Birmingham was very active in the women’s suffrage movement. It had local branches of major groups such as the National Society for Women’s Suffrage, later the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, and the more militant Women’s Social and Political Union.
The Birmingham Women’s Suffrage Society was formed as a committee of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage in 1868, a year after the NSWS was established. The NSWS later became the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). It was very active, distributing leaflets, holding fundraising events, regular meetings and debates, and hosting touring speakers including famous suffragists such as Lady Frances Balfour.
Many of the women involved in the women’s suffrage movement had family links with the earlier movement for electoral reform in Birmingham. One example is Eliza Sturge, who was Secretary of the BWSS from 1871. She was the niece of Joseph Sturge, who had played an important role in the mid-nineteenth century electoral reform movement, as well as the anti-slavery movement. You can read more about Joseph Sturge here.
By 1907 Birmingham had a branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union at Edgbaston. The WSPU had been formed in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. Birmingham WSPU engaged in acts of militancy including arson and vandalism. You can find out more about some of the actions which took place in Birmingham here. As well as such actions, the WSPU also held meetings with speakers such as Emmeline Pankhurst.
Find out more about the key organisations involved in the women's suffrage movement nationally.