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group photo showing some boots and spurs women

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Photos of boots and spurs women

The question of admitting women into the assembly:

The ladies had their own Clarion Fellowship meetings and activities. However, when they wanted one of their members to be admitted to the Assembly, not all the male members were in agreement. It was some time before the dispute was resolved.


Extracts from the 1909 Sheffield Clarion Boots and Spurs Fellowship minutes book, relating to this are shown opposite.


The Clarion Women's Van

In the Clarion newspaper on 29/2/1896, Julia Dawson told of her idea for starting a Clarion Women's Van Tour - to begin in June and last for 13 weeks.

Her idea was to be able to travel further afield, handing out the socialist literature and leaflets in the market places and small towns. Eventually 4-5 vans were on the roads in various parts of the country, supported by the Clarion Cyclists.

We have a photograph of the Sheffield Clarion Club House, showing one of the vans in the background - see Newspaper extracts - collection for Midland Van page. Do you have a clearer photograph?







Annual General Meeting York 1913

F.J.Brookes reported on the Annual General Meeting  May 1913  
Subject: Women in Assembly    F.J.Brookes brought up the question of admitting women to the assembly  and moved that we do so, pointing out that there  were several members at Stalybridge, also when socials were arranged the women were useful, and helped considerably toward  there success . As a Socialist body, too it was undemocratic to admit men only…..F.Gillott seconded emphasizing  the points  named by F.J.Brookes…..Others took part in the discussion, and eventually the motion was carried unanimously.

Ladies name put to ballot 1922

April 1922   Ballot re-black balling         Moved E. Clayton     Sec  Albert Hibbert  that the validity of the recent   ballot be challenged  Moved Tom Melling  Sec. Joe Fox   that  the nomination of Mrs Reynolds is not  put to the Assembly until the three members who ‘black balled’ declare and state their reasons;  and if these objections are not valid then  these members shall be asked to resign or otherwise excluded.

Letter from a 'blackballer'

The following is a transcript of the letter submitted by the member who blackballed (voted against) admitting ladies into the Boots and Spurs fellowship.

To see a scan of the first page of the original letter, click on the link at the end of the transcript.


                                                                                                     34 Elgin Street

Why, Eliza, what fools are the Mussulmen Sect,
Who to Women deny the soul’s future existence,
Could they see Thee, Eliza, they’d own their defect, and,
This doctrine would meet with a general resistance

Had their Prophet posessed half an atom of sence,
He ne’er would have Women from Paradise driven,
Instead of his  Houris, a flimsy pretence,
With Women alone had he peopled his Heaven.  Byron


Dear Bob,   
 If I may be so familiar,  it has come to my knowledge that something is expected of me, in extenuation of the ‘black balling’ episode of some time ago and that you, along with the President of the ‘Boots and Spurs’ are to interview me concerning my Hoeus Standi, or rather the organisation’s
“With all my Love I do commend me to you” and am trying now to save you any further distress in the matter, but really I fail to see why all this business, the whole affair had almost gone from my mind,  and given place to other things, I most certainly felt the Organisation had affirmed it’s interpretation of it’s own Constitution, and that non adherents would be expected to abdicate, or alternatively be expelled,  and I must admit, it rather interested me to await the outcome,   and further,  I rather felt it didn’t matter much, because “the friends I had and who had my adoption tried” (revised version), would not forsake me on the point at issue - “because Women are  virtuous shall there be no more cakes and ale”.
Of course according to the aforesaid interpretation I made a bloomer,  and even now I can’t feel at all enamoured with the Ritual Savouring of the Prentice Knights and Simon Tappulit, for the reason that on the one hand, it seems intended to make admittance difficult  and yet on the other to open it’s arms to the whole world.
I have always felt a revulsion for the use of the Black Ball, on Desirability or Moral Character, because the reflex would be on the Proposer. On the other hand, who am I to judge my fellow man,  I may have a mental squint myself, and numerous other shortcomings, however I was prepared to accept the window dressing for the sake of Communion with kindred spirits  (not the volatile ones)  and while I like a full measure of Sentiment I mortally despise the Sob Stuff.
“ When my love swears she is made of truth
   I do believe her tho’ I know she lies”
My opinions on the Sex question I suppose hardly enters the case, the point to you is that I wasn’t entitled to use the Black Ball in that particular instance, very well then, I don’t mind.  In fact I rather like the ladies,  I happen to know some very charming ones, and quite a lot of good ones, but I don’t know they are particularly concerned about me, and by these same presents…..I like pickles, and I dearly love home made jam;  But “Gad Sir”  I don’t want ‘em to every meal, or both at one and the same time, ….and I like a pipe and a pint, and like the arabs “silently steal away” and get one.
The age of Chivalry is not dead, and I do not believe in platonic friendship.  The Millennium has not begun, and in our lofty souled flights it would be well to remember, in a few years we may be clay for the potters thumb to mould as he pleases.
In the meantime Dear Bob, accept my kindest and most sincere regards to Mrs B and yourself.
Believe me     Yours Fraternally      Chas Howe.

Scan of first page of original letter

Special meeting re: blackballing 1922

May 1922  Special Meeting           minutes of special meeting  held on the 28th April were read ,   moved  Alf walker  Sec. Frank Pilgrim   that the minutes of special meeting shall be confirmed;  with the exception of the last, which shall be delayed  pending further discussion.
 Moved Tom Melling  Sec.  Jim Hunt  that the secretary shall withhold the name of a member who declares he used a ‘black ball’  in the recent ballot.  This request was made by the secretary
 Moved Grim Willingham,Sec Andrew Smith that we proceed at this meeting, to take a ballot on the nomination of a woman candidate proposed  a month ago.
 Moved Grim Willingham.Sec. Frank Pilgrim that the last minutes of Special  Meeting 28th April , be not confirmed. Mrs Reynolds was elected a member of this Assembly.
 The resignations of Mrs and Will Dormand were not accepted by this meeting It was pointed out,  and secretary was requested to write,  urging that the reason leading to their action of protest was no longer existant,  and seeing  that Dick Reynolds had permitted the name of his wife to go forward,and with the fact that Mrs Reynolds is now a member,  we therefore urge that Mr and Mrs Dormand should reconsider their action

Lady elected member of assembly   Resolution.   After a discussion the following resolution was  moved  G Willingham   sec.  J.Orr. that this meeting of the Boots and Spurs Assembly sincerely  feel that the question of the black balling of the candidate on April 8th 1922 be now closed.  We feel that any further pursuance of the matter is detrimental to the true feeling of that fellowship which is necessary
…carried 16—2

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