Minnie Turner's "suffragette boarding house"

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Minnie Turner's
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Minnie Turner's

13/14 Victoria Road

By Carol Dyhouse

In the early years of the last century nos 13 (known as ‘Sea View’) and 14 Victoria Road were first leased to and then purchased by Minnie Sara Turner (1867-1948), a local resident well known for her involvement in the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Minnie Turner came from a modest home in Preston Street, Brighton, where her family kept a shop selling knitted garments. She and her elder brother Alfred seem to have been largely self-educated and shared a passion for books.  

As a young woman Minnie made her living by running “Sea View” and later its annexe at 14 Victoria Road as a guest house which attracted mainly professional women visitors: teachers, doctors and nurses. For twelve years she was honorary secretary of the Hove ward of the Brighton and Hove Women’s Liberal Association, but left the Liberal party because of its lack of support for women’s suffrage. In 1908 she joined the women’s Social and Political Union and turned to militancy. She was arrested three times for her suffrage activities. On the first two occasions (“Black Friday” and “the Battle of Downing Street”) she was released. On the third occasion, in 1911, during a protest against Asquith’s Reform Bill, she broke a window at the Home Office and was sentenced to three weeks imprisonment in Holloway.  

By 1913, 13 Victoria Road had acquired a mixed reputation locally as a “suffragette boarding house” harbouring a “colony of militants”. In April 1913, the windows of the house were stoned by local youths. Miss Turner and her guests retaliated by sticking up signs in the windows declaring the damage an illustration of “Masculine Logic”, “the only kind of argument men understand”.  

Writing about her suffrage activities in later life, Minnie was characteristically modest about her achievements, but it was with great pride that she remembered the long list of suffrage leaders who had stayed with her at 13/14 Victoria Road. Her guests had included Mrs Pankhurst and several of her family, Lady Constance Lytton, Lady Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Emily Wilding Davison, Annie Kenney, Mrs Drummond and many others. The guest-house was often full, and extra accommodation was arranged in the form of a wooden hut in the garden of no 13, and even a potting shed-type annexe to the back of no 12, next door.  

Minnie believed passionately in suffrage and social justice. She was hard working and had a strong sense of responsibility to the community. A keen member of the Clifton Road Congregational Church, she was elected to the Brighton Board of Guardians soon after the First World War, and served for more than seven years, committed to improving conditions in Brighton Workhouse in Elm Grove. She valued education, peace and fellowship. One of her nieces remembered her aunt as a very determined woman but also as fun-loving, warm in her relationships with staff and friends.

 

This is a shortened version of “’Sea View’ and Suffragism” which appeared in cmpca news no6 (December 2006).

This page was added on 21/04/2010.
Comments about this page

I am a postgrad who has come across Minnie Turner's name in my studies. I would be very interested in knowing more about her from people in the area. If you have any information please contact me at the email above. Many Thanks Mort Marsh Research Associate Iris women's photographic resource Loughborough University

By Mort Marsh
On 26/02/2011

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