The Vote Before The Vote - Leeds women and the 19th century march towards the vote

Alice Cliff Scatcherd

You can read more about Alice Cliff Scatcherd here

Born in 1842, Alice was one of 14 children of Joseph Cliff, an extremely wealthy businessman. They lived in Western Flatts House in Wortley, now known as Cliff House. The family were Unitarians and worshipped at Mill Hill Chapel in Leeds but Alice attended Mount Quaker school in York and maintained close links with the Quakers all her life.

In 1871, she married Oliver Scatcherd, a solicitor, the youngest son of an old Morley family. Alice did not promise to “obey” and refused to wear a wedding ring, saying marriage “did much to keep up the subjection of women. It lends the sanction of religion to much that is degrading and wrong in married life.”

Alice joined the Leeds Women’s Suffrage Society and was involved in holding meetings for women burgesses (voters) in each ward, attracting large working-class audiences. She helped set up sub-committees to carry out canvassing and political education.

After the Leeds Society became the Yorkshire Society for Women’s Suffrage in 1873, Alice took over as Secretary when Catherine Buckton left to concentrate on her new elected role with the School Board.

In 1874, Ann Ellis, a power-loom weaver from Batley, involved Alice and Constance Holland in protests against Factory Acts designed to limit women’s access to factory work. They helped Ann Ellis to set up branches of the Women’s Trade Union League across Yorkshire and supported a six-week strike of women weavers in Dewsbury led by Ellis.

From 1877, Alice was a member of the Executive Committee of the Central National Society for Women’s Suffrage. She drafted several unsuccessful parliamentary bills before resigning in 1885 over a decision to support a suffrage bill which excluded married women.

When the Isle of Man Tynwald (Parliament) proposed to extend its franchise to all property-owning men in 1880, Alice and a Manchester colleague spent 6 weeks there, campaigning for the inclusion of suitably qualified women. The Isle of Man became the first country in the world to give women the Parliamentary vote.

In October 1883 she represented Morley Liberals at the National Reform Congress held in Leeds and, in January 1889, was one of the founding members of the Leeds Women’s Liberal Association. In 1894, she became President of the Morley branch of the Co-operative Women’s Guild, holding the position for 10 years.

Along with Richard and Emmeline Pankhurst and several others, Alice formed The Women’s Franchise League to campaign for equal political rights for married women.

The passing of the Local Government Act 1894, which extended the local vote to married women and abolished the property qualification for Poor Law Guardians, owed much to the League’s lobbying. But Alice withdrew from activism, in part, perhaps, because her husband was serving two terms as Mayor of Morley.

In 1903, Alice was appointed to the Morley Education Committee, but was forced to retire after suffering a stroke. Oliver died in 1905 and Alice a year later. They are buried in the Scatcherd Mausoleum in the grounds of St Mary’s in the Wood Church, Morley.