DAISY PARSONS the first woman Mayor of West Ham
This article is based upon an exhibition that I researched in 1985. I
took a folder of items that was in the possession of the Local Studies
Library, headed Alderman Mrs Daisy Parsons. It contained cuttings,
photographs, letters and certificates of various kinds. Using these items,
and finding others, the exhibition opened in April 1985 at East Ham
The following is based upon that exhibition, plus other items which
have come to light since the exhibition took place, in particular from Mrs
Parsons children and grandchildren and additional research undertaken
Early life 1890 - 1904
Born Marguerite Lena Millo on 25th May 1890. Her parents brought her to
West Ham at the age of 8 months and they lived in Canning Town. The
youngest girl, and having five brothers, she left Beckton Road School at
the age of twelve in 1902. Her father was an invalid and her mother took
in washing and did charring. (Her father died in 1918 and her mother lived
to see her become mayor in 1936) Daisy cared for her five young brothers
and did chores for the neighbours for which she was paid 6d a day. She
passed a certificate of exemption in order to leave school early, and
later in her life said that having to leave school upset her greatly and
that if she had had the chance would have gone on to higher education.
Out to work 1904 - 1912
When she was 14 she left home to work as a maid in the household of Mr
McCall, the Chief Librarian at Limehouse Library. She earned 3/6d a week.
Then she went to Milton Avenue as a maid where she earnt 4/- a week.
Domestic servants were paid the lowest wages, so she moved to Carreras
Tobacco Company in Aldgate, where she packed cigarettes on piecework. The
women and girls were paid 3d a thousand cigarettes. In the morning they
could pack 2000, but by lunchtime as they tired they could only pack 1000.
The men who worked there were allowed a fixed lunch hour and had a place
to eat their food, but the women had no lunch break and no place to eat -
they ate in the lavatory! Daisy Parsons later remarked to PM Asquith in
1914 that it was 'not quite the thing'. The men had better conditions
because they had an organised trade union and it was here that she had her
first contact with the trade union movement.
It was also where she met her husband Tom (Robert Stanley) Parsons from
Camden Town, a driver for Stepney Borough Council and an active member of
the Electricians Trade Union. They married on 19th December
1908, at the Congregational Chapel, Barking Road.
Suffragette 1912 - 1914
The suffragette movement was active in East London at this time and
Daisy, encouraged by Minnie Baldock, joined the WSPU suffragettes in 1912
at their headquarters in Poplar. She also joined the ILP there. Here she
met Mary Paterson, secretary of the Poplar Branch of the WSPU.
The WSPU had been founded in Manchester, the home of the Pankhursts, in
1903 and did not open branches in London until 1905. Sylvia Pankhurst made
her first contact with the women of East London through Keir Hardie,
(Member of Parliament for West Ham (1892-1895)) at this time, including
Daisy’s mentor Minnie Baldock from Canning Town. Sylvia and other WSPU
members organised marches, spoke in London parks and on street corners,
and in October 1906 demonstrated at the opening of parliament. Eleven were
arrested including Minnie Baldock. This event caused quite a stir because
they were working and middle class women working together. In 1907
Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst moved down from Manchester and took
control of the London campaign. Their policy was to cultivate the wealthy
middle and upper classes, who could provide them with funds for the Cause,
and they had less interest in working class women. Then in November 1912
George Lansbury ILP MP for Bow and Bromley dramatically announced his
intention to fight a by election on the mandate of women’s suffrage.
Although Lansbury lost the by election, the WSPU became active in East
London again, and Sylvia established a new branch at Bow. She used it to
promote universal suffrage, which was in direct conflict with Christabel’s
‘no men, no political parties’ rule. From the headquarters at Bow a
group of eight branches were established across East London. This was too
much for the autocratic Christabel and the inevitable confrontation came
in January 1914. Sylvia left the WSPU and continued her campaign with her
East London Federation of the Suffragettes.
East London Federation of the Suffragettes
The East London Federation of the Suffragettes was founded on 12th
January 1914, and when the ELFS branch was formed in West Ham, Daisy was
its first member and secretary. Their newspaper was called the Woman’s
The ELFS carried out a series of demonstrations and marches. Their
first was a meeting at Trafalgar Square on 8th March 1914. Miss Paterson
was arrested and the following describes her case:
From the Woman’s Dreadnought 21st March 1914
On Monday March 9th the ten persons
arrested in Trafalgar Square the previous day appeared at Bow Street.
Various weapons and life preservers of knotted rope weighted with
lead, India rubber tyring and other instruments were shown by the
police as having been used by the crowd. …
In the case of Miss Paterson the Poplar organiser of
the East London Federation of the Suffragettes, it was stated that she
was running down Northumberland Avenue waving a flag and followed by a
large crowd, and that on being stopped by the policeman she took a
knotted rope from her pocket and struck out right and left.
Miss Paterson asked leave to call Miss Mackay as
witness but this the magistrate refused to allow saying in irate tones
and pointing to the life preservers ‘what about those things in your
possession do you think it is a trifle?’ At this point Mrs Parsons
of Canning Town asked to be a witness to the fact that Miss Paterson
had been ill-treated by the police, but the magistrate said ’she
does not allege it and is none the worse for it’. Fine 40/-. Miss
Paterson said ‘I did not allege anything about police treatment
simply because it is not what I was here for. I could easily enough
had said what they did, and could point out that it took ten men and
eight horses to arrest me. But I was not here to make complaints
against the police, that is for others. You incite to breach of the
peace when you give seven years to Julia Decies and also drag people
like Sylvia Pankhurst back again to prison. You have roused a fire in
the East End and ten men and eight horses won’t be enough next time!’
Daisy was the ‘other woman’ mentioned here.
The day after this report appeared was Mothering Sunday (22nd
March 1914), and the ELFS chose this day to march from East London to
Westminster Abbey to pray for Votes for Women and those on hunger strike.
The procession formed up at 28 Ford Road, Bow, at 3.45 p.m. and set off at
From the Times 23rd March 1914
Miss S Pankhurst at the Abbey
Miss Sylvia Pankhurst, whose licence under the ‘Cat
and Mouse’ Act expired at midnight on Saturday, was carried to
Westminster Abbey on a spinal carriage yesterday evening accompanied
by a large contingent of members of the East London Federation of
Suffragettes. At the door of the Abbey the party was refused
admission, the building being full. They therefore turned into St
Margaret’s Street and outside the north door of the Abbey held a
service, the Rev. C.A.Wills officiating.
Inside the Abbey the sermon, which was by the Rev. R
T Talbot D.D. Canon of Bristol, was twice interrupted by women
suffragists, three of whom were ejected.
Suffragists at the Abbey
Danish recruit ‘paid a little bit’
At Bow Street Police Court yesterday Margaret
Paterson, 33, and Jenny Petersen, 21, were charged before Mr Hopkins
with obstructing the police on Sunday night when a number of women
marched from the East End to Westminster Abbey.
Chief Inspector Rolfe stated that after the service
held near the House of Commons the two defendants and another woman
walked through Downing Street, and when opposite the quadrangle made a
rush, but were intercepted. Paterson was flourishing a loaded cane,
and she also had in her possession three small pieces of iron and a
Petersen, who is a Danish subject, said in reply to
the magistrate that she was sometimes paid ‘a little bit’ by the
East end branch of the suffragist movement.
Paterson, who had been previously convicted was
fined 40s, Petersen was discharged.
These extracts from the Woman’s Dreadnought illustrate some of
From the Woman’s Dreadnought 4th April 1914
South West Ham
Hon Sec: Mrs Daisy Parsons
94 Ravencroft Road
Good meetings held at Freemason’s Road and Beckton
Road, 21 and 23 Dreadnoughts sold at these meetings. Good attendance
at Member’s meeting on Thursday evening. Thanks to members who sell
and distribute Dreadnoughts – more still needed. 126 Dreadnoughts
sold in the week ending Friday March 20th.
Canning Town : District
Leaders: Mrs Millo 1Ravenscroft Road, Miss Tate 17 Tyas Road, Miss
Kates 8 Walter Street. Distributors: Mrs Sands, Mrs Roper, Mrs
Pountney, Mrs Heacham
Custom House : District
Leaders: Mrs Drake 49 Crediton Road, Miss Leggatt 74 Chauntler Road,
Distributors: Mrs Ward, Mrs and Miss Laurence
Tidal Basin : District
Leader: Miss Penn. Distributors: Miss Greenleaf, Misses A and L Kelsey
Leader : Miss Grimes 27 Newland Street
From the Woman’s Dreadnought May 1914
South West Ham
Hon Sec: Mrs Daisy Parsons
94 Ravenscroft Road
At the members meeting on Thursday, Miss Grimes was
elected as delegate for Committee of ELFS. She was also colour bearer
for the procession. It was splendid the way members fought to have
their meeting in Victoria Park. We hope all those who received hurts
are now better. Thanks to banner bearers and to Miss King, Miss Cohen
and Miss Lansbury for coming from Bow to march in procession.
84 Dreadnoughts sold week ending May 22.
Canning Town : District
Leaders: Mrs Millo 1Ravenscroft Road, Miss Tate 37 Tyas Road.
Distributors: Mrs Little, Mrs Parker
Plaistow : District
Leaders: Miss Pett 67 Wigston Road, Mrs Hawkins 29 Beaufoy Road.
Distributors: Mrs Ward, Mrs and Miss Laurence
Custom House : District
Leader: Miss Daisy Leggatt 74 Chauntler Road. Distributors: Miss A
Dunbar, Miss Cox
Tidal Basin : District
Leader: Miss Penn 10 Brent Road. Distributors: Misses A and L Keiser,
Miss Maud Greenleaf
Silvertown : District
Leader: Miss Grace Grimes 27 Newland Street. Distributor: Miss F
Petition to the King May 1914
On 21st May 1914 Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst appealed to all
women suffragettes to attend a march to Buckingham Palace to petition the
King. Many did but were met with force by the police. Daisy Parsons was
there and described what she saw.
From the Woman’s Dreadnought 30th May 1914
Deputation to the King
What Mrs Parsons of Canning Town saw
Mrs Parsons entered the park by Admiralty Arch, and
made her way to the Victoria Memorial. There she saw a large crowd of
people, a large proportion of whom were youths hardly out of their
teens, standing with their backs to the memorial, watching the palace.
There was a wide vacant space between the people and the palace, and
the middle of this space was a line of police, not standing shoulder
to shoulder but with a space of some yards between each one.
The palace windows were crowded with people and four
of them were open. There were detectives on the palace roof. Everyone
seemed to be looking for a procession of women that did not come.
Every now and then a woman would dart out from amongst the dense
throng of spectators into the space, and the police rushed at her,
caught her, and threw her back into the crowd. Then the young men in
the crowd would turn on the woman and beat her and tear her clothes
and drag down her hair and shout that she out to be burnt. Then the
woman would run out again towards the police only to be caught and
thrown back again by the police and again beaten by the men. This
would be repeated until at last she was hustled away out of sight or
placed under arrest. In one case Mrs Parsons saw one woman face this
eleven times before arrest. The police never attempted to protect any
of the women who were assaulted, and one young woman they lifted right
up and threw over the heads of the nearest people.
At last the mounted police came up at a gallop and
drove everyone away. Mrs Parsons was driven off in the crowd down
Birdcage Walk. She saw a young woman dressed in pink with a jeering
crowd behind her. The young woman stopped and stood with her back
against the wall. A sentry walked up to her and pushed her. She said
‘How dare you’ , and he struck her in the face with his fist.
Now there were mounted police coming in both
directions and there was no way for the people to disperse. Two
mounted men drew their horses across the path so that their horse’s
heads touched each other. Mrs Parsons and some of the others managed
to squeeze through behind the horses. Afterwards Mrs Parsons went to
Cannon Row and saw a number of stretchers being carried in.
An East London man reported; What we have to fear is
the toffs in silk hats not the poor people.
Marching in a suffragette procession or taking part in a demonstration
was a risky business and in addition to her sash in the suffragette
colours of purple white and green, she also carried, hidden in her sleeve
a ‘Saturday Nights’ or life preserver. This was a length of hemp rope,
knotted at one end, which could be used as a cosh if necessary. She told
her son Stanley that she never had needed to use it.
Sylvia then requested that Prime Minister Asquith receive a deputation
of working women, and threatened to fast to death at the Strangers’
Entrance to the House of Commons if he refused.
From the Woman’s Dreadnought 13th June 1914
South West Ham
Members are asked to turn up at member’s meeting
every Thursday. Splendid meeting was held at the Public Hall on Friday
June 5th. Mr and Mrs Drake and Mrs Parsons were chosen for
deputation. All members grieved at Miss Paterson’s departure and are
grateful for splendid work she has done here. More members needed for
From the Woman’s Dreadnought 20th June 1914
South West Ham
Members are thanked for going poster parading and
picketing outside Holloway prison. We urge men and women to write to
their Member of Parliament, and to ask them to get Mr Asquith to receive
deputation as Sylvia’s life is at stake. A good indoor meeting was
held on Thursday when Miss Wright gave an interesting speech. A huge
crowd was at Beckton corner on Friday, and many questions were put to
Miss Paterson who very ably answered them. Miss Greenleaf thanked for
helping secretary by taking papers to members
Deputation to Asquith June 1914
On June 12th Asquith relented and on Saturday June 20th
, six East End women waited on Prime Minister Asquith to ask for the vote.
They were: Mrs Hughes, a brushmaker, Mrs Bird, mother of six young
children, Mrs Ford, a widow with three children, Mrs Payne, a shoemaker
from Bow, Daisy Parsons represented West Ham, Julia Scurr led the
Daisy Parsons is on the far right of this photograph.
Sylvia was unable to attend. From January to June 1914 she had been
arrested and sentenced nine times and had undertaken several food, drink
and sleep fasts in that time
From the Woman’s Dreadnought 27th June 1914
Sir, - We are members of the East London Federation
of the Suffragettes an organisation which has sprung up in East London
during the last two years, but we represent more than this
organisation. We represent the general popular movement for Votes for
Women in East London, which is of tremendous numerical strength and
enthusiasm, and consists of both men and women. We are part of a
deputation which was elected at three great crowded demonstrations
held in Poplar, Canning Town and Bow and Bromley. …
We ask you first to consider the position of women
wage earners. …
We ask you next to consider especially the question
of married women. … Parliament is constantly dealing with questions
affecting the education and care of our children, with the houses in
which we live and more and more with every item of our daily lives.
… Our husbands die on the average at a much earlier age than do the
men of other classes. Modern industrialism kills them off rapidly,
both by accident and overwork. …
We can here speak with much feeling on these matters
for we know by bitter experience the terrible struggle with absolute
want that our widowed sisters have to face from no fault of their own.
We feel most earnestly and emphatically that it is
gravely unjust to pass legislation in matters of this kind without
consulting the women of this country. …
We would further point out that whilst women are
taxed on exactly the same basis as men, and like men are obliged to
obey the laws, they are allowed no voice in these questions. …
Mrs Parsons Speech
Mrs Scurr; The next
speaker will be Mrs Parsons of Canning Town, who went to work when she
was twelve years of age.
Mrs Parsons; I left
school at 12 years of age and had a delicate father, and a mother who
had to work hard at washing and charring. I had very often to help the
neighbours do their work for which I was paid sixpence a day and the
little food they could give which was not very much, because people in
the East End do not have much food to give away. On the other spare
days I used to help at home with the younger brothers while mother was
at work. Then after a little while I went to work in a factory in
Aldgate and there I was a cigarette packer. We used to pack a thousand
cigarettes for 3d and in the morning when we were quite fresh we could
pack 2000 cigarettes, but as we got tired after dinner we could only
pack a thousand and a half. There you see that the wages some days
that we earned were less than a shilling a day. In that factory the
men were allowed time for lunch simply because they were men, but the
women and girls, if we were fortunate enough to have lunch and could
take bread and butter with us, had not a place to eat our lunch and
were forced to take it into the lavatory and we know that is not
altogether the thing. The men could quite openly come along with cans
and eat whatever they liked to send out for and sit and eat it at
their leisure. We know that if the men were working under these
conditions, through their trade unions, and through their votes they
would say they would not tolerate that sort of thing.
The Prime Minister; Does
that go on now?
Mrs Parsons; I believe so
at the same factory, and yet although the factory is sweating their
girls and women workers, they are able to pay dividends and bonuses,
and present the buyers of their cigarettes with prizes for the coupons
that are packed in with the cigarettes. There are two coupons with the
cigarettes for which they pay the paltry price of 3d.
The Prime Minister; Will
you let me know the name of the factory afterwards?
Mrs Parsons; Yes.
Now as a young mother I have three little girls to
bring up, two of my own children and another a little niece who has
neither father nor mother. I feel if we women are able to perform the
high duty of motherhood – and after all there are mothers who have
brought statesmen into the world, because they have all had mothers,
and we bring sailors, policemen and everybody into the world – we
should at least have a say as to how those children should be brought
When I had the first little girl, I had a
conscientious objection to vaccination and I went to the local
magistrates for an exemption order. I thought I would save time by
filling the form in and I presented it to him. The magistrate laughed
and said you cannot do anything with this, you are not the parent.
But, I said, I am the mother, surely I know what is good for my own
child. But he said that in the eyes of the law you are not the parent
of your own child. We feel that it is an insult to us. When we bring
children into the world we should at least be able to say what is good
for them. We mothers are with the children more than the fathers are,
and in the event of a Dock strike, or any other strike for that
matter, it is the mother who has to do the ferreting and has the work
to do and perform her household duties as well.
With regard to Miss Sylvia Pankhurst, we are not
asking to have the men arrested, but we do ask for her unconditional
release. We feel that Sir Edward Carson has not only made inciting
speeches, but he has said that the Irish streets would be flowing with
blood or some such statement. I am lost for the exact words. We feel
that his incitement has been greater than hers and he should now be in
prison. We feel that the vote must be won shortly. We must have the
vote. We are here today to demand a vote for every woman over the age
of 21 years and Miss Pankhurst is giving her life for the purpose of
fighting for this vote.
We do protest when we go along in processions that
suddenly without a word of warning we are pounced upon by detectives
and bludgeoned and women are called names by cowardly detectives, when
nobody is about. There was one old lady of 70 who was with us the
other day, who was knocked to the ground and kicked. She is a
shirtmaker and is forced to work on a machine and she has been in the
most awful agony. These men are not fit to help rule the country while
we have no say in the matter.
We also ask for the release of Mrs Walker, who is a
docker’s wife and a woman of my class, and we feel that she should
not be in Holloway at this time for what the journalists like to call
an inciting speech
Asquith gave a conciliatory reply to the deputation and indicated to
them that their delegation was more representative than others he had met.
He declared ‘if the change [women’s suffrage] has got to come we must
face it boldly and make it thoroughly democratic in its basis.’ It
appeared that Asquith had finally recognised that he could not maintain
his resistance to women’s suffrage much longer, and that his position
now – equal suffrage for men and women - was closer to that of Sylvia
and the ELFS than that of Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst and the WSPU.
In the light of Asquith’s capitulation, the ELFS planned more
processions and peaceful demonstrations in order to press their advantage.
From the Woman’s Dreadnought 4th July 1914
South West Ham
Splendid meeting held outside ‘Peacock’ when Mr
and Mrs Laski and Mr Smith of Oxford spoke. Audience also pleased at
the result of deputation, through Miss Pankhurst’s determination.
Good meetings on Thursday and members set to work giving in names for
lobbying MPs, banner carrying and paper selling. Still more wanted for
Dreadnought distribution. Many members turned up and walked to
World War One 1914 - 1918
In August 1914 war came. Its effect was immediate on the East End.
Soldiers and Sailors wives were left without money for food and rent.
Sylvia, using her political connections, lobbied government agencies on
behalf of East London. On 2nd September 1914 she led a
deputation to meet with Walter Runciman, President of the Board of Trade,
about the cost of living, the erratic food supply and the sweated war work
done by women. With her went Charlotte Drake, Melvina Walker, Mrs Farrell,
Mrs Payne and Daisy Parsons whom she described in her book The Home
‘frail Mrs Parsons, flushed and consumptive
looking, showing in every line of her the evidence of an ill nourished
The deputation gave the president evidence and examples of the ‘panic
prices’ that they were paying for food. Daisy is recorded thus:
Mrs Parsons [declared] that she and her children
were short of food. Sugar, which used to cost her 1½d a pound was now
3½d, beans which had been 2½d were 4d. One of the big multiple shop
companies was allowing women who bought margarine to get their sugar
for 2½d per pound; but if they bought butter they must pay 3½d. Why
should they force poor people to give margarine to their children:
miserable stuff which would not nourish them? She asked indignant,
protesting that her children were delicate children; they needed good
(E.S. Pankhurst The Home Front)
Runciman’s reply was noncommittal – it would do all it could, but
would not take control of the food supply.
She was co-opted onto the Distress Committee of West Ham Borough
Council, and visited those who were in distress:
From the Woman’s Dreadnought 3rd October 1914
In Canning Town
Mrs Parsons the ELFS Hon. Sec. for West Ham who is
appointed to visit soldiers and sailors wives for the west Ham Local
Representation Committee under the Mayor, sends us the following
Mrs G – two children with measles and one with
pneumonia, no food in the house and no money since 15th
August. Reservists wife.
Mrs S – reservists wife, married 4 years and 3
months with four children gets one shilling per day
Mrs H – sailors wife, did not know which ship her
husband was on, five children at school, cried when I gave her ten
Mrs C – son gone who was her sole support. Had to
go for bread to the relieving officer, and says she does not want to
Mrs A – husband gone to the front and she gets
1/1d a day. Has a baby of three months which has to be bottle fed.
Does not receive pay for it, husband forgot to register it.
The ELFS still campaigned for the vote and held frequent meetings, but
much of their work was done relieving the distress caused by the war in
East London. They decided to give 1 pint of milk to necessitous mothers
and children each day. In order to raise money for the fund, Daisy took
her daughter Marguerite to Oxford Street and begged in order to raise the
From the Woman’s Dreadnought 17th and 21st
South West Ham
The campaign of meetings leading up to the Public
Hall meeting has been very successful and enthusiastic. At the ‘Peacock’
the organiser [Miss Mary Phillips] was the speaker and also at
Ordnance Road on Wednesday where an extra meeting was held especially
to advertise the Public Hall. Large number of bills given at the
Municipal concert on Saturday night.
An office has been taken at 14 Butchers Road and is
open every afternoon from 3.30 to 5.30 and all who are in distress
through the war will be welcomed there for advice. Members who can
give a little time to canvassing the district are also welcome there
and meetings will be held on Tuesday evenings beginning October 20th.
As cases of distress are found it is hoped to be able to help them a
little by distributing milk for babies under 12 months, but the
federation has at present no funds to spare for the purpose, so we
must collect all we can before a start can be ready. Boxes are ready
and can be had from the secretary or the organiser.
South West Ham
Public hall very successful and enthusiastic. The
resolution was carried unanimously. Collection £2 1/9d was good
considering the scarcity of money just now.
The new room is proving a useful centre. At first we
could only make friends with and advise those in distress, but members
have set to so energetically that by the end of the week we were able
to make a start giving milk in a few of the most needy cases. Let us
make up our minds to collect enough to pay for all the milk we give
away in this district.
Miss Lawson and Miss Brown two quite new members
have been among the keenest collectors and have gone on their own
initiative to picture palaces and other places. Mrs Ewers has given
valuable help in canvassing and investigating cases: also Mrs Hockham
and Mrs Roper. Mrs M E Davies has kindly promised to come and advise
mothers about babies on Wednesday (this week) and to give what help
she can after. Mrs Drake, Mrs Lawson, Mrs Millo and others have kindly
lent furniture etc. for the room.
This centre was so popular that by January 1915 it had moved to larger
From the Woman’s Dreadnought 19th January 1915
The South West Ham branch of the ELFS has just moved
into larger premises which consist of a shop, three rooms and kitchen.
Its new address will be 55 Fife Road, Tidal Basin, E. The Federation
earnestly asks for gifts of furniture for these new premises, in order
that the expenses of supplying it may not come out of the funds. We
specially need tables, chairs, a clock, coal scuttles, fire irons,
hearth rugs, and washstand and crockery.
At these larger premises they were able to offer doctor’s
consultations, baby weighing and midwifery.
Another centre was opened at 124 Barking Road, Canning Town, which also
offered doctor’s consultations and baby weighing every Tuesday at 4 pm.
As the war dragged on the ELFS began to campaign for peace, and changed
its name to the Workers Suffrage Federation:
From the Stratford Express 8th April 1916
The East London Federation of the Suffragettes will
in future be known as the Workers’ Suffrage Federation, and men will
be admitted to the membership.
The inaugural meeting of the newly named
organisation was held on Saturday evening as Lees Hall Canning Town.
Mrs Parsons presided and speeches were delivered by Mrs Despard, Miss
Sylvia Pankhurst and Mrs Drake.
Mrs Despard said they met under the auspices not of
a new suffrage society but of a suffrage society which had started on
a wider course and a bigger venture. … She trusted that that meeting
gathered at this terribly anxious time would result in great good. …
They were reading with deep sorrow of the slaughter of young men and
middle aged men, and yet, while this terrible slaughter was going on
thousands of unnecessary deaths were taking place among little
children….The big ship, the big gun and such things were given a
more important place in this country. … The war was bringing a
revelation. They were beginning to see things as they are. It was
right that at such a time as this they should begin to think not only
of war but of the days to follow the war. … they should be so
prepared to build up a world in which such things as war would be
impossible. … To bring wars to an end through the feeling of
brotherhood and the recognition of all alike, they must have some
weapon in their hands. She did not mean a destructive weapon. …The
weapon that they wanted was not the sword, the gun or any of the
terrible things with which men were killing one another, but the vote.
Miss Pankhurst said it would be specially necessary
after the war that the people should be well organised industrially
and also that they should have their political enfranchisement. …
On the evening of January 17th 1917 the TNT factory owned by
Brunner Mond in Silvertown exploded. This factory worked around the clock
manufacturing explosives and shells for the front. The area around the
factories was especially busy at the time of the explosion as there was a
change of shifts. Children, carrying flasks and food baskets were bringing
meals to parents working overtime. Without warning one of the TNT
manufacturing sheds exploded and took with it the factory, another nine
factories and mills around it, and hundreds of houses in the surrounding
streets. 74 People were killed, a thousand maimed or injured. Thousands
were made homeless. The ELFS along with other agencies such as the
Salvation Army rallied round
Worker’s Dreadnought 1917
The Scandal of Silvertown
Though the dramatic name of ‘baby killers’ is
appropriately enough given to the dramatic crime of enemy raiders, I
am afraid it applies with equal truth to those who are authorizing the
re building of Silvertown in its present unhealthy conditions. Damp
unhealthy dwellings mean that it is the women and children who will
suffer. Croup and rickets will take their yearly toll: mothers will
watch their little ones waste and die, in spite of all the care the
can give them. As this will go on from year to year and from
generation to generation, I would ask whether the greater
responsibility and the greater sin does not rest with the authorities
who are permitting the present scandal at Silvertown? As this is
probably a financial question at bottom, I would as a ratepayer make a
further objection. It is on the ratepayer that the cost of this short
sighted policy will fall. He will ultimately have to pay for the
weakly incapacitated men and women who surviving the miseries of
childhood under these conditions will later on drift to infirmaries
and workhouses instead of becoming assets to the economic forces of
the nation. I would further state that it is the proceedings of this
sort which are the despair of the thoughtful part of the community. On
the one side we have devotion and patriotism enforced on the battle
field in practice, and exhorted on posters by precept. On the other we
have the amazing exhibitions of weakness and stupidity which re shown
in the weakening over the question of the drink traffic, and the
deliberate flouting of the ordinary principles of health which are
exhibited in the present instance. What is the good of child welfare
exhibitions, of all the machinery now being set on foot by wise and
far seeing men and women when our government tolerates and supports
performances such as these? These are questions which will come home
The Workers’ Suffrage Federation held rallies and Peace marches with
the Non Conscription Federation. Some of those involved with the WSF at
this time were Mrs Bouvier, Clement Atlee and Mary Richardson (who had
slashed the Rokeby Venus).
Sylvia adopted the position of pushing for a negotiated peace and
showing tolerance towards those of German descent who lived in East
London. After German air raids started their shops and homes became easy
targets. But politicians and union leaders in East London took a patriotic
Worker’s Dreadnought 15th April 1917
The East London Peace Demonstration, Victoria Park
The sun shone joyously on the peace procession last
Sunday. ‘Spring and Peace must come together’ said the first
banner. And the others followed ‘In this War there is a nation
without frontiers united in anguish : it is the nation of Mothers’
‘The Children of All Nations want their Fathers home’ ‘Half the
World is Drenched in Blood’. At the rear was a black banner with a
skull which said ‘5,000,000 killed : How many more?’ ‘All are
Comrades’ said the banner of the Forest Gate NCF. The red flag of
the Walthamstow BSP, the red purple, green and white of the Worker’s
Suffrage Federation, the children riding in decorated carts, made a
brave show. Fully a thousand people marched in the procession and as
we always do in East London, masses of us preferred to swarm along the
gutter and on the pavements beside the procession proper so that two
larger processions walked on either side of those who were marshalled
beside the banners. Near the head of the procession marched a young
officer, and close by a soldier discharged without a pension. Another
ex-soldier who was going to hospital next day, wore his trade union
regalia and was busy selling miniature red flags. On every step of the
four miles from Beckton Road corner to the park sympathetic crowds
greeted us, clapping and waving hands.
The mounted police rode ahead, and there were some
four or five constables on foot: all was in order : there was nothing
for them to do. Many members of the criminal Investigation Department
of Scotland Yard began to appear as we reached our destination. We
knew them well from our pre-war days. Why had they come? We never
found them affording protection to pacifists or calling to account
those who despitefully use them.
As we marched over the bridge at the end of Grove
Road facing the Park hostility began to show itself for the first
The first flag was soon torn from its bamboo pole
and the pole itself was twisted, but Councillor Ben Gardner bore it on
and we followed it to the meeting ground. There in the press of people
we saw that the carts brought there to serve as platforms were crowded
with jingoes who had no intention of making way for the authorised
speakers. The platforms had been captured by the rowdies, the speakers
were lost in the skirmish, so with two or three friends beside us we
set our back against the wall of the tea house and began to speak. In
another part of the park Mrs Despard had mounted the railings to
address the crowd. ‘We don’t want German terms: we want our terms’
the Jingoes yelled at her. The aged lady answered ‘You will have
neither the German terms nor your own terms : you will have God’s
terms’ They were nonplussed for a moment and then shouted at her to
go before she was hurt .. ‘I am not afraid of Englishmen’ she
answered ‘None of you will hurt me’ Nor did they: her courage
overawed them. Mrs Bouvier also addressed the crowd for a time, but
one cannot keep a meeting going for long when one is perched
uncomfortably upon the railing.
There were estimates that there were 50,000 people
in the park and that the entire disturbance was created by 500.
On Sunday it was sad to find gangs of men and women
so cowardly as to set on one or two individuals, chivvying them from
point to point and beating then with fists or sticks. Mrs Hasler and
Miss Beamish who went out to look for absent friends came back with
faces bruised and bleeding.
Ever since, telephone messages and letters of
enquiry, encouragement and congratulation have poured upon us at Old
Everyone who saw the procession is agreed that it
was a triumph and that its reception in Canning Town and Bow clearly
indicates the growth of peace feeling.
The meeting is over but the agitation continues. We
shall be in the Park next Sunday
E Sylvia Pankhurst
As the war wore on Sylvia’s support and membership faded away,
despite her social welfare work. The following report from Daisy hints at
From the Worker’s Dreadnought May 1917
South West Ham
Now members, it is the time to increase our
membership and get still more energetic members into our ranks, and we
wish to welcome old members back again. It is especially essential to
get votes for women now that so many are out in the labour market. A
splendid lantern lecture, with music, on Russia by Jaakoff Prelooker
will be held in Lee’s Hall May 14th 7.30 pm. Who will
have the next tea party?
This loss was exacerbated when Sylvia enthusiastically embraced the
Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, and turned her back on the
By the end of the war Daisy had made many friends and useful political
contacts including Clement Atlee, Freda Laski and George Lansbury. In 1918
all women over 30 were given the vote. But Daisy could not vote or stand
as a councillor because she was 29!
Councillor Mrs Parsons 1922 - 1935
In 1922 Daisy stood as Labour (SDF) nominee for Beckton ward and was
elected on 1st November 1922 as councillor.
Sister Edith Kerrison (the first woman councillor in West Ham) was
already a councillor for this ward and Daisy was seen as one of her
Daisy was on the committee of the St Mary's Hospital. Her interest in
health and welfare had grown from her days in ELFS.
In 1931 Alderman Scoulding, the Mayor, chose Daisy as his deputy. She
was the first woman deputy Mayor and it was a troublesome time.
Unemployment was at previously unknown heights and she became the first
woman to take the chair at a council meeting at a very stormy meeting of
the council. Appreciation of her success in the chair was shown in the
mayoral summing up:
From the Stratford Express 12th November 1932
Alderman Scoulding’s difficult year …
Councillor W Thorne; It
was the unanimous decision of his colleagues on both sides of the
council chamber that he should move a vote of thanks to Ald. Scoulding
for the splendid work he had rendered to the citizens of West Ham
during the past twelve months.
No man had ever sat in that chair who had such a
difficult job as Ald. Scoulding
His troubles started three days after his election
as mayor. The Town Clerk received a letter from the Minister in regard
to Economy Bill No. 2 and there were other circulars and everyone knew
what that meant. …
He has a very valuable assistant in the Deputy
Mayor. I thought I was one of the best Deputy Mayors but I found to my
surprise that a woman could do better. I shall never forget the night
when the Mayor was absent. Councillor Parsons was called on to occupy
the chair. She had a very difficult problem to deal with including a
deputation from the unemployed, and she excelled herself in the
conduct of the business. … I want the name of the Deputy Mayor to be
associated with this vote of thanks.
Councillor Kerrison; in
supporting the proposition, extolled the work of the Mayoress and of
the Deputy Mayor. She felt very proud because she had always advocated
women being allowed to fill the more prominent roles. She always
thought they could do it as well as men – she would not say better.
She had been pleased and very proud at the way in which Councillor
Parsons had filled the chair and taken the Mayor’s place. …
Councillor Parsons; Added
her testimonial to the work of Mr Davis and took the opportunity of
saying how much she had enjoyed her year of office as Deputy Mayor. It
would have been impossible to carry out the duties unless she had the
confidence and support of members in all times of difficulty.
In 1933 she became a JP. Not long after her first case she was taken
ill. In her earlier photographs she can be seen as a slim young woman -
Sylvia Pankhurst called her 'bird-like, tiny' - but by the time she was
Deputy Mayor she had noticeably gained weight. In 1934 she was taken into
Whipps Cross Hospital and her family were allowed to see her at any time,
so serious was her illness. She was diagnosed as a diabetic.
Alderman Mrs Parsons 1935 - 1936
She continued as a councillor and in 1935 was elected Alderman on the
death of Alderman Streimer. This was an uneasy time for West Ham Council
and the rate for 1936 was set during a 'scene of violence'
From the Stratford Express 25th February 1936
West Ham Council’s Uproarious Meeting
Mayor twice leaves the chair
Rate fixed during turmoil
Man and Woman Alderman in ugly scene
The making of the rate for the year to March 1937 by
West Ham Town Council on Tuesday evening was accomplished during a
scene of violence. Alderman Rumsey was the chief participant. He moved
to reduce the rate from the proposed 9/8d in the pound for the half
year by one penny. His proposition was accompanied by a tirade against
the Education Committee, whom he accused of venting their spite
against him upon his child, alleging that because he refused to
discuss the amount of his war disability pension, the scholarship won
by the child was not allowed to be a free one.
The Mayor was twice compelled to adjourn the meeting
because of the uproar which occurred during the Alderman’s speech.
After the second adjournment there was an ugly scene between Alderman
Mrs Parsons and Alderman Rumsey, who were prevented from fighting only
by the physical intervention of other members. …
From Words to Deeds
Alderman Mrs Parsons strode across the chamber and
on reaching Alderman Rumsey, struck him with a copy of the Council
reports which she had in her hands exclaiming ‘You called me a
--------‘ Alderman Rumsey endeavoured to return the blow but several
colleagues hastily interposed and prevented the Alderman from rising.
Others pulled Alderman Parsons away and led her to her seat. It was
with some difficulty that Alderman Rumsey was retrained and he
reiterating ‘She struck me in the face and tried to claw me. She
sent my missis up the pole’ For a considerable time the Alderman was
surrounded by members who endeavoured to calm him and get him to leave
the council chamber. After a time he smoked a cigarette and eventually
left the chamber in company with Councillor Luscombe and Councillor
Hearn who saw him on a train for home. The council meeting resumed
after half an hour’s delay.
Her Worship the Mayor 1936 - 1937
Then in November 1936 she was elected mayor. There were two candidates
up for the position – Daisy and another woman, Alderman Mrs Bock. The
choice was made by drawing the names from a hat. Her election was not
unanimous – one member of the council objected strongly;
From the Stratford Express 9th November 1936
Her Worship the Mayor of West Ham
Two new records established
First woman, youngest mayor
West Ham has a lady mayor. She is Alderman Daisy
Parsons, the first of her sex and the youngest mayor to occupy the
mayoral chair. She was elected at the annual meeting of the council on
Monday and her eldest daughter Mrs M I Tompkin will fill the role of
There was only one dissenting vote, that of
Alderman Rumsey who wished he had got out of the Borough before he saw
a woman occupying the mayoral chair. He suggested giving the seat to a
man outside the council. …
Councillor Mrs Gregory
moved the election of Mrs Parsons as Mayor for the next year. She was
very pleased when she was asked to do so. They were girls at school
together, and had known one another many years.
Alderman Croot seconded: I don’t know where poor
old Tom is going to, Tom and I have been friends for many years. He
need not fear it will be any worse when she is mayor than when she was
just an alderman. In my opinion it will be easier for her.
Alderman Hollins: declared
that they had offered the Mayoralty to the late Alderman Kerrison but
in view of her advancing years and increasing deafness she declined to
take it. She would have been delighted to know that one of her
lieutenants was going to be the first woman mayor.
Alderman Rumsey; He was
sorry to see the day when a woman was to occupy the chair (Shame) When
a town hands itself over to petticoat government it is always in
trouble. If the man is not the master in his own house he is in for a
bad time. The woman wears the trousers. You were told by the mover of
the resolution what wonderful things the lady had done, but she did
not mention any of them. I do not know of one thing in the borough
which ever came from this lady’s brain. The Alderman said he had
come up against two or three lady Mayors during his mayoralty and he
had to say they were absolute failures. A woman mayor was out of
place. She was alright for exhibition purposes but for business it was
not in the best interests of the town to have a woman mayor. This
council chamber is deteriorating, and I wish I had got out of it
before ever I saw a woman occupying that chair.
The Mayor realised the
responsibility. She thought the members would expect no more from her
than her best. Her old friend Alderman Kerrison had scarcely been out
of her thoughts during the past week, and if it were possible, she
believed that she knew what was going on that night. She had invited
and old friend of Alderman Kerrison’s to be present that night, Mrs
Baldock. Referring to her husband, the Mayor said she did not think he
was going to be any different a partner than he had been before. He is
still going to be the boss in his own home, so don’t have any
qualms. She had nothing to regret or apologise for with regard to her
early life and she felt very proud that her mother could be present
there that night. She thanked her for her earlier training and she
also wanted to thank publicly her husband and children for the help
they had given her through out her municipal career. To her colleagues
on the council she tendered her thanks for their tuition when she was
a raw recruit. Although Alderman Rumsey said this would be one of the
failures of the borough, other people did not regard the selection as
an unpopular one judging by all the messages of congratulation she had
As the first woman mayor, a special set of mayoral robes and tri-corn
hat had to be made. After her mayoral year was over, she kept the hat, and
in 1985 her son Stanley gave it to Newham Council.
During her mayoral year she undertook 500 engagements. The following
are a selection:
On 12th May 1937 she attended the coronation of King George
VI as the representative of West Ham.
From the Stratford Express 29th May 1937
Mayor’s Coronation impressions – how she saw
the abbey ceremony
The Mayor of West Ham Ald. Mrs Daisy Parsons, was so
thrilled by all she witnessed in Westminster Abbey at the Coronation
ceremony that she forgot to eat the sandwich she had taken until she
was on her way home at night. She said that there was no opportunity
of getting anything to eat and she had taken the precaution of
providing herself with a sandwich, but although she was there from
twenty to seven in the morning until five past six at night she never
thought about it.
My greatest anxiety after the ceremony was over said
the Mayor was to get back to West Ham to participate in some of the
tea parties, but it was impossible to get away from the Abbey until I
did and consequently could only attend a few of the parties.
I was in a balcony just above the Unknown Warrior’s
Tomb with other mayors, and although we could not see the actual
crowning there was plenty else to see. The great impression to my mind
was the splendour of the pageantry and the brilliance of the whole
scene, the wonderful tapestries, and the richness of the carpets, the
beautiful dresses gorgeous uniforms, and colourful national costumes
of the visitors from other countries. The whole made a scene never to
I had never witnessed a state procession before, and
I don’t suppose I shell ever be present at such a ceremony again,
and I regard it as an outstanding event in my life.
I felt too that this was probably the only country
in the world where a royal family could move with such perfect freedom
among the populace without fear of any untoward happening, and I also
felt that the wide representation of all classes and creeds within the
Abbey was a wonderful demonstration of the close relationship between
the Throne and the people.
The Mayor added that she thought the outstanding
figure was Queen Mary. In spite of her recent worries she carried
herself with queenly dignity.
The younger princesses were charming and I was
interested to see the elder one whisper to the younger one in the
procession as if informing her what to do. When they came into the
Abbey I thought the younger Princess Margaret Rose seemed timid and
walked closer to her aunt the Princess Royal. The Mayor went on to
mention some of the people whom she recognised and said that the Aga
Khan was a picturesque figure in pale blue satin. She added she
recognised Canon guy Rogers formerly Vicar of West Ham who was one of
the King’s Chaplains who formed a guard of honour in the Abbey.
The general impression left on her mind was that
there was no class distinction in the Abbey where people
representative of all sections had met as members of one big united
family to witness a great historic event.
Coronation Reception at West Ham
Brilliant scene at the Town Hall
Coronation festivities in West Ham concluded on
Friday night (the Mayor’s birthday) wit ah reception in the Town
Hall by the Mayor and Mayoress. It was an extremely happy function in
which representatives of all branches of the community participated
the guests numbering over 400.
Never has the town hall presented a more charming
appearance. Recently redecorated, the beauties of its interior
adornments were enhanced by special lighting.
The corridors were gay with electric fairy lamps,
and altogether the appearance of the hall must have greatly impressed
visitors from other districts. The reception was followed by dancing
until 9.30pm. Then came the refreshment interval, and afterwards a
cabaret, a number of capable artistes contributing to an entertaining
Afterwards the Mayor, who was the recipient of many
birthday greetings, and the Mayoress went on the platform and the
former briefly addressed the gathering. There were nine mayors present
which proved that the public representation of other districts
appreciated the little efforts that West Ham made. In conclusion the
Mayor wished prosperity to every borough represented and above all
peace. Then I do not think we need fear anything.
A bouquet was presented to the Mayor on behalf of
her family by Miss Joan Parsons, as a birthday gift.
Dancing was resumed the first being the snowball
waltz ‘It’s my mother’s birthday today’ which the Mayor danced
with her son.
For the convenience of guests arriving by car two
streets in the vicinity of West Ham Lane relief station were used as
parking places, and the chauffeurs were entertained in the station
On 3rd June, Daisy, along with the City of London
Corporation fathers opened a children's play centre in West Ham Park to
commemorate the coronation.
On 6th June 1937 she drove the first trolley bus on its route.
From the Stratford Express 3rd June 1937
Trolley ‘Buses start on Sunday
Lady Mayor as driver
85 buses for 78 Tramcars
In the wee small hours of Sunday morning – at 6.43
to be precise the Mayor of West Ham will inaugurate London Transport’s
largest conversion from tramcars to trolleybuses. Afterwards the mayor
will for a short distance a passenger and will be given the first
ticket for West Ham and district.
More than 15 road miles are affected by the
conversion and 78 tramcars will be withdrawn. The 85 trolleybuses
which will take their place are of the latest type. It is claimed that
they are the quietest passenger vehicles yet devised. Instead of
wheels, carbon shoes that glide noiselessly along overhead wires are
employed to collect current. The new routes are:
668 Stratford Broadway to Canning Town Fire Station
687 Chingford Mount to Victoria and Albert Docks via
697 Chingford Mount to Victoria and Albert Docks via
699 Chingford Mount to Victoria and Albert Docks via
There will be some minor alterations in fares
including workmen’s return fares of ½d. Whilst the latter change
involves a slight increase in fares between certain points, it reduces
other fares by ½d.
On the other hand certain additional 2d workmen’s
fares have been introduced.
On 30th August 1937 she opened the Canning Town Lido;
From the Stratford Express 4th September 1937
West Ham Lido opened in Thunder Storm
Mayor takes a plunge
£24,000 amenity for Canning Town
Sun bathing in Beckton Road
To the accompaniment of rolling thunder and vivid
flashes of lightening, Canning Town Lido was opened on Monday
afternoon by the Mayor of West Ham Alderman Mrs Parsons in the
presence of a large audience.
It replaces the old swimming pool on the same site,
and it is a fine modern open air bath, with up to date fittings and
appurtenances. It is not yet fully completed, insomuchas some of the
sunbathing terraces remain to be constructed, but apart from that it
is finished. It presents an attractive appearance, with its cascade
aerators, one at each end of the pool illuminated at night by
electricity, when the water is also floodlit.
The old swimming pool which occupied the site of the
new bath was built by the Corporation about 30 years ago out of funds
privately subscribed and was open for free use. Lack of filtration and
sterilization made it a potential menace to health, and the Council
decided to replace it.
Before its completion many difficulties had to be
overcome. The site is very low lying, and the comparatively close
proximity of the docks and Thames meant that water would be
encountered, but the vast quantities with which the contractors had to
cope was far beyond expectations. For some time they had to pump away
a million gallons of water a week. To make matters worse rain fell on
51 successive days.
Great interest was taken in the opening ceremony.
Guests were received by the Mayor and Mayoress at the entrance to the
Lido. Having been invited to open the entrance doors the Mayor was
presented with a golden key as a souvenir. Having declared the West
Ham Municipal Lido open, the Mayor proceeded to unveil a plaque
commemorating the ceremony. The assembly inspected the bath and
buildings and saw the fist swimmer take the plunge. This was little
Pat Denahy, a sturdy girl aged 9. She was lifted by the Mayor and Town
Clerk and at a given signal thrown into the water. A little more
tilting would have made the throw more successful, but the youngster
did not seem to mind being dropped flat and trudged her way swiftly
across the bath.
Tea was served on the terrace and before this
concluded the thunderstorm which had been threatening broke. Some
heavy claps of thunder preceded by flashes of lightening were
accompanied by copious rain, but inclemency did not deter the
The Mayor on behalf of the Mayoress and herself said
she wished to thank the assembly whole heartedly for the way they had
received the proposition and Alderman Husband and Councillor Mrs Cook
for the way they had proposed it. She thought the Mayoress and she
should thank those who had invited them to be present. It was an
honour to be asked to perform such a duty, and that the day’s
ceremony was something to look back on. They knew when Alderman
Hollins started what he called his ‘folly’ he would turn it into
something else … They were very pleased to see such a magnificent
place. There were facilities for sun-bathing and she could visualise
Alderman Thorne reclining on the terrace in his sun bathing costume.
Alderman Warner added: The council had a problem
before them in educating the people for leisure. Public houses were
introducing music and dancing. He believed in open air sports and as a
past sportsman himself realised that to be successful in that one had
to live cleanly. To do this one must have a clean mind, and that would
take the next generation further than this one.
At the conclusion of the opening ceremony the Mayor
and several members of the council entered the water and in other ways
tested the amenities of the lido.
In the evening an inaugural swimming gala took place
and 1700 people paid for admission. An exceptionally interesting
programme was presented, opening with a challenge race by members of
the council. This was won by Councillor W Head in 47 secs with
Councillor Gilman a good second. There were various exhibitions given
of diving and swimming including Mr E H Temme who gave an exhibition
of the strokes used by him on his channel swims. There were also
[Footnote: Daisy Parsons could not swim and disliked the water. There
had been some concern that the rates could not stand the burden of the
Lido, that it was a white elephant and that it had been built in the wrong
On 24th September there was a Pageant of Sport at West Ham
Speedway track, with proceeds to the project fund to rebuild the Out
Patients Department of St Mary’s Hospital.
From the Stratford Express September 1937
Famous artiste sings at stadium
30,000 cheer Miss Gracie Fields
Pageant of Sport for Charity
Thirty thousand people cheered Miss Gracie Fields,
the famous artiste and film star when in the company of the Mayor of
West Ham, and the Mayoress, she walked out onto the greyhound track of
the West Ham Stadium on Friday night. She had visited the stadium to
give her support to the pageant of sport organised to inaugurate a
fund for the rebuilding of the out patients department of St Mary’s
‘Can you hear me mother?’ she asked as she
picked up the portable microphone and then to the bandsmen of the 6th
Battalion the East Surrey Regiment T.A. who provided the music for the
evening, ‘Come on lads play summat’. They played ‘Laugh your
troubles away’ and Miss Fields sang it to the delight of the crowd.
Then she gave them ‘Sally’ and afterwards at her invitation to ‘get
a bit matey’ they sang it with her. When she walked round the
speedway track with the Mayor and Mayoress there was a rush from the
enclosures on to the greyhound track to get a ‘close-up’.
The famous star was certainly a great attraction and
by her presence largely helped the venture of rebuilding, for which
approximately £23,000 is required. Many others also gave their aid in
staging what was a unique entertainment, including as it did speedway
and cycle racing, boxing and a parade of famous greyhounds, including
a firework display. Another celebrity in the world of entertainment
also helped. She was Miss Pat Hyde of Plaistow the well known radio
entertainer who played her accordion and sang into the microphone in
the boxing ring, which was erected in the centre of the arena. Eric
Chitty the West Ham Speedway rider also crooned a few choruses from
this ring, where previously two famous local boxing champions of the
past Teddy Baldock, the ex-bantam weight champion and Mike Honeyman
ex-featherweight champion had given an exhibition bout, and a comedy
bout had been provided by Billy Robins of Bethnal Green and Jack
Maynard of Kent.
There was also cycle racing in which two teams of
riders representing West Ham and Herne Hill contested a match of nine
heats on the same lines as speedway racing.
The speedway challenge match was between a team of
West Ham reserve riders and Norwich.
The celebrated Mick the Miller led the parade of
famous greyhounds followed by other well known performers in Flying
Wedge, Avion Balerino and Wattle Mark, and a string from the West Ham
kennels. Altogether the event was highly successful as well as
entertaining and all those associated with its organisation and
carrying out duties are deserving of congratulation.
The Mayor of West Ham who was the chairman of the
committee over the microphone voiced her thanks to all who had joined
in helping the cause. She said they were particularly grateful to Miss
Gracie Fields for her generosity in attending, to Miss Pat Hyde, and
to all those who had given their services in providing their
Her last task as mayor was to act as godmother to triplets who were
born at Queen Mary's Hospital.
From Peace to War 1937 - 1939
After her success as mayor, she was made life governor of several
Letter from the Secretary of Queen Mary’s Hospital for the East End,
making Daisy Parsons a life governor of the institution;
22nd February 1938
Dear Mrs Alderman Parsons
You were the first woman to be Mayor of the
important Borough of West Ham, which, is the seventh largest town in
England. You adorned that office nobly and well and in doing so, you
remembered with your very large heart, the demands and interests of
You will remember that we elected you to be a
governor of this institution for a period of ten years during 1937. I
now have pleasure in telling you that the Board, at its last meeting,
decided to make you a life-governor for services rendered to the
Institution, and this is the highest honour that the Hospital
Authorities can confer.
With best of wishes
She was also asked to stand as Member of Parliament for Upton, but
although asked twice she refused.
Letter from Comrade Mrs Cant:
19th May 1938
Dear Comrade Mrs Parsons,
In case I Don’t get a chance to speak to you at
the ward meeting.
I am writing to tell you that I have asked for your
name to be considered at the next divisional meeting of the Upton
Constituency, as I was told by one of the E.C. members that Comrade
Ben Gardner is resigning, and that Dr Boyde had already been asked and
refused, so I said it was time we had a woman to represent West Ham,
so she promised to bring it forward at the next meeting of the E.C.
Hoping I have not acted against your wishes, I am
Dear Comrade Mrs Cant,
Many thanks for your kind letter received and hope
that you will let your sleeping partner know at Upton that I do not
want my name to be submitted for Upton. The main reason is that all my
municipal work has been done in the south of the borough. I want
therefore to finish south if possible. I regret Ben Gardner is unable
to carry on and hope it is not infectious but that the other three
stalwarts will keep in for ever.
Love and all good wishes
Mrs Cant did not give up and sent another letter:
4th June 1938
Dear Comrade Mrs Parsons
I am writing to you for the second time, would you
be willing to let your name go forward as our next parliamentary
candidate in the event of a general election.
Firstly I was at the meeting when Comrade Thorne
said this was the last time he would stand for parliament. Secondly we
want more women in, and I feel sure that if we nominate you, we know
you can, health permitting, do the job, also I don’t think Miss
Roddick would run against you being a woman …
We do not have Daisy’s reply to this letter, but she did not run as a
parliamentary candidate at any election during her political career.
World War II 1939 - 1945
Despite her hopes for peace, war had to be faced again. It was down to
Daisy as chair of Education Committee to organise the evacuation of the
children of the borough.
Stratford Express Autumn 1939
This meeting saw the conclusion of Alderman Mrs
Parsons tenure of office as chairman of the [Education] committee. On
vacating the mayoralty she took on the next busiest and most important
job in the corporate life of the borough. For two years she had
carried it out with the same zeal and energy as she displayed while
Mayor, so that for three consecutive years she had devoted herself
almost exclusively to the service of the town.
It fell to her lot unfortunately to usher the
children out of the borough but when dawns the happy day of their
return, whoever may be the chairman of the Education committee both
they and their parents will value her welcome probably beyond any.
She remained behind to help organise the Women's Voluntary Service
Letter from M Anderson to Daisy Parsons relating the events in West Ham
from September to October 1940:
95 The Grove, Stratford,
My dear Mrs. Parsons,
Where shall I begin to tell you even half the tale
of events since that night at Beckton Road and the very heavy day you
had there on the Saturday?
It seems years ago – yet it is only just over six
On the Sunday we had every one of our 15 centres
open and in addition there were about 1000 people at Plaistow
secondary who had walked out of Silvertown.
Then we had to improvise other places for homeless
people or those from delayed action bombs at all the following places;
Upton Lane 300 Russell Central 150
Upton Cross 150 Gainsborough Road 300
Knox Road 200 Prince Regents Lane 100
Mun Colleges 200 Custom House 100
Tennyson Road 150
Napier Road 350
I seemed to be rushing food about everywhere.
Then all the gas failed and it was another rush to
install as many electric wash boilers as the electricity committee
could let us have.
These were not anything like adequate but they did
enable us to make hot tea and hot stews.
There was a general clamour for evacuation and we
could not get the ministry to move quick enough with the result that
we had the tragedy of South Hallsville.
I had been there only at 8 pm on the night it
happened and was hoping our luck would hold until the morning as both
Frederick Road and South Hallsville were being used. We persuaded many
people to return to their own homes and shelters, but until then they
felt safer in the school shelter. Do you remember that one? It was a
corridor in the double decker building - the one Miss Wilkinson used
The incident was grossly exaggerated in certain
papers, but it was a frightful thing.
I went down again after it had happened – got
there before 6 am and helped with tea and sandwiches both for the
people – the rescue squads, wardens. Police etc. I have never seen
so many men break down. It was heartrending.
By 10 A. M. most of the people had been taken away
by bus but after that it was an unending stream of workers needing tea
I shall never forget it.
West Silvertown kitchen was put Out of action on the
Saturday night – also Storey Street. We have been unable to use West
Silvertown since but we salvaged some of our stores. Storey Street is
now running as a communal kitchen - though the food is not cooked
there but carried down in heated containers.
We have also had damage - fairly serious - at our
Hermit Road kitchen, at Tennyson Road, at the Municipal Colleges and
at Beckton Road.
In the beginning the centre at the latter place was
not very badly hurt but I heard today there has been a hit again and I
have not had time to go and see the damage and find out whether we can
redeem it again. In addition we had damage done at Odessa, at Upton
Lane, and Upton Cross but at all these places we fortunate in that
only the evening before in each case we had moved the people out.
For all the first ten days or fortnight I was
snatching sleep when I could - a few minutes at a time at the ARP
Headquarters - then I felt completely done in so I put a camp bed in
My own nice flat was damaged on Monday September
10th. 21 received the blast from the Great Ormond Street bomb and was
covered in glass and soot.
I had no time to see to it - doors were blown off
and window frames wrenched out.
It has been boarded up and the doors put back and I
had a woman sweep up the soot but last week it had another dose, and I
have not been able to have it cleaned up yet.
This week - however- a friend whose flat has been
damaged much more than mine came to West Ham to get my keys so that
she could put some of her things in it as well. She literally took her
life in her hands when she went into her own place to bring things
out, and finally had to give up when she was threatened with a £300
fine for entering a dangerous structure.
You will be interested to hear that we have communal
kitchens running at;
1. Water Lane 2. Three Mills
3. Holbrook 4. Balaam Street
5. New City Road 6. Shipman Road
(This is being worked chiefly by helpers of Mrs.
R of Boyd Inst Mission) 7. Gainsborough Road 8. St Luke's
(at this place we cook the food at S Hallsville and
take it round in heated containers) They serve about 300-350 dinners
In addition we have been helping the Central
Mission. They do the work but we supply them with about 100 hot
dinners daily, and provisions for tea and breakfasts.
Some of these go to homeless people and some are
sold at 6d like the communal centres.
In much of this work I have had lots of help from
Miss Mitchell but I'm afraid I shall be having to do without her again
soon as Miss Bolt is leaving at the end of this week and Mrs Jardine
talks of using Miss Mitchell in her place.
We are trying to do a bit now for the people in
shelters and for some days we have had a mobile canteen visit some of
them between 8 and 10 pm, and again after 5 am - but sometimes it has
been necessary to wait until the early morning all clear goes.
I have missed popping in to see you and having a
I have passed the house several times and knocked to
see if anyone was at home.
It looks so forlorn. The upper part of the street is
not fit for human habitation at all. That district was very heavily
hit and very few people seem to be left in it.
Many friends have asked after you and several want
to know if we are going to be able to procure more wool for knitting
We have got a very good store of comforts but have
not sent any out for about a month. I feel we must get some off soon
but we ought to have more addresses revised and I'm wondering if we
ought to mention something to this effect in the Stratford Express.
I will not do anything about it until I hear from
Please excuse the bad writing but when I want to do
a long letter in a hurry my mind travels much more quickly than my
hand and I know I leave some letters out of some words.
Thank you for your p. c. which took almost a week in
transit and which I did not answer at the time thinking that you would
be back. Then I destroyed it and could not get your address again for
I meant to write weeks ago but I've had such long
days there all private letters have had to be put off.
I do hope you are feeling better.
You had not really recovered your strength after
that nasty illness at the beginning of the year and then that awful
night after having been subjected to blast from a bomb yourself –
then all that Saturday’s hard work and worry and the news at night
about the Abbey Depot would have been enough to completely finish off
an ordinary person. I know how you must regret not being in the
district at a time like this but there will be tons for you to do when
you are well enough to return.
I sincerely hope that that time will not be far
distant though I realize you could not come back and live in
Ravenscroft Road at present. You would be asking for trouble – as
the houses would not be safe and the shelter is not fit for you in
I have been asked whether I can do anything about
hostels for young girls left behind and for men who are on their own
but I cannot think of suitable buildings and I feel I have enough to
look after at present - though I know the need is great.
Since Sunday October 13th we are feeding military in
addition to all the ARP and the Shelters. They are delighted with
They are at both the Central Schools and are
threatening to take my cooks (abduct them) when they return to their
Their meals are similar to those we have been
serving to ARP all the year but the later are never satisfied;
With love to you and hoping to hear from you soon,
Very sincerely yours
Daisy's family did not escape tragedy during this destructive period in
West Ham's history.
Two newspaper cuttings from 1945
Mr Parsons commended
Mrs R S Parsons of 94 Ravenscroft Road, Canning
Town, husband of Alderman Mrs Parsons JP has been commended by the
King and gazetted for his gallant services at a London electricity
generating station during an air raid in September. He had received
letters of congratulation from the electricity commissioners and the
electrical engineer of the Stepney Borough Council.
Woman Alderman bereaved
A number of houses were demolished and others
suffered superficial blast damage when a V Bomb fell on a row of
houses near a popular dance hall. Many people were buried beneath the
debris and a number lost their lives.
Among those killed were Mr Millo and his 12 year old
daughter Jean, the brother and niece respectively of a woman member of
the local council.
Re building and recognition 1945 - 1957
But she, her husband and children all survived to see the new Britain
that emerged after W.W.II. Her old colleague Clem Atlee was at 10 Downing
Street and hopes were high. But West Ham had desperate problems and she
returned to work
After the war she continued to work for West Ham, but she was
recognised for her past achievements and honoured in several ways. She was
given a clock by her local branch of the Labour Party for 40 years
membership and service in February 1948. West Ham County Borough presented
her with a smaller version of the mayoral chain, and in November 1949 they
awarded her the highest accolade they could confer, the Freedom of the
Stratford Express November 1949
Great Voluntary service gets a great reward
Grandmother and bachelor are West Ham’s new
It was the first public ceremony in the freshly
renovated and redecorated hall. The stage was adorned with gold
curtains and in front were amassed a beautiful array of chrysanthemums
and other flowers. …
On the stage in her robes sat the Mayor Alderman Mrs
A A Barnes JP who performed the ceremony.
The Town Clerk read the resolutions of the Council
authorized the conferment of the Freedom, and then the Mayor addressed
the assembly, speaking of the historical side of the conferment of
The Mayor went on to speak of the services of
Alderman Parsons and Alderman Collins, saying that the former was well
known for her hard work for women and children throughout her life.
Indeed women had to thank her for her fight in the cause of women’s
enfranchisement. Those who knew her knew that when she had a job to do
she did it conscientiously and did not spare herself. We can say to
her she added well done, you have served the people faithfully and
The Mayor in conferring the freedom asked the
recipients to accept souvenir copies of the resolution illuminated on
Having signified their acceptance by signing the
Roll of Freemen each addressed the gathering:
Alderman Mrs Parsons first of all extended her
congratulations to Alderman Collins and thanked her colleagues and the
Labour Party. She could not claim to being born in West Ham, but she
could claim to being brought there a few months afterwards. She
referred to the work of the Labour movement saying it was second to
none in the country and spoke of the work on the council from which
they sometimes went home in the early hours of the morning. She
thanked her husband for his tolerance and added amid laughter ‘Forty
one years is a long time to be married and still be living together.’
She wanted to say how much she owed to Mr Parsons and to her family,
and was proud to be able to say it publicly.
She urged young people to take a deeper interest in
public affairs. Of the future she said they wanted to see real peace
prevailed. They wanted conditions for the people to be better still
and they wanted to rededicate themselves for the work lying before
them, and see West Ham rebuilt on firmer ground than it was
In 1951 she was awarded the MBE.
Newspaper cutting from 1951
Public Service Awards in New Years Honours
MBE for First Woman Mayor of West Ham
Public and political work in West Ham, covering many
years has once again received official recognition in the New Year’s
Honours. … She is a former chairman of the old Public Assistance
Committee. At present time amongst many other appointments she is one
of West Ham’s representatives on the Essex Hospitals Joint Advisory
Council and the West Ham National Health Service Executive Council.
One of her last official duties was in her capacity as Chairman of the
Bench of JPs. She presented a bravery award.
She had been to Birchington to convalesce after a diabetes attack and
was having a drive with her family one Sunday, when she had another attack
and was found to be dead on arrival at Queen Mary's Hospital. She was
Stratford Express 4th October 1957
Mother of the Council
Alderman Mrs Parsons dies suddenly
The public life of West Ham is much poorer by the
death, which occurred with such dramatic suddenness in a car on Sunday
night, of Alderman Mrs Daisy Parsons MBE JP, one of the outstanding
personalities for nearly 40 years. She was 67.
Mrs Parsons who had been in ill health for a long
time, had recently returned from a period of convalescence at
Mrs Parsons was probably the best known woman in
West Ham’s public life with a remarkable record of 35 years unbroken
service to the people of West Ham in a diversity of ways.
She could be described as the mother of the council
for her period of service on it began in 1922 and she served as a
councillor until elected alderman in 1935. …
She leaves a husband [Robert Stanley aka Tom] three
daughters [Joan, [Marguerite] Ivy, Edna] and one son [Stanley] (all
married) and five grandchildren. …
The funeral takes place today (Friday) the cortege
leaving the house at 11 o’ clock for service at West Ham Parish
church at 11.30 at which the Rev. Christopher Perowne, and Canon
Stafford Morris will officiate and the internment will follow in the
family grave in the City of London Cemetery.
She was commemorated by a memorial garden at St Mary’s Hospital
This page last updated 26th August 2003