Douglas Borough Council is to honour the life and work of women’s suffrage activist Sophia Goulden with a blue plaque.
Sophia Jane Goulden, née Craine, was born in Lonan in 1833. In 1853 she married Robert Goulden at Kirk Braddan and the couple moved to Manchester, where their 11 children were born, among them Emmeline Pankhurst, who went on to become leader of the British suffragette movement.
Sophia Goulden inspired 14-year-old Emmeline when she took her to her first public suffrage meeting to hear Lydia Becker, founder of the Women’s Suffrage Journal who also joined a campaign for the right of women to vote in the House of Keys.
In 1881 Tynwald became the first national parliament to give some women the right to vote in a general election. In 1918 Westminster passed an Act of Parliament according women similar rights.
Sophia Goulden retained close links with the Isle of Man, owning a home with her husband at 9 Strathallan Crescent, Douglas to where the couple retired and where she died in 1910.
The blue plaque will be unveiled in her memory at 9 Strathallan Crescent, Douglas on Friday, September 14 at 1pm by His Worship the Mayor of Douglas, Councillor Jonathan Joughin JP, in a short ceremony which members of the public are welcome to attend.
9 Strathallan Crescent is now the home of Jamie Sutton, his partner Paula McClean and their family, Adam and Dylan and one-year-old daughter named, perhaps unsurprisingly, Emmeline.
Mr Sutton said: ‘When we bought the house in 2017 we had no idea of the history attached to it, until my Dad told me he learned about it through the Manx Victorian Society. Paula and I decided to call our daughter Emmeline because it’s a lovely name and because we hope she will grow up to become a strong, independent woman like Emmeline Pankhurst.
‘We think it’s great that the Council has chosen to honour Sophia Goulden with a blue plaque which we’re proud to have at our home; it’s a part of Manx history that needs to be highlighted.’
Chairman of the Friends of Sophia Goulden Lynn Owens said: ‘The Friends of Sophia Goulden are delighted that Douglas Borough Council is paying Sophia this honour and recognition. She was a remarkable woman who inspired many people to fight for their rights, not least of all her own children. She affected all our lives. Recognition such as this can only help our quest in raising a statue in her honour.’
The great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, women’s rights campaigner and author Helen Pankhurst, said: ‘Sophia’s interest in women’s political rights was the spark that ignited an even greater passion in her daughter, Emmeline. Sophia’s role as a campaigner in the movement, and as mother guiding the interest of her more famous daughter, have so far received insufficient recognition. The plaque can start to change this.
‘Moreover, it’s fitting that this plaque will be put up on the Isle of Man, where Sophia came from and returned to, but also the nation that led the way in giving women the right to vote.
‘I’m delighted that Douglas Council is according Sophia lasting recognition with a blue plaque which will increase local knowledge and pride in the historical connection. As we celebrate and honour, both Sophia and Emmeline would also be encouraging us to look forward – to continue campaigning, including for equal representation - on the Island as well as in the adjacent isle.’
Council Leader Councillor David Christian MBE JP said: ‘That this blue plaque will be only the fourth to be erected is an indication of the importance the Council places on Sophia Goulden’s contribution to advancing women’s rights and it highlights the Island’s pioneering role in empowering women.
‘It is all the more appropriate that Douglas should be honouring the legacy of Sophia Goulden in 2018, the year in which the adjacent isle is celebrating the centenary of the Representation of the People Act which gave some women the right to vote in parliamentary elections, albeit a reform measure implemented much earlier in the Isle of Man.
‘The Council is very grateful to the owners of 9 Strathallan Crescent for their cooperation in allowing us to erect this plaque which pays tribute to the vision and courage of Sophia Goulden who forged a path for many other inspirational women.’