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Suffragette City

Published on Monday, October 14, 2019

Suffragette City

Digital archives are a wonder of technology, aren’t they? They put so much information at our fingertips, information that might have been buried away in a stack of yellowing newspapers, leading to forgotten heroines (and heroes) of times past…

The recently erected statue of Millicent Fawcett in London’s Parliament Square features a long list of suffragists and suffragettes and, among them, Sophia Duleep Singh, caught my eye.

Princess Sophia was born in London in 1876 and was one of the daughters of the exiled last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, from whom she would inherit substantial wealth. Sophia was goddaughter to Queen Victoria and, as she grew up, became a dog-breeding, bicycle-riding socialite and fashion icon.

After a visit to India in 1909, Sophia was transformed and became a leading light in the Votes for Women cause. Along with speeches and demonstrations she arranged funding for suffragette groups, which included auctioning her belongings and soliciting subscriptions. She refused to pay taxes without parliamentary representation and paid numerous fines for having dogs and a coach without the relevant licences. As well as vigorously promoting the cause in Britain, she visited India again and promoted female suffrage there. Princess Sophia also volunteered as a nurse at an auxiliary hospital for 15 months during the First World War, looking after wounded Indian soldiers, and arranged a fund-raising flag day for the benefit of Indian troops in 1918. A very busy, and noble, woman.

There are numerous mentions of Princess Sophia in The Suffragette newspaper, but the one I like features a vote of thanks to her for taking over the Hampton Court pitch where she sold the newspaper and drummed up interest in volunteering for the movement.

As well as news about suffragettes held in the National Archives, the British Newspaper Archive is also a fantastic resource. This is a joint project between the British Library and online genealogy service, Findmypast, that scans local and national newspapers from the 1700s onwards. Already extending to nearly 35 million pages, the archive is creating a unique historical treasure trove of local, national and international political and social history.

Having a well-organised archive that people can find their way around is imperative. Restore’s knowledgeable teams can help you realise your vision for a well ordered archive, with barcoding and bespoke file-tracking software, help with GDPR compliance and secure near and/or deep storage, depending on your needs. Just give us a call on 0333 060 8909.

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