Ada Ridley – suffragette artist

Ada Ridley is mentioned in my book, A Song of their Own, but since completing the book I’ve become aware of other interesting aspects of her life.

Ada was born in the 1860s, the second oldest of 4 sisters – in future blogs I’ll write more about her sisters Bessie and Lilian. The family lived in a large house in Henley Road, Ipswich (which later became the Marlborough Hotel). Her father was Albert Cowell Ridley, a businessman in partnership with Edward Grimwade whose daughter, Harriet, chaired the first Ipswich Women’s Suffrage Society in 1871. The family also had links by marriage to the Garrett family –  Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, and sisters Louisa and Millicent were already committed to the cause of votes for women. So we can perhaps assume that Ada and her sisters were brought up believing that opportunities for women was an important issue.

Ada went to Ipswich High School for girls, and was clearly gifted at art. She appears to have pursued this interest throughout her life, winning prizes both locally and nationally. She contributed illustrations to An Anti Suffrage Alphabet, designed by Laurence Houseman, an active supporter of the votes for women campaign. This was a book of verse which documents the unfair subordination of voteless women, and which lampoons the opponents of suffrage. It is likely that she knew several prominent suffragettes through this link, especially as artists contributed much to the campaign.

We know that Ada was a suffrage supporter from at least 1909, when the Women’s Social and Political Union set up in Ipswich. She contributed sums of money to the cause. She is not recorded as being at home on Census night in April 1911(see below) and it is possible that she joined other Ipswich suffragettes at their all-night party to boycott the Census at the Old Museum Rooms. Also in that year she designed a banner for the huge Women’s Coronation Procession in London – the banner was made of purple silk and velvet and carried the headline Be Just and Fear Not. It headed up the sizeable group of women from Ipswich at the procession.

Ada Ridley had a long life, dying in her ’90s, but little is known of her political activity after these events.

Thanks to suffrage historian Elizabeth Crawford for allowing me to use details from her research. Elizabeth runs a website of suffrage stories on www.womanandhersphere.com

I was delighted recently to meet Ada Ridley’s niece, Jill Ganzoni, who gave me an insight into the family.