When the Brighton and Hove Women’s History Group was first formed in 2018, we began by recovering this stories of some of the women in Brighton and Hove who were involved in the Suffrage Movement. There is still much work to do. Brighton has a long history of support for Women’s Suffrage. In 1850, the Quaker Anne Knight wrote to the Brighton Herald demanding that the Chartist Movement should include women in their bid for Universal Suffrage. In 1866, the Suffrage Petition was signed by several Brighton women. On doing some preliminary work on the early suffrage movement several names I was familiar with popped up regularly. Louisa Martindale senior, Clementia Taylor and the Merrifields , mother and daughter. These women were part of a wider social and political network which fed into both local and national politics. 

In this short piece I shall focus on the younger woman Flora de Gaudiron Merrifield. Flora was born in  Brighton in 1859, the daughter of a barrister Frederick and his wife Maria. They lived at 48 Park Crescent. Flora’s parents were active members of the Brighton committee of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage along with the more famous, Millicent Fawcett, and her husband Henry who was the local MP.  

Flora de Gaudiron Merrifield

In 1906, the Brighton & Hove Women’s Franchise Society was reformed from the older society and Flora Merrifield was the Secretary. Her sister in law, Marian Verrall, was the treasurer. She was also instrumental in the setting up of the Lewes Women’s Suffrage Society in 1910.  In July 1913, Flora led the Brighton & Hove contingent of the Great Suffrage Pilgrimage walking through Sussex to London to a mass suffrage rally of suffragists of all persuasion.

After World War One, Flora was the Secretary of the Brighton branch of The League of  Nations and continued to live with her widowed father at 14 Clifton Terrace.  Flora died in 1943. 

The suffrage campaign in Brighton and Hove was large and complicated because there were many different societies and women joined one or more of these. However, research into these various organisations and the women who joined them and why they joined them would be fascinating. This short piece on Flora Merrifield warrants further research and if anyone is interested in taking this forward do contact us or come to one of our social meetings at the library. We will support you in finding out more about Flora and/or the wider suffrage movement. There are some treasures to be found  and the research could be included in our next book and be added to this website.

Flora Merrifield with suffragettes at Clayton