Edith New (1877 – 1951)

Image of Edith New
Edith New, photograph by Peter McNairn, c1908 (Swindon Heritage, public domain)

On 14th September 1909, in Dundee Police Court, Edith New was sentenced to 7 days' imprisonment for breaching the peace outside a meeting. She was released after 3 days of hunger striking. The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) presented her with a medal recognizing her contributions to the movement.

Edith was born at 24 North Street, Swindon, England, on 17th March 1877, the daughter of Isabella Frampton a music teacher, and Frederick James New, a railway clerk. Frederick was 33 years old when he was hit and killed by a train in June 1878. Edith had two surviving siblings, including a sister, Ellen. By age 14, she was working as a teacher, and later moved to London, joining the WSPU.

In January 1908 Edith chained herself to the railings of No.10 Downing Street with fellow suffragette Olivia Smith and shouted 'Votes for Women!' - acting as a distraction to allow suffragettes Flora Drummond and Mary Macarthur to try to sneak in. All were arrested and Edith was sentenced to two months in prison at Holloway.

When Edith and others broke windows with stones a short while later, Emmeline Pankhurst approved her use of vandalism as a tactic to increase awareness of the cause. Soon after, the Daily Mail began to refer to the women as 'Suffragettes' as opposed to the less combative suffragists of the NUWSS.

Edith returned to teaching before all British women were granted the vote in 1928, but continued to campaign for women's rights and equal pay.

She retired to Talland-Polperro in Cornwall and died in 2nd January 1951 aged 73.