Diocesan press releases

International Women’s Day: The Bishop & the Suffragette

Wales’ first female bishop, Rt Revd Joanna Penberthy, has marked International Women’s Day by launching a unique exhibition celebrating the centenary of votes for women.

And the display, mounted by the St Davids Cathedral library, reveals a memorable link with the suffragette campaign.

The main exhibit is a Visitors’ Book from July 1908 which includes the signatures of three leading suffragettes, Emmeline Pankhurst, Annie Kenney and Mary Blathwayt.The three women visited the cathedral on a day off from campaigning in a local parliamentary by-election

Annie Kenney stayed in St Davids for a week and three days later returned for a second visit in the company of a fourth suffragette, Lady Emmeline Pethick Lawrence. Their signatures also appear in the visitors’ book and have been revealed for the first time.

Mary wrote in her diary that they considered the Cathedral to be “splendid”.  After their visit, Emmeline Pankhurst spoke at an open air meeting at the cross in the middle of St Davids.”

Bishop Joanna said she was delighted by the discovery. “It is good to have such clear evidence that these dynamic women visited our cathedral during their campaigning,” she said.

“We hope they found peace and comfort in this special place in the midst of what was so often very tough treatment as they strove for justice and fairness.

“They are part of a history of resilient women in St Davids.”

The exhibition, also includes several other documents relating to the campaign, among them a copy of the Votes For Women newspaper which compares the suffragettes with Jemima Nicholas, one of the local women credited with thwarting the French invasion of Pembrokeshire in 1797.