Princess Sophia: Suffragettes and Women’s Votes
In 2018 Essex Cultural Diversity Project were successful in obtaining a grant from the Women’s Vote Centenary Grant Scheme through the Government Equalities office.
Our project focused on the life and achievements of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, who was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union. She campaigned for votes for women nationally and was often seen selling the newspaper The Suffragette outside Hampton Court Palace. Our project ran from April to December 2018, and told Sophia’s story as a starting point to explore the role of women in democracy, and celebrate 100 years of votes for women.
The project engaged hundreds of people. We’ve had a pop up exhibition, created and curated by Nanaki Bance, tour to schools, gurdwaras, galleries and museums; roundtable discussions in Ipswich, Southend, Chelmsford and Colchester to discuss issues that effect women; a women’s conference, Sophia’s Assembly, to bring together women for positive change; family storytelling sessions at libraries across Norfolk with Seema Anand; workshops for young people; a talk with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown as part of Firstsite’s exhibition about fellow Suffragette Millicent Fawcett in Colchester; and a Special Assembly on Sophia Duleep Singh at the House of Commons, hosted by Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP.
Watch our film Sophia – A Princess for All, which was created as part of the project.
The Women’s Centenary Fund supports projects that encourage women to become leaders in their communities, celebrate the lives of prominent suffragettes and increase young people’s engagement with democracy.
Photos of some of our activity are can be found on our Flickr image archive – here’s a taster below:
More about our project
On 18 November 1910, known as Black Friday, Sophia Duleep Singh led a 400-strong demonstration to Parliament together with Mrs Pankhurst. As clashes broke out between the police and protestors, over 150 women were physically assaulted. Sophia also belonged to the Women’s Tax Resistance League, whose slogan was ‘No Vote, No Tax’. Her refusal to pay tax led to her prosecution several times and some of her valuable possessions were impounded. Her story has been recently been highlighted nationally and the Royal Mail issued a stamp featuring Sophia Duleep Singh to mark 100 years since the Representation of the People Act.
For this project, Essex Cultural diversity Project hosted a series of events for diverse and non-diverse communities, especially South Asian communities across the East of England, about the achievements of Sophia Duleep Singh. This is an inspirational and largely unknown story even amongst communities in the region and our activities will demonstrate how important a key BAME female figure was in changing democracy for good in the UK.
The events and talks sought to discuss issues today regarding BAME women’s engagement in the democratic process, with reference to Sophia and other inspirational figures. We aimed to encourage women from these communities to engage more in the political arena shaping UK politics today as very few Asian women have participated in British politics over the years (particularly poor representation of second and third generations).
ECDP are keen increase awareness of the story of Sophia we hope to educate, celebrate her achievements and be a figure head role model and inspiration.