By Will Mata will@timesoftunbridgewells.co.uk

PILGRIMS' PROGRESS The Great Pilgrimage walks through Tunbridge Wells

HUNDREDS are set to follow in the footsteps of Suffragettes and Suffragists by marching in Tunbridge Wells 100 years after some women were given the right to vote.

Talks, music and re-enactments have also been planned for the celebration, to be held on International Women’s Day next Thursday [March 8].

The organising group, TW Women 100, formed of a coalition of political and community bodies, are keen to mark the achievements of prominent Suffragists, such as Amelia Scott, who played their part in a strong Tunbridge Wells movement to fight for equality.

Miss Scott, who was one of the town’s first female councillors, helped organise marches from Tunbridge Wells to Hyde Park for mass rallies in 1909 and 1913.

Carol Wilson, Chairperson of Labour Women’s Forum, has helped organise a shorter walk from The Pantiles to Tunbridge Wells Town Hall, which will be decorated with bunting in suffrage colours of purple, green and white as Mayor Julia Soyke hosts a reception after the march.

There will also be events inside Royal Victoria Place and The Forum [see panel]. Donations collected at events will be given to Tunbridge Wells domestic abuse charity DAVSS [the Mayor’s chosen charity during her year in office].

Mrs Wilson said: “It is a time of looking back and appreciating what women have done all over the world and what women are suffering.

‘It has been one hundred years and we are still marching’
WALK ORGANISER Carol Wilson

“There is a huge groundswell of women in Tunbridge Wells who worked hard on the Take Back The Night campaign [in the 1970s] against domestic violence.

“But there is still a huge amount of work to be done. We need to remind women that they need to be using their voice to vote.”

Amanda Turner, of Tunbridge Wells Women’s Equality Party, added: “We got the vote
but we have not got equal representation yet. The movement is 100 years old
and we are still marching. It is extraordinary that in 2018 we still do not have equality.

“We want to commemorate those women 100 years on and say thank you to them, but the work is not done. We had the equal pay act 45 years ago, but figures show there is not equal pay.

“I think it’s interesting that Tunbridge Wells has always had such an active political presence from women.”

Suffragettes, the organisation made famous by Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Davidson, had a strong presence in the town and, according to many, burnt down the cricket pavilion at the Nevill Ground after being told the women’s only place in the pavilion was ‘to make tea’.

Amelia Scott was one of a number of Suffragists, a group which also fought for change but through more peaceful measures. The group had around 450 members in Tunbridge Wells alone. Their work in the early 20th century helped pave the way for the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which allowed women aged over 30 and with £5 of property to vote.

Women were first able to vote in the December General Election of that year, which was also the first time women were permitted to stand for election.

Labour Councillor for Southborough and High Brooms Dianne Hill said: “We are expecting hundreds to come on the march next week. It is a women’s event, but men are welcome – they were supportive in women getting the vote as well. There will also be a march in December because that is when women could first vote. The idea first came from the Labour Women’s Forum but it is not a political thing at all. It is an event to bring women together.”

Gillian Douglass, Chairperson of Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats, said: “It is important to commemorate that women’s voices are heard and represented because they face different challenges from men and are often discriminated against.

“I believe that a world in which there is no gender discrimination is better for everybody.

“It means that we are not forced into roles which do not fit us particularly well, we are allowed or, perhaps, even encouraged to follow our dreams.”

WALK ORGANISER Carol Wilson

Timetable of events

The TW Women 100 International Women’s Day Walk will convene at The Pantiles Bandstand at 3.30pm and walk to No 11, The Pantiles, the site of the former Suffragette office at 3.45pm.

Following in the footsteps of a Suffragist protest march, the women will then walk from Chapel Place to Nevill Street, Mount Sion and the High Street.

At 4.35pm, marchers will gather by the former Suffragist Office in Crescent Road before returning by the same route towards Civic Way.

Along the route marchers will see re-enactments and sing-songs, although members of the TW Women 100 organising committee have still to confirm some details.

Tunbridge Wells Mayor Julia Soyke will host an event inside the Town Hall from 4.45pm to 6pm which will welcome female speakers from a range of fields.

Author Anne Carwadine, historian Liz Douglas and musician Charlotte Bartholomew are among those lined up to speak.

At 6pm, the Create Choir will sing inside the Council Chamber.

This is a ticketed event and places are available on a first come first served basis by emailing: mayor@tunbridgewells.gov.uk

Afterwards, women are invited to Royal Victoria Place shoping centre for a reception.

Later the same day, The Forum, off London Road, Tunbridge Wells, will mark International Women’s Day musically with Laura Lamn, Placid and Lily & Jessie on the bill to perform from 7.30pm.

For tickets and more details, see www.twforum.co.uk 

For the latest on the International Women’s Day march on Thursday March 8 and other events, visit www.facebook.com/twwomen100

Who is Amelia Scott?

Born in 1860, Amelia Scott was raised in Southborough and established the Tunbridge Wells branch of the National Council of Women in 1895.

Known as Millie to friends, she held a role within the organisation for 35 years alongside her profession as a social worker.

In 1913 she took part in a suffrage pilgrimage for the movement and was active in many aspects of women’s work during the First World War.

Following the Representation of the People Act in February 1918 which gave women the vote, Miss Scott continued to play an active role in the community.

She never married and shared a home with her sister Louise in Tunbridge Wells, where they lived for many years.

In November 1919, Miss Scott and Susan Power became the first two women to be elected to Tunbridge Wells Town Council. And from 1918 to 1924 she served on the legal sub-committee of the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child.

Miss Scott was celebrated for her life’s work with a memorial window at the former Pembury Hospital painted in her honour.

She also received a Gold Palm Order of the Crown award in 1929 for her work with Belgian refugees. Miss Scott died in 1952.