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The history of female protest and suffrage in the UK
The history of female protest and suffrage in the UK

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3 The life and work of Ada Nield Chew

This is a photograph of Ada Nield Chew.
Figure 4 Ada Nield Chew, a prominent campaigner for women’s rights, including the right to vote.

You will now explore in more detail the life of a remarkable woman – Ada Nield Chew. You will use different types of sources to find out more about her life. Ada Nield Chew’s story helps us to understand the ways in which many women came to protest against the limitations placed on them in contemporary society.

Activity 2 Using a biography

Read the following entry from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) on Ada Nield Chew.

Ada Nield Chew biography [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Create a chronology for her, using the interactive below. Open the link in a new window or browser.

Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

People change over time and Ada Nield Chew was no exception. As you will see in the following discussion about her, she began her career of ‘protest’ absorbed by issues such as women’s working conditions and the evils of the capitalist system, and only later saw that a solution lay at least partially in obtaining votes for women. She then became a suffragist, campaigning peacefully for women’s suffrage.

How married women are referred to in scholarly discourse

Why do you think that scholars call Ada by both her maiden and her married surnames? Historians believe that doing so reduces the possibilities of confusion caused by the prevailing UK custom of a woman changing her name on marriage. If we were to refer to Ada as Ada Nield in one part of her life and as Ada Chew later, those unfamiliar with her history might think that we were referring to two separate women. It also serves to remind us that the achievements of many women took place before they married. Interestingly, Doris, Ada’s daughter, also imported her mother’s maiden name into her own, presumably to ensure that her mother’s legacy would not be subsumed within Doris’s father’s.