Aberdeen’s first taste of suffragette tactics came during a by-election at the start of 1907. In February several WSPU leaders, including Mrs Pankhurst, Teresa Billington-Grieg and Helen Fraser (pictured), arrived in Aberdeen.
The suffragettes held a series of public meetings, both indoors and in the city streets. Meetings held in Castle Street and at the Wallace Statue were well attended. The pull of the notorious suffragette leaders must have been strong to encourage people to attend open-air meetings in the dark chill of a February night.
The WSPU had the controversial policy of campaigning against the government (i.e. the Liberal) candidate, whether or not he was personally committed to women’s suffrage. Mrs Pankhurst explained that the policy had been adopted because the candidate represented a government that refused to give women the vote. However, it caused problems in Aberdeen, particularly with members of the Aberdeen Women’s Liberal Association, many of whom were keen suffragists and members of the constitutional NUWSS.
Caroline Phillips helped to organise the suffragette meetings and also led the attack on the Aberdeen Liberal ladies. In her letters to the press she poured scorn on their preference for Liberal politics over women’s rights.