Postcard reveals Hawick's role in suffragette fight

A POSTCARD discovered in Hawick Museum's photographic collection has been found to show a large crowd attending a suffragette meeting at the Tower Knowe 100 years ago.

The 1909 image depicts suffragette Edith New – a national heroine who was imprisoned in Holloway prison for two months after smashing windows at 10 Downing Street – addressing Teries on the vote for women.

But fascinatingly, it has emerged that also in Hawick that day was the charismatic leader of the British Suffragette Movement, Emmeline Pankhurst.

And later in the same year – exactly one century ago today – Mrs Pankhurst returned to Hawick.

Back in February 1909, the Hawick News described a 'Suffragette Invasion', with Pankhurst's Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU) and the National Women's Social and Political Union (NWSPU) – who had committee rooms in 10 Oliver Place – both taking shops in the High Street as temporary headquarters.

And the following month the paper reported on the Tower Knowe meeting – which included Mrs Pankhurt's daughter Adela – where the suffragettes required police protection as "the excited audience started wheeling their wagonette" around.

The climax to this 'invasion' was a crowded meeting in the town hall which commenced with the strains of Teribus – sung to their own words; "Bravo, bravo lady suffragettes, we support you in your fight. For your cause is just and honest, And the vote is yours by right."

Leader Mrs Pankhurst addressed this meeting and vigorously advocated votes for women.

And precisely one hundred years ago today, she returned with militant suffragette Flora Drummond – nicknamed The General for leading women's rights marches wearing a military style uniform – to attend a meeting in the New Theatre. During her address, Mrs Pankhurst said they "were accustomed to speak of working men as the backbone of the country."

But she highlighted that if they took away the Hawick women who helped make the town prosperous, it would be very different, and urged: "Women want to be consulted, especially about the necessities of life."

Hawick's involvement in the suffragette movement is being investigated by local historian Gordon McDonald, who told the Hawick News: "As I've continued to go through the events of 1909, it turns out to be a really exciting, and in some ways confusing year. The WSPU were the militants, whereas the NWSPU were the 'good women' appalled at the antics of their rivals."

He added: "At this early stage, it's difficult to judge how this 'invasion' was viewed by the women and men of the town, but clearly it had an impact. We now have to find out who the local suffragettes were."

During the August visit it was reported that the Hawick branch was preparing a large banner for a demonstration in Edinburgh on October 9, 1909. If anyone has any knowledge of this banner, or material relating to the Hawick suffragette movement, please contact Gordon on 376388.