top of page


The Vote Road Trip: Days 18 and 19 Leeds, Oldham and Manchester

Leonora Cohen

8/13 We did not always find what we were looking for. In Leeds, we were thwarted in our search for the blue plaque to Leonora Cohen by parking that required coins not a credit card, along with overwhelming swarms of tourists, and knowing we had another stop to fit in before Manchester. Lenora Cohen was dubbed the “Tower Suffragette” after she used an iron bar she had hidden under her coat to smashed a glass case in Jewel House in the Tower of London. Her note attached to the bar read on one side: “Jewel House, Tower of London. My Protest to the Government for its refusal to Enfranchise Women but continues to torture women prisoners—Deed Not Words.” The other side read: “Votes for Women. 100 years of Constitutional Petition, Resolutions, Meetings & Processions have Failed.” Arrested and imprisoned, she undertook a hunger strike and was force-fed. After the vote was won, Leonora Cohen became one of the first female magistrates in England. She lived to be 105. Her blue plaque text: “Leading suffragette famous for smashing/ a showcase in the Jewel House at the/ Tower of London and for her hunger/ strike at Armley Gaol in 1913/ Lived here 1923-1936/1873-1978.”

Annie Kenney

In Oldham we found a marvelous statue to Annie Kenney. Sculptor Denise Dutton depicted a hatless, stalwart appearing Kenney ringing a bell with one hand to summon people to hear her suffrage message and holding a broadside in the other. Dedicated on Dec 14, 2018, Annie Kenney’s statue is centrally located in a busy plaza next to the Oldham Town Hall. There are benches along one side of the wide base. It is a lovely open space for a striking statue. Yellow and purple flowers were in blossom beside the statue. A bouquet of flowers was carefully placed in front of it. Next we went in search of the plaque for Annie on the wall of Leesbrook Mill near Oldham where she went to

work in 1893 at the age of ten and lost a finger to a spinning bobbin. The traffic was fearsome and fast and finding a place to park was tricky but we did it! The plaque read: “The workplace of/ ANNIE KENNEY/ of Springfield/1879-1953/Leading suffragette first to be/ imprisoned for direct action, with Christabel/ Pankhurst, 1905/Women gained the full vote/ in 1928.” Annie Kenney was arrested 13 times and suffered multiple force feedings.

Emmeline Pankhurst

8/14 Manchester, England: Cold and raining when we visited the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst by sculptor Hazel Reeves located in St. Peter’s Square. Officially called “Rise Up Women,” the statue was dedicated on Dec. 14, 2018, the centenary of the first time property owning women over 30 could vote. Reeves depicted Pankhurst in a speaking mode, standing on a rickety-looking chair (not something I imagined Pankhurst would have stood on), with one arm outstretched, palm side up. Her other arm is by her side, palm side up. She is dressed in a coat over a dress. A prisoner badge is pinned to a lace collar.  Her large hat, with the brim partly turned up, is decorated with one large flower. I did not feel a particular connection with this statue, although I applaud the fact that there is a statue of a woman in a prominent location.

Erinma Bell

We walked across St. Peter’s Square, to visit the newly renovated Manchester Central Library.  I was headed for the information desk but quickly changed course when I spied a bust of Erinma Bell, a peace and anti-gun activist in Manchester.  The sculptor, Karen Lyons from Manchester, made Bell’s bust from 50 handguns seized by police or turned in during a gun amnesty (a Guns to Goods Project). A very special piece of art that I am so grateful to now have in my memory.

Astarte by Rossetti

8/15 Curious about whether the Manchester Art Gallery had information about suffragettes’ attack on numerous paintings on April 3, 1913, I asked the young man at the information desk about the incident. He rummaged in a drawer and handed me a 4-page double-side illustrated handout titled “Manchester’s Radical History/Manchester Art Gallery Outrage/The Suffragette Attack on Manchester Art Gallery.” Reluctantly he gave it to me, undoubtedly realizing that I was not going to walk away without it. It was interesting to see the paintings that were attacked, including Astarte Syriaca by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Three women, Annie Briggs, Evelyn Manesta and Lillian Forrester,” staged their attack just before closing, cracking the glass protecting the

From left: Manesta, Forrester, Briggs

biggest and most valuable paintings. Guards soon caught them. Charged under the Malicious Damage Act, 1861, they were tried on April 22. Briggs, who gave support but did not participate in the damage, was acquitted. Manesta was sentenced to one month: “l am a political offender,” she said. Forrester received three months of imprisonment: “I do not stand here as a malicious person,” she told the court, “but as a patriot . . . I have a degree in history and my knowledge of history has spurred me to this fight for women’s freedom.” The day before their attack Emmeline Pankhurst had been sentenced to three years penal servitude for “inciting persons unknown.” The Manchester Art Gallery incident, plus an attack in which suffragettes poured ink into 11 post boxes damaging 250 letters were in protest of the harsh sentence given to their leader Emmeline Pankhurst. The British fight for the vote was widely reported in American newspaper. The Manchester

attack made the front page of the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sante Fe, New Mexico, April 23, 1913. “I would send you round the world in a sailing ship if the law permitted it,” Justice Sir John Eldon Bankes told Lillian Forrester and Evelyn Manesta, both “NOTED DAMES.” The American fight was also extensively covered in newspapers. I included numerous newspaper headlines in my book The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight.

8/15 I took a deep breath when I saw the large sign—“Visit the Birthplace of the Suffragette Movement.” Within minutes, I was standing on the sidewalk leading to the

front door of Emmeline Pankhurst’s house in Manchester. A blue plaque was high up on the left of the door. A family was exiting after visiting. Our timing was fortuitous because the Pankhurst Centre is only open on Thursday

and the 2nd and 4th Sunday, a fact I missed when I planned our route. It was a coincidence that we were in Manchester on a Thursday: Our visit was meant to be! Susan Hollick, a thoroughly engaging and informative volunteer, greeted us, holding two gorgeous gladioli that

had fallen over in the garden. She interrupted her search for a vase to talk with us and show us the parlor where Emmeline Pankhurst had founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903 whose members were known as suffragettes, a name coined by a newspaper in an attempt to trivialize the women who boldly appropriated it. As I quietly stood in the parlor, Susan pointed to a hat rack covered with suffragette hats and sashes and said: “Want to dress up?” Linda quickly got out her cell phone to capture the fun.

The Pankhurst women were deeply connected with the American fight for the vote. I wrote about their many influences in my book The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight. Having been immersed in writing about those connections made my visit to the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester particularly special. American women joined the WSPU, participated in events, donated money, and studied their methods, including Alice Paul and Lucy Burns who returned to America to found the National Woman’s Party. Emmeline undertook several extensive speaking tours in America. Her famous “Freedom or Death” speech in Hartford, Connecticut, inspired Katherine Houghton Hepburn to revive the moribund state suffrage movement. Sylvia Pankhurst made two speaking tours that included a stop in North Dakota where her speech inspired women to get organized.

12 views0 comments


bottom of page