To mark the 2018 centenary of the first British women winning the right to vote, we are honouring Bristol women who have changed our institution, and the world. From our first woman lecturer to the first British woman to have won a Nobel Prize, these activists, educators and agitators now take their rightful place on the walls of the Wills Memorial building – along with ten of the women in today’s University community to who continue to be inspired by their legacy.
Enid Stacey, Socialist and campaigner for women’s rights, with Dr Sumita Mukherjee, Senior Lecturer in History
“An able scholar, Enid won a scholarship to study Advanced Latin at University College, Bristol, between 1887 and 1890. It was during
a wave of strikes in Bristol in 1889 when Enid heard an inspiring speech from Labour leader Tom Mann, prompting her to join the Gasworkers’ Union.
“Despite her middle-class background, she empathised beyond her immediate experience
and became one of the best-known female propagandists for British socialism in the late 19th century.
“Enid was a regular public speaker, using her voice and her connections to raise awareness of equality issues. She spoke at 122 meetings in 1894 alone and toured the USA in 1902, taking her activism beyond the bounds of the UK and Ireland.
“We don’t know if Enid recognised how international the fight for social equality was at that time and how global the suffrage movement had already become by the time of her death. She didn’t live to see many of the victories of that movement, but she also didn’t see many of the ongoing struggles women, especially working-class women of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, would continue to face.
“Enid recognised that the vote was not the only barrier to true women’s equality, as has been proved today. However, as a socialist she fundamentally believed in the need and fight for equal suffrage. It is in her recognition of some of the complexities of the women’s rights movement in the late 19th century – in the early stages of a national feminist movement – that Enid really stands out.”
The University of Bristol was the first higher education institution in England to welcome women on an equal basis to men, but our commitment to gender equality reaches far beyond this milestone. The wooden panels of the Great Hall in its Wills Memorial Building have been an all-male domain thanks to hosting portraits of its Vice-Chancellors. But now, thanks to a project specially-commissioned to mark 100 years since the first women in Britain won the right to vote, a series of ten portraits redresses the balance and celebrates notable Bristol women who have changed the institution – and, indeed, the world.