THE fight for women’s suffrage took a militant turn in October, 1913, when the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was launched in Emmeline Pankhurst’s sitting-room.

The campaign involved violent demonstrations, imprisonment and hunger strikes. A leading suffragette in Bradford was the ‘forgotten Pankhurst’.

While Emmeline Pankhurst and daughters Christabel and Sylvia made headlines, younger daughter Adela wasn’t so well known but, as the WSPU’s West Yorkshire organiser, she played a significant role.


In May 1908 she and her mother spoke at a rally at Shipley Glen, attracting 100,000 people. And in 1910 she and fellow suffragettes disrupted political meetings at St George’s Hall addressed by Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and Winston Churchill MP.

The night before Churchill appeared, two women broke in and hid under the stage all night. “The following day found them thirsty, dishevelled, but with hearts on fire,” the T&A reported. When Churchill walked on stage, the women protested and were thrown out.

Suffragettes and other pioneering Bradford women will be highlighted at an event exploring the history of women’s rights protests in the city, taking place at St George’s Hall next month for national Heritage Open Days.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: St George's HallSt George's Hall

The Grade II listed venue - one of the oldest concert halls in Europe, which re-opened in February following a £9.8 million transformation - will open for tours, talks, exhibitions and dressing-up. Local history expert Helen Broadhead will lead the first tour at 11am, taking in backstage areas not usually open to the public, and highlight protests led by the Pankhursts among others.

The fight for women’s suffrage was influential in the district. In 1882 Parliament received its first demand for the women’s vote in a petition from a group of women led by Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, a former pupil of Pudsey’s Fulneck School.

Other stunts included scorching Bradford Moor Golf Club’s green and setting fire to letter boxes. Adela Pankhurst addressed an open air meeting in Skipton in 1908 where she was heckled by men throwing flour.

Also at next month’s open day is Pioneering Bradford Lasses, a tour by Heritage Learning Officer Penny Green at 1pm. Supported by objects, photographs and documents from Bradford Museums, it highlights women such as Margaret McMillan whose campaigning led to the 1906 Provision of School Meals Act; Keighley’s Margaret Wintringham who became the first female Liberal MP in 1921, and Bradford-born, Julia Varley (1871 – 1952), a trade unionist and suffragette.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Executive Member for Healthy People and Places, said: “St George’s Hall has a fascinating association with protestors such as the suffragettes. This open day provides an opportunity to learn more and see the splendid new refurbishment.”

The Heritage Open Day is Saturday, September 14, 10am-3pm. Tours must be booked in advance. Visit or call (01274) 432000.