Community representatives were proud to attend the unveiling of a statue of Alice Hawkins in Leicester as part of the #Vote100 celebrations. Alice was a leading working class suffragette who fought for women’s rights to vote and for improved rights and pay for women within the boot and shoe industry.
Alice started working at Equity Shoes, a workers’ co-operative, in 1886. With the early backing of her fellow co-operators, she went on to a lifelong career of political and industrial activism.
Alice was jailed five times for her part in the suffragette movement, including for the first time in 1907, when she was arrested along with the Pankhurst sisters as they marched on Parliament after a Hyde Park rally. This inspired Alice to establish the Leicester branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union. The Pankhursts visited Leicester to support Alice and meet with women in the footwear industry.
By June 1908, Alice was listed as a keynote speaker at the ‘Women’s Sunday’ rally in Hyde Park which was attended by over 250,000 people.
In September 1911, Alice was among the founder members of the ‘Women’s Independent Boot and Shoe Trade Union’ spending Sundays cycling out to small villages to raise awareness and speak to women across Leicester and Northamptonshire in her efforts to improve pay and conditions for women.
Alice’s political and industrial campaigning was fully supported by her husband, Albert, himself a campaigner for wider suffrage.
For Alice’s full story, you can visit the website created by her great grandson Peter Barrett. Peter and his family have led the campaign for a memorial to Alice and Peter has spoken at a number of Community events in recent years to raise awareness of Alice’s story among the current generation of boot and shoe workers.
Bev Bambrough, Community’s Equalities Director, who attended the event in Leicester, said:
“As we celebrate some women attaining the vote 100 years ago, it is important to remember those who through their struggles, campaigning, and at times the removal of their liberty, never gave up the fight that we benefit from today – our right as women to vote. Alice Hawkins, a woman born into a working class family, left her own legacy to us and her industry.
“Alice’s story of her challenges, her triumphs and the legacy she and others so bravely stood together to give us ‘the vote’ should never be forgotten. Peter Barrett and his family have brought Alice’s history to life for us. His great grandmother’s story is an inspiring one and the statue in Leicester is a fitting tribute.”
On Sunday 4 February, hundreds gathered as the 7ft bronze statue was unveiled in Leicester’s new market square by Peter Barratt and his daughter Kate along with Liz Kendall, Labour MP for Leicester West.