Vote for Emily! Days - 6 and 7 May

Suffragette reenactors

As part of the National Trust’s commemoration to mark a hundred years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act when some women over 30 got the right to vote, we celebrate the life of Gunby's political and social pioneer Emily Massingberd. We will start the celebration with a two-day event called ‘Vote for Emily! Days’ on 6 and 7 May.

Step back in time on these two special days and meet suffragettes and campaigners for 'Votes for Women' as well as finding out more about Gunby's pioneer Emily Massingberd. There will be brand new immersive exhibitions as well as fun re-enactments throughout the day. Don't miss demonstrations of Suffrajitsu: a martial art of the suffragettes to fight for women’s rights and your chance to vote for Emily's cause that you think is most important.

Enjoy demonstrations of 'Suffrajitsu': martial art for suffragettes
Suffragette re-enactors
Enjoy demonstrations of 'Suffrajitsu': martial art for suffragettes

‘We can’t wait to shine a light on Emily’s achievements, says Gunby Visitor Experience Manager Astrid Gatenby. She was an extraordinary woman and we hope our visitors will enjoy finding out more about Emily’s interesting life. Three floors of the house and eight-acre gardens are open too, filled with spring colour. Why not bring a picnic and make a day of it?’.

Gunby’s ‘Vote for Emily! Days’ are on 6 and 7 May, gates open from 11am. Free for National Trust members and under 5s, normal admission charges apply for non-members.

Dogs on leads are welcome throughout the gardens and grounds. Gunby Hall is located on the A158, off the Gunby roundabout. Ring 01754 890102 to find out more.

Emily Massingberd (1847-1897)
Photo of Emily Massingberd
Emily Massingberd (1847-1897)

Emily Massingberd

Gunby's Emily was a tee-total political activist who campaigned for women’s rights and, for preference, dressed like a man. She was a keen amateur actor (preferring to take male parts) and played the violin. She had four children: Mildred, Stephen, Mary and Diana.

Her ethical and political beliefs were united in the Pioneer Club, an institution she founded in 1892. A socially levelling institution for women (men were permitted only at Social Evenings on Wednesdays) where all were identified by number rather than by name, it sought through lectures (every Thursday) and social campaigning to tackle issues of concern such as vivisection and explore new philosophies such as theosophy, but overwhelmingly it was concerned with improving the lot of women.

Visit the first floor sitting room of Gunby Hall during house opening times from May onwards to explore a contemporary reinterpretation of the Pioneer Club.

The 1888 Local Government Reform Act left it vague who had the right stand for election and who did not. So in the elections of January 1889 Emily stood for the ward of Partney, in her right as a landowner, and lost by only 20 votes. She was one of the first women in the country to stand for public office.

Emily, who had been widowed in 1875, succeeded her father at Gunby in 1887. She enjoyed the life of a country squire up to a point, but found the isolation of Lincolnshire trying and, after a couple of years, let Gunby once again, retiring to live in Bournemouth (where she produced amateur theatricals with her friend Agnes Mangles) and London. Here she preferred to live at the Club in Bruton Street rather than with her teenaged children in the house she rented for them in Kensington Square. She died after an operation in 1897 aged only 49.