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Struggle and sufferage in Morpeth and Northumberland

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  • 176 page, paperback
  • Author – Craig Armstrong
  • ISBN 9781526719652

For much of the nineteenth century, the women of Northumberland had occupied crucial, though largely underappreciated and acknowledged, roles within society.

Aside from the hard life of raising families in an area where money was often hard to come by, and where much of the available work was labour intensive and dangerous, women were also expected to play a role in bringing money into the household. In what was a largely agrarian county, female labourers, who were known as bondagers, were widely respected for their contribution to the local economy although there were those who criticised the system for forcing women to undertake hard manual labour. The farming economy in Northumberland depended so much upon female labour that many men found that it was far easier to be taken on by a prospective employer if they could assure that employer that they would be able to bring a suitable female worker with them. The period was also one of considerable upheaval. There were a number of prominent Northumbrian suffragists and the local radical suffragettes launched a number of attacks in the area.

Morpeth was a very early supporter of women’s suffrage and the Mayor and local council actively gave their support to the cause, although they remained largely opposed to the actions of the suffragettes. Although born in London, Emily Wilding Davison’s mother was Northumbrian and she had a wide network of relations in Morpeth and throughout the county. After her father’s death her mother had relocated to the Northumberland village of Longhorsley and Emily spent long period with her, recuperating after her numerous hunger strikes. Famously losing her life after being struck by the King’s horse at the 1913 Derby, Emily was buried with great ceremony in a quiet Morpeth churchyard and to this day she remains one of Morpeth’s most famous (adopted) daughters, with her grave remaining a sight of pilgrimage for many supporters of women’s rights.