Statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, London
Photo by Fin Fahey licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license
Wednesday 21st July 1915: Bedford Town Hall was crowded last night for a meeting chaired by the Mayor at which the great fighter for women’s suffrage, Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst, spoke on “Patriotism and Recruiting. Major Orlebar of the 3/5th Bedfordshire Regiment sent a letter expressing his regret that due to urgent military duties he was unable to attend. Mrs. Pankhurst believed it to be a remarkable meeting in that it was the first since the beginning of the war at which the speakers could appeal equally to men and women. Only the previous Saturday, Mr. Lloyd George, the Minister for Munitions, had made it clear that women were to be recruited in large numbers for munitions work and were to be enlisted and enrolled under the same system that the recruiting authorities used for men. In her view any men doing work which a woman could be trained to do were guilty of a crime against the country. She understood from the French Minister of Munitions that thousands of women in France, and half a million in Germany, were doing work which men were doing in England. Their women learned quickly because they knew that every shell made might save a husband’s life.
Mrs. Pankhurst spoke of how she had seen the “splendid” life of soldiers in France, and how those men would not be prepared to go back and “stand behind counters” again. . In her view pacifists were apologists for the Germans, more likely to serve the enemy than their own people. In this time all criticism should be suspended and everyone should combine against the enemy. If ever there was a righteous war, then this was it, and she believed it had in some ways done us good. At the end of Mrs Pankhurst’s speech a vote of thanks was proposed by Captain Taylor of the 1/5th Beds Regiment, who were about to leave for the Dardanelles. He wanted to see the vacancies in the other Beds battalions filled by men from this county. It was the duty of employers of eligible men not only to let them go but to push them out, of of ladies to persuade the men to join the Forces.
A collection in aid of the Blinded Soldiers’ Fund raised £18 9s 5¼d. The crowd was so large that an overflow meeting with about 2,000 people present was addressed on Market Hill by Mr. Seamark and Captain Taylor.
Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 23rd July 1915