Minnie Turner – Brighton Suffragette

The Orange Lilies project is lucky to be having an illustrated talk at Brighton Museum about the famed Minnie Turner, a Brighton suffragette in the lead to and during WWI. This is a great way for our project researchers to find out more about the home front in Brighton and Hove during our project period (1916 and the Somme).

The talk takes place at Brighton museum on Friday 12th May 1-4pm. FREE.

imagesMinnie Turner

Minnie Turner was born in about 1867. A supporter of women’s suffrage, Turner became the honorary secretary of the Women’s Liberal Association in Brighton in 1896. She was also a member of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). However, disappointed by the failure of the Liberal government to introduce legislation that would enable women to vote, Turner joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1908.

Turner ran her home, Sea View (13/14) Victoria Road, as a boarding house. Mary Clarke lived in her house while based in Brighton as a WSPU organiser. Turner was especially keen to cater for suffragettes and advertised her services in Votes for Women, The Suffragette, The Common Cause, The Vote and Women’s Dreadnought. Her advert stated: “Suffragettes spend your holidays in Brighton, central. Terms moderate.” Some of the women who stayed at her boarding house included Emmeline Pankhurst, Constance Lytton, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Annie Kenney, Flora Drummond , Marie Naylor, Mary Leigh, Mary Phillips and Vera Wentworth.

In November 1910 Turner was arrested with Mary Clarke while taking part in a demonstration outside the House of Commons. She was released without charge. She was arrested for breaking a window in the Home Office in November 1911 and received a sentence of 21 days’ in Holloway Prison.

download.jpgSome members of the WSPU stayed at Sea View after enduring hunger-strikes. This included Minnie Baldock in 1911 and Emily Wilding Davison in July 1912. Minnie Turner also kept a suffrage lending library at her home. That year her house was attacked by local people who disapproved of her support for the WSPU.

Minnie Turner was a member of the Tax Resistance League (TRL). The motto adopted by the Tax Resistance League was “No Vote No Tax”. According to Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Suffragette Movement (1999): “When bailiffs seized goods belonging to women in lieu of tax, the TRL made the ensuing sale the occasion for a public or open-air meeting in order to spread the principles of women’s suffrage and to rouse public opinion to the injustice of non-representation meted out on tax-paying women.” In 1912 Turner had goods seized and sold at auction in lieu of tax.

Minnie Turner died in 1948.

Minnie Turner’s “suffragette boarding house”

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Minnie Turner's
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Minnie Turner's

13/14 Victoria Road

By Carol Dyhouse

In the early years of the last century nos 13 (known as ‘Sea View’) and 14 Victoria Road were first leased to and then purchased by Minnie Sara Turner (1867-1948), a local resident well known for her involvement in the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Minnie Turner came from a modest home in Preston Street, Brighton, where her family kept a shop selling knitted garments. She and her elder brother Alfred seem to have been largely self-educated and shared a passion for books.

As a young woman Minnie made her living by running “Sea View” and later its annexe at 14 Victoria Road as a guest house which attracted mainly professional women visitors: teachers, doctors and nurses. For twelve years she was honorary secretary of the Hove ward of the Brighton and Hove Women’s Liberal Association, but left the Liberal party because of its lack of support for women’s suffrage. In 1908 she joined the women’s Social and Political Union and turned to militancy. She was arrested three times for her suffrage activities. On the first two occasions (“Black Friday” and “the Battle of Downing Street”) she was released. On the third occasion, in 1911, during a protest against Asquith’s Reform Bill, she broke a window at the Home Office and was sentenced to three weeks imprisonment in Holloway.

By 1913, 13 Victoria Road had acquired a mixed reputation locally as a “suffragette boarding house” harbouring a “colony of militants”. In April 1913, the windows of the house were stoned by local youths. Miss Turner and her guests retaliated by sticking up signs in the windows declaring the damage an illustration of “Masculine Logic”, “the only kind of argument men understand”.

Writing about her suffrage activities in later life, Minnie was characteristically modest about her achievements, but it was with great pride that she remembered the long list of suffrage leaders who had stayed with her at 13/14 Victoria Road. Her guests had included Mrs Pankhurst and several of her family, Lady Constance Lytton, Lady Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Emily Wilding Davison, Annie Kenney, Mrs Drummond and many others. The guest-house was often full, and extra accommodation was arranged in the form of a wooden hut in the garden of no 13, and even a potting shed-type annexe to the back of no 12, next door.

Minnie believed passionately in suffrage and social justice. She was hard working and had a strong sense of responsibility to the community. A keen member of the Clifton Road Congregational Church, she was elected to the Brighton Board of Guardians soon after the First World War, and served for more than seven years, committed to improving conditions in Brighton Workhouse in Elm Grove. She valued education, peace and fellowship. One of her nieces remembered her aunt as a very determined woman but also as fun-loving, warm in her relationships with staff and friends.





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