Councillors seek support for suffragette statue in Brighton

Official support is being sought for a campaign to recognise a suffragette with a statue in Brighton and Hove.

Mary Clarke co-founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and became an organiser in Brighton from 1909 to 1910.

She was the younger sister of Emmeline Pankhurst and was considered one of the first martyrs for the cause when she died two days after leaving Holloway prison.

Independent councillor Tony Janio, the former Conservative group leader on Brighton and Hove City Council, is to make the request with Labour councillor Amanda Grimshaw seconding.

In a motion due to go before the full council meeting at Hove Town Hall on Thursday (30 January) they are to ask for a report on the Mary Clarke Statue Appeal to be prepared for the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee.

They want the report to examine how the council can work with the appeal to raise £60,000 towards the cost of the statue.

Last year the council gave a £10,000 grant to the appeal to pay for a bronze model of the statue by Denise Dutton.

Clarke was born Mary Jane Goulden in 1962 in Salford and had an unhappy nine-year marriage to John Clarke.

While campaigning for the vote she was jailed three times and led at least one delegation to Parliament.

She lodged in Brighton with fellow suffragette Minnie Turner in Victoria Road, Brighton, and ran the WSPU office at The Quadrant.

The motion before the full council says: “Mary attended the notorious ‘Black Friday’ events on 18 November 1910, where, over a period of six hours, 300 women outside Parliament were brutally beaten and deliberately sexually assaulted by uniformed and plain-clothed police.

“She was arrested for breaking a window and imprisoned in Holloway Prison for one month.

“Despite her frailty, Mary went on hunger strike and was forcibly fed.

“Two days after release from prison, on Christmas Day 1910, she collapsed and died of a brain haemorrhage.”

Emmeline Pankhurst wrote to CP Scott, the editor and owner of the Manchester Guardian and a former Liberal MP: “She is the first to die. How many must follow before the men of your party realise their responsibility?”

The full council meeting is due to meet on Thursday (30 January) at Hove Town Hall. The meeting is scheduled to start at 4.30pm and should be held in public.

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