What connects Winston Churchill, women’s trades unions, Irish independence, an early 20th century magazine opposing traditional gender concepts and a suffrage petition long enough to carpet a railway platform?
The answer is Esther Roper: suffragist, labour organiser and pioneering writer on gender and sexuality.
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In many ways Alice Ann Wheeldon was an ordinary, middle aged woman, seen by her neighbours as a relatively unexceptional lady. Born in 1866 in Derby, Alice had four adult children, Nellie, Hettie, William Marshall and Winnie, and made her living as a dealer of second-hand clothes, working and living in her shop at 12 Pear Tree Road. However, Alice was anything but ordinary. A passionate socialist radical, Alice was a committed anti-war campaigner, a suffragette and provided safe houses to Conscientious Objectors (COs) during the First World War. She sheltered many COs above her unassuming shop, before helping them gain safe passage to America or Ireland.
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Charlotte Despard was a woman of many passions, she fought for the vote, for Irish freedom, for peace & for animal welfare. She formed, or was part of, many political groups & movements paving the way for others committed to these freedoms.
Born in 1844 Charlotte’s upbringing wasn’t easy. Her father died when she was young and her mother was mentally ill and hospitalised. Charlotte was sent to London to live with relatives.
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