6 February 2018

As Britain marks 100 years since some women were given the right to vote, Sheffield City Council has announced that a former suffrage shop on Chapel Walk in Sheffield, will have a commemorative plaque installed at the site.

Following a successful crowd-funding appeal, Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council, Councillor Olivia Blake gathered at the site today, with other inspirational Sheffield women and aspirational girls from The Sheffield Young People’s Equality Group, to reveal the prototype for the plaque.

Approval has been granted, the plaque designed and ordered and it is hoped to be installed on International Women’s Day, March 8.

The struggle by British women for suffrage began in the mid-nineteenth century and the first known suffrage society in the country, The Sheffield Women’s Political Association, was founded in Sheffield in February 1851. Run by women for women, the association passed a resolution in support of the suffrage of adult women, which was submitted as a petition to the House of Lords.

In 1908, Adela Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, (WSPU) opened, one of the very first suffrage shops in the UK, with the Suffragettes of Sheffield.

The shop on Chapel Walk and its upstairs committee rooms were the regional headquarters of the WSPU, from which the Suffragettes made big efforts to get the vote for women.

Ten years later, the Representation of the People Act 1918 came into force, giving women over 30 the right to vote in all national elections.

Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council, Councillor Olivia Blake, said: “Standing here today, as deputy leader of the council, I think of the women who fought bravely and proudly to give women like me the right to vote, the right to speak, the right to stand.

“Sheffield’s Suffrage society, our Women of Steel, our political background, and having one of the first women leaders and Lord Mayors in the country, demonstrates the strength of our women and the city’s drive for equality.

“Of course there is more to be done and women continue to fight for what is right, for the same opportunities, pay and choices as men. I hope this plaque will serve as a lasting reminder of how far we have come already and as a motivator to stand up for what you believe in.”

A prototype of the plaque, which has been designed in the women’s colours, was revealed on site. It was designed by The Young Women’s Equality Group, who have been campaigning for the plaque since 2010.

Chrissy Meleady, CEO of Early Years Equality for the Young People’s Equality Group, said: “The Sheffield Young People’s Equality Group and all of the organisations supporting them were thrilled to see the plaque they’ve campaigned for since 2010 come to fruition.

“Our thanks go to the wonderful support of Nikki Bond and all those who donated to the crowdfunding she set up. Not forgetting the Sheffield Cooperative Party, the Sheffield Cooperative Group Sparkle Sheffield for their support and particularly to the Lord Mayor of Sheffield Cllr Anne Murphy for making this commemoration of the suffrage shop a reality fit for the people of Sheffield.

“The suffrage shop is a vital piece of our history here in Sheffield and the UK that needs celebrating.”

Through a crowd-funding campaign, started by Nikki Bond, Women’s Officer for Sheffield Central Labour Party, £700 was raised to design, make and install the plaque. The plaque will be installed on the exterior of the former shop in the coming weeks, with the date to be announced soon.

Nikki Bond, Women’s Officer for Sheffield Central Labour Party, said: “I’m delighted by the generosity of the people who contributed to this crowd funding campaign. It shows how important it is to people that we recognise the role of women in our city, both in the past and today.

“Sheffield has a proud history of strong women and it’s fantastic to have this plaque as a tribute to the women that paved the way for equal votes.”

The shop which is privately owned is currently unoccupied but funding is currently being sought by the Young People’s Equality Group to occupy the premises for the remainder of the year for exhibition, education and activities relating to women’s suffrage.

Centenary celebration events will take place throughout the year, up to 14 December – the date when the first women’s vote took place in 1918.

Events start tonight with a showing of The Suffragettes for SheFest at the Theatre Deli in Sheffield, a full programme of events will be available soon.