Our summer exhibition marks the 150th anniversary of a petition to Parliament signed by 1,499 women calling for women's suffrage. The exhibition celebrates the achievements of those early suffragists and the organisation which became the Fawcett Society. Although the 1866 petition was unsuccessful, the Fawcett Society regards this moment as its foundation.
'I think the most important thing is to make a demand and commence the first humble beginnings of an agitation…' wrote Helen Taylor to Barbara Bodichon in May 1866. Less than a month later, John Stuart Mill MP presented the women's suffrage petition to Parliament.
For many people the right of women to vote is taken for granted, but it was actively campaigned for 62 years before it was won. It was not until the 1928 Equal Franchise Act that women over 21 could vote on the same terms as men.
On display is an original pamphlet of the 1866 petition which was sent to weekly newspapers in July of that year. It is one of two known copies in the country. A beautiful suffrage banner and hanging inspired by the petition are also on show. In 1913, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies presented Millicent Garrett Fawcett, its President, with a brooch encrusted in green, red and white jewels, the colours of the suffragists. This newly-discovered brooch is displayed for the first time.
Monday to Friday: 9am – 7pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11am – 6pm
Find out more about the stories in the exhibition. Come along to one of our talks in the exhibition gallery at the entrance to the Library. It is not necessary to book a place - just turn up at: