The Great Pilgrimage of 1913 was a march in Britain by suffragists campaigning non-violently for women's suffrage, organised by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). Women marched to London from all around England and Wales and 50,000 attended a rally in Hyde Park
The idea for the march was first put forward by Katherine Harley at an NUWSS subcommittee meeting in London on 17 April 1913. Plans were rapidly drawn up, and publicised through the NUWSS newsletter Common Cause, for six routes along which marchers would converge on London for a rally in Hyde Park on 26 July 1913. These were named the Great North Route (from Newcastle and East Anglia); the Watling Street Route (from Carlisle, Manchester and north Wales); the West Country Route (from Land's End and south Wales); the Bournemouth Route; the Portsmouth Route; and the Kentish Pilgrim Way.
On Saturday, 26 July, the marchers and others converged on Hyde Park for their rally. They assembled at pre-arranged points to march to the park, where 78 speakers addressed the crowd from 19 platforms, one for each federation within the NUWSS. At 6pm a vote was taken at each platform, and those present unanimously passed the motion "That this meeting demands a Government measure for the enfranchisement of women".
Centennial commemoration In 2013 a series of walks were held to commemorate the centenary of the pilgrimage. Playwright Natalie McGrath's play Oxygen, which was inspired by the 1913 march, was performed by the arts organisation Dreadnought South West at venues along the march route.
We have been really fortunate to have seen a collection of original photograph's of the women from the SW route of the pilgrimage. This has been generously shared with us by Jill Morison, whose great aunt Naomi Bassett Fox walked all the way. The images below are from a photographic album of hers, passed on through generations. This rests currently at Penlee House, Penzance in a display cabinet with copies of the images around it (www.penleehouse.org.uk).
Devon History Society: Lady Rosalie Chichester Even if she supported the idea of women’s suffrage, Rosalie does not appear to have formally joined the movement until 1913 when Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) militancy was at its height. The Barnstaple branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies was formed in 1911, but there is no evidence for Rosalie’s involvement until August 1913 when she subscribed to funds for the Land’s End to Hyde Park pilgrimage. She presided over a meeting on 1 December 1913, during which she described militants as ‘no doubt well meaning, but were misguided people who had done any amount of harm to the cause.’ Further research is needed to confirm whether she hosted a pro-suffrage rally at Arlington Court in January 1914.