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The Vote Road Trip: Day 1 London

For years, I have built in road trips in search of women’s landmarks/history around our various professional activities.  This one came about when my life-partner Linda Hickson decided to participate in an international research conference on intellectual disabilities and autism in Glasgow, Scotland. For me, the opportunity was timely and thrilling because I wrote about British suffragettes/suffragists and their profound connection with the American women’s fight for the vote in my forthcoming book The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight. I mapped an ambitious route: from London, drive up the west coast of England to Glasgow, over to Edinburgh, and down the east coast back to London—1,300 miles; 22 towns/cities, 38 landmarks, plus museums and many serendipitous discoveries such as the abbey founded by Saint Hilda in 647 in Whitby and the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.

Every night I posted on Facebook (one finger pecking on my cell phone). I have augmented those posts with new text and images for a series of posts on my blog. Here is The Vote Road Trip: Day 1 London

7/27/2019 We are in London at the beginning of our road trip in-the-footsteps of fighters for the vote in the UK. (Click on a picture to enlarge it.)

Annie Kenney on the plinth of the Millicent Garrett Fawcett statue

Millicent Garrett Fawcett

Today we walked and walked to visit London landmarks. First, we visited the statue of Millicent Garrett Fawcett, founder of the non-militant National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. Unveiled in 2018, to commemorate the centennial of the partial enfranchisement of British women in 1918,  it is the first statue of a women in Parliament Square. (That is me in the maroon jacket taking a picture. Benjamin Disraeli, a two-time prime minister and one of the 11 male statues, is in the left background.) The sculptor, Gillian Wearing, depicted Fawcett at age 50, with her hair pulled back, wearing a tweed walking suit, a dress and long coat, and holding a banner with her words: “Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere.” The image and name of 59 women and men who fought to enfranchise British women appear in a band around the plinth, including Annie Kenney who we will visit in Bristol and Oldham.

Emmeline and Christabel Memorial

After a long walk to Victoria Gardens we found the Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst Memorial, near Parliament, the scene of many of their battles. The statue depicting Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU),  was dedicated on June 3, 1930, two years after she died. A wide ribbon in WSPU’s official colors: purple, white and green was tied around the plinth. A bouquet of flowers, now dried, lay beside the marble slab on the ground that was inscribed: “This statue of Emmeline Pankhurst was erected as a tribute to her courageous leadership of the movement for the  enfranchisement of women.” The wall and piers were added to honor Christabel, Emmeline’s oldest daughter and co-leader, and WSPU members, known as suffragettes, in 1959, the year after Christabel died,  A medallion is on each pier: one, a profile head of Christabel; the other, a replica of a “Badge,” given to over 1,000 suffragettes who served harsh prison terms.

Caxton Hall

Suffragette Memorial

After a very long walk, we reached Caxton Hall, where suffragettes held a “Women’s Parliament” at the beginning of each session of Parliament and marched to the House of Commons with a petition that the prime minister always refused to accept. Near Caxton Hall is the Suffragette Memorial, in Christchurch Gardens. Lined up against a wall with sleeping bags and several tents was an encampment of young homeless men who appeared drug addled. We were happily conversing with two women who identified themselves as  “feminist tour guides” when one of the men aroused himself, came up close, and belligerently told us to get out of “his territory.” Calmly one of our new friends replied that this was a public park. He stood his ground, as did we. Finally he backed off, we continued our conversation, until our friend whispered, “We’d better leave, now,” so we did.  The Suffragette Memorial is dedicated to the women and men “who in the long struggle for votes for women selflessly braved derision, opposition and ostracism, many enduring physical violence and suffering. As did American women, that I wrote about in my book, The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight. Heading back to our hotel, we reached Buckingham Palace and The Mall, the red road that connects to Trafalgar Square, when a light rain turned heavy. Soaking wet, we decided to take a bike taxi, a first-time experience.  Although it did not feel entirely safe, it was fun speeding down The Mall and through bumper to bumper traffic around Trafalgar Square to our hotel, where we could dry off after a memorable day.

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