Saturday, March 15, 2014

MEMORIES OF TONY BENN AND HIS 'SUFFRAGE SECRET' IN THE BROOM CUPBOARD

image
Although not sharing the same political thoughts as Tony Benn, during my twenty six years working in and around Westminster, this interesting gentleman often joined the 'Hansard workers' for a cuppa in the tea room.  One day, when I  mentioned that I was a member of the Society of Women Writers & Journalists and was working on a story about suffragettes for my current book, he offered to take me and colleagues on a little trip around St Mary Undercroft to 'show us something special'.

Following him - he walked at great speed - we arrived at Westminster Hall and made tracks for the crypt in St Mary Undercroft, the beautiful church that visitors to Westminster Palace seldom see.  We trooped into a little room and there found a scruffy cupboard. When opened, there we found this plaque.  It was dedicated to Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette who was killed on the Epsom race-track in 1913 when struck by the King's horse. Mr Benn told us that the suffragette had hidden in the broom cupboard during the  March 1911 census so that when she was asked for her address that day, she could truthfully say that it was 'the House of Commons'. This probably was one of the most memorable actions in the suffragettes' bid to publicise to the world how women desperately needed to be granted the vote.

When Mr Benn addressed the House of Commons in 2001, he explained that he had screwed up several plaques himself - quite illegally and without permission.
Tony Benn died surrounded by his family at his home yesterday aged 88 years old. He was an interesting man and I am grateful to him for his kindness.

No comments: