The Tearooms that Changed the World
In the Victorian era, respectable women did not go out on their own, and, even if they had tried, an almost complete absence of public toilets for women would have meant they didn’t get very far. (It’s the simplest things that count.)
The rise of ladies’ tearooms, like The Criterion in Piccadilly, (where you can still have afternoon tea), the Gardenia in Covent Garden, and Alan’s Tearooms near Oxford Circus, provided for the first time a safe place where women could go without a chaperone to meet and discuss their ideas freely with other women, and with men. They also provided women’s toilets – so finally giving women the freedom of the city.
Tearooms were where Mrs Pankhurst and the suffragettes plotted their campaigns. But long before the suffragettes, the tearooms were where the suffragists spent decades battling to improve women’s lives and give them the most basic of rights, arguing, persuading, and running a peaceful campaign of civil disobedience. Despite having no public voice, they changed laws, enabling women to keep their own earnings, rather than everything going to their husbands (even after a divorce). They won the right for women to be educated, and enter the professions, becoming doctors, etc. They ran rings round the politicians for years, winning the argument for the vote along the way.
This is the story of rebellion amongst the teacups and the penny buns, and the women who fought to have control over their own lives, and won.
The women who gave us our lives, and who should never be forgotten.