Warrington’s Oldest New Voter in 1918

Today we have another blog entry by Carol, describing somebody related to Women’s Suffrage in Warrington. This time Carol tells us about Hannah Eyres, Warrington’s Oldest New Voter in the 1918 election, the first in which some women could vote.

The Warrington Guardian’s report dated 27th April 1918 introduces Mrs Eyres. She is in her early 90s, a native of Runcorn, a Widow who was married to Thomas Eyres and she lives at 91 Orford Lane with her son George Ayres. We are also told she has a lively interest in current affairs and she is “staunchly Conservative”. Hannah moved to Warrington some thirty five years ago so we can estimate that she relocated to Warrington around 1883.

Hannah was born in 1828 and died in 1922. During Hannah’s lifetime there were five monarchs – George IV 1820 – 1830, William IV 1830 – 1837, Queen Victoria 1837 – 1901, Edward VII 1901 – 1910 and part of George V reign as he ascended the throne in 1910. Consequently Hannah lived through the latter part of the House of Hanover, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and into the House of Windsor.

Through the eras there were great social, economic and political changes. Just a few – The Industrial Revolution and population expansion, 1832 Great Reform Act, 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act and the growth of the workhouse system, railway development 1830’s to 1840’s and Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species published in 1859. The list could go on! We can’t forget periods of world conflict. This included 1848 Revolutions in Europe, Crimean War 1853 – 1856, American Civil War 1861 – 1865, Franco-Prussian War 1870 -1871, First Boer War 1880 – 81, Second Boer War 1899 -1902, WW1 1914 – 1918, Russian Revolution 1917 and Russian Civil War 1918 – 1920.

During Hannah’s lifetime there were protests for Electoral Representation for both men and women. The 1867 Reform Act recognised skilled urban working men and men who rented properties in the boroughs. Then the 1884 Reform Act also benefitted men as it gave parity to the number of male voters in the counties and boroughs. The number of male voters did increase but not greatly.

From the middle of the 19th century the Women’s Suffrage Movement demands for representation continued and were rejected by Parliament. Petitions were ignored and bills were blocked. It was not until the end of WW1 the 1918 Representation of the People’s Act was passed. Women over 30 years of age who met a property qualification were given the vote but the disparities continued as all men over 21 were enfranchised. Hannah was lucky enough to qualify for the vote. For Hannah it was extra special as she was driven to the polling station in a motor car. Her response was excitement and she declared that “she had enjoyed it”. Hannah voted at Hamilton Street School polling station for the winning candidate, Conservative Harold Smith.

Hannah’s everyday life was influenced by technological, social and political changes. She experienced the realities of WW1, the growth of street lighting, the dominance of horse drawn vehicles, roads without cars, the birth of the motor car, trams and buses, photographs in the newspapers and photographic studios in Warrington for family portraits. There were developments in communications – telephones, phonograph, moving pictures, picture houses and theatre entertainment throughout Warrington. Empire Day was a regular part of school life and there were new ladies fashions and hairstyles. In WW1 she lived through women’s employment in men’s jobs. I wonder what she thought of them and how did WW1 affect Hannah and her family? Hannah would have heard about the local reports and plans in 1919 for the erection of the village war memorials and peace celebrations. There are so many questions we could ask Hannah.

Almost four years later in April 1922 the Warrington Guardian reports that Hannah passed away at her home in Orford Lane. The headline “Death of Nonagenarian” not only highlighted her great age, 94 years but because of this alone Hannah was considered news worthy.  We can see why when we look at the 2018 figures produced by the Office for National Statistics. Life expectancy for a woman in 1921 was 59.6. Hannah was an exceptional woman who lived through exceptional times.

This article was originally posted on Friday, July 6th, 2018.