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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Human Rights hero from little old Adelaide

Image above: A picture of Muriel in 1909

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The address for the Socialsense blog
Before the past few years very few people in Australia knew about Muriel Matters, a leading suffragette from the last century. This wrong is being righted recently, with books, films and even plays being made about this amazing South Australian's life (a person who was born only 2 kilometres from Thebarton Senior College).
Muriel Lilah Matters (12 November 1877 – 17 November 1969) was an Australian born suffragist, lecturer, journalist, educator, actress and elocutionist.
Muriel Matters was born in the inner city suburb of Bowden in Adelaide, South Australia.
Muriel Matters was a professional actress before coming to England. She became involved with the suffragette movement and earned her spurs by chaining herself to a grille in the Ladies Gallery of the House of Commons. She later studied under Maria Montessori, the radical Italian educationalist, and returned to work at Sylvia Pankhurst's school in Bow, East London.
The Grille Incident
On the night of 28 October 1908, the Women’s Freedom League (WFL) conducted a simultaneous protest at the British Houses of Parliament. It was to occur outside St. Stephen's Entrance, the Old Prison Yard and in the House of Commons. The purpose of the protest was to raise attention to the struggle of women and remove the ‘Grille’, a piece of ironwork placed in the Ladies’ Gallery that obscured their view of parliamentary proceedings. Matters was at the heart of the protest. She and an associate, Helen Fox, both chained themselves to the Grille of the Ladies’ Gallery and Matters began loudly proclaiming the benefits of enfranchisement directly to the elected MPs.
The Balloon Flight

On 6 February 1909, King Edward officially opened Parliament for the coming year. As a part of the festivities there was a precession to the Houses of Parliament led by His Majesty. To gain attention to the suffrage cause, Matters’ decided to hire a dirigible air balloon (similar to a modern-day blimp in appearance) and intended to shower the King and the Houses of Parliament with WFL pamphlets.
Objection to the First World War
In June 1915, one year after the outbreak of World War I, Matters declared her opposition to the war in an address entitled ‘The False Mysticism of War’. In essence, she argued that war is not a successful problem solving mechanism and justifications for war are based on false pretences.
The vote for women in England
It was 1928, when a fifty-one year old Muriel Matters finally got what she and the countless other women of Great Britain were craving, suffrage on the same terms as it was granted to men (partial suffrage had been granted to women in 1918). In her later years, Matters often wrote Letters to the Editor, frequented the local library and was heavily involved in the community. Widowed in 1949, she died twenty years later on 17 November 1969 in St. Leonards on Sea nursing home aged ninety-two.

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