top of page

Haywards Heath 1912 - Stirring speeches on The Women's Cause

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 26 November 1912




On Thursday afternoon the Haywards Heath Women's Suffrage Society held another very successful meeting in the Haywards Heath Co-operative Hall. All classes of society were represented, and great interest was manifested in the proceedings. Indeed at one part of the evening, Miss Verrall, in the course of her speech, so moved her hearers by the recital of ill deeds done to women that the cries of “Shame, Shame” and occasionally of “Hear, Hear”, reminded one of the House of Commons.

Cups of tea and cakes were handed round before the business arranged was started, and this gave opportunities for friendly talks. Next Miss Chute Ellis and Miss Edith Arnold Took part in a duologue entitled “a chat with Mrs Chicky”. It was both amusing and instructive. Miss Chute Ellis was attired as a poor housewife and Miss Arnold as a lady. The latter was an “anti”, and she received from Miss Chicky who, when drawn, was strong on “Votes for Women”, a number of plain unvarnished reasons why her sex should not be denied the vote. Both assumed their respective roles admirably, and at the close the ladies were heartily applauded.

Item number three was an address by Miss E Verrall–a lady very well known in the district and an excellent speaker. Miss Gates introduced her to the meeting, and in doing so pointed out that the Society under whose auspices that meeting was held had nothing to do with the people who had recently been making themselves so objectionable. Their Society would welcome more members. Their cause was a good one, but it recognised that it was passing through a critical time. Before very long, however they really did hope that women would get the vote (applause).

Miss Verrall, who had a most cordial reception, said that it was her intention to speak on the Government Reform Bill and how it affected women (Hear, hear). The Government proposed to bring in a Reform Bill backed up with all the power of their majority in the House of Commons. It was proposed to largely extend the franchise to men- ten and a half millions of them would receive a vote– and not one woman, despite the fact that the demand for votes for women was backed up by all intelligent women and thinking men.

The Bill was extremely simple; it would only affect the Parliamentary franchise. The supporters of women's suffrage, however, proposed to bring forward various amendments so as to secure the enfranchisement of women. As the law now stood, women were not “people”–they were “things”. Men were the possessors of the world, and women were only possessed by them.

Miss Verrall then stated the full meaning of the amendments to be submitted to the House of Commons with a view to securing the enfranchisement of women when the Reform Bill was discussed and also their chances of success. What they wanted to break down was sex distinction. (Applause). They were out to get justice (renewed applause). The enfranchisement of women would help not only the women but the men of the country. Mention was made of the White Slave Traffic Bill, and it was hoped there would be a large attendance at the forthcoming meeting for women only at Cuckfield.

Before resuming her seat, Miss Verrall moved a resolution declaring that any further extension of the franchise would be unacceptable which did not include women, and calling on the parliamentary representative of the division to do all he could to secure their inclusion in the Reform Bill (Applause).

Miss Gertrude Harris seconded in a forceful little speech, taking care to emphasise the fact that she associated herself with the Constitutional party. As Suffragists they had many difficulties to face, but they hoped shortly they would obtain what they had long been advocating and working for. The White Slave Traffic Bill, which now seemed safe in the House of Commons, was due to the action of Women's Liberal associations, and Women's Suffrage Societies had pushed it forward. Today it was essential

women should stand shoulder to shoulder; all differences should be sunk, as they were working for the same end. Think of the cause, and that only. (Applause). Let them learn a lesson from the successes achieved by the Balkan states in the war with Turkey. It had taken years for the Balkan States to learn that “Union is strength”, and having learnt it they had triumphed. Any cause that was worth working for needed the workers to be prepared to be martyrs. They must not be discouraged by what was said against them. In the early days of Christianity terrible things were said against the Christians, and it was surprising so many of them were faithful in face of the accusations made. But the world was what it was today thanks to the courage and steadfastness of the men and women who were loyal to their convictions and suffered for their faith (Applause). Women Suffragists appealed for equal justice for both sexes; they stood for the protection of those who could not protect themselves. (Loud applause).

With this stirring declaration ringing in their ears the company passed the resolution and soon afterwards left for home

Thank you to Andrew Zvirbulis for the photograph of the Co-operative Hall buildings. Between the pair of shops was a doorway (ie. between the black shop sign and the white one); beyond the door, stairs led up to 'the hall' which took up the whole top floor; these premises were later demolished and modernised, eventually becoming Broadbridges and The Bed Centre.



bottom of page