WITH the election looming, now is a good time to remember the remarkable efforts of the Suffragettes, their visit to Pembrokeshire and their relationship with one of Pembrokeshire’s most famous residents (albeit briefly) - writes historian Mark Muller.

In 1908 Emmeline Pankhurst, Annie Kenney and other leading Suffragettes (suffrage comes from Latin meaning ‘to vote’), canvassed in Pembrokeshire during the by-election of that year.

A heroine among heroines, Annie started working in a cotton mill aged 10, worked from 6am to 6pm and had a finger ripped off by one of the machines.

She considered it essential to get an education, so when her 12-hour work days were finished she attended night schools.

A tiny figure, she was willing to stand in front of thousands of hooting, screaming, abusive men and ask them why votes for women were consistently denied.

Lloyd George (Pembrokeshire resident 1863/4) attracted the particular attention of the Suffragettes, largely because at his meetings the brave women hecklers were treated with special brutality.

This was increased due to some of his exclamations from the platform calling those interrupting him ‘sorry specimens of woman-hood,’ and adding, ‘I think a gag ought to be tried’.

His remarks provoked a storm of protest and he found it necessary to write to The Times, suggesting that it was media reporting rather than his actions that were at fault.

Nevertheless, at subsequent meetings he consistently urged stewards on to even greater attacks on the women.

The campaign against Lloyd George reached its peak in 1913 with an attempt to bomb a property being built for him. Damage to the property was estimated at £500 but no one was injured. Although not personally guilty, Emmeline Pankhurst was jailed for incitement.

The Suffragettes came to Pembrokeshire to campaign against a Liberal candidate named Walter Roch, not because they disliked Roch, or supported the Tory, John Rolleston Lort-Williams, but because Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister, was inmovably opposed to the enfranchisement of women.

On July 2, 1908, Mrs Pankhurst addressed a crowd of 1,000 on the Castle Square, Haverfordwest.

Two days later she spoke from the balcony at the Mariner’s Hotel. Thereafter they divided the county between them with Annie Kenney being given the Solva area and another Emmeline, Emmeline Lawrence, one of the earliest of the Suffragettes to be imprisoned, and Emmeline Pankhurst taking Milford and Pembroke.

Between them they tried to ensure saturation throughout Pembrokeshire by holding eight meetings daily.

Their efforts were unsuccessful and Roch and the Liberals romped home. In an attempt to discredit the women, the Liberals claimed throughout their campaign in Pembrokeshire that the Tories were financing their activities...which wasn’t true.

The Suffragettes in Pembrokeshire were, on the whole, treated with courtesy. Even the press coverage described Emmeline Pankhurst as speaking with great eloquence.

This was in huge contrast to their treatment in other areas; they were often pelted with rotten eggs or bags of flour, partially stripped and even beaten.

They were imprisoned on an increasing level leading up to the First World War and received life threatening treatment in prison.

What helped them immeasurably was the fact that during the First World War they put their campaign on hold, and worked tirelessly for the war effort, making munitions etc.

The unexpected and fine ending to all of this came when Lloyd George replaced Asquith and under his premiership the Suffragettes met with partial success in 1918.

For ten years women of property and over the age of 30 were permitted to vote. In 1928 women gained full equality with men in terms of their voting rights.

But the Suffragettes weren’t the only ones trying to get the vote.

It was only in 1918 that the property qualification was lifted for men and for the first time, all men over the age of 21 could vote.

Had women been given the same rights at the same time they would have outnumbered male voters due to the number of men killed in the Great War... and men couldn’t handle that.

Use your vote.