A HUNDRED years have passed since the Representation of the People Act, passed on February 6, 1918, allowing some women over 30 to vote.

The fight for women's suffrage had taken a more militant turn some years earlier when, in October, 1913, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was launched in Emmeline Pankhurst's sitting-room. The campaign that followed involved violent demonstrations, imprisonment, hunger strikes and force-feeding. Women were urged to chain themselves to railings, smash windows and storm meetings. The defiance began in Manchester but women across the Pennines played a major role too. In 1882 Parliament received its first demand for the women’s vote in a petition from a group of Yorkshire women, led by Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, a former pupil of Pudsey's Fulneck School.

Another key figure was the ‘forgotten Pankhurst’. While Emmeline Pankhurst and her older daughters, Christabel and Sylvia, made headlines, her youngest daughter Adela isn’t so well known, yet she made a significant contribution to the campaign in Bradford.

Adela, among other campaigners, is profiled in Fran Abrams' book Freedom’s Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes. Born in 1885 to a family of political activists, Adela was a passionate public speaker from a young age and addressed crowds across the North. As the WSPU’s West Yorkshire organiser, she had a reputation for disrupting public meetings - in Pudsey she and fellow speakers were pelted with rotten oranges and eggs - but she drew large crowds. In May, 1908 she and her mother spoke at a rally at Shipley Glen, attracting 100,000 people on packed trains. It was, said Adela, a “great triumph for our cause”. Emmeline offered the Prime Minister “the demand of the people of Bradford”.

Arriving to see actress Ellen Terry in a play in Bradford, Adela and her party wore full suffragette regalia, to applause from the audience. The movement gathered pace in Bradford in 1910 when Winston Churchill MP addressed a political meeting at St George’s Hall which ended in chaos, thanks to a few suffragettes led by Adela. The night before, two women broke into the venue and hid there all night. “The following day found them thirsty, dishevelled and unwashed, but with hearts on fire,” the T&A reported. When Churchill walked on stage, the women protested and were thrown out. Other stunts in the city included scorching Bradford Moor Golf Club's green and setting fire to letter boxes.

Following a stint in prison, Adela addressed open air meetings in Dales villages, advertised by chalking on pavements. In summer, 1908 she was met in Skipton's High Street by male hecklers singing and throwing flour. "Every word was greeted with a derisive cheer, comic songs and the din of penny rattles, " reported the Craven Herald. "Miss Pankhurst took no notice, all she was concerned about was getting her message home."

Adela later became disillusioned with the WSPU and left. “They never admit me or mention me as having played any part at all,” she later wrote.

She emigrated to Australia in 1914 and died there in 1961.

Emma Clayton