A PLAQUE has been installed to commemorate Carmarthenshire suffragette Rachel Barrett, who lived in Llandeilo and was one Wales' key campaigners fighting for women's right to vote.

The plaque was officially unveiled at Rachel's former home at 4 Lewis Terrace, Alan Road, on Saturday, July 24.

The research work on Welsh suffragettes by Carmarthen historian, Dr Mary Thorley was the inspiration behind the plaque installation.

MP Jonathan Edwards unveiled the plaque along with Llandeilo Town Mayor, Robert Jones.

Funding for the plaque was made possible through donations from Llandeilo town council, Llandeilo Civic Society and Cangen Merched y Wawr, Llandeilo; also Gaynor Jones, Linda Price, Llandybie, Jen Dafis, Y Fro, Llio Silyn, Rhydaman, Ffiona Williams, Minffordd and two further anonymous donations via crowdfunder.

Members of Merched y Wawr, Llandeilo at the plaque unveiling

Members of Merched y Wawr, Llandeilo at the plaque unveiling

Who was Rachel Barrett?

Rachel Barrett was born and lived in Carmarthen, later moving to Llandeilo. She was a teacher at Carmarthen Girls' County School and Penarth Girls' School. In 1906 Rachel attended a suffragette rally in Cardiff where she heard Adela Pankhurst speaking and was so inspired that she joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).

In 1907 she resigned her teaching post, enrolling at the London School of Economics and becoming more and more active with the WSPU. She campaigned with the Pankhursts, during elections and selling copies of Votes for Women. She was such a valuable asset that she was offered the post of full-time campaign officer and took it up, leaving her studies at the LSE. By 1910 she was in charge of all WSPU campaigns in Wales, working out of Cardiff.

She became assistant editor of the WSPU newspaper, The Suffragette, making her a target of police surveillance and harassment.

In 1912 she moved to London to take over the British national campaign, as some of the suffragette leaders had to flee to Paris to avoid arrest and imprisonment.

The papers' office were raided numerous times and the staff arrested. Accused of conspiring to damage property Barrett was sentenced to nine months in Holloway. Like many of the suffragettes, Barrett experienced arrest, imprisonment, hunger strike, release and re-arrest numerous times. Fleeing the authorities became second nature, as did hiding in boltholes and being smuggled cross country to evade the police.

With the advent of the Great War, the battle for the vote took a back seat, hence it took until 1928 for women to get full voting rights in the UK. However Barrett still campaigned whilst supporting the war effort. In 1929 she was appointed secretary of the Equal Political Rights Campaign Committee, set up to pursue equality between the sexes in the political world. This period also saw her doggedly campaigning for equal pay for women.

Whilst editing The Suffragette, Barrett became involved with an Australian author, and screenwriter, Ida AR Wylie, with whom she had a long term relationship. In 1918 they spent a year on a road trip across the USA. They were both supportive of their friend, the author Radclyffe Hall who wrote the first novel (The Well of Loneliness) which openly portrayed lesbian relationships. The book scandalised society and of course the Daily Express! And as a result there was an infamous obscenity trial in 1929. Barrett and her partner stood steadfastly behind the author throughout this difficult period.

Barrett died in 1953, at the age of 78, of a brain haemorrhage in a care home in Sussex.