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An insight into the life of a working class Suffragette - Alice Hawkins

Press release March 17, 2011 Politics

Alice Hawkins founded the Leicester branch of the Women's Social and Political Union in 1907 with the help of the Pankhurst sisters. Arrested 5 times so that women today have the right to vote

Alice hawkins 1

Alice Hawkins was a working class lady with 6 children who found the time and the resolve to campaign for women to have the right to vote. With help from the Pankhurst sisters, in 1907 Alice founded the Leicester branch of the Women's Social and Political Union. During her Suffragette Campaigns, Alice was arrested 5 times, the first time being outside the Houses of Parliament in 1907. Alfred Hawkins like many other Suffragette and imprisoned husbands supported his wifes suffragette cause and heckled Churchill on more than one occassion.

Alice like many Suffragettes shared cells with women from all different walks of life, as this was one fight that didn't matter if you were poor or rich; no woman could vote. Parliament was under great pressure as the prisons filled with more and more women fighting for the right for women to be equal to men. Authorities tried to insist that they were insane however, families like Alice's supported their fight and campaigned for the inmates to be given the right to cook their own food, wear normal clothing and study.

If the authorities thought that being put in prison would stop Alice and the other 28 women imprisoned with her, then they were greatly mistaken. In the early hours on the day of one of her prison releases, Alice and 200 other women stood outside Holloway Prison and hired the London Excelsior band to play music to the women imprisoned. At 9.00 that morning, the women were released and each one was cheered individually as they left the prison gates.

Alices finest moment came in June 1908 when she carried out a speach at a mass rally held in Hyde Park. This date now known as 'Womens Sunday' was attended by over 250,000 supporters of the Suffragette movement. The next day the The Times reported Alice Hawkins as one of the 'key speakers' at the rally.

World War I was the turning point for most Suffragettes including Alice, who put on hold their fight for womens rights to show their national support. They rolled up their sleeves and proved how indespensable they were to the country, by taking over the mens jobs in the fields and factories.

Alice’s time as a Suffragette ended to support her nation. Up until her death in 1946, aged 83, Alice continued her support of the labour movement and the local trade union.

Alice's family have created a website solely devoted to Alice, it acts as an education tool, offering students an insight into the life of a true working class Suffragette. The website shows an extensive collection of Alice's Memorabilia that is still in the family today. It includes her sash, hunger strike medal, prison notes, letters of commendation and numerous postcards. Now stored in Midlands museum but still iin familiy ownership. It is probably one of the best collections in the UK today of Suffragette memorabilia still with the descendants of these valient women.

Peter Barratt Great Grandson of Alice is passionate about communicating the story of Alice Hawkins and keeping her memory alive. Peter who has been CRB cleared has spoken at over 250 groups, societies and schools over the past 7 years. Media appearancs and contributions include:

  • BBC Antiques Roadshow
  • BBC Priceless Antiques Roadshow
  • BBC The One Show
  • Radio 4 Womens Hour
  • Numerous local BBC radio interviews
  • ITV Central
  • BBC East Midlands

As women; next time you go to vote, take the time to give a thought to Alice and the other Suffragettes who fought for women to have a voice. Visit to read more about Alice and her fascinating story.