1911 March of Welsh suffragists

On the 17th June 1911, 40,000 women marched through London as part of Women’s Suffrage Union’s ‘Great Demonstration’ for suffrage to mark the Coronation of George V.  Hundreds of Welsh suffragists took part, many of them wearing in Welsh costume.

Mrs Edith Ruth Mansell-Moullin founder of the Forward Cymric Suffrage Union (formed 1911) and Miss Rachel Barrett of Cardiff organised the South Wales Federation of the Women’s Suffrage Union for the Welsh women from London, Cardiff, Newport and elsewhere. They were encouraged to wear old national costume or make their own or buy a modern version (from Mrs Phillips of Cardiff costing from 7/6d excluding the hat). There are brief descriptions of costume and advice on how a full skirt, apron and shawl could be adapted to the purple, white and green of the Suffrage movement as well as suggestions on how to make a Welsh hat out of buckram covered with black plush in Votes for Women. After the event, the magazine published photographs of Mrs Mansell-Moullin and others in Welsh costume.

Mrs Mansell-Moullin

Mrs Edith Mansell-Moullin as she was dressed for the Suffragists march in London, June 17th 1911. (Votes for Women magazine, 23.6.1911, p. 623)

The costumes made for the event were hardly traditional. As this photograph shows, a lot of light-coloured fabrics were used, and the hats were often very large and much taller than traditional examples.

Like many images of women in Welsh costume of this period (especially postcards), she is holding some knitting.



Photograph including Mr Ellis Griffith MP, Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, (in bardic costume and a false beard) among the Welsh suffragists (Votes for Women magazine, 23.6.1911, p. 639)

This image was used as a postage stamp in 2018, but they were suffragists (who supported The National Union of Women’s Suffrage led by Millicent Fawcett), not suffragettes (who supported the Women’s Social and Political Union, led by Emmeline Pankhurst who were involved in direct action).

However, Edith Ruth Mansell-Moullin, who helped organise the march in 1911, was an activist. Her husband was an eminent doctor and vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons, who repeatedly condemned the Government’s force-feeding of hunger-striking suffragette prisoners. Edith was present on ‘Black Friday’, 18th November 1910, when peaceful deputation to the House of Commons turned into a riot outside Westminster as more than a hundred and fifty suffragettes were assaulted by a police force said to numbered five thousand. Riots broke out again the following week and Edith was back again, taking part in the Battle of Downing Street. In 1911 she served a month in Holloway Gaol after being arrested while on a deputation led by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to the House of Commons.

Mary E Davis, treasurer of the Cymric Suffrage Union in Welsh costume

Further reading:

Anon, (1911) [before 17th June], Votes for Women [a suffragist magazine]

Tickner, Lisa, The Spectacle of Women: imagery of the Suffrage Campaign 1907-14, (1987), p. 128

John, A.V., Our Mother’s Land, Chapters in Welsh Woman’s History, (CUP, 1991), p. 11

John, A.V., ”Run like Blazes’ The Suffragettes and Welshness’, Llafur, Journal of Welsh Labour History, vol. 6, no. 3 (1994), pp. 29-43