Margaret O'Shea

Margaret O'Shea

Private means



'The Cottage', 53 Havant Road, Cosham, Portsmouth.



Margaret was born in 1860 in Cobham, and was elder sister to Norah O'Shea. Both sisters were active and founding members of the Portsmouth branch of the law abiding NUWSS - part of the Surrey, Sussex and Hants federation. Margaret served as the federation's Honorary secretary and Treasurer. Whereas her sister Norah was an outgoing figure - giving many rousing speeches for the cause - Margaret was an avid letter writer on all matters of women's equality. Her letters appear both in the local press and the NUWSS newspaper 'The Common Cause'. She tackled diverse subjects raised by anti-suffragists: such as sending surplus British women of marriageable age to India to circumvent pressure to grant them the vote at home. And she more sensitively critiqued fellow suffragists - such as a letter about Katherine Harley's proposal to 'militarize' the NUWSS through her 'Active Service Corps' scheme, written on Boxing day (see images). Margaret was a lifelong pacifist. As a law abiding suffragist, Margaret, along with her sister, chose not to take part in the suffrage boycott of the government census survey in 1911. However, the sisters together noted on the census form, how they completed it at The Cottage, 'under protest' , because women could not vote. In 1912, Margaret penned the words for a new 'vigorous' suffrage song entitled 'Forward! Ever Forward!' with music by Miss Emily Jones: 'Truth sets women free - free to her the ballot, Citizen is she'. The sisters often held suffrage events in their garden at The Cottage - perhaps Margaret's own song was enthusiastically recited there. Throughout her life, Margaret was an active worker in the socialist movement and local Labour Party, a member of the Fareham Board of Guardians and Rural District Council, and was secretary of the local vegetarian society. In a moving tribute article, published upon her death in 1927, local residents wrote: 'She kept an ever open door...Many troubled hearts found their way to 'The Cottage' and were never sent away... When we were sick, she visited us, and no one else were we so glad to see... we learned from her to think of animals in a kinder way... we hope to live out some of the lessons she taught us.' (Hampshire Telegraph & Post, 25 Nov., 1927, p. 5). A remarkable woman. Secondary sources and additional reading: Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928 (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).


M O'shea India clip letter.png
Oshea sisters portsmouth GBC_1911_RG14_05650_0373.jpg
Margaret Oshea advert for suffrage song Com Cause 27 june 1912 p17.png
Margaret Oshea write song part 2 words portsmouth eve news 3 july 1912 p4.png
O'Shea garden 1910 portsmouth library.png
M O'Shea letter clipped active service core.png



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

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