Upminster suffragette fights for right to vote

PUBLISHED: 15:00 17 October 2015 | UPDATED: 09:48 19 October 2015

Henria Williams

Henria Williams

Courtesy of Tony Benton

As the star-studded film Suffragette is released this week, Hayley Anderson takes a look at the impact of women taking a stand in Havering and how the lives of future generations changed as a result of their battle.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were filled with protests, rallies and speeches as women across the world fought for their right to vote.

Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Wilding Davison, tragically killed by the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913, were figureheads of the suffragette movement that secured a change in law giving some women the right to vote in 1918, but they were far from alone in fighting the battle.

Henria Williams, of Ockendon Road, Upminster, chaired a rally in her home on November 28 1908. It was attended by famous faces from the movement, including Violet Tillard, the organising secretary for the Women’s Freedom League who was the evening’s main speaker.

The Upminster suffragette was also one of hundreds of protestors who demonstrated on Black Friday in 1910 after Prime Minister Asquith indicated there would be no more time for the reading of a bill that would have granted 1,000,000 British women the right to vote.

Henria’s recollection of Black Friday was noted in Treatment of the Women’s Deputations by the Police, published in 1911.

She said: “One policeman after knocking me about for a considerable time, finally took hold of me with his great strong hand like iron just over my heart.

“He hurt me so much that at first I had not the voice power to tell him what he was doing.

“But I knew that unless I made a strong effort to do so he would kill me.

“So collecting all the power of my being, I commanded him to take his hand off my heart.

“Although I had no limbs broken, still my arms, sides, and ankles were sore for days afterwards.

“But that was not so bad as the inward shaking and exhaustion I felt.”

More than 100 women were arrested for protesting and the Prime Minister’s car was vandalised in the aftermath.

Upminster historian, Tony Benton, said: “Black Friday was an important step to women getting the vote because the violent way in which they were treated by the police was in the public eye.

“It still took a long time for the Bill to be passed but it was a sign that it all could change.”

Born in Shropshire in 1867, Henria Helen Leach Williams grew up in Cheshire where she became a governess and a school mistress.

It was in about 1905 that she moved to The Cottage in Upminster and became a recognisable figure in the area, known for wearing a symbol of the suffragette movement on her clothing.

Tony said: “She was a minor figure in the suffragette movement but a real local personality that people became familiar with.”

Henria took part in a series of major suffragette protests and was arrested in 1909 but later released without charge.

But, the affects of Black Friday were enduring for Henria. Two months later she was found by a police officer in the early hours of the morning dead in her home with pills for treating angina in her handbag.

Tony said: “She did have two heart attacks in the 18 months before she died so she was in poor health but I think that shows her dedication to the cause.

“She knew that it would have an impact on her wellbeing but she knew it was important to carry on.”

Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 12:00

Spanish people in Spain? Shock horror.

Yesterday, 10:00

Wondering what the weather has in store for us this weekend? Watch our Met Office video forecast.

I am sure there are a huge amount of massively relieved 18-year-olds breathing out massive sighs of relief at the realisation that they passed their A-levels.

Fri, 17:00

Think you know what is going on in your area?

Fri, 15:02

The friends and family of three-year-old Isla Caton - who has a rare form of cancer - held a special early birthday party for her before she leaves to go for specialist treatment in Barcelona.

Fri, 14:15

A popular tea shop organised a special celebration for their first anniversary in Hornchurch.

Fri, 11:48

A community that has been left “disappointed” after the decision to build on a contentious open space by their homes was given the green light.

Fri, 09:33

Police are trying to find Rachael Joseph who has been missing since yesterday afternoon.


“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” so the saying goes. So if some warm weather is making your conservatory uninhabitable, think about replacing its roof with a flat one and adding a roof lantern instead.

The next step in renewable energy could be right beneath your feet as you walk through a Romford shopping centre.

There are many reasons people decide to join a gym. Some want to pack on muscle for strength, train for endurance, or lose weight. But did you know it also does wonders for your mental health? Two members at Romford’s Better Gym in the Market Place talk about their personal fitness journey and the importance of replacing bad habits with good ones.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

News from your area

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now