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  1. ITV Report

How the West Country helped women win the vote

Credit: ITV West Country

It's a hundred years since some women in Britain got the vote. We've been finding out what role women in the West Country played in the campaign.

Historians say the suffragette movement in Bristol was the most significant outside London. One of the most dramatic incidents was at Temple Meads station in 1909 when Winston Churchill - who was just a politician at the time - visited. He arrived off the train only to be confronted by a suffragette called Theresa Garnett,

She attacked him with a dog whip shouting, "Take that in the name of the insulted women of England".

Theresa Garnett. Credit: Bath in Time

Garnett was jailed for a month at Horfield Prison. Around 100 suffragettes were also imprisoned there. Many of them went on hunger strike and had to be force fed.

Suffragettes burned down the university boat house in Bristol. Credit: Bristol Archive

Suffragettes took part in numerous militant acts to urge Government to give women the vote. Arson was a popular weapon - Begbrook House in Frenchay was burned down and a university boathouse in Eastville Park.

Annie Kenney. Credit: Bath in Time

Annie Kenney was one of the main suffragette leaders. She lived in Gordon Road in Clifton and helped bring militancy to the city.

I think Bristol was a very important centre for the national movement and it was from Bristol that the suffragettes would move out into the rest of the South West. I think it was a place where there was a lot of activity, a lot of strong women.

Bristol women are great. We have a long tradition of fight for rights and for equality and for trying to make things better.

– Lucienne Boyce, Historian
  • How the vote was won - the suffragette movement of Bristol

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Farther West, the emphasis was less on the militant suffragette movement but more on so-called suffragist activism.

The suffragist march from Land's End to London in 1913.

In 1913, thousands of women joined a peaceful six week protest march from Land's End to Hyde Park. It was symbolic of demonstrations across the South West but it is the militant acts of the suffragettes that many focus on.

Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested on board ship before she set foot in Plymouth.

Again in 1913, the suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst was due to sail into Plymouth after a fundraising trip to America. Hordes of her followers - including some trained in martial arts - planned to meet her and protect her from the authorities. They were thwarted when she was arrested on board ship and sent to Exeter jail.

In retaliation, the activists set fire to a timber yard in Plymouth, causing the equivalent of millions of pounds of damage.

Warning painted on Smeaton's Tower and - inset - William Chubb holds up the unexploded device. Credit: Chris Robinson

The violence escalated and the group daubed a warning message on Smeaton's Tower to Winston Churchill, who was First Lord of the Admiralty.

One member planted an explosive device in the entrance but it fell over and the finder, William Chubb, took it to the newspaper office to show it off.

  • Fighting for Votes for Women. Our reporter Claire Manning investigates

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Five years on - in 1918 - the campaigners won their battle and women over the age of 30 had the vote. They had to be householders, the wives of householders, property owners or university graduates. It wasn't until 1928 that the vote was extended to all women over 21. Today women and men over 18 have the vote and there is a campaign to lower that age to 16.