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  1. Election 2024
5 November 2015

The Returning Officer: Suffragettes

“I’m a bold suffragette who can’t keep quiet.”

By Stephen Brasher

In 1931, Esther Rickards stood for Labour in Paddington North. She trained as a doctor (as women were not allowed to be vets) and became the second female “master of surgery”. A keen dog breeder, she was later secretary of the United Spaniel Association. In 1933, as a London county councillor, she was widely quoted as saying, “Today, appendicitis is a lot less dangerous than crossing the road.”

In 1913, she, her sister and her cousin made a suffragette protest at the New West End Synagogue; 44 years later, she was reported as the first woman to speak in a House of Lords debate, answering a question from Lord Cohen. Refusing to apologise, she said, “I’m a bold suffragette who can’t keep quiet.”

Stephen Brasher

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This article appears in the 28 Oct 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Israel: the Third Intifada?