- Highdown Visitiors Book, West Sussex Record Office
The Mass Attack
She quite often read a ‘serious book’ and was capable of carrying a conservation about contemporary politics.
* From ‘Highdown’ London Magazine, April 1981
Before she married, Sybil Stern was involved with the Union of Jewish Women, a group of volunteer social services. The Union attracted upper class women into other activist roles, such as the suffragists. The Women’s Suffrage Societies used peaceful campaigns, from the 1890s, for the right of women to vote. In frustration at the slow pace of the suffragists another group, the suffragettes, took militant action. For what we can gather so far, was that Sybil was a Liberal suffragist.
The Sterns were supporters of the Liberal party, probably since Frederick had worked for the Liberal Prime Minster Lloyd George during the Paris Peace conferences of 1919. During the 1920s there are photos and signatures of Lloyd George and his daughter Megan in the Highdown Visitors Book. The then former Prime Minster tried to persuade Stern to become a Liberal M.P. In the 1930s, Lloyd George spoke at meetings of the Anglo-Jewish Association chaired by Stern.
More intriguing signatures can be found in the Visitors Book for February 1928, titled: Sussex Liberal Women: Mass Attack. The signatures of 8 suffragist women include: Ida Swinburne (film producer and Liberal politician); Evelyn Marion Bryce (from a wealthy Liberal party family); and Lettice Fisher (economist, historian and founder of National Council for Unmarried Women and her Child, now Gingerbread ). They gathered to raise awareness that all women could vote, as the Representation of People (Equal Franchise) Act was about to become law. Sybil was the secretary of this campaign and also the chairperson at local public meetings. More research to follow…
Sources: Jewish Chronicle 13 Dec 1918 to 1930s; ‘Highdown’ by James Stern 1981; Highdown Visitors Book, West Susex Record Office; and Dr Diana Wilkins.