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

Constance Holland

Born in New Wortley in 1828, Constance Holland was one of three daughters of a legal stationer. After his death, she and her sister Helen opened a school at 16, Midland Road, Woodhouse, and from the early 1860s, both Holland sisters were active members of the Leeds Association of School Mistresses, the first professional body for women teachers.

Constance subscribed to the Manchester Society for Women's Suffrage. In 1868 she helped collect signatures for the first suffrage petition to Parliament specifically from Leeds. She helped organise the first suffrage meeting in Leeds in 1869, held at the Mechanics Institute (now Leeds City Museum) and she stood unsuccessfully for the School Board in 1870.

The following year, with Hannah Ford, Catherine Buckton, and Alice Cliff Scatcherd, Constance was on the committee of the newly-formed Leeds branch of the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage. The Committee held "voters" meetings for women in each ward, and set up suffrage sub-committees, with working-class women acting as Secretary.

In 1874, Alice and Constance, with Mrs. Ellis, a power-loom weaver from Batley, arranged public protests against Factory Acts designed to limit the ability of women, especially married women, to work. They were asked to present evidence to the Royal Commission on the matter.

Later health problems forced Constance Holland to close her school and move abroad. She died in 1881 in Santa Barbara, California.