The early part of the year was dominated by the Liberals' landslide General Election victory, leaving only 156 Tories with seats and producing a House also notable for the presence of 29 Labour MPs. The Liberals put their majority to immediate use, initiating a series of social reforms which included a schools medical service to monitor the health of children in infants' schools (much like the one pictured) which were largely funded, to the chagrin of the wealthy, by a rise in income tax to six per cent.
The women's suffrage movement also gathered pace in 1906. The Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, met and sympathised with a deputation representing 500,000 women but stressed that a patient rather than a pugnacious attitude would eventually deliver women the vote. The arrest of 11 suffragettes at the opening of Parliament in November made it clear that the increasingly militant suffragettes were in no mood to hang around, however. The year's end also brought the introduction of Keir Hardie's bill providing for female emancipation, suggesting that agitation was getting results.
If the women of 1906 were working hard, they were playing hard, too, enthusiastically taking up contact sports with grave reservations from men. "Let woman rather confine herself to the lighter and more graceful forms of gymnastics and athletics," warned Dr Dudley Sargent, the physical director of Harvard University.
At the same time in the USA, William S Kellogg formed the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in the hope that the general public would show the same enthusiasm for his new product as had the mental patients for whom his brother had originally invented the cereal.
Mike HigginsReuse content