To mark International Women’s Day we are exploring the life of Mrs Lillian Metge, a local woman who played a part an important role in the campaign for women’s suffrage.
In 1914, local suffragettes attempted to blow up Lisburn Cathedral, in what has been described as one of the ‘most daring acts’ of the ‘votes for women’ campaign in Ireland.
On the night of the 31st July 1914 a huge explosion was heard over Lisburn. At the Cathedral Suffragette flyers, masonry and glass were strewn everywhere: the chancel window of Lisburn Cathedral had been heavily damaged.
Almost immediately Mrs Lillian Metge, a founding member of Lisburn Suffrage Society and noted militant, was under suspicion. She, along with three accomplices, were arrested the next day at Mrs Metge’s Seymour Street home.
One week later the four women appeared on triaI at Lisburn Courthouse. There was compelling evidence against them.
The four suffragettes refused to take part in the trial. They continually interrupted the judge, burst into long speeches in support of their campaign. On one occasion it took 13 men and several minutes to control the four women as they stormed the dock.
In light of the crisis in Europe and the outbreak of war Mrs Metge and her co-conspirators were released by order of the Home Secretary. Across Britain and Ireland the ‘votes for women’ campaign was largely suspended, and many became heavily involved in the war effort.
During the war Mrs Metge continued her campaign for the vote, although through strictly peaceful means. She eventually left Lisburn, settling in Dublin, where she died in 1954.
The suffragette campaign was ultimately successful, although it has been argued that women’s contribution to the war effort was more persuasive to the government, than the actions of the militants. In 1918 women over 30 were given the vote, followed by full emancipation in 1928