Norah O'Shea

Norah O'Shea

Private means



The Cottage, 53 Havant Road, Cosham, Portsmouth.



Born 1865 in Southampton, Norah was a founder and leading member of the Portsmouth branch of the law abiding NUWSS - part of the Surrey, Sussex and Hants wing of the federation. Norah lived on the outskirts of Portsmouth with her sister - and fellow NUWSS member Margaret - and two servants in 'The Cottage'. The sisters often opened the garden at The Cottage - with rather belied its name with 14 rooms - for suffrage events (see image). Norah was known as the 'red haired rebel': both she and her sister used a home made solution of sage and other herbs grown in the garden, to achieve a much admired red lustre for their hair. By 1910, Norah had been elected as a Parish Councillor, and for the suffrage movement, participated in a seemingly endless round of suffrage meetings, often acting as speaker for which she was much in demand. In 1911, she gave a particularly witty speech entitled 'The Education of an MP' declaring that, despite her best efforts, 'she did not know she had as yet educated one' (see images). She was also Honorary secretary of the NUWSS Parliamentary Committee that year (likely through to 1913), so responsible for organizing deputations and support for suffrage bills proposed for parliament. As a law abiding member of the NUWSS, Norah did not take part in the suffrage boycott of the 1911 census, but together with her sister, she did make a personal protest writing across the census form: 'We have filled in this paper under protest because women cannot vote for Members of Parliament'. So, whilst Norah technically complied, she still seized the chance to express her opinion. Norah later helped organize and took part in the NUWSS Women's Pilgrimage - a huge march made by women walking from every corner of the country to rally in London - in 1913. She made several impromptu speeches along the way that were very well received (see images). She also took part in organizing the Women's Peace Crusade in 1914, including a rally planned for Hyde Park in November. Norah was an internationalist thinker and throughout her life maintained close ties with the socialist movement, the Labour Party and Workers Union, and was a passionate vegetarian. Norah died in 1953. Secondary sources and additional reading, see: Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide (London: 2001); Jill Liddington, Vanishing for the Vote: Suffrage, Citizenship and the Battle for the Census (Manchester: 2014); Sarah Peacock, Votes for Women: The Women's Fight in Portsmouth (City of Portsmouth: 1983).


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“Norah O'Shea,” Mapping Women's Suffrage, accessed November 21, 2019,

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