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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Nov-18 > The first lady

The first lady

THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY OF THE FIRST WOMAN TO VOTE IN BRITAIN—50 YEARS BEFORE THE SUFFRAGETTES WON THEIR BATTLE

I am rather glad that my mother never knew the story I am about to tell. She was proud to be the daughter of a suffragette— and to be born on 14th December 1918, the very day of the first general election after parliament gave women the right to vote, a date that you will hear a lot about as the centenary approaches. But in fact, the 1918 general election was the second, not the first, at which women voted. Some—dozens certainly, hundreds possibly—cast their votes in another, almost precisely half a century earlier, in November 1868.

Our story involves a fatal illness, a sharp-eyed Liberal activist, an accidental heroine and a sexist judge. It begins with a clerical error by an unknown official in Manchester a year earlier. He noted that the resident of 25 Ludlow Street, in its Chorlton- upon Medlock district, paid enough rent to meet the strict property qualification that then applied to join the electorate. He added the tenant to the local electoral register, as number 12326, failing to spot that “Lily Maxwell” was a woman.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect's November issue: Paul Collier explains how major cities in the UK will always be in the shadow of London unless capitalism is overhauled and suggests ways that we might be able to improve the situation in those communities that capitalism has left behind. Meanwhile, Steve Bloomfield asks what is going at the Foreign Office. The once great institution that was a symbol of Britain’s global power now seems to be lost and unable to explains its role. Also, Samira Shackle explores a Pakistani protest movement that is unnerving the country’s military. Elsewhere in the issue: Dahlia Lithwick suggests that the Supreme Court will struggle to retain its authority now that Brett Kavanaugh is on the bench. Philip Ball argues that DNA doesn’t define destiny as he reviews a new book by Robert Plomin. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Simon Heffer debate political correctness.