Leading suffrage artists and suffragettes resided in the Surrey Hills – especially Peaslake – where they sourced flints for their window-smashing campaign.
Peaslake was home to important campaigners including: the Brackenbury sisters, artists who painted Emmeline Pankhurst’s portrait and led the pantechnicon raid on Parliament in 1908; Slade-trained artist and militant suffragette Marion Wallace Dunlop, first of the hunger-strikers; and Emmeline and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence.
Mary Watts, a figurehead of non-militant feminism in her community, convened at least two suffrage meetings in Compton, Surrey. Mary became President of the Godalming and District Women’s Suffrage Society, affiliated to the NUWSS, in 1909.
During this year, various suffrage leagues, associations, unions and federations were founded; suffrage deputations to Parliament resulted in the arrest of Lady Constance Lytton; and prison authorities began forcibly feeding hunger-striking suffragettes.
Mary’s friend, fellow craftswoman and suffragist Gertrude Jekyll (Vice-President of the Godalming Women’s Suffrage Society) attended a suffrage meeting held by Mary at Compton Picture Gallery. Gertrude Jekyll’s large embroidered banners for the Godalming and Guildford branches of the NUWSS were paraded through the high streets as part of the Great Suffragist Pilgrimage of July 1913.
Other prominent Surrey suffragists include
- Dame Ethel Smyth, Woking-based composer, memoirist, and leading suffragette in the early 1910s, who wrote the anthem of the Women’s Social and Political Union, ‘The March of the Women’, and published a biographical essay on Emmeline Pankhurst, of whom she was a close friend
- Iona Davey, local activist, President of the Women’s Liberal Association and secretary of the Women’s Local Government Society
- her husband Arthur Jex Davey, a Liberal politician, President of the Godalming and District Liberal Club and later Mayor of Godalming (1914–16)
- Mrs Stopford Brooke and her husband, a British politician and Liberal MP (1906–10)
- Liberal MP Joseph King and his wife Maude, who played a key role in the Peasant Arts movement in Haslemere
- Mrs Charles T. Bateman and her husband, who wrote a book on George Watts highlighting the Wattses’ humanitarian enterprises
Perhaps most famously, suffragette Emily Wilding Davison was killed by the King’s horse in Epsom, Surrey, where Mary and George Watts were married.