A century ago, a passionate crowd packed the Ulster Hall to hear the leader of the Suffragette Movement, Emmeline Pankhurst demand votes for women. Leading feminist author Dr Margaret Ward returned to the same venue to deliver a lunchtime lecture to an equally packed Ulster Hall, on the Ulster Suffragettes, who risked prison and physical attack in their struggle for equality.

Her talk: ‘Prison, Protests and Hunger Strikes: the Ulster Suffragettes’ discussed the leading figures in the movement and their attacks on bastions of male power that led to many of them being incarcerated in Belfast Jail on the Crumlin Road.

Margaret discussed the wider political situation at a time when Ireland was on the brink of civil war over the Home Rule crisis. Sir Edward Carson was a major target for the anger of the Suffragettes as he fervently opposed the rights of women to vote, while openly advocating rebellion. She talked about some of the key personalities in the Suffragette Movement in Ulster at the time including Dr Elizabeth Bell, the first woman to qualify as a doctor in Ireland. She was a leading suffragette who had been imprisoned in Holloway Women’s Prison when she took part in the WSPU’s campaign in England.

There was also Margaret McCoubrey, a Scot married to an Irish trade unionist from the Ormeau Road; Lilian Metge from Lisburn, a very active local militant who was jailed for her part in the attack on Lisburn Cathedral and Elizabeth Priestley McCracken, a writer from the Lisburn Road married to George McCracken, who acted as solicitor for the suffragettes.

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