The Beck sisters lived near the village of Billingshurst and their actions in campaigning for female suffrage and freedoms had a profound impact not just for the suffragist movement in the village and across England, but also for the people of Billingshurst today. 

In 1923, Edith and Ellen Beck gifted a meeting place today known as the Women’s Hall to the women of the village; in 1926, they also donated the adjoining playground and the Mothers’ Garden. Not only were these donations momentous in shaping the freedoms of the women of Billingshurst, but they are still in use in the village today. For Billingshurst’s women in the 1920s, these donations provided a safe space to meet, not just for political meetings but for playgroups and support groups, and the playground in the Mothers’ Garden provided a safe space for mothers to take their children. The Women’s Hall is still a central part of the community today, used by many different groups in the village. The influence of these generous donations cannot be overstated, both for the women of Billingshurst in the 1920s and for the community today, but the names Ellen and Edith Beck are only starting to gain recognition despite their momentous contributions to the community of the village both then and now. 

But the influence of the Beck sisters was not just limited to the village of Billingshurst. Following the Cat and Mouse Act of 1913, which temporarily released suffragettes who were dangerously ill due hunger striking from prison, the Beck sisters started sheltering the women who had been released under the Act. They aided in the recovery of these women, some who were likely prominent suffragettes, a contribution to the female suffrage movement that was vital at a time when torture and abuse of imprisoned hunger-striking suffragettes was commonplace. The actions of the sisters following the Act were a great contribution to the cause and successfully undermined the government of the time. These actions likely required great bravery and deserve wider recognition both within the village and across the nation. 

Ellen and Edith Beck were extraordinary women; and yet, we still know very little about them. They improved the lives not just of the women of Billingshurst in the 20th century through the invaluable donations of the Women’s Hall and the Mother’s Garden, but of the residents of the village today; and their actions contributed to the nationwide movement for women’s suffrage. Their names are only starting to gain recognition within the village for which they did so much, but their contributions to female suffrage in England should earn them nationwide recognition.