Women’s Guild of Empire, 1930

On Tuesday 18th March 1930, “The Women’s Guild of Empire” held a rally in the Co-Operative Hall at Herbertson Street, Blantyre with a large number of people from all over Lanarkshire attending.

Mrs Flora Drummond (right) well-known British suffragette and founder of the National movement is pictured with the platform party that evening and their other guest was Mr Paul of Greenhall House, High Blantyre (the tall chap in the centre). Mr Paul was a devout Unionist and gave a rousing speech in the accomplishments, causes and perceived strengths of the British Empire.

The movement was born in London from the ashes of the great strike of 1926. Her Guild became increasingly controversial during the next few years, at times creating notable disharmony. In fact, it was arguably – in contrast to its propaganda – very ‘political’ during its relatively brief existence.

Flora (b1878-d1949) rightly took offence to women not being given a vote. Further anger manifested when she was denied being a postmistress, due to her short, portly stature, a decision made by a males. This appears to given her the incentive to help in the growing fight in Edwardian society against gender discrimination and in favour of women’s social and political rights. Fights which saw her in prison for a time.

Significantly, in 1917, Drummond helped Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst form ‘The Women’s Party’, which, as well as calling for equal pay, greater fairness for females. The 1920’s didn’t sit well with Flora. She was appalled by the so-called ‘flappers’, a new generation of young and carefree women who were keen to enjoy the new liberties and hedonism of the post-war decade.

At one Albert Hall meeting, which was chaired by Flora Drummond, she had members of the British Fascisti acting as stewards at the doors, giving rise to the suggestion that she herself was a fascist. She had a fierce reputation as an effective and experienced orator who enjoyed dealing with hecklers and would drape herself in a Union Jack whilst making such speeches. in 1928, she was a pall-bearer at the funeral of Emmeline Pankhurst.

However, her right wing tendencies were all too apparent. Some of her party and organistion had higher agendas. For example joining Sir Oswald Mosley’s new (but ultimately doomed) ‘British Union of Fascists’ (BUF), intent on copying Hitler’s model of the 1930s.

The Women’s Guild of Empire limped on into the 1930s, with Drummond remaining the key and dominant figure. It urged housewives through radical suggestion, to always place the purchase of British Empire goods foremost in their everyday shopping to the exclusion of all foreign goods and commodities. The movement hugely failed to acknowledge the growing contempt several countries in the British Empire had for London rule and their own efforts and desire for independence.

But Drummond was to be overshadowed. Fascism had arrived in Britain and Mosely’s growing party sweeping up interest and voters was predominant, even going out its way to suggest the Women’s Guild of Empire was simply a Conservative Political movement, rather than having any connections to fascism whatsoever. Drummond and her associates were also dismissed as ‘extinct volcanoes’ and her movement simply fizzled out.

Read more on Flora Drummond and her Women’s Guild of Empire here: https://historyatkingston.wordpress.com/2021/07/18/drift-to-the-right-flora-drummond-and-the-origins-of-her-womens-guild-of-empire-in-the-1920s/

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