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Suffragette history celebrated as part of Clacton 150

Campaigning by the Suffragette movement in Clacton is being celebrated as part of the town’s 150th birthday commemorations – including a relative of one of the campaign’s leading lights.

The campaign for women’s suffrage began around the 1880s, and was made up of a number of organisations with differing views and approaches. In 1918 women aged over-30 and who met a property qualification were granted the vote in the UK for the first time; ten years later women were granted equal rights to men.

Holland-on-Sea resident Faye Cooper née Goulden is great-niece of leading suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, who founded the active Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903.

Along with Faye’s daughter (Emmeline Pankhurst’s great-great-niece) Kathrine Cooper, the pair began to research the movement and uncovered links to the town.

Not only did Emmeline bring her children to Clacton when they were young, but a number of prominent Suffragettes lived in the town – including some who took part in high profile protests in London.

Many of them spent time in Holloway Prison for their part in the protests, but returned to a heroines’ welcome at Clacton Railway Station.

This and some other examples of what they uncovered are captured in an audio post outside Clacton Railway Station, which forms part of the Clacton 150 Heritage Trail between Jaywick Sands and Holland-on-Sea.

Kathrine said: “I am so pleased that this important aspect of our social history is recorded as part of Clacton 150, and can’t help but feel some family pride too.

“While we take women’s suffrage as the norm now, we should not forget that less than 100 years ago women did not have the same voting rights as men, and 103 years ago they had none at all. This only changed due to the work of Emmeline and the other Suffragettes.”

Details of one of the local branch campaign highlights from 1914, when an unplanned stopover in Clacton by Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, led to an impromptu Votes for Women demonstration, are also recorded on one the trail boards.

Alex Porter, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Tourism at Tendring District Council (TDC) – which is co-ordinating Clacton 150 – said finding someone so closely connected to the movement has helped to bring history to life.

“What really makes our past interesting and relatable is when we understand the human impact and the personal stories behind it,” Cllr Porter said.

“Clacton 150 is no exception, to find human interest stories from more than a century ago along with the living relatives of those people – who want to keep the story alive – is the icing on the cake.”

To commemorate the links one of the sculptures in the current Octopus Ahoy! art trail, ‘Autograph’, marks the Suffragette’s work. Both Faye and Kathrine signed Autograph, designed by artist Lois Cordelia, and people taking part in the trail can see it – to find the octopus download the Octopus Ahoy! app and join in.

Katie Skingle from KAT Marketing, who are running Octopus Ahoy! on behalf of TDC, said the signatures added poignancy to the sculpture.

“Across both the art and school trails there are so many wonderful designs covering everything from Banksy to the environment, and Grayson Perry to space; all depending on the designers’ inspiration,” she said.

“But having something so relevant to the history of Clacton, and having it signed by living relatives of some of the foremost Suffragette leaders, is just delightful.”

Octopus Ahoy! runs until 5 September, challenging you to find 91 sculptures around Tendring and the surrounding area. To find out more go to www.octopusahoy.co.uk or download the free app.

The Clacton 150 celebrations received £250,000 from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, which has paid for the heritage trail, two co-ordinating staff and other events and activities.

People and businesses are encouraged to hold their own events and activities to celebrate Clacton 150, and share details with the co-ordinating team at clacton150@tendringdc.gov.uk.