On January 31, 1881 Tynwald became the first national parliament to give some women – those who owned property in their own right – the right to vote in a general election.
The first women to have cast their vote in the Manx general election in March of that year are recorded in eminent local historian Dr Robert Fyson’s book ‘The Struggle for Manx Democracy’ as Mrs Catherine Callow of Ballakilley, first at Bride polling station, Miss Eliza Jane Goldsmith of Ramsey, first at Lezayre polling station and Miss Esther Kee of Leodest, first at Andreas polling station, the first contested election having taken place in the Sheading of Ayre.
The event prompted a letter to the Manx Sun of April 9, 1881, in which the author, ‘WR’, a self-confessed ‘outsider’ reflected not only on the general election proceedings but also on the women who voted, writing: ‘Something is said as to the sharpness, intelligence and activity of the women voters – a matter for gratulation, and an argument in favour of a further extension of female franchise.’
Tynwald will be marking the 140th anniversary of this historical development in the Isle of Man’s women’s suffrage movement, ahead of which the Clerk of Tynwald’s Office is inviting anyone who might have a family connection with any of the three women to come forward with information and, ideally, an authenticated photograph.
The President of Tynwald, Steve Rodan MLC, said: ‘Giving women the vote in 1881 was a determining moment in the long struggle towards democratic reform in the Isle of Man. 1881 is a date that truly deserves to be celebrated and I sincerely hope that this request for information will bring forth material that will help to illustrate this milestone event in Manx political history.’
To find out more about women’s enfranchisement in the Isle of Man visit: https://www.tynwald.org.im/education/women/Pages/Women.aspx
Robert Fyson, The Struggle for Manx Democracy, is published by Culture Vannin. To find out more visit: https://www.tynwald.org.im/education/women/Pages/Women.aspx
Anyone with information and/or photographs they would be willing to offer on loan (all material will be returned) is asked to contact deputy head of chamber and information service Francisca Gale, F.Gale@tynwald.org.im, 685516.