Saturday 28 July 2018

Rose Lamartine Yates – our cycling suffragette

Cycling history in Merton stretches back considerably further than 40 years! Ceri Davies reviews Hugh Morgan's talk at Colliers Wood library, 21 July 2018.

Forceful, full of personality, foresight and social conscience, Rose Lamartine Yates’ eminence in championing female emancipation was vividly portrayed in an entertaining and informative talk given by Hugh Morgan as part of Merton Heritage Service’s centenary programme celebrating the women’s suffrage campaign in Merton.

Hugh’s research and lively delivery animated the very significant work carried out by this local heroine.  She not only conquered a milestone in cycling history (she was the first woman to be elected to the Cyclists’ Touring Club Council) but was highly influential in the quest for sexual equality, promoting her ideas through powerful speeches and actions, always supported by her husband Tom, a lawyer and fellow cyclist.  Hugh emphasised how her powerful oratory – some of which took place on Wimbledon Common - became one of her most important weapons in the struggle.

Out of all the local places significant to her activities, we learnt how her home in Merton, Dorset Hall on Kingston Road, served not only her family and friends but became a refuge for activists and a focal point for her campaigning activities as the secretary of the Wimbledon Social and Political Union (WSPU).  Hugh made a strong case for recognising Dorset Hall as a respected location for the women’s movement.

Rose Lamartine Yates continued her fight even after women won the full vote. She worked for the establishment of an archive for the suffrage campaign, and opened the Women’s Record Room, now part of the suffrage collection in the Museum of London.

Hugh’s knowledgeable presentation provoked questions and contributions from the wide-ranging members of the audience, including Rose Lamartine Yates’ own grand-daughter, Yolande. Thank you, Hugh for a splendid afternoon.