Book charts Suffrage in Halifax

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‘Struggle and Suffrage in Halifax’

Author: Helena Fairfax

Between the years of 1800 and 1950, the textile town of Halifax grew beyond recognition. The booming mills and factories depended on the labour of women and children for their prosperity - yet their voices are almost entirely missing from the history books. In a bid to correct that oversight, Shipley author Helena Fairfax tells the story of the women who helped shape the town - for the first time.

In her new book ‘Struggle and Suffrage in Halifax’, the editor and author of women’s fiction looks at child labour, women’s health and education - or rather the lack of it - the fight for the vote and the protests that led to change against a background of massive social change. Using personal recollections, newspaper articles, photos and archive material, Helena tells a fascinating and moving account of the lives of Halifax women through key events in the town’s history. In the 19th century, girls as young as four toiled in the mills until their fingers bled and it was common for women to work in appalling conditions through their pregnancy. Families were large, illiteracy was commonplace and women regularly died in childbirth. Many faced the stigma of single parenthood or an illegal abortion. As late as 1939, the vicar of Halifax called women’s economic independence ‘an evil’. But change was in the air. Female workers began to fight for better working conditions, marching four deep and facing violent opposition, and suffragettes were imprisoned in the campaign for votes for women. But, by 1900, there was a thriving girls’ high school in Halifax - even though one of its most brilliant students was denied a degree because of her gender - and in the 1930s, the first Family Planning Clinic was set up by women in the town.

‘Stuggle and Suffrage in Halifax’ is published by Pen & Sword Books, £14.99.