life, as well as being a talented artist creating the banner still kept at the Tolson to this day.
Florence wasn’t one of the many women chaining herself to railings and stoning shop windows; instead, she was actively beavering away behind the protests and the headlines working for the cause. She invited Emmeline Pankhurst to speak at the mill at Upper Clough where her husband Josiah was director.
In a diary entry, she once wrote: “We are sick to death we suffragists of being told by men what we may do, ought to do, what is ‘womanly’! In the name of commonsense let us not copy the folly set out to tell men what they may do and ought to do - what is ‘manly’!”
Florence stayed living at Black Rock Mills throughout the war. The building today bears no plaque to commemorate her, but she remains an important and prominent figure in local women’s history.