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International Womens Day - East End characters and pioneers

March 08 2019 – Debra McCann

International Womens Day - East End characters and pioneers

International Womens Day - East End characters and pioneers

The East End of London has produced and nurtured some amazing women so our hats are tipped today, on International Womens Day,  in salute of the sometimes forgotten incredible women that paved the way to equality.


Jane Major was born on 14 January, 1861 at 14 Wilkes Street, Spitalfields, Whitechapel. She was the eldest of six children born to shoemakers, Jane Hughes and John Major. Jane became an active member of the East London Federation of the Suffragettes (ELFS)  she went under the pseudonym of ‘Mrs. Hughes’, being her mother’s maiden name, as her husband Alfred wasn’t keen on Jane’s suffragette involvement and did not take kindly to his name appearing in the papers

Jane was elected as one of the six women who formed a deputation to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith in June 1914.Jane led the campaign to Downing Street:

'She was a short and stout woman with a very good heart, but as she reached into a bag to take out a specimen brush she had worked on so as to explain to Prime Minister Asquith the process of what her work involved, it sent him and others running for the door, as they apparently believed Jane was reaching for a bomb!'

Jane made a stand for women and their right to vote:

“I am a brush maker, and I work from eight in the morning till six at night making brushes ten hours a day, and while I work I have to cut my hands with wire, as the bristles are very soft to get in. I have brought brushes to show to you. This is a brush I have to make for 2d, and it is worth 10s 6d.

As I have to work so hard to support myself I think it is very wrong that I cannot have a voice in the making of the laws that I have to uphold. I do not like having to work 14 hours a day without having a voice on it, and I think when a woman works 14 hours a day she has a right to a vote, as her husband has. We want votes for women.”

Asquith was apparently moved by the stories of the deputation, and indicated that he would consider their demands.

Finally in 1918, Parliament passed an act granting the vote to women over the age of 30 who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5, and graduates of British universities.

There are no photographs of Jane but today on stories we  visit her home just steps from the shop, instead of portrait we use a picture of the suffragetes badge of colours Purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity and green for hope.

Imagine a country without the Womens vote?

All information taken from the fabulous East End Womens Museum.