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Leicester's suffragette to feature in Westminster exhibition

Published on 08 May 2018

A NATIONWIDE programme of events to mark the centenary of the first British women getting the vote continues this summer with the opening of a major exhibition in London.


‘Voice and Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament’ will trace the history of women in parliament and will include the story of Leicester’s own suffragette, Alice Hawkins – the shoe factory machinist who led the women’s suffrage movement in Leicester in the early 1900s.


Items belonging to Alice, including her ‘Votes for Women’ sash, her hunger strike medal and a letter of commendation signed by Emmeline Pankhurst, will be amongst the exhibits on display at the exhibition at Westminster Hall.


The exhibition will also feature rare and previously unseen historic objects, pictures and archive material from the Parliamentary collections.


‘Voice and Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament’ opens in Westminster Hall on 27 June and continues until 6 October 2018.


Admission is free of charge, but places must be booked in advance online or by calling 020 7219 4114.


School parties are also welcome and – on most days – visits to the exhibition can be combined with a tour of the Houses of Parliament (fee payable).


Melanie Unwin, co-curator of the Voice and Vote exhibition, said: “This exciting exhibition should really give the public a sense of the barriers that women had to overcome to participate in democracy.


“For the first time, we are able to recreate the sounds and atmosphere of those spaces which women were confined to – it is incredible to see how much campaigners and early women MPs achieved, despite the limitations placed on them.


“We are delighted that items belonging to Leicester’s suffrage campaigner Alice Hawkins will be included in the exhibition.”


Anyone unable to visit the exhibition in London will also be able to see memorabilia from Alice Hawkins’ life at Leicester’s New Walk Museum from the end of October.


Leicester's exhibition – 'Alice Hawkins and Votes for Women’ – opens to the public on 27 October and runs until 24 February 2019.


As well as items that will help tell Alice’s story – kindly loaned by members of Alice Hawkins’ family – the exhibition will also show how the suffrage movement crossed social boundaries and brought women from all backgrounds together.


Deputy city mayor and heritage champion Cllr Adam Clarke said: “This UK-wide year of events commemorating the centenary of the Representation of the People Act started here in Leicester with the unveiling of the statue of Alice Hawkins.


“It’s great that Leicester and Alice remain on the national stage and will feature in this prestigious exhibition at Westminster, before our own exhibition at New Walk Museum brings Alice’s story back to Leicester.”


A number of Alice Hawkins’ possessions, including her Holloway brooch – designed by Sylvia Pankhurst and awarded to members of the Women’s Social and Political Union who were imprisoned for the cause – will be loaned to New Walk Museum by Alice’s great-grandchildren.


Peter Barratt – Alice’s great-grandson – said: “There’s been a huge amount of interest in my great-grandmother during this centenary year.


“I’ve been sharing her story with children at schools across the city and county, but these exhibitions in London and Leicester will take Alice’s story to an even wider audience.


“Members of the family are very happy to loan out these items, which we hope will give people a better understanding of an ordinary Leicester woman who played her part in a truly extraordinary movement.”


Events commemorating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage are being supported in Leicester by the Government’s Centenary Cities fund.


The Government awarded the city a grant of £189,500 to fund educational and celebratory events inspired by the life and work of Alice Hawkins.


A bronze statue of Alice Hawkins was unveiled in Leicester in February as part of an afternoon of events commemorating the centenary of the Representation of the People Act – the act that gave all men, and some women, the right to vote.


Created by sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn and funded by local businessman Jamie Lewis, the 7ft tall statue stands on a 4ft plinth overlooking the city’s new market square.