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10 am - 5pm Toynbee Hall, 28 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LS

At the heart of the festival is a free day of talks, workshops and performance about history, equality, and east London, taking place at the historic Toynbee Hall. Join us to celebrate 100 years since the radical East London Federation of Suffragettes was established in Bow. Find out more about this remarkable group of women and their leader, Sylvia Pankhurst.

About the festival


Courtesy of Lee Webster Twitter @leepster. My talk 'A Suffragette in the Family' #elsfest 9th August 2014 at Toynbee Hall.


In addition to the original article which I created in October 2013 I have also created an article and associated recording / Pod Cast in August 2014 after attending the East London Suffragette Festival where I was one of the speakers about Aunt Nellie and Uncle George under the title 'A Suffragette In The Family'. You can both read the article and listen to the podcast by following this link here on my website.


My great aunt and uncle Nellie and George Cressall were a part of my life since I can remember. Now nearing sixty years of age I researched all I could find about them to blend with the stories that my grandmother and her sisters told me about their brothers wife. In doing so, the journey of the past few months was combined with researching my dear grandfathers first world war experiences has reflected much back to me and at so many levels.

On 10 October 1903, the Women's Social and Political Union - its members soon be nicknamed the suffragettes - held its inaugural meeting, and declared that the situation was so serious it would have to pursue extreme measures of civil disobedience.

Now, upon reflection, I understand why I choose the career I have with all of its twists and turns but with one over riding element - the power of caring for people and a community. This has stemmed from the family I came from and the simple and yet powerfully important values and perspective on life and living it which they instilled into me.

My grandmother, Elsie May and her elder sister Rosie talked of their brother George and his wife Nellie. For example Nellie mentioned how, in 1907 a quiet man knocked at her door to see her husband who was working with George Landsbury and an active member in the labour party for his constituency Poplar. My grandmother told me how George said that he would consider enabling this man to join the party but only after he came with him to the docks for a meeting to see the issues that men and their families faced. Later George was satisfied with this young mans commitment to the 'common' peoples struggle in the East End of London and signed the relevant documents. This man was later to become Prime Minster Aneurin Bevan.

Still unmarried and naturally still living at the family home many meetings held at her parents, Thomas and Clara's home in Poplar. My grandmother recalled how there would be lots of people in the front room and hallway discussing, often in heated tones, current issues, voting and preparation for meetings.

Whilst only a teenager she wasn't allowed by her parents to directly participate in either meetings held at their home or elsewhere but she and her sisters Rose and Maisey (Miriam) would be seated at the top of the stairs listening intently. As the suffragette cause progressed my grandmother told me how she would sit for hours sewing the banners which would be used at meetings given she and her sister Rose were too young to attend any of the meetings.

My talk 'A Suffragette in the Family' #elsfest 9th August 2014 at Toynbee Hall.
East London Suffragette Festival
9 August · · Taken at Toynbee Hall
Some pics from the main event of our festival, a day of talks, workshops and performance at Toynbee Hall. Photos by Pyktis Photography

Tate Britain experience visit November 2013 and Sylvia Pankhurst room surprise.

There are no such things as accidents and when invited to attend an event at Tate Britain, just across the river where I live here near Vauxhall imagine my surprise and delight when I walked into the current exhibition of Sylvia's art here at Tate Britain.

However, the history is all around me where I live here in central London.

Since starting work on what I thought would be one article including my reflections on my family thanks to the Internet I have been contacted by other members of the family. One here in the UK and one in the USA. They inform me that they have stories of their own, pictures to share and also research which they have completed. So, as a result, I have decided to create a number of articles here which will compose our combined memories and reflections on 'the family'.

Below are a selection of pictures from my visit to Tate Britain and simply click on image to enlarge. Enjoy as much as I did.

On arrival at Tate Britain on a rainy afternoon with a friend I was so surprised to walk into one of the rooms and see that there was a celebration of the Suffragette Movement. As I walked around memories came flooding back and imagine when I saw one of the banners hanging on the wall how I recall how my grandmother told me how she used to sit at home with her sister Rosie and make the banners given that they were both too young to attend any of the marches where the banners they had made would be on display.

As you will see there were also a selection of pictures painted by Sylvia on the wall as well as excerpts from one of her books documenting, with pictures by Sylvia about what life was really like in prison.






My grandmother was on a teenager and so she wasn't allowed by her parents to be actively involved in the sense of going on marches or to meetings however she would sit at home in the house in Poplar and sew. My grandmother was talented when it came to knitting, crochet and sewing and she would help sew the banners with Auntie Rosie and Auntie Violet. (I went with a friend to Tate Britain, some twenty minutes walk from where I live near Vauxhall at the end of last year. I walked around the gallery and suddenly entered a room devoted to Sylvia Pankhurst and the suffragette movement. Memories came flooding back especially when I looked up at the wall and saw a banner hanging. I wonder if my grandmother and her sisters had something to do with that one, especially when, on closer examination, I saw the fine embroidery which was so much a part of my grandmothers handiwork).

The brothers were heavily involved in politics and would often meet at the family home with arguments and challenges which my grandmother recalled and a smile on her face.

Auntie Nellie and Uncle George - Uncle George was the agent for George Landsbury for over thirty years and was a leading labour councillor along with his wife, Nellie. He was Major of Poplar in his own right and then in 1943 Nellie was voted as Major in her own right.

Brief History.

Arson attacks

By 1911, the UK had witnessed the first act of suffragette arson (orchestrated by Christabel) and two years later Emily Davison died at the Derby as she rushed out to bring down the King's horse.

In Parliament, pressure for change was led by some liberal MPs, who were the leading figures in a suffrage committee.

But away from the reasoned debate of Westminster, prisons filled with women prepared to go to jail for the right to vote. The civil disobedience continued behind bars, with many women force-fed to prevent them hunger striking. While the authorities tried to present them as insane, their families campaigned for the inmates to be given political status, including the right to wear their own clothes, study and prepare their own food.

War effort. World War I proved to be the turning point for the campaign.

The suffragettes effectively put on hold their campaign of civil direct action in the interests of national unity. As men went to the Western Front, women proved how indispensable they were in the fields and armaments factories.

Leaders taken into custody Many arrests were made By 1918, no government could resist and the Representation of the Peoples Act allowed women over 30 the right to vote. It would take a further 10 years to abolish the age qualification and put men and women on an equal footing.






But wait, this isn't all for a few years later back they both were with The Poplar Rates Revolt.

My family pictures - a selection for us to discuss as we make contact here on the internet.



The Suffragette Movement
Sylvia Pankhurst A Crusading Life 1882 - 190 Shirley Harrison, Arum Press © 2003 Shirley Harrison

Additional information selected from

Contact direct email -


( ready to be updated as more family members make contact. In addition I am hoping to be able to devote sections of my website to images of letters, more photographs and other memorabilia relating to the family.)





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