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The First Suffragette Martyr

March 30, 2019

An appeal has been set up to fund a statue of suffragette Mary Clarke in Brighton, as a symbol for the city of equality, democracy and women’s rights.


Mary Clarke, a WSPU organiser for the Brighton area and Mrs Pankhurst’s sister, has been described as the “first woman martyr who has gone to death for this cause”. She was the first of three women to die following Black Friday, before the more famous death of Emily Wilding Davison under the King’s horse on Derby Day 1913.

Mary Clarke lodged with suffragette Minnie Turner at her Brighton boarding house and was active in building the WSPU in the South East. She organised meetings, chairing and speaking at rallies at both Hove Town Hall and at the Dome.

There is no memorial to this woman who Emmeline Pankhurst mourned as her “dearest sister”. She was a survivor of domestic abuse, and became a formidable organiser and activist, imprisoned and force fed, loved for her kindness and admired by fellow prisoners for her quiet strength, a brave woman who could handle “Brighton rowdies” with courtesy. But she has simply vanished from history. She died of a brain haemorrhage following street violence of the Black Friday march to Parliament and the effects of force feeding in prison.

Brighton has statues of the ubiquitous Queen Victoria, the symbolic Peace Angel and some anonymous women in drapery at the foot of the clock tower ( seemingly just as decoration? ) as well as several named men, but not a single named woman remembered for her achievements, so surely this is the first woman eminently worthy of a memorial in the city.

To support the appeal see details in the following post