Blue plaque unveiled to honour leading suffragist
PUBLISHED: 16:00 12 March 2020
A blue plaque in honour of a leading suffragist who lived in Weston has been unveiled.
Weston Town Council with Weston Civic Society put up a plaque dedicated to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence on Friday.
The Pethicks were a well-heeled family who moved from Bristol in 1877 to live in Trewartha, now 80 Lewisham House, an imposing residence with gate-lodge and stabling set in grounds which occupied the entirety of land between Bristol Road Lower, Montpelier, Montpelier East and Trewartha Park.
Emmeline was born in Clifton, the second of 13 children, and her sister Dorothy, the 10th child, was born in Weston.
Henry, their father, was a successful merchant of South American hide, owner of the Weston Gazette, and a Weston town commissioner.
Weston's mayor Mark Canniford said: 'Most people have no clue apart from the short history lessons they had about the suffragettes at school and the great commitments they made in a world we would consider terribly unfair today.
'The blue plaques are tremendous for the town and certainly for this very historic area of Weston.'
Emmeline spent about 14 years living at Trewartha before moving to work at the West London Methodist Mission in 1891 where, having encountered the horrors of urban poverty and despair, she founded a dressmaking co-operative for poor young women.
Her introduction of an eight-hour working day with guaranteed minimum wages and holiday entitlement was revolutionary and led to her embracing socialism.
She campaigned for suffrage across Europe and America while Dorothy, along with Annie Kenney and Millicent Browne, organised a women's protest on Weston beach in 1908 and were accused by the Mercury of being a 'nuisance… prone to hysteria … with a perverted realisation of right and wrong'.
The town council has six more blue plaques to install and is in the process of building a new website which will have an audio and map tour of all the locations.
John Crockford-Hawley, chairman of the town council's museum working party, added: 'When it came to female suffrage, Weston really was ahead of many other places.'
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