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Willoughby Hyett Dickinson MP (1859-1943) was one of the most dedicated campaigners for women’s suffrage in the House of Commons, which he believed in as a matter of steadfast principle. He wrote in his diary entry in 1913, following defeat of a women’s suffrage bill, ‘Nor am I disheartened as I know we have a cause that is harmony with the Divine Order of progress.’ He was elected to Parliament as a Liberal MP in 1906 and made Baron Dickinson in 1930.
Unlike most MPs, Dickinson did not criticise suffragettes for militancy, writing on the actions of Emily Wilding Davison at the Derby in 1913 which resulted in her death, ‘I cannot help admiring the pluck of the woman.’ Of all the members of the Conference, he was the only one with a perfect record of both attending and voting in favour of every women’s suffrage bill between 1906 and 1914. This included his own private members’ bill in 1907.
Dickinson and his wife Minnie had two daughters. During the First World War, Desirée (‘Baba’) was a VAD nurse and Joan (‘Mimi’) served in the Red Cross. Desirée went on to a long career in public service. Joan married Conservative politician John Davidson in 1919, and when he became a peer in 1937, she successfully stood in his place to become MP for Hemel Hempstead. She held the seat until 1959, and in 1963 became a life peer as Baroness Northchurch.
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