This photograph shows the suffragette and women’s rights activist Rosa May Billinghurst at a demonstration in 1908.
Who was Rosa May Billinghurst?
Rosa May Billinghurst was born in 1873 in Lewisham, London. After contracting polio as a child, she became paralysed and had to rely on a tricycle for mobility.
She joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1907 and became the secretary of the Greenwich branch in 1910. Whilst campaigning alongside other members of the WSPU to fight for women’s suffrage, she was often arrested for her actions. This includes on Black Friday, where she was one of 159 women arrested after scenes of police brutality outside the Houses of Parliament. Billinghurst became known as ‘the cripple suffragette’.
The fight for women’s suffrage
In 1910 Billinghurst founded the Greenwich branch of the militant suffrage organisation, the Women’s Social and Political Union. She later spent time in Holloway Prison where, like hundreds of other suffragettes, she went on hunger strike and was subjected to force feeding.