Collecting the signatures for the 1866 petition
Signatures were sought by the petition organisers from their family circles and friendship networks. Women from a wide variety of backgrounds signed, including teachers, dressmakers and shopkeepers, as well as women from the leisured classes, from all over the UK and Ireland. Some women systematically collected signatures from neighbours up and down their street, and from local acquaintances such as the wives of their butchers, greengrocers and blacksmiths. Hundreds of signatures were gathered from women in large cities such as London, Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh. Signatures were collated at Aubrey House in London, the home of organiser Clementia ('Mentia') Taylor and her husband Peter Taylor MP.
The signatories included some prominent 19th century campaigners for women's rights, including Priscilla Maclaren Bright, Josephine Butler, Harriet Martineau, Frances Buss, Bessie Rayner Parkes and Frances Power Cobbe. Other signatories included Scottish mathematician and scientist Mary Somerville (1780-1872) a rare female public intellectual in this field at this time. She and other female Somerville family members sent their signatures for the 1866 petition from their home in Italy. Subsequently, John Stuart Mill wrote asking her to be the first signatory on another mass petition in 1868.