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Muriel Matters


One London newspaper on June 21, 1908, wrote that she dropped hundreds of Votes for Women leaflets over the Houses of Parliament, but the New York Times reported that the attempt was unsuccessful In any case, Muriel Lilah Matters, who was born in Australia on Nov. 12, 1877, and later moved to London, became a leading suffragist.

One London newspaper on June 21, 1908, wrote that she dropped hundreds of Votes for Women leaflets over the Houses of Parliament, but the New York Times reported that the attempt was unsuccessful

In any case, Muriel Lilah Matters, who was born in Australia on Nov. 12, 1877, and later moved to London, became a leading suffragist.

Prior to becoming involved with the women's movement, she studied music and elocution. She spent some time in Sydney and Melbourne, where she acted with the Robert Brough Comedy Company. In 1907, she abandoned acting and joined the Women's Freedom League. Ms. Matters lectured in several states on feminism and socialism. She advocated women's unions, equal divorce laws, equal pay for equal work, endowment of motherhood, and support for unmarried mothers.

After she moved to England, she could be heard lecturing at Hyde Park. In 1908, she took the first Votes for Women caravan on a tour of villages in the south of England. Ms. Matters spent a year in Wales advocating votes for women and held meetings in Dublin.

In 1908, she became one of the first women to make a speech in the House of Commons in London. Of course, the members didn't give her permission to speak nor did they want to hear what she had to say, but that didn't matter. She managed to make the speeches by chaining herself to the grille of the lady's gallery, along with two other women. The grille was placed there to prevent visitors from throwing petitions and other missiles on a floor of the House of Commons. It took the police an hour to get the women out, and to do it that had to take the heavy, wrought-brass grilles and all. In the meantime, she was shouting her speech in order that the honourable members might hear.

Ms. Matters then became a guest of the monarch of the United Kingdom. She and her buddies were given free room and board while being incarcerated in Her Majesty's Penitentiary for a few months.

She made the Beacon's Aviation column because of her next newspaper headline.

This is the way she described it:

"I had already won my spurs by chaining myself to the grille of the lady's gallery in the House of Commons. As a result of this, I was intrusted with the aerial demonstration on the day of the opening of parliament. That morning, I went to Hendon and met Henry Spencer, who had his airship ready near the Welsh Harp. It was quite a little airship, 80 feet long, and written in large letters on the gas bag were three words, Votes For Women."

One report described the airship festooned with flags and bunting but without sufficient power to make progress in the headwind, and thus the people who were gathering for the opening of parliament didn't get the handbills that were to be thrown out. The airship descended at Croydon.

Already well known, she gained an international reputation as a result of organizing a national conference of women in London to discuss peace and disarmament.

Ms. Matters married Dr. William Arnold Porter, a dentist, in 1914. They had no children. She died in 1969.

Next week: Eugene Esmonde, VC

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