Fish heads are still flying

Hastings womens march

It’s a contentious thing, being a feminist. There are always plenty of vocal people wanting to loudly disapprove of you. Not least of the obstacles that need to be addressed is that of class. I read a story recently about a woman who told those less well off than herself to save money by cooking fish heads. The response was, “really? So who’s eating the rest of the fish?”

I have no idea if the story is true, or whether the feminist concerned deserved the jibe, but I do wonder whether it’s why some citizens of Hastings responded to suffragette meetings in their day by throwing fish heads at the women.

Fish-heads, fire-raising and force-feeding – Ann Kramer’s history of Hastings and St Leonards suffragettes

Ann Kramer’s book, Turbulent Spinsters, gets its title from a long-ago letter in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, giving that description of local votes-for-women activists. A bit different to this week, when that same paper gave their front page to an event by Kramer’s organisation, Women’s Voice…

Ann Kramer, chair of Women’s Voice, said: “What we’re protesting about, what we’re marching about, today is demanding an end to violence against women…”

These days of course, there are other issues that feminists get shouted at over. ‘Turbulent Spinsters’ – was that a fair description? Reading Kramer’s book, I discovered that a lot of the Hastings suffragettes were married and that, although there was a pretty dramatic incident of fire-raising, the finger of blame for it was pointed at that turbulent lot from Brighton.

There is though, plenty to tell about the local suffragettes, including the story of Muriel Matters, after whom our local council offices were named (with a fair degree of turbulence as a consequence). So whilst they weren’t, on the whole, spinsters, there was a fair bit of turbulence.

Thus, feminism down the ages always comes in for some colourful criticism. If you’d like to know what the suffragettes of Hastings and St Leonards really did get up to, and how the town responded, Ann Kramer’s book is for you. There are some quite dramatic surprises.

Turbulent Spinsters

Buy direct from the publisher. Postage-free to UK addresses.


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