Archive for category Suffrage Stories
In the Introduction to my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide I wrote:
‘Although women may be “hidden from history” they are not, on the whole, hidden from the Registrar of Births, Marriages, and Deaths nor from the Principal Registry of the Family Division (in England and Wales) or the General Register Office in Scotland.’
However there is no getting away from the fact that, despite one’s best efforts, there are some women who resist all attempts at discovery. One such is the rather mysterious ‘Mrs Alice Green’ who we come across in the intertwined stories of Emily Wilding Davison and Kitty Marion.
For instance, in The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison (p 131-32) Liz Stanley and Ann Morley tell us that for some months in 1913 Emily Davison was staying with Mrs Green at 133 Clapham Road. We assume that it was from here that on 4 June she set out for the WSPU office and then the Derby. They also note The Suffragette (13 June 1913) as mentioning that a Mrs Green was at Emily’s bedside in the Epsom Cottage Hospital. However, although Stanley and Morley do so much to reveal other branches of Emily’s friendship network they pass Mrs Green by without comment.
And I’m not surprised – because ‘Mrs Alice Green’ is more resistant than most to the historian’s intrusive gaze. But, lifting the dusty Victorian curtain, the earliest sighting I have of her is at the Dover Register Office on 11 June 1898 where, as ‘Alice Kellie’, spinster, 26 years old, she married Edward Basil Green. The couple each gave their address as 4 Eastbrook Place, Dover.
But who was ‘Alice Kellie’? From searching through all the resources of Ancestry and FindmyPast I could find no suitable candidate and was sufficiently intrigued to order a copy of the marriage certificate in the hope it might offer a clue. Well, the only extra information it gave me about ‘Alice Kellie’ was that she was the daughter of ‘James Kellie (deceased), boot (or book?) dealer’. That actually didn’t get me any further because I couldn’t find a trace in any census of a suitable James Kellie. Whose to know if Registrars are given the true facts? I can find sufficient evidence in my own family history to know that they often are not.
On the other hand I had no difficulty in uncovering the background of the bridegroom. Edward Basil Green had been born in 1873 in Folkestone, the youngest son of Samuel Richard Green ( 1837-1882), a mechanical engineer, and the grandson of Edward Green, a Yorkshire ironmaster and founder of E. Green and Son. At the time of the marriage he would have been 25 years old – yet the certificate has his age as 27. The bride’s age is given as 26. If the bridgroom felt compelled to add a couple of years could this mean that the bride was perhaps rather older. Who’s to know!
What the marriage certificate did tell me was that no member from either family was there to witness the marriage. The certificate is signed by the wife of the Registrar and by either the wife or the daughter (they both had the same name) of the tobacconist whose shop was next to the Register Office. This lack of family support may be explained by the next sighting I have of the happy couple – as they became parents of a son (Edward Basil Green) on 27 August 1898. It looks as though Alice Kellie was about seven months pregnant when she married Edward Green.
And that is the last I time I catch sight of Alice Green before she appears 15 years or so later as a friend and supporter of Emily Wilding Davison. I cannot see that either she or her husband were on the electoral roll as inhabitants of 133 Clapham Road and, indeed, cannot spot them in London until they appear on the 1921 electoral roll (with their son) living at Powis Terrace in north Kensington. From 1930 until 1939 Alice and Basil (as her husband was known) continued to live in this area – now at 13 Colville Mansions.
In the meantime Mrs Green, as well as supporting Emily Davison, had also helped Kitty Marion, being one of three (Dr Violet Jones and Mary Leigh were the others) who took her to Paris on 31 May 1914 to show Christabel Pankhurst the result of the treatment that she had suffered in prison. As Kitty Marion was on the run at the time as a ‘mouse’, Alice Green was taking something of a risk in accompanying her.
In 1915 Mrs Alice Green was secretary of the Emily Davison Club that Mary Leigh had formed to perpetuate their friend’s memory. In October 1915 Mrs Green was one of those who contributed towards Kitty Marion’s fare to the US – the party to bid her farewell was held at the Emily Davison Club. Meetings of the Club were held in 144 High Holborn, which housed the offices of the Women’s Freedom League and the WFL’s Minerva Cafe. Over a period of years, from the 1920s until at least 1938, the Greens were also, with others, such as Charlotte Despard, Elizabeth Knight, Octavia Lewin, leaseholders of 144 High Holborn.
From her involvement with the suffrage movement I get the impression that Mrs Green was reasonably well off, although I cannot discover how her husband was employed. The family does not appear in the 1911 census – presumably they followed the WFL/WSPU boycott. As a mechanical engineer did he, perhaps, work for the family firm?
Any difficulties there may have been over the shotgun wedding had long since been forgotten. In 1923 Edward Basil Green was left £10,000 in the will of his uncle, Sir Edward Green, and many years later his son was the executor of the will of one of his Green aunts.
It’s not only Alice Green’s birth that is obscure, but, very surprisingly, I cannot even discover when she died. Her husband was living at Minehead when he died in 1958 – but probate was granted to a solicitor (and not, rather surprisingly, to his son) and I haven’t gone so far as to investigate his will.
The career of Alice and Basil Green’s son is rather easier to follow – he became chairman of Doulton, retiring in 1963. I wonder if his descendants have any information about ‘Mrs Alice Green’ – or are aware of the part she played in supporting two of the most militant of the suffragettes?
It is sited in Christchurch Gardens, a paved turning running from Victoria Street, Westminster, towards Caxton Hall and was commissioned by the Suffragette Fellowship to commemorate ‘ the courage and perseverance of all those men and women who in the long struggle for votes for women selflessly braved derision, opposition and ostracism, many enduring physical violence and suffering.’ The Memorial was unveiled in 1970, on 14 July, Emmeline Pankhurst’s official birthday .
I find it interesting that it took nearly 60 years from the time that the WSPU had, to all intents and purposes, disbanded for the survivors to commemorate with a piece of public art (rather than a plaque, of which there are several related to the suffrage movement) any others than the Pankhursts (that is, Emmeline and Christabel).
I am not aware of any documentation associated with the decision to commission Lorne McKean and Edwin Russell, the young (husband and wife) couple who designed the memorial, although I have noticed that in most citations it is Russell alone who is usually named as its sculptor. I have been in touch with Lorne McKean (Edwin Russell died in 2013) and she comments:
‘Edwin (my husband) and I worked on many of our sculptures together. Usually one of us took the leadership on a particular sculpture and in the case of the Suffragette memorial this was Edwin. I do recall that the actual idea that developed from just the idea of a shape more like a memorial grave stone to the S shaped scroll that you now see developed organically between us. We have always been really bad at signing things as it always seems to us the least relevant part of the work. But have grown to appreciate that it is interesting to others’.
I like the hint that the scroll design may have evolved from first equating ‘memorial’ with ‘gravestone’.
However, the only other primary evidence I can show you of the event – and the thinking behind it -comes from the pages of the 1971 edition of Calling All Women, the Suffragette Fellowship Newsletter.
And yet…and yet….While the inside pages of the 1971 edition of Calling All Women were given over to reports of the unveiling of this new memorial – one intended to commemorate the involvement of all suffragettes – what was the image chosen for the cover? Yes, of course, Mrs Pankhurst. Once again, the power of her image – set so splendidly against the Palace of Westminster – had trumped that of the newcomer.
It is as though, even at this late stage in the history of the suffragette movement, there was a force at work intent on proving that maxim put forward by Thomas Carlyle (incidentally one of Mrs Pankhurst’s favourite writers – and she wasn’t a great reader) that ‘the history of the world is but the biography of great men’ or, of course, women. This is not a sentiment that appeals to me and may explain why I have devoted so many years to uncovering the lives of those suffrage campaigners who were by no means great. It is just these women – and men – that the Suffragette Fellowship Memorial is there to commemorate.
So -pay a visit to Christchurch Gardens, think of your favourite non-famous suffragette – and contemplate.
See also this Parliament and Women in the 20th Century blog post.
This image of the ‘Bugler Girl’- or ‘Clarion Girl’ – had a resonance for the suffrage campaign on both sides of the Atlantic.
The design was originally used on a poster to advertise the NUWSS spectacular procession of 13 June 1908. [For an article about the banners created for that occasion see here.]
The artist is known to be Caroline Watts but, as ever with the artists who contributed so much to the imagery of the suffrage campaign, I asked myself -who was she? This is what I discovered.
Caroline Marsh Watts was born at Handsworth in 1868, a daughter of Robert Watts, a button manufacturer, and his wife Mary Maria. Caroline was the youngest child in the family of six children and her mother died, aged 36, a year or so after her birth. Robert Watts never remarried and their maternal grandmother moved into the household to help run the business and care for the children. In 1871 Robert Watts’ business, which he ran in partnership with John Shakespeare Manton, had 470 employees – with premises at the Regent Works, Regent Street and at Frederick Street, Birmingham.
By 1891 the family (Robert Watts, two of his daughters, Mary and Caroline, his mother-in-law and 4 year-old grandson) had moved south and were living at Ailsa Road, St Margaret’s Twickenham. Robert Watts had retired and Caroline was an art student – we know she studied at the Slade.
Robert Watts died in 1894, leaving something over £8000, and by 1901 Caroline had set up home with her sister Mary – and one servant – at 83 Charlwood Street, Pimlico. Mary was employed as a ‘compiler of indexers’ and Caroline was ‘an artist – painter’.
In fact, from at least 1899 Caroline had been commissioned as an illustrator for a series of translations of Arthurian and other romances. These were the work of the renowned folklorist Jessie L. Weston and the majority were published by the firm of David Nutt.
At the turn of the century the firm of David Nutt was run by Alfred Trubner Nutt, the son of the founder. Alfred Nutt was also president of the Folk-Lore Society – hence his interest in publishing texts such as those written by Jessie Weston. As these were so close to the publisher’s heart I imagine he took considerable care when selecting their illustrator and because Caroline Watts continued to receive commissions from Alfred Nutt I would think she must have become part of the publisher’s friendship circle. It may well have been through association with this firm that Caroline’s sister Mary developed her career as an indexer.
Nutt’s French wife, Marie. subscribed to NUWSS in 1906 and in February 1907 took part in the ‘Mud March’. After the tragic death of her husband (he drowned in the Seine while attempting to rescue his invalid son whose pony had bolted and run into the river; the son was saved by passers by) – Marie Nutt took over the running of the firm of David Nutt and in the next few years published many texts relevant to the women’s suffrage cause.
Such was the suffrage zeitgeist amongst London-based women artists at the time that Caroline Watts may have been drawn towards the NUWSS by any number of associations, but her connection with Marie Nutt is one clear thread.
It doesn’t take much imagination to recognise that Caroline Watt’s design for the ‘Bugler Girl’ is closely associated with the heroic images she was creating for commissions from Alfred Nutt.
The NUWSS was at pains to make clear that the militant imagery of the ‘Bugler Girl’ didn’t represent a violent organization. As member of the NUWSS governing-council explained, ‘Our Bugler Girl carries her bugle and her banner; her sword is sheathed by her side; it is there, but not drawn, and if it were drawn, it would not be the sword of the flesh, but of the spirit. For ours is not a warfare against men, but against evil..’
The image, created as I mentioned, to advertise the June 1908 NUWSS procession was subsequently used – often in black and white rather than colour – on posters and flyers advertising NUWSS meetings and from November 1913 was used on the front page of the NUWSS paper, ‘The Common Cause’. However such was the strength of the image that it also had a lease of life in the US.
In his most useful and interesting book – Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia - Ken Florey reveals that Harriot Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Stanton and a long-time resident in England, poached Caroline Watts’ ‘Bugler Girl’ design for use by the Women’s Political Union, the WSPU-inspired society she had founded on her return to the USA. Significantly the design was recoloured in purple, white and green (colours of course, borrowed from the WSPU) and became a well-known icon of the US women’s suffrage movement. [See here for more information from Ken Florey on the use of the design in the USA and here for a 2011 article about a contemporary reinterpretation of the image.]
Caroline Watts may well have produced other designs for the suffrage campaign but the only other that I can find reference to is held in the Artists’ Suffrage League archive in the Women’s Library@LSE. It is catalogued as ‘[Liberty] Original drawing, ink on paper, a woman freed from her chains, opening a door and looking out on to a sunrise; inscription below image “But little do or can the best of us:/That little is achieved through Liberty./Who, then, dares hold emancipated thus -/His fellow shall continue bound? Robert Browning”. Signature bottom left “CM Watts‘”‘
I have been unable to discover much more about Caroline Watts’ life. In 1911, presumably an NUWSS supporter, she didn’t boycott the census, and can be found living with Mary, who was still indexing, at Hillcroft, Oakdene Road, Godalming. Caroline described herself as ‘Artist (Painter and Black and White Illustrator). I have been unable to find any trace of her work as a painter passing through the salerooms.By 1918 the sisters had moved to Middlehill Road, Colehill, Dorset, where Caroline died, aged 51, in 1919.
Many of you familiar with the propaganda produced by the British women’s suffrage campaign will recognise this image, which was printed by Weiners of Acton and published as a poster by the Artists’ Suffrage League. In The Spectacle of Women, Lisa Tickner dates it to c 1908; the catalogue of The Women’s Library@LSE to c 1912. I would tend to support the earlier date.
The artist is known to be Emily Jane Harding Andrews. But who was she? What can we discover of the life behind that image?
She was born Emily Jane Harding in 1851 at Clifton in Bristol, the eldest of the several children of Thomas Giles Harding (1827-1899), a commercial traveller, and his wife, Rosa Jane (nee May). Emily and her sister, Rosa Elizabeth Harding, were educated at Clifton Ladies’ College and in October 1868 both gained certificates of art in the second grade in a prize giving at the Bristol School of Art.
By 1871 the family had moved to London . They moved around the Kensington, Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush area but their first address was 21 Holland Road, Kensington. Emily clearly continued with her art studies. She exhibited portrait miniatures at the Royal Academy in 1877, 1897, 1898. Now in the National Portrait Gallery is a chalk portrait of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (d 1881), dean of Westminster. Was this the work that she exhibited at the RA in 1877?
By the time the 1881 census was taken Emily was married to a fellow artist, Edward William Andrews – although I cannot find a record of the marriage. He was ten years older than her and had been born in Kidderminster. By the time he was 21 was describing himself on the census form as ‘Artist portrait painter’. The only paintings I can locate by him are copies of two portraits after Gainsborough – see here.
In 1881 Emily and her husband were living, with one servant, at 23 Iverson Road, west Hampstead. By 1891 they had moved to Chalcot Gardens, Hampstead, an area popular with artists, and now had no servant. In 1901, still fending for themselves, they were living in a flat in 95 Fitzjohn’s Avenue, Hampstead.
Through the 1880s and 1890s Emily produced illustrations for a series of books – mainly for children. They included Bright Pages for Children of All Ages, 1886, Helen Milman’s The Little Ladies, 1890, Merry Moments for Little Folks by Rose E May, published by Frederick Warne, 1893. Emily’s sister, Rosa (or Rose) had married Frederick Lamartine May, son of a well-known bookseller, and a relation on their mother’s side. She also provided the illustrations for Disagreeable Duke: a Christmas whimsicality for holiday boys and girls by Elinor Davenport-Adams, published by George Allen, 1894 and in the same year for Lullabies of Many Lands by the editor and translator Alma Strettell,
In 1896 Emily Harding (the name under which she then published her work) was both the translator (from the French) and the illustrator of Fairy Tale of the Slav Peasants and Herdsman by Alex Chodsko, published by George Allen.
I don’t know how Emily Harding Andrews made contact with the Artists’ Suffrage League, although it’s hardly surprising, moving as she did in artistic, bookselling and publishing circles. Besides the poster illustrated as the introduction to this article, Emily Harding Andrews designed another for the ASL – ‘Coming in with the Tide – Mrs Partington’ – and was on sufficiently close terms with Mary Lowndes, the ASL’s leading light, to propose a design for a Christmas card -sent with an informal note on the reverse. It can now be found in Mary Lownes’ ASL album in the Women’s Library@LSE.
Although clearly supportive of the suffrage campaign, Emily Andrews, like Mary Lowndes, did not boycott the 1911 census. This shows us that – married for 31 years, with no children – she was living, aged 61, as a boarder at 15 Bank Place, Bayswater. She still described herself as an artist. Her husband, on the other hand, was enumerated in his one-room studio at 48 Fortune Green Road, Hampstead. Had they separated?
Edward Andrews died in 1915, while living at 1 Linden Gardens, Hornsey Lane. He left £160; his wife is not named as an executor.
I next find Emily Harding Andrews in 1918, living at 6 St George’s Square, Camden, at the same address as another artist of her generation, Julia Bracewell Folkard and an Elizabeth Folkard. However, this seems to have been Emily’s base for only a short time and I can find no further trace of her for another 17 years, until in August 1935, aged 85, she set sail for Sydney, Australia. On the passenger list her address is given as ‘South Street Mission, Hammersmith’, although in what capacity she was living there I cannot say.
Gertrude, one of Emily’s much younger sisters, had emigrated to Australia with her husband, Edward Nevill Parker, in the 1890s. He had died in 1931 and I suspect that, in her old age, Emily went out to join Gertrude for I next find her living at Illawa, Judd Street, Cronulla, Sutherland, NSW. Emily died in Sutherland in August 1940 and her ashes were scattered in Woronora Cemetery, which was also the last resting place of her sister and, years later, of a nephew.
This is only the briefest outline of a long life lived. I shall have to imagine all those decades of London days, of Emily living and working in a succession of studio flats, of visiting publishers, of struggling to gain commissions, of the brief flowering of interest in the suffrage campaign, of, perhaps, sinking with old age into penury and then, the last adventure, sailing to the other side of the world – to the heat and light of Australia.
On Sunday 2 November the Radio 3 Sunday Feature told – very briefly – the story of Kitty Marion, music-hall artiste, suffragette, and arsonist.
At the planning stage the producer was kind enough to invite me to contribute to the programme – with the brief to discuss something of Kitty’s suffragette activities. The most notorious of these – or, at least, the most publicly known – was the burning down of the stadium at the Hurst Park racecourse at Molesey. This she did with the aid of an accomplice, Clara (Betty) Giveen. You can read how and why they acted as they did in – Suffrage Stories: Kitty Marion, Emily Wilding Davison And Hurst Park
Hurst Park racecourse ran alongside the Thames just across the river from Hampton Court and although much of it was sold for redevelopment in the 1960s, the remaining open space and the layout of roads and fields have changed little in the past 100 years, making it worthy of a visit for a spot of location radio. It was decided, therefore, that we should retrace the arsonists’ footsteps.
I offered to drive our little party from central London to Molesey, a journey that I know like the back of my proverbial hand. For the road that leads down to Hampton Court passes the house on Twickenham Green where I grew up and which remained in my family for over 50 years.Moreover, during my schooldays I had made the journey between Twickenham Green and Hampton every day – for the first few years on that now all but forgotten vehicle, the trolley bus.
Now, in September 2014, our destination was Molesey Cricket Club, which lies, as it did in 1913, next to the erstwhile racecourse. In her unpublished autobiography Kitty mentions that, having left the road, she and Betty crossed a cricket field and so, leaving the cricket club car park, we made our way down a ditch (I with much less agility than my younger companions), through brambles and into the open sunshine of Hurst Park.
We looked over towards where the racecourse stadium had once stood and imagined the scene – as shown in this photograph – revealed by the light of day on Monday 9 June 1913. The fire set by the two women had taken hold very quickly, rather taking them by surprise, and they, with the gas mains exploding, throwing up fountains of fire, they had fled the scene.
I was particularly interested in the next stage of Kitty and Betty’s night excursion. For a long time I had suspected that their journey on foot might have taken them past 15 The Green, Twickenham, but I had never before had occasion to research the matter. That their destination had been a house close to Kew Gardens Station was well known – but what roads had they taken to get there?
In fact the newspaper reports of their trial provide the answer. For they had been spotted at various points on their journey – the sight of two young(ish) women walking unaccompanied through the night had not gone unremarked. The first sighting – by a tramdriver – was at 12.45 am on the road between Hampton Court and Hampton and the second, most importantly, was at Fulwell, which lies between Hampton and Twickenham.
So, there it was – a proof that satisfied me. For from Fulwell the direct route took them right past Twickenham Green – probably along the very pavement you see on the right of the above photograph.
Kitty and Betty continued through Twickenham Junction and East Twickenham, crossed over the river and were next seen in Richmond at 2.50 am. Alerted to the fire, the police at Hampton Court had sent constables on bicycles to scour the roads. This clearly produced no immediate result but telegraphic messages had also been sent out to all police stations which may be why, in the early hours of the morning, police in Richmond and Kew were on the look out for likely suffragette suspects.
Making no attempt to keep out of sight, Kitty and Betty were walking along Kew Road when, at the corner of Pagoda Avenue, they attracted the attention of a policeman . He followed them down to Lower Mortlake Road where, as they seemed to be lost, he questioned them. They then wandered through the streets, with the police constable following, until in the end he it was who pointed the way to their destination – West Park Road.
Police in this area may well have been on particular alert because suffragettes had recently damaged plants in the Kew Gardens orchid house and had set the tea room alight. A middle-aged, middle-class suffragette, Ella Stevenson, who lived in Cumberland Road, a few streets away from West Park Road, had in March been found guilty of putting phosphorous into the post box at post office in Richmond’s main street, George Street . Edwy Clayton, a scientific chemist whose home, ‘Glengariff’, in Kew Road Kitty and Betty had walked past – was at this very moment on trial at the Old Bailey on a charge of conspiracy connected with the Kew Gardens tea room and other WSPU arson attacks.
Thanks to the producer’s iPhone map, we were better equipped than Kitty and Betty and, weaving our way through the Kew streets, arrived with little difficulty at what had been their ‘safe house’. This in 1913 was the home of Dr Casey and his wife, Isabella, and daughter, Eileen. The two women were dedicated suffragettes and Mrs Casey’s action in allowing a key to her house to be in the possession of Kitty Marion, a woman she did not know, seems to have shocked the court at the subsequent trial even more than the arson itself.
Thanks to the spontaneous kindness of the present owner we were able to record briefly inside the atmospheric Edwardian villa – noting original interior fittings – such as the fireplace with the overmantle mirror in which Kitty must surely have glanced as she and Betty waited for what they must have expected – the knock of a policeman on the door.
The knock of course did come, Kitty and Betty were tried, found guilty of arson and sentenced. Kitty went on hunger strike and was released under the Cat and Mouse Act on a couple of occasions. On the second she was taken to Nurse Pine’s Nursing Home at 9 Pembridge Gardens in Kensington (she mentions ‘Piney’ in her autobiography) from where, after a decoy was employed, she escaped.
From then until her re-arrest in January 1914 Kitty Marion was on the run, working, as she put it, to ‘communicate with the government’. It was a dangerous time.
Tomorrow – 24 September – I shall be presenting Kate Frye to the Wooburn Festival. I shall be talking about her life – from the age of Victoria to that of Elizabeth – in Bourne End and Berghers Hill – and describing her efforts to interest the area in ‘Votes for Women’.
The talk will be illustrated with many photographs from Kate’s extensive archive and there will be an opportunity to look at other items of local interest from her collection that I will bring with me.
See here for full details of the talk – 7.30 pm at Bourne End Library.
Copies of Campaigning for the Vote will be on sale – signed if you wish!