The Hidden History of Suffrage at Maesteg Town Hall
Maesteg Town Hall has been visited by many famous faces over the years, and many political meetings have been held within, but you may not be aware of our connections with one of the 20th century’s most important human rights campaigns, the women’s suffrage movement.
Women won limited voting rights in 1918, after a hard–fought campaign, but those rights were only granted to women over 30 who were members of the local government register, or married to a member.
Women weren’t granted the same voting rights as men until the Representation of the People Act in 1928. With this Act, voting rights were expanded to include 15 million women.
The Llynfi valley played a small, little-known, but no less important part in this revolution.
The first suffragette rally connected with Maesteg Town Hall that we have documented was held by none other than Sylvia Pankhurst, one of the movement’s most prominent campaigners, in April 1907, outside the Hall.
In attendance was Amy Jenkins of Twmpath, Nantyffyllon, nicknamed “The Maesteg Martyr” by the Cardiff Times on 21st March of the same year, who had recently spent 14 days in jail for protesting in Westminster for women’s right to vote.
Never a community to shy away from radical politics, Maesteg had an active branch of the Suffragette league, and Amy Jenkins was its secretary. A Miss Watkins, who accompanied Amy Jenkins to London to represent the Maesteg branch, was also arrested.
In April of 1910, a suffragette rally was held within Maesteg Town Hall, this time led by Emmeline Pankhurst, mother of Sylvia Pankhurst and herself a leader of the movement.
The movement was also supported by Vernon Hartshorn, MP for Ogwr from 1908 until his death in 1931, after whom Hartshorn House, home to the Bowrington Arcade, is named.
In 1999 Emmeline Pankhurst was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.
Through their hard work, perseverance and activism, these women and their supporters changed the world.