Great Pilgrimage Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pilgrimage

Great Pilgrimage
Part of first-wave feminism
Mrs Harley addressing a meeting at Olton, Women's pilgrimage 1913.jpg
Katherine Harley addresses a meeting at Olton during the Great Pilgrimage.
Date18 June – 26 July 1913
Marchers converged on Hyde Park, London, England

51°30′31″N 0°09′49″W / 51.508611°N 0.163611°W / 51.508611; -0.163611Coordinates: 51°30′31″N 0°09′49″W / 51.508611°N 0.163611°W / 51.508611; -0.163611
Caused byFight for women's suffrage
MethodsDemonstrations, marches
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Millicent Fawcett (NUWSS) Prime Minister H. H. Asquith

The Great Pilgrimage of 1913 was a march in Britain by suffragists campaigning non-violently for women's suffrage, organised by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). Women marched to London from all around England and Wales and 50,000 attended a rally in Hyde Park.[1][2][3][4][5]


The idea for the march was first put forward by Katherine Harley at an NUWSS subcommittee meeting in London on 17 April 1913.[6]: 148  Plans were rapidly drawn up, and publicised through the NUWSS newsletter Common Cause, for six routes along which marchers would converge on London for a rally in Hyde Park on 26 July 1913. These were named the Great North Route (from Newcastle and East Anglia); the Watling Street Route (from Carlisle, Manchester and north Wales); the West Country Route (from Land's End and south Wales); the Bournemouth Route; the Portsmouth Route; and the Kentish Pilgrim Way.[6]: xxi, 152 


The first marchers set off on 18 June, allowing six weeks to reach London from Carlisle and Newcastle.[6]: xxi, 153  Each contingent was preceded by banners declaring the march to be law-abiding and non-militant, clarifying the stance of the NUWSS compared to the militancy of the WSPU.[6]: xxi, 153  Women of all classes joined the march, including Lady Rochdale (wife of George Kemp, 1st Baron Rochdale), who marched from Carlisle to London.[6]: 318 

The procession leaving Drayton for Banbury

The march was organised in great detail. Advance information provided to marchers included a "village-by-village itinerary" with details about accommodation and facilities. A single piece of luggage per person would be transported, there were daily roll calls, and marchers were asked to wear rosettes in green, white and red - not the purple of the suffragettes. Some marchers brought horse-drawn caravans to accommodate themselves en route, while others stayed with local supporters or were found other accommodation. Marchers were welcome to join the pilgrimage for as long as they could: while some women marched for six weeks others could only spare a shorter time.[6]: 155 

Public meetings were organised along the routes of the march, and in some cases the women were met with violence from hostile locals, as at Ripon where they were attacked by drunks celebrating the local agricultural show,[6]: 174–175  and at Thame where an attempt was made to burn one of the marchers' caravans while they slept in it.[6]: 1–4, 213–215 


On Saturday, 26 July, the marchers and others converged on Hyde Park for their rally. They assembled at pre-arranged points to march to the park, where 78 speakers addressed the crowd from 19 platforms, one for each federation within the NUWSS. At 6pm a vote was taken at each platform, and those present unanimously passed the motion "That this meeting demands a Government measure for the enfranchisement of women".[6]: 227 

Centennial commemoration[edit]

In 2013 a series of walks were held to commemorate the centenary of the pilgrimage. Playwright Natalie McGrath's play Oxygen, which was inspired by the 1913 march, was performed by the arts organisation Dreadnought South West at venues along the march route.[7][8][9]


  1. ^ "Women's Pilgrimage". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 8 January 2018. Includes full text of several primary sources
  2. ^ Fara, Patricia (2018). A Lab of One's Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War. Oxford UP. p. 67. ISBN 9780198794981. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  3. ^ Oldfield, Sybil (1 September 1913). "Great Britain". Jus Suffragii. 8 (1): 7. ISBN 9780415257374. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  4. ^ Malins, Phillipa (2013). "The Walk for Women - July 2013" (PDF). Cuckfield Museum. Retrieved 8 January 2018. Includes a photograph of the marchers
  5. ^ Evans, Neil (March 2017). "The Welsh women who took the long road to get the vote". Wales Online. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Robinson, Jane (2018). Hearts And Minds: The Untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and How Women Won the Vote. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0857523914.
  7. ^ Cochrane, Kira (11 July 2013). "Join the great suffrage pilgrimage". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Who we are". Dreadnought South West. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  9. ^ "The Pilgrimage". Dreadnought South West. Retrieved 8 January 2018.

Further reading[edit]