Say what you will about the English suffragettes: you can’t claim they weren’t determined. On February 7, 1907 more than 3,000 of them gathered in London on a cold and miserable day to march from Hyde Park to Exeter Hall. This gathering, the first large procession organized by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) brought together women from all classes and became known, rather aptly, as the Mud March.
The Mud March was organized by Philippa Strachey, daughter of Sir Richard Strachey, a colonial administrator. Philippa became known as an outstanding organizer, in part due to her work on the Mud March. Philippa’s mother, Lady Strachey, led the march with Millicent Fawcett, Lady Frances Balfour, and Keir Hardie, one of the founders of the Independent Labour Party.
The members of the march were all constitutionalist suffragists, committed to getting the vote through non-militant activity. Their more peaceable tactics may have made them a bit more popular with the people of London, who turned out in the thousands to watch the ladies troop past. Newspapers and magazines from the United States and Europe reported on the march, fascinated by the diversity it represented. The Mud March helped make large suffrage processions a key feature of the British suffrage movement and helped put suffragists in the public eye and gave the movement an aura of respectability the militant tactics and extreme protests of the suffragettes had failed to achieve. These marches would be a common practice for the NUWSS until women (over 30) finally won the vote in 1918 (the vote wouldn’t be extended to all women over the age of 21 until 1928).