New postage stamp released to celebrate forgotten suffragette’s historic role in battle for women’s votes
PUBLISHED: 08:06 15 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:06 15 February 2018
The names of the Pankhurst family, Millicent Fawcett and Emily Wilding Davison may be the ones that are synonymous with the struggle for women’s suffrage.
But now a newly-released Royal Mail stamp commemorates the often forgotten role a leading suffragette and princess born on the Norfolk and Suffolk border played in winning women the vote.
Born and raised on the Elveden Estate near Thetford, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh often lived a life of luxury and even counted Queen Victoria as her godmother.
As the daughter of Maharajah Duleep Singh, the last king of Punjab, she had the option of an easy life - but chose to take a stand against the aristocracy she was part of.
As a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, her background meant she was something of a coup to an organisation keen to demonstrate its broad appeal beyond the white working classes.
“One of the things that made it really exciting for her to be part of that movement was that she was a princess,” said Melissa Hawker, learning officer at Ancient House Museum in Thetford - who even likened her to Thetford revolutionary Thomas Paine.
“She wasn’t going to kowtow to the establishment. She didn’t let anything lie.”
Prepared to court controversy, she sold copies of The Suffragette outside Hampton Court Palace - where she was living at the time.
She led a 400-strong Black Friday demonstration to parliament with Mrs Pankhurst in November 1910, fighting back against police officers who attacked protestors and physically assaulted more than 150 women.
Suffrage was a crusade which got her into trouble with the law more than once, as her refusal to pay tax meant landed her in court - appearances she turned into opportunities to air her views.
“She was very brave,” Ms Hawker added.
“She hated public speaking but she was so determined that she was able to say these things.”
Of the new Royal Mail stamps, which pay tribute to a number of suffragettes and moments from the movement, Ms Hawker said: “It’s really fantastic that they’re featuring her.
“Very often the narrative of the suffragette movement is what middle class women did.
“What’s really exciting about this set of stamps is that they’re featuring working class women who were an important aspect of the movement and also women of colour, who because they didn’t tend to get photographed.”
After years of rigorous campaigning, the suffrage cause achieved a significant victory when the Representation of the People Act was passed on February 6 1918.
This gave the vote to men over 21, but only to women over the age of 30.
Women also had to occupy premises of a yearly value of £5 to qualify for the vote.
It would be another 10 years before women were finally given the vote on the same terms as men.
Liz Law, Royal Mail spokesman, said: “Our Votes for Women stamps convey the scale of activities that the different organisations undertook in their tireless campaigning for the vote.
“We are proud to mark the anniversary of the Representation of the People Act – an Act that has given women across the generations the opportunity to have their voices heard.”
The stamps can be ordered from www.royalmail.com/votesforwomen and will be available from 7,000 Post Offices nationwide from February 15.