Christabel Pankhurst in Galway

Our image this week is of a newspaper advertisement for an extraordinary meeting that took place in the Town Hall 100 years ago today.

A report of the event stated: “It is not often that as fashionable and representative an audience is attracted by any programme to the Town Hall as that which assembled on Wednesday night to hear an address from Miss Christabel Pankhurst in support of the women’s suffrage movement.” Christabel was born in Manchester and, with her mother Emmeline and her sisters Sylvia and Adela, set up the Women’s Social and Political Union whose aim was to achieve votes for women. It was a militant organisation with the slogan “Deeds not Words”. It was quite a coup getting her to Galway.

“Also on the stage that night were Gretta Cousins who was a co-founder of the Irish Women’s Franchise League; Mary Frances Earl from Dublin, who presided; Edith Young, who was married to Joe Young and was prominent in social work and the arts in Galway; and Michael Crowley, a Nationalist publican from William Street, who was a member of the Urban Council.

“Mrs Earl addressed the large, enthusiastic, mostly female, audience saying women wanted the vote for the same reason that men wanted it. It was suggested that because some women were hysterical they should not have the right to vote, but then, there were hysterical men too.

“Gretta Cousins said that the whole idea of the league was to further the cause of votes for women in Ireland, that women in public as in private life should be recognised as the equals of men.

“Miss Pankhurst said that whether they were to live under the Union or under an Irish parliament, women should have the vote. If Home Rule were coming, women were entitled to share in it equally with men. She thought the clause in the Home Rule Bill giving votes to women would be the most popular one in the Bill, it would be the one point on which Unionist and Nationalist agreed (laughter ). We should strive to be the first country in this part of the world to confer justice on women. The Galway Urban Council had already passed a resolution in favour of votes for women, and this had set a good example to other parts of the country. Ireland was trying to rise above the ordinary level of politics and we trust her efforts on behalf of the equality of the sexes would be attended with great success.

“MJ Crowley proposed a vote of thanks to Miss Pankhurst and this was seconded by Edith Young.”

Our thanks to Mary Clancy of NUI Galway for her help today.

If you would like to learn more about the suffragettes and that period, then go to your local branch of Galway County Library. Under the heading of ‘Galway’s Great Read’, the libraries have assembled a good collection of books on the subject and are well worth a visit.

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