TODAY we are delighted to be able to publish a picture of Darlington suffragist Maria Swanson.

We mentioned her recently in Weekend Memories, in The Northern Echo, as one of the great unknowns in our local history of getting the vote.

Darlington seems to have been one of the leading advocates in the North-East for the rights of women to get the vote, probably due to the town’s background Quaker faith which insisted that all people are equal in the eyes of God.

This attitude rubbed off on The Northern Echo, which in its 77th issue – we are now up to issue 45,820 – of March 30, 1870, wrote a long editorial which concluded simply: “Women, we assert, have the right to Parliamentary representation.”

Maria Swanson comes into our picture in 1909 when she became secretary of the Darlington Society for Women’s Suffrage, which was affiliated to the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) which was the group formed by Millicent Fawcett in 1897.

The colours of the NUWSS were red, gold and green, and members were suffragists and law-abiding.

In 1903, the Women’s Social and Political Union, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, split from the NUWSS. Its colours were purple, green and white, and its members were suffragettes devoted to “deeds not words”.

Much of this week’s centenary celebrations have led on the suffragettes, who were very naughty and broke the law which provides good headlines, but the groundwork was done by the moderate suffragists of the NUWSS.

The pictures of Maria come from Dorothy Lincoln, who says: “Miss Swanson was a very respected lady who lived in Waverley Terrace next door to my Wrightson grandparents. She and my gran went to London to attend a meeting, and it was always stressed to me that they were suffragists and not suffragettes.”

Maria died in 1923 and is buried in West Cemetery beneath a headstone she shares with her parents (her father, John, was a coachbuilder who constructed the first coach to run on the Stockton & Darlington Railway) and her two unmarried sisters, Sarah and Thomasin.

If you have any suffragist, or suffragette, ancestors, or any memorabilia, we’d love to hear from you.