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17 February 2016

The Returning Officer: Hastings II

In 1924, the Australian-born Muriel Matters stood for Labour in Hastings. 

By Stephen Brasher

In 1924, the Australian-born Muriel Matters stood for Labour in Hastings. An accomplished pianist and actor, she emigrated to the UK in 1905 to further her career. Matters became involved in the suffragette movement and, on 29 October 1908, was ejected from the public gallery in the Commons. Later, at a meeting, she “prophesied the downfall of the British empire if votes for women were not promptly granted”.

In February 1909, she went up in a balloon with the “aeronaut” Henry Spencer to distribute leaflets. “We were throwing down bills . . . yellow, green and white. They floated down to the people below like beautifully coloured birds,” she said. Matters was an enthusiast for the Montessori method of education and was among the first in Britain to deliver lectures on the subject.

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This article appears in the 10 Feb 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle