Need context in suffragette row 2

February 2, 2007

I would agree with and congratulate both June Purvis and Antonia Byatt in their stance of observing history in its context. I would challenge Christopher Bearman's thesis on the part played by the suffragettes (militants and constitutionalists) during the First World War. Most temporarily postponed their struggle and united in the greater goal of national defence.

My particular research is based on the women who administered and managed the Army pay services, which was the nucleus of the welfare state. I have identified a number of individuals who were members of either the Women's Social and Political Union or the National Union of Suffrage Societies who volunteered to join this effort.

One volunteer, Nellie Hurcombe Palmer, had been the organisational secretary of the NUSS from 1912 to 1914 and became a lady superintendent (technical & welfare) at the Regimental Pay Office, Exeter. She was awarded a mention in dispatches in 1918 and an MBE in 1919. Palmer was not alone in receiving such honours.

I am always dismayed when historical events are taken out of their context or when one contemporary historical movement is confused with another. A point in question is regarding the militancy of the WSPU as though it were of the whole of the suffragette movement and to support this with photographs displaying the banners of the NUSS.

John Black
Bristol

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