Leicester suffragette Alice Hawkins’ great-grandson keeps her campaigning message alive

By Salma Ouaguira

With the bronze statue of his great-grandmother unveiled in Leicester a year ago, suffragette Alice Hawkins’ great-grandson is passionate about describing her dynamic life and suffrage campaign to younger generations.   

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Peter Barratt, great-grandson of Leicester’s famed Suffragette Alice Hawkins, gave a talk about her fight for women’s rights, at Christchurch Clarendon Park on Tuesday, February 12.

It was the same presentation that he first gave to the Houses of Parliament in London last year as part of Women’s History Month, and marking the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote.

Peter gave a passionate account of his great-grandmother’s fascinating life marked by hunger strikes, jail and protests.

He illustrated his talk in great detail with genuine suffragette memorabilia, part of Alice’s family heritage loaned to Parliament a year ago as a star feature in their 2018 Voice and Vote exhibition.  

“She was a Leicester branch of the suffragette movement,” Peter explained.

Alice was part of a working-class family born in Stafford. At thirteen she left school and moved to Leicester to spend her working life as a shoe machinist.  

Her left-wing radical ideology started to shape as she campaigned for equal pay against the injustices of women in the shoe factory where she worked. 

 In her early twenties, she worked for Equity Shoe Factory and joined the trade union movement, but she became disillusioned with what she could achieve for the women’s rights cause.  

 Alice actively battled to win equality through the right to vote because she believed “without the right to vote, women’s interests cannot go to Parliament”. 

She was arrested a total of five times and persistently stood up for equal rights through all her life until her death on March 12, 1946, at the age of 83.  

As a Suffragette, she involved her family in her social activism with the full support of her husband Alfred Hawkins. 

Peter said: “My grand-father would tell me about his mother Alice, they used to go with her to her public meetings. 

“I once asked my mother what she remembered about Alice, and she explained that her grand-mother used to tell her; Vera, you must use your vote, we suffered for it.” 

Peter Barratt has made several talks aimed at the local community of Leicester after his fundraising campaign for an Alice Hawkins statue finished last year with its unveiling in Leicester’s new market square where she used to do her public meetings.  

“When I first started spreading the memory of Alice Hawkins, I thought that I would speak in the same enthusiastic way Alice would have spoken. 

“Talking with children in primary schools is different, I try to make them understand the struggle of Alice through empathy.” 

 He urged young people to use Alice’s story as an inspiration to use their vote, “especially young women.”  

All the memorabilia presented in his talks is now stored in New Walk Museum in Leicester.

To culminate with the Centenary Year of Alice Hawkins, a big event called ‘Always and always facing toward the light’ is due to be held this Sunday (MARCH3) at 6.30pm in the city’s New Market Square.  

The event will bring to live Alice’s story through live performance, a choir and a video projection onto the outside of the historic Corn Exchange building.

Admission to the show will be with wristband, which will be available free of charge from the VisitLeicester information office in Gallowtree Gate, the Highcross Customer Service Desk, and New Walk Museum. 

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