Merton’s Centenary celebrations for the right of women to vote

Merton’s Heritage Centre is celebrating the centenary of women’s right to vote with a comprehensive programme of activities and events from February until October 2018.

The season opens on Thursday 8 February with “100 banners” a suffrage themed banner making workshop at Morden Library from 10.30am until 4.00pm.  Free to attend, this event is open to all adults but will be of particular interest to anyone interested in crafts, local history or the suffragette movement.

Rose Lamartine Yates

Pictured (above): Rose Lamartine Yates, Chairwoman of the Wimbledon branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union during the early twentieth century.  She and her fellow suffragettes regularly held meetings near the flagstaff on Wimbledon Common as part of their campaign to secure votes for women.  Spectators were not always sympathetic, as demonstrated by the police presence.

There will be an introduction to women’s suffrage in Merton by Sarah Gould, Merton’s Heritage Officer, followed by a design session and then the practical banner-making.  Banners were an important aspect of suffragette history and provided a striking backdrop for many famous speeches throughout the women’s suffrage campaign.  On Sunday 4 March, the Merton banners, together with a further 97 produced by groups from London and the south-east, will feature in a re-enactment of a women’s suffrage march through London, led by Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of suffragette leader, Emmeline Pankhurst. This is part of Digital Drama’s “100 Banners” project, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery project and commemorates the women’s suffrage campaign. There will also be a commemorative gathering at the Albert Hall on Thursday 8 March, to tie in with International Women’s Day.

For the banner making session on Thursday, attendees are encouraged to bring along pieces of fabric which have personal significance – these can be included in banner designs.  Refreshments will be provided, however those attending are asked to bring their own lunch or buy lunch from the Civic Centre Café.  During the lunch period, as a special feature Philippa Bilton will be speaking.  Philippa’s is a descendant of Emily Davison, the suffragette whose life was tragically lost at Epsom Racehorse where she was killed by the King’s horse.

Philippa Bilton

Pictured above:  Philippa Bilton, descendant of Emily Davison 

pip and helen

Pictured above:  At Merton’s 100 Banner event at Merton Heritage Centre in Morden Library – Philippa Bilton – descendant of Emily Davison and Helen Pankhurst – descendant of Emmeline Pankhurst

Councillor Edith Macauley MBE, Merton’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Engagement and Equalities said: “The tenacity and drive of the suffragette and suffragist movement has taught us a valuable lesson which 100 years on still holds dear.  We pay tribute to the unswerving will of those who have earned us the right to vote regardless of our gender. Our heartfelt respect goes out to those who fought tirelessly for the rights of women and a special mention to those Merton based who fought for our endeavours – including Rose Lamartine Yates, Josephine Butler, Margaret Grant, the Brackenbury sisters, Sophia Duleep Singh, Bertha Lorsignol and Dr Francis Bather to name a few.  On this momentous anniversary, we should remember that the rights of everyone – regardless of their gender or their background, should continue to unite us and make us stronger together.”   

To book your place on this fascinating workshop call Merton Heritage Centre, Tel. 020 8545 3239 or email  For more details of the women’s march on Sunday 4 March where the banners will be paraded see


Pictured above: A certificate awarded to Wimbledon suffragette Rose Lamartine Yates, resident of Dorset Hall in Merton Park near South Wimbledon.

Further Merton Suffrage Events

Other Merton events commemorating the centenary of Votes for women include a series of “My Local Area” sessions and craft workshops (pennant making) for local schools.

On Saturday 3 March, Merton Arts Space will host “Deeds not Words”, a special discussion exploring how much has really changed for UK women over the past century and the media portrayal of women in politics and the public eye. This will feature archive film, displays and artefacts, plus contributions from academics, suffrage historians and the general public.

Saturday 12 May, sees the return of the popular Merton Heritage Discovery Day. In addition to film screenings, children’s crafts, exhibitions and stalls from Merton museums and community groups, this showcase for our borough’s history will include a number of talks and displays linked to women’s suffrage.

In a touching gesture, members of the John Innes Society are also working to get a new rose named in honour of suffragette Rose Lamartine Yates, Organising Secretary of the Wimbledon branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union.