Bedales connection: 6 February 1918, Royal Assent to the Representation of The People Act

1911d Amy Garrett BadleyBy Ruth Whiting, Head of History, 1963-2000

On this day, I believe, Amy Garrett Badley was torn in two directions.  On the one hand she was delighted that, after years of struggle, she and other women of her age and status would have full voting rights in the election due to take place in 1919.  On the downside, however, she was determined to continue the fight so that all women would gain the rights granted by the Act to men of 21 years and over.

In 1935, receiving the testimonial book from ‘The Petersfield Society for Woman Suffrage and Equal Citizenship’ (view an extract image here), she herself said that she “was proud to be a member of a family many of whose members had worked for the same great cause, and she would have been ashamed if she had not tried to follow in their footsteps”.  She was referring to Elizabeth Garrett, in 1865 the first woman to gain medical qualifications in Britain, her own half-sister Rhoda and cousin Agnes who had been, in 1875, the first women to found and run an interior decorating business (A & R Garrett of 2 Gower Street) and, perhaps most of all, Elizabeth’s and Agnes’s youngest sister, Millicent, who for about 40 years had been the leader of the suffragists, the NUWSS.

Bedales, not just Amy, had played its part in advocating the cause of equal rights for women. Students (especially in 1907 and 1908) held heated debates, usually carried by an overwhelming majority of boys as well as girls, demanding votes for women.  Girls from Bedales took part in the famous marches which traversed London, (February 1907, the “Mud” March, and July 1908, which gained greater support from the crowds).

Garden Parties were held in Bedales grounds where speeches were delivered by luminaries who supported the movement, the most celebrated being in 1911 and 1913. In 1914 in the sitting room in The Wing, talks were given to “working women of Steep and Petersfield, many of whom themselves (or their husbands) worked for the school.  They started the series with 13 members and by July, when Amy wrote about if The Bedales Chronicle, there were 40 attenders, including some of the husbands!

The more I look at Amy’s support for the cause the more complicated it becomes: certainly by 1912 she had developed quite a lot of support for the militants which was causing The Chief some concern.  On census day 1911, filling in the return for the female staff house (Foxcot) she conspired to hide Dora Hooper, the wife of the Art Master, from the Enumerator.  Boldly across the form she wrote “No Vote, No Census. “Government must rest upon the consent of the Governed.”: it was signed Amy Garrett Badley, Dora Hooper.  Someone betrayed them and Dora’s name was added to the form, in red ink, “by Registrar General’s authority”.  I believe she had asked her husband not to include her in the school return.  It starts with JHB and  their son, then servants, teaching staff and all the students still at school that night (term had ended on Saturday)  At the end in Mr Badley’s handwriting, was added, “Amy Garrett Badley, wife, 47 married 18 years, 1 child, still living in 1911” precisely the information she had intended to deny the Registrar General.

This is a research project in progress: when I get a little relief from my researches in OBs who died in WW1 (7 in the next 8 weeks), I will return to this fascinating story.

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