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The Leeds Suffragists

Mary Smith’s Story

Mary lived just off Cottage Road in Headingley, Leeds. In 1832, she made history as being the first woman to formally ask that women should be able to vote. Her argument was that she paid taxes and therefore should be entitled to vote. She also felt that it was unfair that if women were allowed to be punished by the law they should also be able to vote for the people who make the law. Her request was refused by MPs, who were all men, in the House of Commons.

The MP that presented her request to the rest of Parliament made fun of her saying he had something to present that 'might be a subject of mirth (fun or laughter) to some honourable Gentlemen'.

We can’t find an image of Mary. She might be one of the women in the group photograph on the previous page, but we can’t be sure. Many women’s stories are more difficult to find in the historical record because their lives weren’t seen as important as those of the White men who were in power, and whose histories are better preserved.