Kirsty Wark presents podcasts for the National Trust on Women and Power

Press release
Kirsty Wark in Parliament Square
Published : 21 Jun 2018 Last update : 25 Jun 2018

A five-part weekly podcast series from the National Trust will launch on Monday 02 July as the conservation charity continues its exploration into the stories of both women and men connected to its places who helped form the debate for and against women’s suffrage.

Women and Power, presented by BBC broadcaster Kirsty Wark, will hear from National Trust house stewards, curators, volunteers and experts. Listeners will be invited to delve into unique and seldom documented accounts of the events that led up to 1918, and beyond to 1928 when universal suffrage was achieved.

The podcast series is part of the National Trust’s year-long programme of the same name, where more than 100 places are highlighting women’s stories to mark 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act which gave some women the right to vote.

Rachael Lennon, curator of the Women and Power programme for the National Trust, said: “Throughout the year, we’re lifting the lid on some fascinating, and sometimes surprising, stories from people connected to our places on both sides of the suffrage debate.

“The opposition to votes for women was ferocious and many women fought passionately against their own right to vote. Octavia Hill, co-founder of the National Trust and a dedicated social reformer, stood firmly against women’s suffrage as she worried that the vote would distract women from what she saw as ‘real work’. In contrast, Lady Rhondda who gifted Sugar Loaf Mountain in Monmouthshire to the National Trust, was a suffragette who was imprisoned and went on hunger strike, as was Violet Bland, a kitchen maid from Dudmaston in Shropshire.

“It wasn’t until 1928 that women would be allowed the right to vote in parliamentary elections on the same terms as men. This podcast explores the long, hard struggle both for and against that right.”

Presenter, Kirsty Wark, said: “The National Trust Women and Power podcast series brings together intimate stories and big events in women’s suffrage and sets it in within the walls of the Trust properties we know best.”

Other National Trust figures who feature in the podcasts include:

  • Alice Dowson was the great granddaughter of Samuel Greg who ran Quarry Bank in Cheshire. Alice campaigned for 20 years against the unfair Contagious Diseases Act of 1864, which meant that women suspected of being prostitutes could be inspected and, if found to be infected with venereal diseases, locked up in hospitals for up to a year. When the act was repealed, Alice realised the power she had to make political change and began to fight for female suffrage.
  • Laura McLaren along with her parents, Henry and Agnes Pochin, from Bodnant near Colwyn Bay in Wales, were all supporters of the female suffrage movement. It was Henry who chaired the first suffrage meeting of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage. Laura followed in her parents’ footsteps and became a pivotal figure in the suffrage movement.
  • Lady Rhondda who gifted Sugar Loaf Mountain in Monmouthshire to the National Trust, was a suffragette who was imprisoned and went on hunger strike, as was Violet Bland, a kitchen maid from Dudmaston in Shropshire.
  • Lord Curzon who lived at Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire was one of the staunchest opponents of female suffrage. He was the co-president of the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage from 1912 to 1918 and maintained that women lacked the ‘balance of mind’ to use the vote. The Countess of Jersey who lived at Osterley Park in Middlesex, also stated that she was ‘unutterably opposed’ to suffrage and she held the position of deputy president at the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage.

Podcasts will be released weekly from 02 July on Apple Podcasts and other major podcast platforms. For more information, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/suffragepodcast

Episode titles and descriptions

Women and Power: Episode 1 - The beginnings

Our story starts as early as 1780 in what was then the small northern town of Manchester during the time of the industrial revolution.

From here we move to Quarry Bank in Cheshire where we meet Alice Dowson, a member of the Greg family who campaigned for suffrage.

This episode also introduces listeners to Laura McLaren from Bodnant in Wales who, like Alice, supported the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Society, writing letters in favour of change.

Locations: Quarry Bank, Cheshire and Bodnant, near Colwyn Bay, Wales

Women and Power: Episode 2 - The rise of the Suffragettes

In the second episode of the Women and Power series, we learn about the role of militant suffragettes through the stories of Violet Ann Bland, a kitchen maid from Dudmaston, and Lady Rhondda.

As the suffragettes’ violence escalates, it causes divisions in society and polarises families. We travel to Killerton in Devon to find out about the friction within the Acland family between Eleanor and Gertrude. 

Locations: Dudmaston, Shropshire, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Monmouthshire and Killerton, Devon.

Women and Power: Episode 3 – Anti-Suffrage

Examining those who were opposed to suffrage, this episode introduces us to the two key national figures who led the movement: Margaret Elizabeth Child-Villiers, Countess of Jersey, who lived at Osterley Park in West London, and Lord Curzon, the owner of Kedleston in Derbyshire.

We learn about the anti-suffrage group’s origins and the reasons why some men, and women, were opposed to suffrage.

Locations: Kedleston, Derbyshire, Osterley, Middlesex and Wightwick, West Midlands.

Women and Power: Episode 4 - The War Years/Getting the vote

In episode 4, listeners are taken to 1918 as the House of Lords prepares to vote on the passing of the Representation of the People Act, which would give some women the right to vote. However, with the House of Lords headed up by Lord Curzon who held the power to block the vote, there are no guarantees about the outcome.

Locations: Quarry Bank, Cheshire.

Women and Power: Episode 5 - The Legacy

While the passing of the Representation of the People Act was a major step forward for women’s equality, in reality there were many caveats in place that heavily limited the number of women who could vote.

In this concluding episode, Kirsty Wark examines the continued struggle to gain equal voting rights, telling the story of Lady Rhondda who formed the Six Point Group in 1921.

Locations: Bodnant, near Colwyn Bay, Wales and Quarry Bank, Cheshire.

- Ends –