Suffrage plaque unveiled outside College of Art
Almost 100 years to the day since women voted in a General Election for the first time (December 14, 1918), a new blue plaque highlighting the location of two venues linked to the women’s suffrage movement of the early 1900s has been unveiled outside Plymouth College of Art.
It’s one of a number of new plaques set to be unveiled by the City Council before Christmas and can be found on a custom-made concrete plinth outside the main entrance to the College on Tavistock Place.
The plaque commemorates the Maud Slater Shorthand and Typing School which was situated at Clarence Chambers, 107 Tavistock Road from 1910-1918, and a former Suffragette Shop which stood more or less opposite at 8 Tavistock Road from 1913-1914.
The bottom end of Tavistock Road no longer exists, its route now crossed by present day Charles Street and built over by Drake Circus.
Maud Slater’s Shorthand and Typing School was a meeting place for local suffragists as well as a recruitment centre for women’s war work. Propaganda and suffrage literature were created and given out at the school. Meetings and fundraising activities were also held there.
From 1912 to 1914, Slater was joined in her suffrage work by the Reverend Hatty Baker, a pioneer female preacher who was a strong supporter of ‘Votes for Women’ and who would go on to campaign for the ordination of women.
The Suffragette Shop was located across the road from the Typing School. As well as being a place where women could purchase literature, postcards and the tricolour ribbons the suffragettes came to be recognised for, it was also used a contact point for supporters of the suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst when she was arrested in Plymouth on December 4, 1913.
Pankhurst was returning from giving a lecture in the USA aboard an ocean liner, the RMS Majestic. Having been in and out of prison earlier that year, she had broken the terms of her release to travel to America and was due to be arrested when she docked in Plymouth.
Thousands of suffragettes arrived in Plymouth to show their support for her. The potential for rioting caused the Chief Constable to board the liner and arrest her before she reached dry land. She was then handed over to Scotland Yard detectives and transported back to prison.
Deputy Leader, Councillor Peter Smith said: “With the centenary of votes for women this year and the recent anniversary marking 100 years since women could stand as MPs this is a really timely plaque to unveil. Plymouth has a really interesting but often little-known story connecting it to the suffrage movement. We hope this, and some of the other plaques we’ll be unveiling before the end of the year, will highlight it and some of the key characters involved more.”
In preparation for the unveiling of the plaque, Foundation Diploma in Art & Design students from Plymouth College of Art learned about the history of female politicians in Plymouth. They were also visited by Councillor Margaret Corvid to hear more about what it means to be a female politician in the city today and debate the importance of women being granted the vote.
Foundation Diploma in Art & Design student Jess said: “Being given the right to vote is something that affects us keenly. We were too young to vote in the Brexit referendum but we’re the ones that will live with the consequences, so we’re all eager to exercise our right to vote in future.”
19-year-old Tigi Campbell-Combe said: “After finding out about the history of women in politics in Plymouth, we learned a lot from Councillor Margaret Corvid’s visit. She brings a new perspective. As a group we decided that we want to be role models for the next generation of young women and not to stay quiet about the things we care about.”