Leith Hill and District Women’s Suffrage Society

Photo Lent by John Molyneux

In March 1917, Mr and Mrs Percy Harris began one of Dorking’s most successful wartime waste reduction ventures, a fund-raising waste paper depot aiming at turning waste to profit.

The mostly female volunteers collected newspapers, books and magazines in village centres, and sold them on to raise nearly £500 for the War Hospital Supply Depot and other charities. The depot was based at Nower Lodge in Dorking.

The photo we have recently been given is believed to be women of the local branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies at work at the depot. We do not have any evidence for that other than that it was asserted by John Molyneux who supplied the photo, whose family members are featured and this is what has been passed on through the family.  

The local non-militant (ie not suffragette) womens suffrage society was the Leith Hill and District Women’s suffrage society. It was founded in Jan 1909 as an offshoot of the Reigate WSS and the original membership of 35 increased so rapidly in the Dorking area that it soon registered as an affiliated society itself as a separate branch.

Its president was Lord Farrer of Abinger with Sylvia Drew of Westcott in the Chair and Sandra Bray of Westcott acting as secretary. By mid 1909 it had 80 members and by 1912 it had nearly 200 members. It hosted meetings at Leatherhead’s Victoria Hall, Dorking Public Halls and all over the villages, attracting nationally recognised speakers  such as Lady Frances Balfour, Gertrude Baillie-Weaver and Alys Russell (wife of Bertrand Russell).

Members were frequent writers of letters to the Dorking Advertiser on the issue, and sought debates with the local anti-suffrage societies (who wouldn’t agree to engage!)

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