Hornsey Women and the Vote

Hornsey Journal, 11 April 1919

Meeting at Crouch End

Under the auspices of the Hornsey Conservative and Unionist Association, a meeting for women was held at the Parish Hall, Edison Road, Crouch End on Thursday afternoon last week (4th).

Addresses were given by Mr Kennedy Jones MP and Mrs Hudson Lyall, London County Council, on “The Powers and Responsibilities Conferred on Women by the Vote”.

Mrs Longman of Highgate presided and there was a large attendance. Mrs Longman said that now every woman over 30, irrespective of class, had the vote, it was a sacred duty to use it for the best possible good of their country. (Applause).

Mr Kennedy Jones began his speech with characteristic caution. With the Chairman and Secretary of the Association at the back of the platform, and another mere man at the Press table, he was justified in addressing the company as ‘Ladies and gentlemen’. Then he took the ladies into his confidence.  “It is rather a fearsome business” he said, “for a man, unsupported and alone – even if he is a Member of Parliament – to attempt to address a large gathering like this composed solely of women. Varied as my experiences in life have been, somehow I have never lost or got rid of my sense of fear of the other sex. (Laughter).

You cannot argue with them – at least I never do, because I always get the worst of the argument – and then women always want the last word. Well, I do not blame them: I like to have it myself and I have observed in Parliament that when awkward questions arise the one thing Ministers want is the last word so that no one can reply to them and point out what a mess they are making of our affairs”.

Mr Kennedy Jones proceeded: “In these days of disturbance and unrest it is to my mind of the greatest importance that women should make themselves acquainted with and come to a full understanding of public affairs. It is their duty that they should do so, and indeed, it is to their own benefit that they should do so. Angry men, irritated men, selfish men, visionary men may do things hastily and hurriedly. Women are in the main dominated by the desire to achieve the comfort and happiness and the unity of their homes and the prosperity of their families. I want you to play your full part with wise, understanding and calm judgement”. (Applause).

Mrs Hudson Lyall said they had met to consider the responsibilities of their new-born citizenship at a solemn hour in their country’s history. They had come through the dark night of war, but there were threatening clouds about. They seemed to stand at a great pause in history – at a time of national peril – and if women did not use the great weapon placed in their hands, they would fail in their duty to use it for the highest purposes and the loftiest ideals. Just before the General Election a well-known London MP had said, in her presence, that he had always opposed women taking part in public life because politics was a dirty game and he did not care to see them besmirched. That gave her the opportunity to say that she hoped with their influence politics could no longer be what he had described. (Applause).

But they would not be able to do so unless they became interested in public questions and used both their vote and their influence upon others. She hoped that one result of that meeting would be the formation in that borough of a big, strong women’s organisation with regular meetings held because in that way they could get instructed and be enabled to exercise their due influence on public affairs. When the armistice came a great many people, who never seemed to look beyond their noses, seemed to think that all was over bar the shouting, but that was not so. The victory won by our men was only the end of a terrible struggle that had shaken mankind to its depths, and civilisation to its foundations. The real peace was something different. It was for the citizens at home to build on the sacred soil won by our men something worthy of the great price paid for it, and women would fail in their duty if they did not take their share in the task.

Women must learn to think for themselves and not take their opinions from the newspapers. Women should vote and influence others to do so at both Parliamentary and municipal elections. There were very few women on public councils and any organisation set up in Hornsey would help enormously to women being properly represented. Out of 5,000 County Council members only eight were women and three of them were aldermen. There were only 26 women on the Metropolitan borough councils and only 17 out of the 16,000 urban district councillors throughout the country.

Women should have larger representation on these bodies. They should not stand as women against men, but work together to make a complete whole. It was very difficult, she knew, to get good women candidates, and when obtained they might not be elected because the men did not particularly want them. (Laughter). But they must persevere. There were questions in which women were particularly interested. Housing was much more a woman’s question than a man’s. Then there were the clinics and schools for mothers which had not only reduced infant mortality, but had resulted in stronger and better survivors. Food questions also affected the women of the country.

Touching upon the mischievous propaganda of Bolshevism in this country, Mrs Lyall said that 1,800 meetings a week were held in this country, but a wholesome public opinion would keep the country right. She would like to see a new censorship of the Press that would exclude pictures of fancy veils at £3 each. (Hear, hear.) It was foolish enough to have such things; let them not advertise their folly. In conclusion, Mrs Lyall said that in securing for this land, and the world, a brighter, better future they would be creating the finest memorial to those who had made it possible by their victories on the battlefields of Europe (Applause).

A hearty vote of thanks was accorded to the Chairman and the Speakers and the company, before leaving, ‘took tea’ with the Member for Hornsey.

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