THE stories of pioneering Essex women are being told as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of women being granted the right to vote.

The Representation of the People Act in 1918 allowed all men and some women over the age of 30 to vote in Parliamentary elections for the first time.

It paved the way for universal suffrage a decade later.

To celebrate the anniversary today, Essex Record Office has been researching the stories of local suffrage campaigners for a new display.

The stories include mother and daughter Lilian and Amy Hicks, who lived at Great Holland Hall.

They were arrested on November 18, 1910, at the violent Black Friday protest, which saw campaigners struggle with police in Parliament Square.

Amy also took part in the suffragette window smashing campaign in March 1912, and was arrested and sentenced to four months hard labour.

She spent time in Holloway and Aylesbury prisons, including time in solitary confinement.

She was one of the suffrage prisoners who went on hunger strike, and was subjected to brutal force feeding.

Sisters Kate and Louise Lilley, daughters of Clacton magistrate Thomas Lilley, also took part in the window smashing campaign in London and were sentenced to two months imprisonment with hard labour in 1912.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Heroes - Kate and Louise Lilley are welcomed back to Clacton after being released from prison in May 1912

  • Heroes - Kate and Louise Lilley are welcomed back to Clacton after being released from prison in May 1912

They were released in May and on returning home to Clacton they were “met with a most hearty welcome home from hundreds of spectators” according to the Clacton Graphic.

On the hunger strike which took place while they were in Holloway, Kate wrote: “The horrors of it are still too fresh in my memory for me to feel able to dwell in any way on the details.”

As part of the 100th anniversary celebrations, Essex County Council’s cultural development team is launching a project called Snapping the Stiletto.

This project takes the centenary of women’s suffrage as a starting point and is exploring how Essex women’s lives have changed since 1918. It is also aimed at replacing the Essex girls stereotype with stories of strong Essex women, and will include members of the Clacton Hindu Temple and the Women’s Institute.

Susan Barker, councillor responsible for culture and communities, said: “Essex women have played a vital role throughout history, and this has only grown more significantly over the last century.

“I am delighted to celebrate the important history of the role of women in Essex in this landmark year.

“I am looking forward to hearing about the inspirational stories of women in Essex uncovered by the record office and the Snapping the Stiletto project.”