The story of Votes for Women during the early 20th Century is a complex, winding story. Readers may be familiar with the Pankhurst family of women who brought together the movement to demand voting rights for females in the early decades of the 20th Century. What is not known though is that a Blantyre woman was amongst those taking the fight to London to the Government!
On the first Tuesday in July 1909, the Suffragettes had organised an immense crowd of their members and marched through London under the banned “Votes for Women”. There was more than a feeling of menace in the air as the women’s tactics turned more violent. By 6.30pm, with windows being smashed in government buildings, the movement headed towards parliament, an act which returned over 1000 police officers (all men) on the streets.
The appearance of Mrs Pankhurst rallied the crowd further as more and more women joined the march, helping to hand out their flyers. (pictured). By 10.30pm, the police got more heavy handed, manually moving the women by force. Fights broke out as women defended themselves. There were many, many arrests. Many dozens of arrests.
Amongst the women arrested included the Pankhurts was a 29 year old woman from Blantyre. Miss Caronlina (Care) Bray Jolly, was brought up at Blantyre Lodge, in the former house where the playpark is now at the David Livingstone Grounds. She was the daughter of William Jolly, an inspector of schools and publisher of educational papers. Carolina, affectionately known as Care, was taken to a prison alongside Mrs Pankhurst and the others.
Suffragettes were not recognised as Political prisoners, and many of them staged hunger strikes while they were imprisoned. The first woman to refuse food was Marion Wallace Dunlop, a militant suffragette who was sentenced to a month in Holloway for vandalism on that very evening in July 1909. She was force fed (pictured) to avoid starvation and even the government condemned this barbaric practice, later choosing to release suffragettes from prison before their health deteriorated. It is unknown if Miss Jolly took part in starvation protests, nor known what time she got at his majesty’s pleasure.
These were well educated women, many of whom had never been in trouble with the law before.
The suffragette movement diminished temporarily in WW1, but was resurrected quickly once war was over and it would take until the late 1920’s for women over 30 to get a vote. Today we pay tribute to all those brave women who stood up for their human rights and equality. Especially to Blantyre’s ‘Care’ Jolly.