[This document comes from Helena Wojtczak's English Social History: Women of Nineteenth-Century Hastings and St.Leonards. An Illustrated Historical Miscellany, which the author has graciously shared with readers of the Victorian Web. Click on the title to obtain the original site, which has additional information.]

There was no little excitement at Wellington-square on Tuesday evening, when the first open-air meeting took place. At eight o'clock a large crowd soon congregated, composed of men, women and children. Miss Billing, of Bexhill, the speaker, was subjected to constant interruptions... several ugly rushes were made towards the chair upon which she was standing.

The little band of militants, including a few men supporters, managed to hold their own for while, but another rush nearly made Miss Billing lose her equilibrium. However, she clung to the electric light standard, and, with a smile on her face, went on to address the meeting, which by now had grown to several hundreds. Five minutes later another rush was made, carrying Miss Billing off her "perch". Someone managed to pull her to her feet, and immediately the air was filled with jeers, hisses, and laughter, and the little band of militants gradually moved down Albert-road, closely followed by the whole of the crowd.

[Several policemen] escorted them down Albert-road, Queens -road, and so to the starting point for the Bexhill trams. Bidding farewell to her friends, Miss Billing boarded a car amidst a STORM OF HISSES, mingled with applause... the chair at Wellington-square had been smashed up, pieces of which were taken away by "trophy hunters". An attempt to burn the impromptu platform was made, but this was prevented.

[ Newspaper report of a speech by Miss Billing, of the Women's Social & Political Union in The Hastings and St Leonards Pictorial Advertiser, 8 May 1913.]


Gender History

Last modified 2000