Millicent Fawcett at Hyde Park in London talking to a crowd of suffrage supporters.

Women's suffrage

"The first humble beginnings of an agitation..." Helen Taylor, 1866.

Background

Our collections contain primary source material relating to the campaign for women’s suffrage. The majority of this collection forms part of the Women’s Library, whose roots are founded in the suffrage movement. This collection includes personal papers of suffragists and suffragettes, records of suffrage organisations and the newspapers, journals and pamphlets published by these organisations. There are also badges, postcards, posters, banners and other 3D objects on this subject.

Pankhurst Fawcett and Pethick Lawrence collage image
Emmeline Pankhurst, Millicent Garrett Fawcett and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence.

LSE and the suffrage movement

LSE was at the heart of suffrage activity between 1906 and 1914. To mark the historical link between LSE and suffrage, the Towers on campus have been renamed Pankhurst House, Fawcett House and Pethick-Lawrence House after three important suffrage campaigners and their specific connections to LSE.

The offices of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), the suffragette organisation led by Emmeline Pankhurst, were on the site now occupied by the former Tower 3.

Emmeline and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence were supporters of the WSPU and provided the house on the site of Tower 3 where its offices were based.

LSE is the custodian of the Women's Library, which has its roots in the suffrage movement. The Women's Library also holds the papers of Millicent Garrett Fawcett and of the Fawcett Society. Millicent Garrett Fawcett was a suffragist and women's rights campaigner who made it her lifetime's work to secure for women the right to vote. 

Votes for Women: a history of the women’s suffrage campaign and its legacy at LSE Votes for Women: a history of the women’s suffrage campaign and its legacy at LSE
Votes for Women: a history of the women’s suffrage campaign and its legacy at LSE

Find out more about LSE and suffrage in these blogs: 

Millicent Garrett Fawcett and the early suffrage movement

Emily Wilding Davison portrait
Emily Wilding Davison, c.1905.

The Pankhursts and Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU)

Material relating to Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, Christabel and Sylvia, is dispersed throughout the collection. Papers relating to the WSPU can be found in the personal papers of suffragettes.

Some other characters of the WSPU

Rosa May Billinghurst sitting in her tricycle surrounded by people
Rosa May Billinghurst, known as May, founded the Greenwich branch of the WSPU.

May fearlessly took part in suffrage demonstrations in her tricycle. Learn about Rosa May Billinghurst in this online exhibition

 

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh selling the Suffragette newspaper
Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, a member of the WSPU and the Tax Resistance League. She was often seen selling The Suffragette newspaper outside Hampton Court Palace.

 

Vera 'Jack' Holme driving a car smiling
Vera 'Jack' Holme, a cross-dressing actress, suffragette and one of the first women chauffeurs.

During the First World War, Vera 'Jack' Holme was an ambulance driver for the Scottish Women's Hospital in Serbia. Learn about Vera in this online exhibition

 

Pro-suffrage men's groups

An anti-suffrage movement badge
Badge from the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League 1908-1910.

Anti-suffrage societies

  • Women's National Anti-Suffrage League was founded in 1908 at a time when support for the women’s suffrage movement was rising again. Records of other anti-suffrage societies are dispersed throughout the collection.

Women's suffrage collection on the Digital Library

Explore the women’s suffrage collection on LSE Digital Library. It contains suffrage newspapers and journals, pamphlets and leaflets and the annual reports of suffrage groups, covering the campaign from the late 19th century to 1928 when women achieved equal voting rights with men. Here are the three main suffrage newspapers:

  • The Common Cause was the newspaper of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies published from 1909 until 1920. Helena Swanwick was its first editor.
  • Votes for Women was co-edited by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and her husband, Frederick. This was the newspaper for the Women’s Social and Political Union, published between 1907 and 1918.
  • The Vote was the newspaper of the Women’s Freedom League. Its first editor was Charlotte Despard and it was published from 1909 to 1933.

Popular online resources

A suffrage parade in the 1900s
A suffrage parade, c.1908.

How to search 

You can find more material on this topic using a person’s name, by organisation, by event eg 'Black Friday', or by keyword such as anti-suffrage, emancipation, franchise, suffrage, suffragette, suffragist, in these catalogues.

View lists of further resources covering:

How to access

Most of the material highlighted here is stored in closed access and must be consulted in The Women’s Library Reading Room. Find out how to book your place and order material on our access archives and special collections  page.

Further information 

If you need specific help with any of the collections mentioned here get in touch with our Curator for Equality, Rights and Citizenship, Gillian Murphy.