Redmaids’ High School commemorates suffragist governors

March 26 2018
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Trailblazers for the women’s suffrage movement across Bristol and the South West, Agnes Beddoe and Emily and Elizabeth Sturge, were honoured on International Women’s Day.

Trailblazers for the women’s suffrage movement across Bristol and the South West, Agnes Beddoe and Emily and Elizabeth Sturge, were honoured on International Women’s Day. 

Redmaids' High School in Bristol unveiled two blue plaques, approved by The Bristol Civic Society, on March 8 for these inspirational women, who were former school governors and significant players in the history of women’s rights in the UK. 

Agnes (1829-1914), a former governor of the Red Maids’ School, was a philanthropic feminist who helped build homes for women living in poverty. She was president of the Bristol and West Society for Women’s Suffrage. 

Emily (1847–1892), who sat on the council for Redland High School for Girls, was secretary for the Bristol and West Society for Women’s Suffrage, whilst her sister Elizabeth (1849–1944) was a governor for the School and a social reformer who helped to create better housing for people in Bristol. Red Maids’ and Redland High merged in 2016 to form Redmaids’ High School.

Alumna Penny Gane, who now heads Bristol Women's Commission and Bristol Women's Voice (BWV), attended to unveil the plaques. BWV has launched a book, The Women Who Built Bristol, that references Agnes, Emily and Elizabeth. 

“It is my pleasure to have been invited back to Redmaids’ High in order to celebrate these three women who are so important to the school, but who were also so influential in bringing about social and educational reform to Bristol and to the UK,” said Penny. 

Following the unveiling, about 650 students wearing the suffragist colours of red, green and white, marched up the school driveway with their own, modern day, political banners.

 “I am heartened to know that the students of Redmaids’ High are aware of the ongoing issues faced by women today,” said Penny. “Although the situation is far better than it would have been for Agnes, Emily and Elizabeth, we, as women, need to continue to make sure our voices are heard.” 

Headmistress Isabel Tobias noted the significance of these women. “We believe that the Sturge sisters and Ms Beddoe were friends, working together in the local suffrage movement as they did, which is such an important strand in the history of this school. “They were trailblazers in women’s education, having the vision to provide for Bristol’s young women in a time when many didn’t, and I am proud to say that our school has been leading the way ever since.”