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FEATURE: Revealing the tale of Windsor suffragettes

FEATURE: Revealing the tale of Windsor suffragettes

Tara O'Connor

FEATURE: Revealing the tale of Windsor suffragettes

The untold story of Windsor women’s fight for equality has been brought to light for the first time. Express reporter Tara O’Connor joined tour guide Amanda Bryett for a look at the town’s suffragette history.

From debates in the Guildhall to open-air rallies on Castle Hill, the history of suffragettes in Windsor is there for everybody to see.

When Amanda Bryett was asked to lead a tour around the town as part of the Windsor Spring Festival, she wanted to do something a bit different.

She settled on researching the women’s suffrage movement and used the archives of the Windsor Express to help bring the story to life.

‘Deeds Not Words: Suffragettes in Windsor’ covers the story of the Windsor women who, between 1909 and 1918, joined the rest of the country in the fight for the vote and equality.

Her guided walk also looked at the people who opposed votes for women and how militant suffragettes caused criminal damage.

The Windsor and Eton branch of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage was started by Florence Gibb, of Claremont Road, in 1909.

In 1911, Lady Mary Needham, of Francis Road, set up the East Berkshire branch of the National League of Opposing Women’s Suffrage.

Between 1911 and 1912, the suffragists organised six outdoor rallies on Castle Hill by the statue of Queen Victoria.

Up to 300 people came to the rallies with a speaker, often from London, who would sometimes address the gathering from their car.

“I don’t know what Queen Victoria would have thought of it all,” jokes Amanda as she leads me around the town.

The height of the suffrage frenzy came in May 1913 when Windsor Castle, along with other royal residences in the country, was closed for six months due to the threat of attack from suffragettes.

Amanda said the town became ‘very unhappy’ about this and estimated it lost about £25,000 through the loss of tourism revenue.

“Windsor was suffering but it couldn’t be opened,” added the 55-year-old.

“There was no town in the country that hated suffragettes more than Windsor.”

Both sides in Windsor and Eton held meetings in the Guildhall and there were 13 held between 1911 and 1914.

In March 1912, Florence Gibb set up a debate, as advertised in the Express, which saw people from both sides pack into the Guildhall.

In the middle of it all sat the Mayor of Windsor at the time, Sir Fredrick Dyson, who opened the debate by saying ‘don’t throw eggs’.

Luckily for him, nobody did.

Amanda's tour also journeyed through Windsor’s residential streets, where suffragists lived and plotted their moves and areas that were targeted by the group.

“When we got to Mary Needham’s house, the woman who owned the house was in the garden.

“She thought it was fantastic that her house had history,” added Amanda, who says she is ‘going keep digging to uncover more of the suffragettes’ past.  

“I’m hooked. I got to know Florence so well that I could read an article on a debate and I felt like I knew what she would have been thinking.

“It is like a jigsaw puzzle; you find something and it opens the door to something else.”

Amanda ran the tour as a one-off for the Windsor Spring Festival but said if there was interest she would arrange to do it again.

Contact www.windsortouristguides.co.uk to register your interest.

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