It appears that Stroud has been at the forefront of every campaign for social and political reform. Non more so than the long and protracted battle for womens rights. The first record of a public meeting on the subject I have been able to find is a Stroud Institute Lecture by Kate Amberley daugther in law of Lord John Russell - Liberal Prime Minister and at one time MP for Stroud and mother of Bertrand Russell
Lady Amberley on Woman's Rights
A large audiance, complosed numerously of ladies gathered in the Stroud Subscription Rooms, on Wednesday night to listen to a lecture on the claims of women delivered in connection with the Stroud Institute by Lady Amberley, daughter in law of Lord Russell. Mr J E Dorrington, one of the Conservative candidated for the borough, presided. Lady Amberly was accompanied on the platform by Lord Amberley, and was very enthusiatically received. Her lecture was written, and the reading of it occupied an hour and a half; and her Ladyship continued with unfaltering fluency to the end.
Her Ladyship remarked in the course of her most interesting discourse, that for special kinds of work women were peculiarly fitted. In the life of the Queen (Lady Amberley asked) one that is devoid of the great interests of political work, official work and social work? Has this constant public career, those public ceremonies in which she was the central figure, this cultivation of the mind, which she brings to bear on the duties she has to perform, made her one whit less a real women, a loving mother, a sorrowing widow, and a ready sympathiser with all forms of sorrow and suffering that come to her notice? She has been held up as a model for Englishwomen, and that this was being done shouls that the beauty of her domestic life has not been impaired by the great public life she has led, by the great national interests she has made her own, nor by the shouts and acclamations of multitudes who always rush to welcome her whenever she appears in public (loud cheers).
After advocating woman suffrage, and noticing the progress which that question had made, Lady Amberley, in concluding observed - "I will briefly sum up the measure that we conceive to be required in order to secure that equal justice which is all that we demand. We desire first, that there should be a great improvement in the education of girls, and a restoration to them of those endowments originally intended for both sexes, but which in some instances have been appropriated exclusively to boys. Secondly as a naturual sequence to the first requirment, that equal facilities should be granted to women for the attainment of the highest education and of University degrees, in order that their special faculties may not be consigned to compulsory idleness, but may be turned to the benefit of society. Thirdly , that all profession should be open to them; and especially no new Act, medical or otherwise, should exclude them, as they are excluded now. Forthly, that married women should no longer be debarred from seperate ownership of property, in which the rich purchase for themselves by the cumbrous arrangements of marriage settlements. Fifthly, that a widow should be recognised by law as the only natural guardian of her children. Sixthly, that the franchise should be extended to women as a power and protection in all matters affected by legislative action. Seventhly, that political and social interests and work should be open equally to them, so that if there be talent or aptitude in any, the State may not be the loser, both by the exclusion of those characteristic of themselves. Eighthly, that public opinion should sanction every occupation for women which is itself is good and suited to their strength. Ninthly, that there should be no legal subordination in marriage. Tenthly, that the same wages should be given for the same work. But I hear some of you ask, "All this being granted, cui bono?" I answer you simply, we hope and wish to try if an infusion of justice and more occupations, of new vigour and new life, of warmer sympathies and larger hopes into woman's life will not alleviate some of the sufferings of this struggling life."
At the close, Lady Amberley, through the chairman, invited discussion of her lecture by the ladies or gentlemen. Mr Richard Potter, chairman of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, and a well known Conservative, thereupon made a few remarks expressing genuine admiration of Lady Amberley's lecture, and after a few remarks from Lord Amberley, a very cordial vote of thanks was passed to her Ladyship and acknowledged by her and the proceedings ended