‘We’ve come from the North, and the heather’s on fire,
To fight for the women–our only desire;
At last we’ve been roused thro’ the treachery shown
By knaves at Westminster–the knaves we disown!’
Extract from a verse written by John Wilson McLaren to commemorate the journey he and other members of the Northern Men’s Federation for Women’s Suffrage made from Scotland to Westminster in 1913.
Many of the members of the Northern Men’s Federation were bailies and councillors from Glasgow and Edinburgh, who were prepared to use their status to place pressure on the Government to give women the vote. The Prime Minster, Herbert Asquith, refused to meet their deputation and in doing so was accused of insulting not only these ‘men from the North’ but the whole of Scotland.
William Graham (1887–1932), a supporter of the Northern Men’s Federation and of women’s rights, was later elected to the House of Commons in December 1918, as the Labour member for Edinburgh Central and belatedly secured the respect his colleagues in the Northern Men’s Federation had once been denied. He went on to become President of the Board of Trade in the Labour Cabinet of 1929.
A number of other active women’s suffrage campaigners were also in this Labour Cabinet, including Lansbury, Snowden, C. P. Trevelyan, and J. R. Clynes, as well as supporters such as Ramsay MacDonald, Wedgwood Benn, J.H. Thomas, Arthur Henderson and Noel Buxton. It is important to recognise men like them and others who supported the long campaigns for women’s suffrage in Britain. For some it involved disdain and insults and worse and yet ultimately they were all embraced as Parliamentarians.