Suffragist flag raised above UK Parliament to mark Millicent Fawcett’s birthday

11 June 2018

Suffragist flag raised above the UK Parliament in commemoration of suffrage campaigner Millicent Fawcett (11 June 1847 – 5 August 1929).

Fawcett was born on 11 June 1847 and became one of the earliest campaigners for women's suffrage. Fawcett was involved in collecting signatures for the 1866 suffrage petition, the first mass petition, but did not sign herself as she was too young (age 18). Her sister Elizabeth Garrett (later Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman doctor) was one of the women who brought the petition to Westminster Hall to give to John Stuart Mill.

Her husband, Henry Fawcett, was an MP who was blind so she acted as his eyes in Parliament until his death in 1884, spending many hours up in the Ladies’ Gallery which she called “a grand place for getting headaches”.

In 1897 the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) was formed, bringing regional bodies together into one organisation under her leadership – she was its President 1908-1919, leading the peaceful, constitutional suffragist movement which campaigned using methods such as petitioning, marching and lobbying.

A pin badge held in Parliament’s Works of Art collection illustrates the NUWSS red, green and white colours – the same colours as the Suffragist flag. This badge will be in the UK Parliament’s Voice & Vote exhibition (27 June to 6 October), alongside various other NUWSS documents borrowed from the Women’s Library Collection at LSE Library. These include:

  • The minutes of the inaugural NUWSS meeting in 1897
  • NUWSS foundation document - Notice of formation of National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies 1897
  • A collection of NUWSS leaflets and map of the 'Great Pilgrimage', the national suffragist march to London in 1913.

Fawcett lived to see the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act passed in 1928, before she died 5 Aug 1929. To commemorate the 90th anniversary of the passing of this Act, the UK Parliament is running the EqualiTeas engagement campaign (18 June to 2 July).

Thousands of groups across the country have registered suffrage themed tea parties and other events to celebrate what democractic equality means to them today and to remember those pioneering campaigners like Millicent Fawcett. View events taking place on our website.

Fawcett was the first woman commemorated with a statue in Parliament Square earlier this year.

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