Archive for category Suffrage Stories

Suffrage Stories: ‘A Song Of Their Own’ – Ipswich Suffrage- And Ada Ridley In Particular

Song of their Own

I do enjoy reading studies of the work of local suffrage societies – and this is a good one.  Without over explaining the national campaign Joy Bounds neatly describes the particular work of Ipswich suffrage campaigners, setting their efforts in the wider context. Her research on Constance Andrews, the leading light of the Ipswich branch of the Women’s Freedom League,  is particularly welcome – and useful.

The delight of such studies is that names hitherto little known are brought to our attention. While it was outside the scope of Joy Bounds’ study to dwell in depth on the many individuals whom she highlights, it is now possible – in a blog such as this – to pick up the baton, as it were, and attempt to discover more about these women. Their engagement with the suffrage movement is, in a way, only an excuse.  I am still so curious about women’s lives.

In particular I am  interested in women who put their artistic skills to work for the suffrage cause and was keen therefore to discover more about the life of Ada Paul Ridley,who is mentioned in A Song of Their Own. She either designed or sewed (or perhaps  designed and helped sew) the banner (‘Be Just and Fear Not’) that the Ipswich contingent carried in the WSPU’s 1911 Coronation Procession. There is a suggestion that ‘her women’ worked it – I wonder who they were? The banner, alas, has long since disappeared.

Lisa Tickner includes Ada Ridley in her list of suffrage artists in an appendix to The Spectacle of Women, but mentions only her work on this banner and the fact that she had exhibited at the ‘London Salon’ in 1908. This was the first exhibition organized for the progressive Allied Artists’ Association Exhibition by Frank Rutter (a devout suffragist) – and held at the Albert Hall. I doubt that Ada Ridley was amongst the more progressive element, but she was keeping interesting company.

So who was Ada Ridley?

Well, she was born c 1864 and her sister, Elizabeth (Bessie), whom Joy Bounds mentions as also being  involved with Ipswich suffrage, was born in 1867. They were two of the four daughters (there were also two sons) of Albert Cowell Ridley, one of Ipswich’s leading businessmen. He was a wholesale druggist –  in partnership with Edward Grimwade (sometime mayor of Ipswich), trading as Grimwade, Ridley & Co. The firms premises were in Princes Street – and have long since made way for the iconic Willis building.

The Ridley family was non-conformist – Baptist. In the 1870s Albert Ridley was a member of the Ipswich Board of Guardians and in the 1880s, a Liberal,  was a elected to the Ipswich Town Council.

Formerly Helenscote, 73 Henley Road, Ipswich

Formerly Helenscote, 73 Henley Road, Ipswich9

The Ridleys  lived at Helenscote, 73  Henley Road, Ipswich – a large, gabled house. (The house, now known as Marlborough House was until relatively recently The Marlborough Hotel, but is now divided into flats.)

In the 1870s Edward Grimwade and his family lived close by – at 1 Henley Road. In April 1871 Grimwade chaired a meeting in Ipswich at which Rhoda Garrett was the main speaker, with her cousin, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, and her uncle,  Newson Garrett, sitting beside her on the platform. The Ipswich Journal - not a supporter of the woman’s cause - gives a lengthy, somewhat jaundiced account of the meeting – but it is clear that it was actually rather successful.

Grimwade’s daughter, Harriet, became secretary of the Ipswich committee of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage that was set up in the wake of this meeting. This suffrage society doesn’t appear to have been very active – although Harriet Grimwade definitely was. She was a very active philanthropist as well as eventually, in 1883, being elected a member of the Ipswich School Board.  When she first stood for the School Board, in 1880, the Ipswich Journal  paid her the rather back-handed compliment of saying that it would be as well if she were not elected as it would be a pity to distract her from her all her charitable work.

There was no mention of Albert Ridley’s presence at the 1871 meeting- although he may well have been there.  In fact there was a direct Garrett/Ridley relationship. Millicent’s sister, Alice, was married to Herbert Cowell, a cousin of Albert Cowell Ridley (Herbert’s father was brother to Albert’s mother). Despite Herbert’s expressed distaste for the women’s movement, Alice more or less defied him to succeed her sister, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, as the member of the London School Board for Marylebone. I imagine that Albert Ridley’s views on the Woman Question tended more towards those of Edward Grimwade than those of Herbert Cowell.

Whatever they were, Albert Ridley did ensure that Ada had a good education. She attended Ipswich High School for Girls and, while a pupil there, in 1879  passed the government examination in Freehand Drawing, taken at the Ipswich School of Science and Art , in 1880 she received the school prize for Needlework – a copy of In Memoriam – and in 1881 won a prize at the Art School (though still a pupil at the High School) for the best drawing of a plant. Her reward was to be given said plant – a begonia. In 1883 she matriculated from the High School –  in the first division (University of London) and in 1884  moved to  the Ipswich School of Science and Art, where she was awarded a first class certificate in Botany- Elementary Stage. Ada clearly remained close to Harriet Youngman, who was headmistress of the High School during the time she was there. When the 1901 census was taken Ada was staying with her as a visitor in the cottage near Saffron Walden to which she had moved on retiring as headmistress.

Although the only sightings I have of Ada during the next ten years are as a rather successful tennis player (mixed doubles matches at the Ipswich Lawn Tennis Club) and as a pianist at various local entertainments, she clearly maintained her interest in art, winning a second price in a Studio  competition in 1894. In 1893 she was the judge of ‘Plain Needlework’ at an Industrial and Art Exhibition held at the Gainsborough House headquarters of the YWCA.

Albert Ridley died in 1896, leaving c £25,000 – out of which Ada and her siblings were each to receive £1000  immediately. Her mother died in 1916, leaving £14,000 – so I think we can assume that the family lived reasonably comfortably.

In April 1911 a service at Llanaber Church near Barmouth was held to dedicate reredos that Ada Ridley had helped carve. They had been designed in the Celtic Arts and Crafts style by John Dickson Batten, who was an illustrator and one of the early members of the Society of Painters in Tempera. The founder of this society was Christiana Herringham, a suffragist who in 1908 had helped embroider banners for the Artists’ Suffrage League and the Women Writers’ Suffrage League, as well as one for the Cambridge Suffrage Society. The Battens must have known Christiana Herringham and as in 1904 their Kensington home was at 16 Edwardes Square, they must have known Laurence Housman, who lived with his sister, Clemence, writer and artist, at 1 Pembroke Cottages, on the corner of the Square. It’s not too wild a guess to suppose that Ada Ridley was brought into this circle.

Anti-suffrage Alphabet (courtesy of UCL Library Services)

Anti-suffrage Alphabet (courtesy of UCL Library Services)

There is no doubt that by 1911 Ada most certainly was well acquainted with Laurence Housman  because in that year she was a contributor to a lovely book – An Anti Suffrage Alphabet – designed by Housman and which Leonora Tyson (of the Streatham WSPU) printed to order by hand. Earlier in the year, on census night (2 April), both Ada and Bessie Ridley had been absent from home. Their mother was enumerated at Helenscote with their unmarried brother and one of their nieces – but of her two resident daughters there was no trace. Were they spending the night at the Museum Rooms, taking part in the boycotting party that Joy Bounds describes so well?

But that is all I’ve been able to uncover. How did Ada spend the rest of her long life?  I can find no trace of any further involvement with either art or the woman’s cause. She seems such a capable woman that I can’t believe she sat at home doing nothing for the next 40 or so years. She died in Ipswich in 1958 – leaving c £17,000 -one of her executors being the niece who was staying in the house while her aunts were out gallivanting on census night.







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Suffrage Stories: Bloomsbury Links (Part 3)

I have written two previous posts about the Bloomsbury Group and Women’s Suffrage – see here and here, the latter one dealing with the involvement of Lady Strachey and her children. In this third Bloomsbury post I describe something of the importance of one of her daughters-in-law – Ray Strachey.

Ray Strachey

Ray Strachey

In 1911 Lady Strachey’s son, Oliver,  married, as his second wife, Ray, the daughter of Mary Costelloe (later Mary Berenson) and granddaughter of Hannah Whitall Smith, a Philadelphian Quaker and feminist.

The Costelloes’ association with the Cause stretched well back into the 19th century. In 1889 both Mary Costelloe and her mother had signed the Declaration in Favour of Women’s Suffrage organized by the Central Committee of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage. In the 1890s Mary, with her parents, her husband, and her sister Alys (who was later to marry Bertrand Russell), subscribed to the Central National Society for Women’s Suffrage. In March 1890 Frank Costelloe, Ray’s father, was described as a ‘warm friend’ to the Women’s Franchise League. It is therefore not surprising to discover that Ray Costelloe while a student at Newnham (1905-08) was an active member of the Cambridge University Women’s Suffrage Society, probably to the detriment of her academic work.

In the summer of 1908 Ray and her friend Elinor Rendel conducted a suffrage caravan tour of the Lake District. While on this tour the young women stayed at Keswick, at Hawse End, the home of Frank and Caroline Marshall, who had founded the local branch of the NUWSS, and who were the uncle and aunt of Ray (later Garnett) and Frances (later Partridge).

Catherine Marshall

Catherine Marshall

The Marshalls’ daughter, Catherine, moved to London and became parliamentary secretary of the NUWSS, in 1912 masterminding that society’s alliance withe the Labour party. Through family association the suffrage campaign drew into is maw the least likely followers; Julia Strachey, Oliver’s daughter by his first marriage, led an NUWSS procession in Littlehampton on 19 July 1913.

By 1913 Ray Strachey was chairman of the LSWS and Philippa Strachey was its secretary, the two forming an extremely affectionate and close working relationship that lasted until Ray’s death in 1940. A fellow worker for the Cause described how Ray Strachey was ‘someone who takes up lost causes and then they are no longer lost’ and particularly remarked how Ray always sought Pippa’s advice.

In 1916 Ray Strachey succeeded Catherine Marshall as parliamentary secretary of the NUWSS and in this capacity was responsible for supervising the passage of the Reform Bill that in 1918 at last gave women (over 30) the vote. Ray moved her household from Bloomsbury to Marsham Street in Westminster in order to be close to the society’s office.

strachey the causeAfter the end of the First World War Ray Strachey was editor of The Common Cause and then of its successor, The Woman’s Leader, 1920-23, and acted as political private secretary to Lady Astor after the latter’s election as the first woman member of the House of Commons. Ray Strachey was the author The Cause (1928) which stood for very many years as the only history of the ‘constitutional’ suffrage movement, and of Women’s suffrage and Women’s service: the history of the London and National Society for Women’s Service, 1927.

In 1938 Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press published Our Freedom and Its Results, a collection of essays edited by Ray Strachey, which charts the effect of women’s emancipation on politics, law, employment, morals and social life.


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Suffrage Stories: 100 Years Ago Today – 17 July 1914: The National Portrait Gallery and Thomas Carlyle

One hundred years ago today – on 17 July 1914 – a suffragette, Margaret Gibb, who also went by the name of Ann Hunt, took a cleaver to a portrait of Thomas Carlyle that was hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. See the damaged portrait here.

Margaret Gibb was held by an attendant, charged and, on 21 July, sentenced to six months imprisonment. She was released on 27 July – presumably under the Cat and Mouse Act, having gone on hunger strike. See here for a surveillance picture of Margaret Gibb taken in the exercise yard at Holloway. On 31 August she was spotted again at the Gallery and, although the WSPU had called a halt to its campaign, was refused admission then – and in the future.

One hundred years later the NPG has  mounted al display case exhibition – in Room 31 –  showing something of the effect of WSPU militancy on the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. Margaret Gibb’s story is related and includes a comment to the effect that it was doubted that the picture’s attacker knew that Carlyle was a particular hero of Emmeline Pankhurst – an aperçu I remember making when referring to the damaged portrait in the entry on Emmeline Pankhurst’ in my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide. I’d be rather thrilled if I was the originator of the comment – but I daresay others have thought of it independently. I was particularly struck by two small photographs of Mary Richardson in the display that date from 1918 and show her sitting, delicate and pretty, in a room neatly furnished with flowers and 18th-century furniture. This is an image far removed from the chopper-wielding attacker of the ‘Rokeby Venus’ – (see here for a post on Mary Richardson).

Christabel Pankhurst by Ethel Wright, 1909 (c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Christabel Pankhurst by Ethel Wright, 1909 (c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In the entrance – Room 30 – to the gallery that contains this display case the National Portrait Gallery has now hung the full-length  portrait of Christabel Pankhurst by Ethel Wright – opposite the Brackenbury portrait of her mother – Emmeline Pankhurst.  Christabel’s portrait, in which she is wearing a green dress – apparently a favourite colour – was painted in 1909 and first shown at the WSPU Skating Rink Exhibition. It was bought by Una Duval and remained in her family before being  bequeathed recently to the NPG.

Good as it is to raise the profile of the women’s suffrage campaign – all this attention on the WSPU only highlights for me the lack of attention given to the constitutional campaigners – those who worked for sixty years without wielding cleavers. So let me take the opportunity here of repeating my mantra  – and drawing attention to my post on the subject –  Make Millicent Fawcett Visible.


All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.


Kate Frye’s Diary: The Lead-Up To War: 17 July 1914


On 7 August 2014 ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette.  Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here.

KateAs a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman.

Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. John has a room along Claverton Street, at number 11.

Friday July 17th 1914

John arrived unexpectedly early, before I was up, but I just let him in to hear the news – he has had a letter from Benson saying he would see him, so was off. I had received a letter from Mr Dingle saying he could not speak – so as soon as I was up I went off to the Men’s League at Westminster and saw someone there who called Mr McKillop in from an office next door, and he like a lamb said he would come to Isleworth in Mr Dingle’s place. I expected to have to rush round London.

So I walked up to the A.A. and found John just having lunch with a very pretty woman and joined them as I wanted to hear what Benson said, but it was a very short interview. John saw me to Charing Cross then went off to a meeting and I came back to Victoria and bought some food then came in and had a rest and fell asleep.

John came in at 5 and we had a meat tea and then off together, Bus to Victoria – train to Hammersmith – train to Isleworth arriving at 7.15 – at the Upper Square. There were hundreds of children ready to greet us, I got a friendly feeling and they were very good but a great nuisance. John went off to find the Lorry as it was not punctual, but he missed it and it arrived alright and I got it fixed up.

By the time the speakers, Miss Dransfield in the Chair, Mrs Merivale Mayer and Mr McKillop and Miss Fraser to help had arrived we were absolutely mobbed – and we got a huge gathering. The first Suffrage meeting of any kind which had been held in Isleworth.

Mrs Mayer as usual was very disagreeable when she arrived, but it was really such a magnificent meeting she was quite pleased at the end, and as usual she spoke splendidly and we quite got the people round.

Having settled up early well came away together – Mr McKillop left us from the train, we parted from Mrs M.M. at Hammersmith and Miss Fraser at Victoria.

John and I were starving and we went into a restaurant at Victoria. John had salmon and cucumber – at 11.15! It was a lovely day.

John Collins was ‘resting’ at the moment – as is clear from the amount of time he was able to devote this month to helping Kate with her suffrage work. He would have been very excited about the prospect of employment in Frank Benson’s Company. The A.A., where Kate surprised him lunching with ‘a very pretty women’, was the Actors’ Association, the club in Covent Garden to which they both belonged.

The Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage to whose office Kate went for help when her speaker had failed was at 136 St Stephen’s House on the Embankment. The massive building was demolished, apparently in the early 1990s. We have already met the obliging Mr McKillop, who had for some years earlier been librarian to the fledgling London School of Economics. Kate had warmed to him after he praised her public speaking.

Upper Square, Isleworth (image courtesy of Hounslow Local studies website)

Well, this must have been the site of Isleworth’s first ‘Votes for Women’ meeting – or, at least, the first of which Kate had heard tell. Presumably during her canvassing she had met with plenty of local people who would have given her this kind of information. By ‘fixing up’ the Lorry Kate meant that she decorated it with posters – inquisitive children were suffragettes’ constant companions.

Calra Merivale Mayer

You can read about Mrs Merivale Mayer in Campaigning for the Vote - suffice it to say that Kate found her a great trial and, I am sure, knew nothing of her somewhat scandalous history. If she had known she would doubtless have felt vindicated in her dislike for this most difficult of the New Constitutional Society’s speakers. But Kate gave credit where it was due and often commented, as she does here, that despite the ructions she caused Mrs Mayer was an excellent speaker.



All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.


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Kate Frye’s Diary: The Lead-Up To War: 2 July 1914

On 7 August 2014 ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette.  Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here.

KateAs a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. She was at this time living in Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins.

Thursday July 2nd 1914 

To office. Attended the Committee. To lunch at Harrods with Mrs Hartley, Alexandra [Wright] and Gladys [Wright] and Miss Bessie Hatton. Work at the office all afternoon. John arrived for me at 5.30pm. I left with him and we came back in a bus to Claverton Street.

I tidied myself and then by bus to Tottenham Court Road where we had a mysterious fish dinner. We liked the first half as we were extremely hungry and then it palled.

Then we strolled to the Scala Theatre and John got 2 dress circle seats for ‘La Dame aux Camelias’. Lydia Yavorska. Parts of it were a scream as all her things are, but she was very lovely in parts – and especially just at the end – she did look so dead. Some of the characters were vilely played. Ambrose Flower – he is rather winning – just like an Elenor Glynn [ sic] man – but just a prop for the dear Princess to fall up against – or on to. She looked a picture – but some of her frocks were hideous. Back by bus.’

The Scala Theatre was just behind Tottenham Road, on the corner of Charlotte and Tottenham streets. The theatre was only ten years old in 1914, built to the architect Frank Verity’s design in 1904 on the site of a series of older theatres. .

Kate doesn’t put the design of this production of ‘La Dame Aux Camelias’ in an artistic pigeon hole – but in the 15 July 1914 issue of  ‘Tatler’ it is described as ‘Futurist’. The article is titled ‘”Infernal Decorations or What Stripes and Squares a Love of Futurism is Leading Us.”‘ Perhaps it was the ‘stripes and squares’ that made some of the dresses appear ‘hideous’ in Kate’s eyes.

Lydia Yavorska

Kate refers to Lydia Yavorska (b. 1869) as ‘the dear Princess’ because the Russian-born actress had acquired by marriage the title Princess Bariatintsky.  Of her performance as Marguerite in this production ‘The Times’ critic wrote ‘she is not the actress to spare herself in the forcible delineation of the part’s emotion. Indeed her third act gave the opportunity for more tears and cries than we have ever heard or seen in a single act before.’ Kate had seen her playing Nora in ‘The Doll’s House’ on 30 March 1911 when she had described her as ‘a pretty creature and – in spite of her very broken English, excellent and so fascinating.’

‘La Dame Aux Camelias’ ran at the Scala from 22 June to 4 July 1914.

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Suffrage Stories: What Links Charles Dickens, The Rokeby Venus And The Number 38 Bus?

Mary Richardson, c 1913

Mary Richardson, c 1913. This image of her was included in the sheet of ‘surveillance photographs’ of known suffragettes sent to museums and art galleries

I was asked the other day to speak briefly on Woman’s Hour about Mary Richardson, the suffragette who took a hatchet to the Velasquez painting, The Toilet of Venus  -known as The Rokeby Venus ,  while it was on display in the National Gallery in March 1914. Rokeby-Venus-slashed-close-up-426x365 You can listen to the resulting piece – which includes a clip from a 1957 Woman’s Hour interview with Mary Richardson – here.

Looking again at Mary Richardson’s story – as she tells it in her suffragette autobiography, Laugh a Defiance –  I was interested in a brief mention she made of the house from which she set out for the National Gallery on that fateful day – Tuesday 10 March 1914. It was a house  in which she had been given shelter when she was let out of Holloway the previous October under the terms of the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’,  after going on hunger strike. She continued to live there clandestinely – as a ‘mouse’ – evading the police.

As she tells it, this house in Doughty Street in Bloomsbury had once been the home of Charles Dickens but was now under the charge of a ‘Mrs Lyon’. Investigation reveals that in 1914  the house that was Dickens’ home from 1837-9 and is now the Charles Dickens Museum was, together with number 49, a boarding house run by a Miss Jane Lyons. J010106 Mary Richardson wrote that she knew immediately that it was to Dickens’ house that she had been brought. Indeed she would have, for as she left the motor car that had carried her from Holloway she would have seen this plaque, which had  been placed on the front of 48 Doughty Street by the LCC in 1903. Once settled into the boarding house doubtless she would have heard from Miss Lyons more about  the famous connection that gave cachet to the establishment.

Number 48 Doughty Street was acquired by the Dickens Fellowship in 1923 and opened as the Museum in 1925. Interestingly the Museum has quite recently acquired number 49 – so that the two houses are now interlinked as  they presumably were when Mary Richardson was given shelter in Miss Lyons’ boarding house. Charles dickens houseWhen Mary Richardson made her  acquaintance in 1914 Miss Lyons would have been 78 years old. She may well have been given the honorary title of ‘Mrs’ and it isn’t particularly surprising that Mary Richardson had, 40 years or so later, slightly misremembered her surname. The only information that Mary Richardson offers about ‘Mrs Lyon’ was that she had once been housekeeper to Benjamin Disraeli. Could that have been true?

Jane Lyons had been born in Plymouth in 1836, one of the eldest in a large family – of possibly 12 children. Her  father, Moses Lyons (who also gave his name on various censuses as ‘Lewis Lyons’ and ‘Morris Lyons’) was a licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries – that is, he was qualified as a doctor and practised as both a doctor and as a dentist. He had been born in Coventry c 1811;  his mother had been born in Russia. The family were probably Jewish in origin – although there is no evidence that they practised that religion. One sister, certainly, was married in a Congregational church. In 1871 the Lyons family was living in the Islington area of Birmingham and Jane Lyons worked with her mother and five of her sisters in the family’s stationers shop.

By 1881 Jane Lyons had come to London and on the night of the census, 3 April 1881, was living in a boarding house at 72 Gower Street in Bloomsbury, described as an ‘annuitant’. So it doesn’t appear that  she was Disraeli’s housekeeper at the time of his death –  which occurred 16 days after the census was taken. But I suppose it is not impossible that she was so employed at some time during the previous decade.

By 1891 Jane Lyons was housekeeper at ‘Brunswick House’, 56 Hunter Street, Bloomsbury.  Here lived 45 boarders – all women – most of whom were working – as teachers, typists, clerks, and artists.

48 Doughty Street - post 1903

48 Doughty Street – post 1903

Ten years later, in 1901, Jane Lyons was the proprietor of a ‘Private Hotel and Boarding House’ at 48 & 49 Doughty Street.  Here, on the day of the census, she had 24 boarders – all women – again clerks, teachers and typists (and a stockbroking nephew). By 1911 Miss Lyons’ clientele had slightly changed – now numbering a good half-dozen men among her boarders.

Miss Lyons, as a single woman running her own business, was very much the type of woman we might expect to support the ‘votes for women campaign’ – perhaps as a member of the Tax Resistance League. But from Mary Richardson’s evidence she went that bit further and gave active support to those who were evading the police. According to Mary, while she was living at number 48 Annie Kenney, who was also on the run, stayed for a time in Miss Lyons’ boarding house. I wish I knew more about Miss Lyons.

In Laugh a Defiance Mary Richardson relates that she had planned her attack on the RokebyVenus in advance – presumably while living under Miss Lyons’ roof. Indeed she states that she had sought approval from Christabel Pankurst for her plan. But never once in Laugh a Defiance  can I find any mention of the fact that since March 1912 Christabel had been living in Paris. Mary Richardson refers to her as though she were living close by, convenient for consultation. I find it difficult to believe that in those febrile months in 1914 Mary Richardson was in such close contact with Christabel. Did she, 40 years later, feel it necessary to justify her actions by implying that she was always ‘acting on orders’?

The sequence of events ran like this. Mrs Pankhurst was arrested in Glasgow during the evening of Monday 9 March – after something of a battle with the police at a meeting in the St Andrew’s Hall. Around her was a bodyguard of women –  one of whom was Mrs Lillian Dove-Willcox, with whom Mary Richardson was closely associated.

Lillian Dove-Willcox (photo courtesy Bath In Time website)

Lillian Dove-Willcox (photo courtesy Bath In Time website)

After one of her hunger strikes Mary had recuperated at Lillian’s cottage in the Wye Valley and their friendship seems to have lasted all Mary’s life.  Symbol Songs, a collection of poems she published in 1916 contains  ”The Translation of the Love I Bear Lillian Dove’ – and it was Lillian (by now, after remarriage, Mrs Lillian Buckley) who wrote Mary’s obituary for the Suffragette Fellowship newsletter.   It wouldn’t surprise me that if the ‘Rokeby Venus’ plan had been shared with anyone, it had been shared with Lilian Dove-Willcox, who travelled back from Glasgow on the train in which Mrs Pankhurst was being escorted by the police.

However the train stopped at a station short of Euston and Mrs Pankhurst was taken off it and driven straight to Holloway in order to avoid the suffragette crowds that were awaiting her at the terminus. The news of her arrest was in the Tuesday morning papers. I don’t really want to add any (quite gratuitous) speculation to Mary Richardson’s already rather unreliable memoir, but I’m going to anyway.

Could Mary Richardson have seen Lilian Dove-Willcox early that Tuesday morning and  heard first-hand of the dramatic events in the St Andrew’s Hall? And dramatic they were. It was a violent scene – with clubs wielded by the women and a gun – loaded with blanks – fired by Janie Allan, a wealthy Scottish supporter. A report from the front line, made by a close friend, or even the knowledge that such a friend had been involved in such a battle could have been the real catalyst for choosing this day of all days for putting her plan into action.  Doughty Street is only a short distance from Euston. Although Mary Richardson says in a radio interview that she was in the National Gallery as early as 10 am, The Times report, Wednesday 11 March, mentions that she was there at 11 .

Mary Richardson is not explicit as to whether she had already purchased her weapon of choice – a butcher’s chopper – although she does state that she bought it in the Theobald’s Road – a main road close to Doughty Street .However, because, as she repeatedly explains, she fixed the chopper into her sleeve with a chain of safety pins (though I can’t quite work out how the first in the chain was attached to the chopper??) it seems unlikely that she would have undertaken this rather cumbersome exercise on her way to the National Gallery, suggesting that she had the chopper already primed, as it were, in her room in the boarding house.

In another BBC radio interview, broadcast on 23 April 1961 – click here to listen to it – Mary Richardson revealed that she had chosen the Rokeby Venus  because she hated women being used as nudes in paintings – she had seen the picture gloated over by men, and she ‘thought it sensuous’. In the 1957 Woman’s Hour interview she mentioned that she felt the painting was held in high regard because it was so financially valuable  (it had cost £45,000 when purchased in 1906), whereas Mrs Pankhurst’s life counted for nothing. Presumably she was unaware that it was a fellow suffragist, Christiana Herringham, who had been the driving force in the setting up of the National Art Collections Fund – the organization that bought the painting for the nation.

In the later interviews Mary Richardson doesn’t mention that Mrs Pankhurst had only just been rearrested – but tells the story as though Mrs Pankhurst had been held for a long time, on hunger strike,  in a damp underground cell in Holloway – and that her life was in danger. But, as we see, Mrs Pankhurst could have barely reached Holloway by the time Mary set out from number 48.richardson laugh a defianceI have mentioned that Mary Richardson’s Laugh a Defiance  is an unreliable memoir. At the most basic level the account she gives of her involvement in the suffragette campaign is not chronologically accurate – rather she presents a series of incidents, in each of which she takes a starring role. I have little doubt that the purpose of Laugh a Defiance was to raise funds.  It doesn’t appear that Mary Richardson was ever in full-time employment and, although she had presumably inherited some money from her family,  at the end of her life the income must have dwindled. At the time of her death in 1961 she was living in a single room – in Hastings. Obviously in order for such a book to sell it did have to be packed with dramatic incident.

I can find no reviews of the book in contemporary newspapers or magazines – or, to be accurate, in ones that are now digitized. The only quote used in its publicity by the publisher, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, was a remark by C.V. [Veronica] Wedgwood who on the radio programme, The Critics, described it as ‘A document – ingenious and absolutely genuine’. Well, yes, ‘ingenious’ is perhaps the word to describe Laugh a Defiance  for although Wedgwood was an historian she clearly had not interrogated the accuracy of the ‘document’.

Leaving aside quibbles about who did what, when or where, the book contains laughable examples of  ‘cod history’ – such as when Mary in Holloway describes her view onto what she describes as the site, in Elizabethan times, of the banqueting hall of the Earls of Warwick. Doubting very much that those Earls had ever had a London home in Parkhurst Road, Holloway, I did a little research to try to discover what had been in Mary Richardson’s mind. The answer: that when the prison was built in the mid-19th century the architect copied the design of the gatehouse from Warwick Castle. Such is the way that the most innocuous facts  become corrupted and I’m certain that Mary Richardson’s suffragette autobiography contains many more such elisions and half-truths.  Rubbed up and polished, they presented a dashing and easily digested history designed to appeal to the general reader.

I have always wondered what her fellow suffragettes made of Mary Richardson’s  Laugh a Defiance - and of her two broadcasts. The Suffragette Fellowship, the organization to which many former members of the WSPU and the Women’s Freedom League belonged, was by no means devoid of factional infighting. Certainly she appears to have felt quite at ease when, a couple of years after the book was published (but before the radio programmes were broadcast), she attended a Suffragette Fellowship reunion at Caxton Hall (you can watch her here on a Pathe newsreel as she shows her very distinctive hunger-strike medal to a policeman. I wonder if any comments were made about the accuracy of her recollections?

For instance, as far as I can discover,  no member of the WSPU ever mentioned that Mary Richardson was, as she claimed, at the Derby watching Emily Wilding Davison as she stepped into the path of the King’s horse. Why was such a valuable first-hand account not written up in The Suffragette  or Votes for Women? Why was she not called as a witness at the inquest? In her telling the expedition to Epsom was not clandestine –  rather she was following an order from Headquarters to go there to sell The Suffragette.  She doesn’t go so far as to say that she accompanied Emily Davison but somehow out of the seething Derby crowd – the hundreds of thousands that swarmed over Epsom Downs –  she was able to spot Emily and position herself at the opposite side of the track at Tattenham Corner. Exciting reading – but is it history?

However, Mary Richardson’s account in Laugh a Defiance of her attack on the Rokeby Venus  accords very accurately with the contemporary newspaper reports.  There was, of course, no need to dress up that drama – for she was (with Venus) undoubtedly the star of that particular episode.

As this is a blog post – not an academic article – I will allow myself another flight of fancy. I live not far from Doughty Street and am a regular passenger on the No 38 bus that runs along Theobalds Road.  By 1914 this bus route had been in operation for a couple of years and, unless Mary Richardson walked to the National Gallery, may well have carried her as far as Cambridge Circus, bringing her within striking distance, as it were, of the Gallery. It is these gossamer connections – the layers of history through which we pass – that continue to amuse me. If I were sufficiently fanciful I could link Mary Richardson and the Rokeby Venus  to both the number 38 bus, on which, incidentally, I travelled part of the way to my date with her in the Woman’s Hour studio, and to Charles Dickens, the shade of whose footstep she touched as she made her determined way over the threshold of 48 Doughty Street that March morning.

P.S. Coincidentally another nude, George Clausen’s Primavera,  attacked by Maude Kate Smith in the RA Summer Exhibition in 1914, was sold by Christies on 17 June 2014, the day after my Woman’s Hour piece – for £92,500. You can listen to Miss Smith describing how she attacked the painting in a recording held by the Women’s Library@LSE.

PPS Readers who have been kind enough to visit from the Persephone Books website and are of a ‘Persephone mind’ (although equipped with non-Persephone technology – ie an e-book reader) will, I hope, find a GOOD READ in the life of Kate Parry Frye – who was very much a ‘Persephone’ woman. Read all about her here.


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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison: Centennial Celebrations

WHRThe Women’s History Review asked me to write a ‘Viewpoint’ about the 2013 100th anniversary commemoration of the death of Emily Wilding Davison.

EWD Funeral Procession Programme

The resulting article – ‘Emily Wilding Davison: centennial celebrations’ – is now available to read online at the WHR website. The first 50 viewers can access it free here. After the 50 viewings are exhausted, access, I’m afraid, is charged. But you can, of course, always read a print copy in your library!

EWD funeral



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Suffrage Stories/ Walks: The Actresses’ Franchise League – And Kate Frye

The Actresses’ Franchise League  was founded in December 1908. Its purpose was to stage propaganda plays, the majority of which were specially written by members, hold meetings, sell suffrage literature and give lectures. Kate Frye, who considered herself a professional actress, attended her first meeting of the AFL on 23 March 1909.

3 Bedford Street, Covent Garden

3 Bedford Street, Covent Garden

The venue for this first meeting, 3 Bedford Street, Covent Garden – just a few steps from The Strand – was very familiar to Kate. For on 11 December 1901 she had gone through that door and climbed the stairs to the studio and office near the top of the building where actor/manager Ben Greet ran his Acting Academy. There and then Kate had enrolled as a drama student. The story of her time at the Academy and her subsequent stage career is told in The Great War: The People’s Story – Kate Parry Frye: Edwardian actress and suffragette - which ITV will be publishing as an e-book in August to coincide with their The Great War: The People’s Story series.

3 Bedford st 6

Of that first AFL meeting Kate wrote in her diary:

‘Tuesday March 23rd 1909

[Afternoon] went by bus to Bedford Street, Strand – the old Ben Greet Academy Room where we used to rehearse – to the Actresses’ League for Women Franchise meeting. Who should be there but Miss [Ada]  Moore, who introduced me to Eva Moore and as she is going to be on our Dance Committee we shall meet again on Monday. She didn’t seem to like me much but I am used to treating all Suffrage women as merely women not little Queens. I had a long talk to Miss Moore who was charming as ever.

Eva Moore with her husband, H.V. Esmond

Eva Moore with her husband, H.V. Esmond


Kate had known Ada Moore quite well since the late 1890s – and was rather entranced by all the Moore sisters. During her time as a suffrage organizer, she often arranged meetings at which another Moore sister, Mrs Emily Pertwee, was the speaker. Eva Moore had obviously been a little too distant for Kate’s liking when they met on this occasion. She eventually resigned from the AFL after a play written for them by her husband, H.V. Esmond, was deemed too light-hearted for its propaganda purpose.

3 Bedford st 3

Although the lower half of the building appears to be empty at the moment – and a little sad – it’s not difficult to imagine the tyro actors and actresses – numbering among them Sybil Thorndike – climbing  the stairs to the top of the building to be put through their paces by Ben Greet. Or the members of the AFL  feeling at home in a building decorated with wreaths and swags.

3 Bedford st 8



3 Bedfford st 7

A month later – in April 1909 –  the AFL began to hold their meetings in the Criterion Restaurant. Kate was a regular attender at these meetings, often acted as a steward and faithfully recorded in her diary her impression of the occasions. For more about the AFL at the Criterion see here.

For more about Kate Frye and her involvement in the suffrage campaign see here.



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Suffrage Stories: Shoulder To Shoulder – Conference And Campaign


Shoulder -To-Shoulder: Female Suffrage, Second-Wave Feminism and feminist TV Drama in the 1970s.



I very much enjoyed attending this conference -Shoulder To Shoulder: Female Suffrage, Second-Wave Feminism and feminist TV Drama in the 1970s – which focussed on ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’,  the BBC’s 6-part series about the militant suffrage movement, broadcast in 1974.

The conference was held on 15 and 16 May 2014 at Birkbeck College’s School of Arts in Gordon Square. Who would think that behind the familiar early-19th-century facade of no 43 lies a state-of-the art cinema and gallery? It was a pleasure to be there.

And even more of a pleasure to be in the audience for a screening of one of the episodes from the series. The one selected was Episode 2 – ‘Annie Kenney’, written by Alan Plater, directed by Waris Hussein and starring Georgia Brown as Annie Kenney. This was the first time I had ever seen the production. I have long known of the series, have sold copies of Midge McKenzie’s ‘spin-off’ book, and have even sold copies of the Radio Times Special that was produced to accompany the series, and the tie-in issue of Radio Times in which Margaret Drabble interviewed three surviving suffragettes, Grace Roe, Leonora Cohen and Cicely Hale. But I have never seen the programmes – we didn’t have a television in the 1970s.

shouldertoshoulder1I was very impressed by the episode I saw – impressed by the script and by the production. From a 2014 perspective faces, dresses, sets etc  all look persuasively Edwardian – no hint, I think, of the 1970s.

The script, too, is pleasingly accurate. There was much discussion at the conference about the fact that the writers of the series were reflecting the Pankhursts’  view of suffragette history, centring the story around the characters of Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst and Annie Kenney. Nevertheless they do not shirk from dealing with the politics of the campaign in considerable detail. Would any drama series nowadays bother (dare!) to discuss the nitty-gritty of the  ballot for private members’ bills – and actually mention the name ‘Bamford Slack’?

After the screening of the Annie Kenney episode we were privileged to be party to a reunion discussion between cast and crew of the series, chaired by Dame Joan Bakewell.  Sian Phillips, who played Emmeline Pankhurst, Patricia Quinn,(Christabel) and Angela Down (Sylvia) were joined by two of the series’ directors, Waris Hussein and Moira Armstrong, and Graham Benson, the programme’s production manager. All had given up their time to come along and reminisce about the making of the series. It’s always so interesting to listen to insiders talking – and remarkable that 40 years on so many details were recalled.

I particularly liked the fact that, because the budget allowed for so few extras, rather than attempting to show the battle in Parliament Square on ‘Black Friday’, the damage wrought on the suffragettes was, instead, hinted at by filming the detritus left on the ground, while  a voice-over intoned a dispassionate account (from a newspaper, think). Very much an example of  ‘less is more’.

One thing that became very clear was that cast, crew and audience were united in hoping that  Shoulder To Shoulder would be made available on a DVD. In my bookselling capacity I am often asked if I know where such a thing might be obtained – and the answer is that, not only has the series rarely been rebroadcast, but there is no DVD. You can find  the series on You Tube – but it really should be  commercially available, with added background, context, interviews etc.  Apart from the interest and enjoyment it would give to the general viewer, what an excellent teaching tool it would be!

Dr Janet McCabe of Birkbeck and Dr Vicky Ball of De Montfort University are planning to launch a campaign to persuade the BBC to produce a DVD of Shoulder To Shoulder. There will be a petition and, to coordinate the campaign, a Facebook page. But in the meantime, if you are interested in giving your support you can email Janet McCabe at or Vicky Ball at

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Suffrage Stories: 1911 Census: View House of Commons Talk – Vanishing For The Vote – The Suffragette Boycott

Vanishing for the Vote 1 001

A couple of months ago, to coincide with the publication of  Dr Jill Liddington’s latest book, Vanishing for the Vote, I was pleased to take part in a three-hander talk – with Jill and Prof Pat Thane – in the House of Commons – in which we discussed the suffragette boycott of the 1911 census. This talk was videoed and has now been uploaded to the Parliamentary YouTube channel. You can view it here.

Jill and I had together undertaken the initial research into the identities of those who had either made clear on their census forms that they were not prepared to answer the government’s questions or who had failed to be included on any census return. This work resulted in a jointly-written article in History Workshop Journal – see here to read it – and a talk I gave at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census  – which you can listen to here.  The details of 500 women protesters may be found in the Gazetteer that Jill and I compiled and which comprises the final section of Vanishing for the Vote.

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Suffrage Stories: The 1866 Suffrage Petition – And The Geyser

PetitionBack in the days when the world was young, there was no internet, and antiquarian booksellers – as well as the layman/woman book-buyer – had to search their quarry among the stacks of brick and mortar bookshops, my time, when not engaged in child care, was spent touring London and the market towns of southern England in search of the books and ephemera with which I and my customers might resurrect the women that were famously ‘hidden from history’.

These days have long passed away – now we need only sit at home and search internet book-selling sites,  trawling through the print-on-demand dross in the increasingly forlorn hope of finding the odd nugget of treasure. The corollary, of course, is that there are now precious few brick and mortar bookshops selling second-hand/antiquarian books.

In those olden days I even thought it occasionally worthwhile to take a tour down Portobello Road on a Saturday morning, not something I have  done  for a long time, now that Portobello’s landlords are handing the antiques arcades over to fashion chain stores. But that particular Saturday-morning visit was memorable because it was in a bookselling alcove in the warrens that stretch behind Portobello Road that I came across one of the most interesting finds of my bookselling career – a copy of the pamphlet edition of the 1866 women’s suffrage petition.

The petition itself comprised  a long scroll onto which were pasted the signatures of the (circa) 1500 women who, in the spring of 1866,  were prepared to put their names to a request (it was certainly not yet a demand) that women who met the requisite  property qualifications , as set out in the Reform bill then under discussion, should be able to cast a parliamentary vote alongside men. The petition had been organised by a group of women who formed themselves into a small informal committee – among their number being Barbara Bodichon, Bessie Rayner Parkes, Elizabeth Garrett, and Emily Davies.  John Stuart Mill, for whom they had campaigned when he had contested – and won – the Westminster parliamentary seat the previous year, had agreed to present the petition.

Emily Davies was the businesswoman of the group and it was she who decided that the names of those who had signed the petition should be printed in pamphlet form and sent to  the weekly papers so that, as she wrote on 18 July 1866 to Helen Taylor (Mill’s step-daughter), ‘ in case they take any notice, they make know what they are commenting on.’  Copies of the petition pamphlet were also sent to members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The copy of ‘my’ 1866 petition pamphlet is, as you see, addressed to Earl Cathcart –  the 3rd Earl, Alan Frederick Cathcart. I suspect he was not overly interested in the rights of women.

I did sell the pamphlet almost as soon as I found it but, before parting with it, had the sense to take a photocopy. That sounds nothing extraordinary, but back in those days photocopiers were not the casual desk accessory that they are today and in order to process the petition’s 38 pages I had to visit the machine in the local library. How glad I am that I bothered to do so. For having easy access to those 1500 names allowed me not only to build up the pattern of political and friendship networks supporting the suffrage campaign that lies at the heart of The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guidebut also provided a starting-point for researching The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a regional survey, in which the part each region, county and town played in the campaign is detailed.

Some of the names on the petition are well-known, but it is the unknown that I find particularly interesting. For example, Fanny Maughan of 214 Goswell Road, London EC  attracted my attention because that address is a very close to where I live. Although Fanny’s house has long been swept away to make room for a high-rise housing estate, I wanted to know how her name might have come to be on one of those petition slips.

She was born Fanny Elizabeth Seamer in Hackney in 1838, when her family was living in Down Terrace, Clapton. Her father, a hairdresser, died when she was young and her mother remarried John King, a piano maker. The ‘new’ family lived in Bishopsgate and Fanny acquired half-brothers, one of whom was named John Lovett King.   In 1863 Fanny married Benjamin Waddy Maughan in Islington and three years later signed the women’s suffrage petition.

How did Fanny Maughan come within the orbit of the petition gatherers? Well, there is a tiny possible clue in her half-brother’s middle name, from which I would guess that her step-father was connected to the circle surrounding William Lovett, chartist and artisan radical. More to the point her father-in-law, John Maughan, born into a non-conformist (Wesleyan) family, became a friend of William Lovett, an associate of George Holyoake, and a member of the London Secular Society. The men in these circle were all supportive of John Stuart Mill – and the petition – and someone must have suggested that a visit should be made to 214 Goswell Road, to request Fanny Maughan’s signature.

Although Fanny Maughan has left no discernible trace other than that signature on the petition, we have good reason to think daily of her husband. For 1n 1868 Benjamin Waddy Maughan invented the first domestic water heater that did not rely on solid fuel. His invention – which he called The Geyser – used gas to provide a constant stream of hot water.

Maughan's geyser  By 1881 he and Fanny were living at Heydon House, Quarry Road, Hastings and Benjamin was described on the census as ‘Gas Engineer Fitter, employing 28 hands’. However, by 1887, when Fanny died, the couple were back living in Islington and Benjamin had a factory at Gloucester Road in Hackney, just off Hackney Road.

Alas, all did not go well for Benjamin Maughan and the 1911 census shows him, described as ‘formerly house painter’, as an inmate of the Islington Workhouse, with a note that he had become deaf when he was 63 years old. I cannot even with certainty find a record of his death. But how interesting that the geyser, an invention that, in time, did much to unshackle women from household chores, should have been so closely associated with the 1866 women’s suffrage petition. I sincerely hope that Fanny Maughan – and the cook and the housemaid that the family were able to afford in the 1880s – were able to benefit from Benjamin’s invention.


Ann Dingsdale also researches the 1866 petition –  access her thesis here and her blog here

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Suffrage Stories: Five Reasons To Love Sally Heathcote Suffragette

I knew only of Mary Talbot as the author of the Costa-winning Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes when, a year ago, she got in touch, sending me PDFs of the bulk of Sally Heathcote Suffragette and asking what I thought of it.

I had no hesitation in deciding that Sally Heathcote Suffragette was a winner.



1) Not only does the book tell the story of the militant suffrage movement with clarity and verve, but, most interestingly, approaches the narrative from an unfamiliar angle.  And I must say it is an angle that appeals to me. For Sally’s  story applauds the efforts of Frederick and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, whose work for the cause has been overshadowed by the antics of the more headline-grabbing suffragettes. By not offering any resistance to their ousting from the WSPU by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst they have, until now, been consigned to the shadows.

The Pethick Lawrences were militant up to a point – they both went to prison – but they drew the line at bombings and fire-raising. Apart from the danger involved, they could see that this level of violence would only further antagonise both government and public.

Sally Heathcote  brings to the fore the social philanthropy – and socialism – that lay at the heart of the Pethick-Lawrences’ involvement in the suffrage cause and their support for pacifism during the First World War. They  effected ‘deeds’ – running the Maison Esperance, the Esperance Club and the Green Lady Hostel- as well as publishing ‘words’ – in the shape of the paper Votes for Women. You can read more about the Pethick-Lawrences’ work after their expulsion from the WSPU here.

2) I love the accuracy of Sally Heathcote – not only of the history, but of the visuals. For instance I was very taken by Kate Charlesworth’s drawing of the interior of Lincoln’s Inn House – as in the picture in the bottom frames here.

Metcalfe Woman's Effort_0001

Below is the interior of Lincoln’s Inn House in reality – a (rather blurry) photo I took in what is now a Bill’s Restaurant last summer. I just love the fact that the detailing of the staircase railing is so right.

Lincolns Inn House interior 2


I asked if either Kate or Mary had visited the building   – but no. We worked out that Bryan’s source had been this page in Votes for Women.

3) All the well-known suffrage scenes are captured brilliantly. You can see from Kate’s drawing of Christabel speaking in Trafalgar Square how her fresh-faced spontaneity had the power to entrance her audience.  And I do like the comment in the bottom right of the picture -there’s no doubt Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence’s prose was on occasion over-purpled.



Metcalfe Woman's Effort_0002


4) I love Sally because one page alone refers to two constituents of the suffrage campaign that have long appealed to me. The first is dear Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, whose life-long efforts have until recently been sadly undervalued. I remember that when  the massively long text for my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide was being copy-edited, the excellent editor did demur about the length of the entry on Mrs Elmy. However, I managed to convince him that she was really important and that back then, in 1999, very little had been written about her – so she was allowed her long entry. So I’m very pleased that Mary has taken notice of her. The postcard (and, of course, I’m very keen on real photographic postcards) shows her on Mrs Pankhurst’s platform during the 1908 Hyde Park rally. You can just see that Kate has drawn a hint of the bouquet that Mrs Elmy was carrying. Mrs E. mentioned in a letter that it was composed of ferns, purple lilies and lilies of the valley – the colours with which  Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence branded the WSPU for this grand occasion.

The second reference is to Maison Esperance – the dressmaking establishment set up by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to put her ideals into practice and provide her workers with good working conditions – such as an 8-hour day. I have always thought this a laudable and intriguing enterprise.  Alas, as Mary admits in another frame in the text, the experiment did not last long. Was the provision of good working conditions uneconomic? Or was it that the Maison’s garments did not flatter? Why did Emmeline, with her marketing skill, not get the Cara Delevingne or Alexa Chung of the day to be seen wearing them?   However, the associated girls’ club and the Green Lady Hostel at Littlehampton were successful.

Metcalfe Woman's Effort_0003


5) Finally, apart from everything else, I applaud the understated – but very pointed – message in the final frame.  Read the book – look at the pictures – and discover what this is.


Do have a look at Mary Talbot’s website to find out more about Sally Heathcote Suffragette  – about Mary and Bryan Talbot and Kate Charlesworth – and about associated conferences and book signings.

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Suffrage Stories: Anti-Suffrage Sneaks And Their Stealthy Stickering

Below is an item that I found in a postcard album compiled by Mrs Louisa Thomson Price, one of the leaders of the Women’s Freedom League.

Anti SuffrageMrs Thomson Price acquired this sticker at a ‘Anti-Suffrage campaign’ demonstration held on 16 July 1910 in Trafalgar Square  – during which men mingled with the crowd and stickered ‘well-known women suffragists’ with ‘Votes for Women Never’ slogans.  The Daily Telegraph, in describing the demonstration, particularly remarked on ‘the large number of suffragists and supporters of “votes for women” who were in attendance’,  commenting that ‘the militant Suffragists utilized the occasion as a great opportunity for doing propaganda work among the enemy.’

While Mrs Thomson Price declared that this stealthy stickering was ‘typical of the methods of the ‘Men’s League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage’, The Daily Telegraph reveals that ‘a most effective ending to the afternoon was the march past of the WSPU Drum and Fife Band playing ‘The Marseilles’. Well, that was certainly a more open spoiler.

This anti-suffrage demonstration was held a few days after the suffrage Conciliation Bill had passed its second reading in the House of Commons and  a week before the WSPU’s massive 23 July rally in Hyde Park.  The suffrage campaigners’ hopes were high -and the anti-suffragists were presumably just a little nervous. They need not have worried – for on the very day of the Hyde Park spectacular the prime minister, Asquith, informed Lord Lytton, chairman of the Conciliation Committee that the Conciliation Bill would progress no further than parliamentary session. It was yet another example of how difficult it was to get the political machine to change gear if those in the engine room were not minded to operate the levers.

Mrs Louisa Thomson Price (1864 -1926) was the daughter of a Tory military family but from an early age rebelled against their way of thinking and became a secularist and a Radical. In 1888 she married John Sansom, a member of the executive of the NSS.From c 1886  she worked as a journalist – as a political writer, then a very unusual area for women, and drew cartoons for a radical journal, ‘Political World’. She was a member of the Council of the Society of Women Journalists. After the death of her first husband, in 1907 she married George Thomson Price.

Louisa Thomson Price was an early member of the Women’s Freedom League, became a consultant editor of its paper, The Vote, and was a director of Minerva Publishing, publisher of the paper.  She took part in the WFL picket of the House of Commons and was very much in favour of this type of militancy. In her will she left £250 to the WFL. and £1000 to endow a Louisa Thomson Price bed at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.




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Suffrage Stories: Words – As Well As Deeds

This article was published in the March 2003 issue of Antiquarian Book Review.

‘Deeds Not Words’ was Mrs Pankhurst’s motto. The slogan flourished in the early 20th century – it was even embroidered on a banner – a reaction to the apparently unproductive campaign for the enfranchisement of women that had already been waged for nearly 40 years.

Hammersmith deeds The debate as to whether the vote was won by the slow drip of reasoned argument or by the sharp crack of breaking glass is one that still occupies historians. Althought it is the deeds of Mrs Pankhurst’s suffragettes – the spectacle of processions, the breaking of windows, the burning of houses and churches – that has coloured the popular perception of the suffrage campaign, without the ‘words’ that had over many years shaped the idea that women had an equal right with men to citizenship, the ‘deeds’ would have been committed in a vacuum. The women’s suffrage campaign was, during its entire 62 years, underpinned by ‘Literature’ in all its guises.

Works written in support of women’s enfranchisement had little difficulty in achieving publication. The instigators of the movement were members of the articulate radical middle class and were in close contact with communicators. A tentative beginning had been made in 1851 with Harriet Taylor’s article The Enfranchisement of Women, which, shortly after her marriage to John Stuart Mill, was published anonymously in the Westminster Review ( a journal of which Mill had in the past been editor). This was followed in 1855 by a pamphlet, The Right of Women to the Elective Franchise, written by Agnes Pochin, wife of a future Liberal MP, and published by John Chapman, that ‘Publisher of Liberalisms’.

Among the names of the 1500 women who signed the suffrage petition that Mill presented to parliament in June 1866 (marking the formal beginning of the campaign), were several with connections to the publishing or bookselling trades – including  Elspet Strahan, sister of Alexander Strahan, a liberal with a zeal for social reform and the publisher of the eponymous publishing house. He had recently launched the Contemporary Review, in which he published an article on ‘female suffrage’ in March 1867, written by Lydia Becker.

Lydia Becker

Lydia Becker – with books

Based in Manchester, Lydia Becker was to be the driving force behind the 19th-century campaign. Among other signatories to the petition were Louisa Farrah, wife of a radical publisher and bookseller (282 Strand, London); Eliza Embleton, a bookseller from Leeds (Burley Street);  the wife of James Renshaw Cooper, a radical Manchester bookseller (1 Bridge Street); and the wife and daughter (both named ‘Harriet’) of Edward Truelove, radical publisher and antiquarian bookseller (2240 Strand), who had been imprisoned for publishing Robert Owen’s Physiology in Relation to Morals. (See here for an interesting blog by Dr Tony Shaw about Truelove and his grave, on which the two Harriets both appear.)


Edward Truelove's grave in Highgate Cemetery. Photo courtesy Dr Tony Shaw

Edward Truelove’s grave in Highgate Cemetery. Photo courtesy Dr Tony Shaw

Once the campaign had been launched, ‘words’ in support of women’s enfranchisement multiplied rapidly. The societies that had formed to promote the cause published a plethora of pamphlets – one of the first, of which 4500 copies were distributed, was a reprinting of the speech made by Mill to Parliament during the debate on the second reform bill in May 1867.

The accounts of the earliest Enfranchisement of Women Committee show that in its first year of existence over £94 was spent on printing. This was set against receipts from the sale of pamphlets of only £6 11s. Political publishing was not a profitable business. In reality, political publishers who were prepared to put their imprint on books and journals to promote the woman’s cause were not so unworldly as to risk their money. A study of the ledgers of companies, such as Trubner and H.S. King, reveals that many of the suffrage publications, including Lydia Becker’s The Women’s Suffrage Journal, were published only on a commission basis.

Under this arrangement, the author or the society undertook all the risk of publication, while the publishers merely provided the service of printing, binding and distribution, for which they gave the book their imprint, charged a fee and took a percentage of sales. Publishers’ ledgers, where they have survived, provide an interesting keyhole through which to view the suffrage campaign. Lists of payments make it possible to identify an author who published anonymously, the print order for a  book, journal or pamphlet can give us an idea of the ambition of the author or society; and the number of pulped gives a reason why so many of the items are now extremely scarce – and expensive.

The suffrage campaign appeared to have made such considerable progress in its first years that Mill, a canny businessman as well as philosopher, felt the time was ripe to publish the work that he had first drafted in the early 1860s on ‘the woman question’. As he wrote in a letter to The Times on 9 April 1869: ‘It is not specially on the Suffrage question, but on all the questions relating to women’s domestic subordination and social disabilities, all of which it discusses more fully than has been done hitherto. I think it will be useful, and all the more, it is sure to be bitterly attacked’. Mill knew full well the publicity value of controversy.

John Stuart Mill remained a hero to the more constitutionally-minded elements in the suffrage campaign

John Stuart Mill remained a hero to the more constitutionally-minded elements in the suffrage campaign

The Subjection of Women was published by Longmans in May 1869, went into a second edition in the same year, and has remained ever since a central text of the women’s movement.

Helen Blackburn, Women's Suffrage, 1902

Helen Blackburn, Women’s Suffrage, 1902

It took until 1902 for the first history of the campaign to appear. Women’s Suffrage: a record of the women’s suffrage movement in the British Isles with biographical sketches of Miss Becker was painstakingly compiled by Helen Blackburn, who had for many years worked as secretary of the Central Committee for Women’s Suffrage.

The new force that emerged in 1903, Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union, did not delay so long before giving itself a distinctive history. A series of articles written by Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline, as The History of the Suffrage Movement, appeared in the WSPU’s new paper, Votes for Women, starting in the first issue in October 1907 and concluding in September 1909.

Pankhurst SuffragetteThis history was, naturally, shaped to emphasise the Pankhursts’ centrality to the movement. Bibliophiles might like to note that the book that emerged from the articles, The Suffragette: the history of the women’s militant movement, was first published in America in 1911 by Sturgis & Walton and sheets where only then shipped back to Britain, where it was subsequently published by Gay & Hancock.

The publication in 1912 of Women’s Suffrage: a short history of a great movement (TC & EC Jack), written by Millicent Fawcett, did something to redress the balance. She had been involved with the campaign since its earliest days and since 1907 had been leader of those who described themselves as ‘law-abiding’ in contradistinction to the militants.

Metcalfe Woman's EffortAgnes Metcalfe’s Woman’s Effort: a chronicle of British Women’s Fifty Years Struggle for Citizenship (1865-1914), published in 1917, gives a detailed overview of the campaign, concentrating on the efforts of the militants.



In 1920 Mrs Fawcett completed her history of the suffrage campaign, begun in A Short History, with another pithy summary of events that had led to the passing of the Representation of the People Act, 1918,  granting the vote to women over the age of 30.

All these books were bought (as ownership inscriptions found in them testify) by sympathisers to the cause, were part of the stock of the small lending libraries run by many of the local suffrage societies and also found their way into the public library systems and even into prison libraries. While imprisoned, suffragettes were able to read lives, such as those of Joan of Arc and Garibaldi, that they considered (by analogy) relevant to their cause – the cult of the ‘hero’ clearly appealed to those conscious of their role in history.

Daniel Maclise, John Francis Maguire

Daniel Maclise, John Francis Maguire

Alongside the polemics, the women’s suffrage campaign also provided a rich seam mined by writers of fiction. John Francis Maguire, MP for Cork and an active supporter of the woman’s cause, was the first, publishing in 1871, a year before his death, a three-decker, The Next Generation (Hurst & Blackett). The action was set in 1891, by which time the ‘Rights of Woman’ movement..was a wonderful success [and had] long since been accepted with satisfaction almost universal’. Eighty-nine women MPs sat in parliament and Mrs Bates was chancellor of the exchequer.

The following year, ‘Arthur Sketchley’ in Mrs Brown on Women’s Rights (George Routledge) worked what Maguire had correctly identified as a ‘fruitful theme’, and demonstrated that his comic heroine, Martha Brown, had already got the measure of ‘women’s sufferages’. Mrs Brown surveys her first suffrage meeting: ‘Why, surely no Members of Parlyment aint a-coming to sich a ‘ole as this; for I’d ‘eard Miss Snapley a-braggin’ as Professor Fairplay were a-goin’ to take up the question in the chair, along with a old lady in the name of Mill, and a good many more as all ‘oped to be in Parlyment afore they died.’

The subject also, of course, lent itself to melodrama as well as to comedy. Emily Spender published in 1871 a novel, Restored (Hurst & Blackett, 1871) dedicated to the leader of the Bath society for women’s suffrage, of which she herself was an active member. In the novel a wicked husband, repossessing his young wife, declaims ‘If you had read your Bible a bit more, and John Stuart Mill, a little less, you would have been a better woman, Frederica.’ [Incidentally Emily Spender, the great-aunt of Sir Stephen Spender, spent her later years in Italyand was the model for E.M. Forster's 'Miss Lavish' in Room with a View.]

Throughout the 19th century, a stream of novels used support for, or antipathy to, the suffrage cause as a shorthand by which to delineate characters or to put plot machinery into gear. An indication that the campaign was losing its momentum at the end of the century may be surmised from the fact that between 1900 and 1906 no ‘suffrage’ novels were published.

Robins, The Convert. Photo courtesy of Lorne Bair

Robins, The Convert. Photo courtesy of Lorne Bair (click here to find a 1st US ed for sale)

However, in 1907, the year after the WSPU took its campaign to London, three novels appeared. The most famous of these is The Convert (Methuen) written by Elizabeth Robins, who was a keen supporter of the WSPU and based her scenes and personalities on activities of which she had been an eyewitness. Describing a suffrage rally in Trafalgar Square she drummed home the argument for the existence of the WSPU:

‘You’re in too big a hurry’, someone shouted, ‘All the Liberals want is a little time.’

‘Time! You seem not to know that the first petition in favour of giving us the Franchise was signed in 1866…We must try some other way. How did you working men get the suffrage?, we asked ourselves. Well, we turned to the records and we say. We don’t want to follow such a violent example. We would much rather not – but if that’s the only way we can make the country see we’re in earnest – we are prepared to show them.’

The Convert was in fact Elizabeth Robins’ novelisation of her play Votes for Women!,  written during the autumn of 1906 and  first staged at the Royal Court Theatre in April 1907. For Kate Parry Frye’s description of a visit to see the play on 16 April 1907 click here.

Elizabeth Robins, as author of 'Votes for Women!' featured on a card in 'The Game of the Suffragette'

Elizabeth Robins, as author of ‘Votes for Women!’, featured on a card in ‘The Game of the Suffragette’

In the years that followed, the real-life activities of the suffragettes were reflected by the derring-do of their fictional equivalents in a steady stream of novels. Novelists could now take their middle-class readers into places they might not previously have sought to enter – even the prison cell – and were given legitimate reason to describe the indignities that might be wrought on women’s bodies, whether through the horrors of force-feeding or at the hands of policemen in battle outside the House of Commons. A hero of one such tale (A. Mollwo, A Fair Suffragette) is racked by ‘the picture of [a] fragile, slender little body at the mercy of this yelling, excited crowd, torn first one way, then another, insulted by angry policemen, knocked under the feet of horses.’

Words describing the WSPU Deeds - from Kate Frye's diary

Words describing the WSPU Deeds – from Kate Frye’s diary

All in all, the wide range of  ‘suffrage’ literature published during the course of the campaign – histories, tracts, speeches, leaflets and novels – offers historians and collectors a fascinating lens through which to view not only the political battle in all its complication, but also the changing perception of the position of women that in the end was so necessary to the winning the vote.


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Suffrage Stories/Suffrage Collecting: WSPU Illuminated Address

Illuminated address presented to Adelaide McCarthy

Illuminated address presented to Adelaide McCarthy

Illuminated addresses such as this were first presented to WSPU prisoners on their release from Holloway in September 1908. 

The addresses, signed by Emmeline Pankhurst, were designed by Sylvia Pankhurst and incorporate the purple, white and green colours that the WSPU had adopted three months earlier, in June 1908. The ‘angel of freedom’ device was one that Sylvia was to use on other WSPU artefacts – a neat piece of WSPU ‘branding’.

As ever, the suffrage collector needs to be on guard against modern reproductions that pass as the original. As a dealer I was once offered what appeared to be the address presented to suffragette Clara Codd. However, always rather suspicious, my research quickly revealed it to be a copy sold, entirely legitimately, by Bath-in-Time (the gallery of Bath Central Library). I was told that the unfortunate person offering the address to me had bought it as the real thing from a (presumably) rather unscrupulous source. Caveat Emptor.


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Suffrage Stories:’We Believe That The Rousing Of The Irish People Had Best Be Left To Irish Women’

‘We believe that the rousing of the Irish people on this matter had best be left to Irish women’

This article is the text of a paper that I gave in 2003 at a conference held at Portsmouth University to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the WSPU. Ten years later we are now approaching the 100th anniversary, on 25 May, of the passing of the Government of Ireland Act, the campaign for which had been so closely entwined with that for ‘Votes for Women’. In the circumstances it seems timely to remind my readers of the important – and complicated – part that Irish politics played in the women’s suffrage campaign.

In 2003 I had decided to devote the paper to the Irish suffrage campaign because, although the Irish Question and the British government’s attempts to deal with it, had a profound philosophical and a practical impact on the WSPU campaign both in Ireland and in mainland Britain, it is not a subject that is often given much consideration at English conferences.

The title of the paper – ‘We believe that the rousing of the Irish people on this matter had best be left to Irish women’ – is taken from an article published in The Irish Citizen of 14 September 1912. This was a Dublin suffrage paper, founded a few months earlier with financial help from the Frederick and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrences, still (if only for another month) leaders of the WSPU. The article was written either by Hanna Sheey Skeffington, the leader of the militant Irish suffrage society, the Irish Women’s Franchise League, or by her husband, Francis, the paper’s editor, and was prompted by what the paper described as the first public meeting held by the WSPU in Dublin, at which the speakers had included Sylvia Pankhurst and Georgina Brackenbury.

The article continued: ‘Many will regret that the campaign for women’s suffrage in Ireland was not left entirely in the hands of the Irish suffrage societies, which are sufficiently numerous and sufficiently varied in their appeal. But the advent of the WSPU might have been predicted from the moment when Mr Redmond and his party decided to import Mr Asquith into Ireland. That some of the English militants would follow their chief enemy might have been foreseen. We believe however that the rousing of the Irish people on this matter had best be left to Irish women, who understand the psychology of their countrymen as the ablest English advocate never can.’

I will take these several sentences as my text and use them to analyse the Irish suffrage campaign and the WSPU’s part in it.

‘Many will regret that the campaign for women’s suffrage in Ireland was not left entirely in the hands of the Irish suffrage societies, which are sufficiently numerous and sufficiently varied in their appeal’. And indeed they were. The suffrage campaign had begun in the 1860s in Ireland as it had in England, although its early development had been even more hesitant in Dublin than it had in London. The Irish suffragists were initially drawn from the Quaker circles that had been long involved in radical causes, such as the anti-slavery campaign. However those women in Ireland who signed the 1866 petition were not sufficiently motivated to found a suffrage society immediately.

Thomas and Anna Maria Haslam, portrait by Sarah Cecilia Harrison, courtesy of the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin

Thomas and Anna Maria Haslam, portrait by Sarah Cecilia Harrison, courtesy of the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin

There was a Dublin committee between 1870 and 1873 but the campaign stagnated until 1876 when a new Dublin society was founded by Anna Maria and Thomas Haslam. This Dublin society was, although in its way radical for Ireland, not particularly effective.

In 1871 a Belfast committee had been formed by the formidable Isabella Tod; a close ally of Lydia Becker – and, like the Haslams, a staunch Unionist.

Isabella TodThis society certainly gives the impression of having more drive than that in Dublin and Isabella Tod maintained closer contact with Manchester and London than did Mrs Haslam.  Although both societies were affiliated to the Central Committee in London, they suffered from being at a distance from the political engine. There was also the feeling that the Irish suffragists were doubly at a disadvantage, not only, as all women, were they lobbying for entry into a political system which, by its very nature, was the only source of the entrance ticket, but for entry to the political machine of what was considered by many in Ireland to be that of a colonial power.  Perhaps as a result, the suffrage societies in both the south and the north concentrated their efforts in the 1880s and 1890s on local emancipation, campaigning to gain for women the municipal franchise – because Ireland had not been included in the acts that enfranchised single and widowed women ratepayers in England and Scotland in 1869 and 1882 respectively. During the course of this campaign Mrs Haslam strongly objected to what she saw as English interference. However, reading between the lines, the London societies saw her work as rather ineffective and actually criticized one of her pamphlets as inaccurate. Between 1886 and 1895 the Dublin suffrage society appears to have published no reports and held no public meetings, considering that the state of the country was unfavourable to such activity. However, in 1897 both the Dublin and Belfast societies joined the new National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and from 1903 both were drawn into the revived suffragist campaign.

In Dublin, as in Manchester and London, this revived campaign led to the formation of a new type of suffrage society, the Irish Women’s Franchise League, founded in 1908 by women who were Irish Nationalists, but who were prepared, until the vote was achieved, to put the women’s cause before that of Home Rule.

Margaret Cousins

Margaret Cousins

The IWFL established links with the WSPU and in 1909 Margaret Cousins, one of its co-founders, spent three weeks in Clement’s Inn learning tactics directly from the WSPU. Ireland had long had a symbolic importance to the Pankhurst family as it had to all radicals. In her autobiography Emmeline Pankhurst particularly singles out the effect that the fate of the Manchester Martyrs had on her (they were hanged in the 1860s for the accidental killing of a policeman during a Fenian riot),  noting that it was this that brought home to her that ‘justice and judgment lie often a world apart’. According to Sylvia Pankhurst, her father was ‘the first English Parliamentary candidate to pledge himself to Irish self-government when he stood at a by-election in Manchester in 1883’. Christabel made her first visit to Dublin in March 1910, returning again in October 1911 and Mrs Pankhurst toured Ireland in October 1910, returning again in April 1911. The Irish Citizen was, therefore, not entirely correct in calling the WSPU’s 1912 meeting its first in Dublin. While in Cork in October 1910 Mrs Pankhurst had inaugurated a new branch of the IWFL, indicating how closely at that stage the two societies were working. As for the north, Mary Gawthorpe had visited Belfast at about the time of Christabel’s first visit to Dublin.

Ireland did certainly support a variety of suffrage societies. Whereas in England, Scotland and Wales new local societies, whether militant or constitutional, tended to be formed as branches of one of the main national societies, in Ireland many localities sponsored their own individual society. Besides Mrs Haslam’s Dublin-based society, now known as the  Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association,  and the IWFL, there was, for instance, the Munster Franchise League in co Cork, the Irish Women’s Suffrage Society in Belfast and many separate, small suffrage societies in individual towns.

Indeed, by 1911 the proliferation of societies was such that it was considered sensible to found a Federation of Irishwomen’s Suffrage Societies. The Federation soon developed a synergy of its own, leading quickly to the formation of the Irish Reform League based in Dublin, and of a new Belfast Suffrage Society. Neither the IWSS, nor the IWSLGA nor the Irish Women’s Franchise League joined the Federation. The effect of the suffrage lobby in Ireland, small as it was, was further diluted by these divisions.

The Irish suffrage campaign had to all intents and purposes been left for 45 years in the hands of Irish societies – which, battling against even greater cultural and political difficulties than had the women of mainland Britain, eventually achieved the municipal franchise for women but could hardly have been said to have roused the Irish people.

‘But the advent of the WSPU might have been predicted from the moment when Mr Redmond and his party decided to import Mr Asquith into Ireland.’

At a parliamentary level, from the 1880s to the outbreak of the First World War, there was a synergy between the woman’s movement and the Irish movements – both unionist and nationalist. All were pressure groups attempting to influence the political machine – that is parliament and, increasingly, the cabinet – and each development in the campaign of one affected in some way that of the other. The Irish Question, in parliamentary arithmetical terms, was at this time crucial to the possibility of the suffrage campaign’s success. After the second 1910 election, in December, the 84 members of the Irish parliamentary party, led by John Redmond, held the balance of power in the House of Commons and, on the understanding that a Home Rule bill would be introduced, agreed to support the Liberal party. Now, indeed, Irish women suffragists for a time considered that they were in a strong position, with two chances of success. The first as a result of any national measure introduced by the imperial parliament – that is the Liberal government backed by the Irish party – and as Irishwomen, under a Home Rule bill. However it became clear that the Irish party – as a party – was not interested in supporting women’s suffrage. Irish Nationalist MPs, whatever their personal feelings, were not prepared to load, as they saw it, a Home Rule bill with another controversial question. Unwilling to jeopardize any Home Rule bill by risking their influence with Asquith, who, it was rumoured, threatened to resign if the Conciliation bill was passed. they reneged a second time in 1912.

Until then, close as the IWFL was to the WSPU, it had not been able to imitate the WSPU’s electoral tactic of urging those who did have a vote to use it in such a way as to prevent a government candidate from being elected, the tactic that in Britain was summed up in the slogan, ‘Keep the Liberal Out’. Ironically, this was a technique which had been first used by the Irish nationalists under Parnell in the 1880s and which the Pankhursts adopted early in the WSPU campaign.  Between 1908 and 1911 the IWFL’s task, as Margaret Cousins put it, was, rather, ‘to see that votes for women was incorporated in the Home Rule Bill for which Ireland was fighting.’  In early 1913, when it had became clear that neither the Liberal party nor the Irish Parliamentary party was prepared to include women in any Home Rule bill, the IWFL did adopt a policy of opposing the election of nationalist candidates. The conflict between nationalism and suffragism haunted the Irish suffrage campaign.

In June 1912, despite a large demonstration by Irishwomen in Dublin, the government ignored a resolution from the IWFL to amend the Home Rule bill by adopting as the basis for its franchise the local government register – which would, of course, have given many women the vote. This marked a watershed in the Irish campaign. The IWFL now adopted not only the WSPU’s by-election policy but also its militant tactics – Hanna Sheey Skeffington and others broke windows of government buildings in Dublin. For a previous post about two of these other women – Rosalind and Leila Cadiz (aka as ‘the Murphy sisters’) – and the pendants which they received to commemorate their efforts see here.

Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington

Although several of these women had already been imprisoned in England after taking part in WSPU- organized deputations or window-smashing raids, this was the first time that acts of physical suffrage militancy had been carried out in Ireland. Four of the women received prison sentences. In court, from the dock, Hanna Sheey Skeffington shouted, ‘Remember Mr Asquith is coming in July’. Irish nationalists considered this visit to be an indication of the government’s imprimatur on the Home Rule bill and the popular press was clear that any demonstrations by suffragettes would be classed as anti-nationalist, and therefore ‘English’. You can see how complicated Irish political priorities and the perception of them could be.

‘That some of the English militants would follow their enemy might have been foreseen.’  Indeed the WSPU campaign was now brought, with a vengeance, to Ireland. The Prime Minister’s speech on the second reading of the Reform bill early in July made clear that his government had no intention of extending the franchise to women. Thus, within a few weeks, the suffrage campaigners had seen both the chances of enfranchisement that they had been nurturing– whether under the Home Rule bill (which had particularly interested the Irish suffragettes) and the Reform bill (of interest to all women) swept aside.  Three WSPU members, Mary Leigh, Jennie Baines and Gladys Evans (the first two had been members of the WSPU since the earliest days) followed Asquith to Dublin. It later became clear that they had done this of their own initiative. Emmeline was staying with Christabel in Paris at the time; but both, of course, gave their firm support to the expedition after the event.

On 18 July Mary Leigh threw a hatchet, to which a suffrage message was attached, into the carriage in which Asquith was travelling through the streets of Dublin with John Redmond and that evening Gladys Evans attempted to set fire to the Theatre Royal, in which he was to speak (for more about Gladys Evans see here). There had hitherto been no attempts at suffrage arson in Ireland.  Members of the IWFL  harried Asquith, but in no such spectacular manner and the 27 July issue of The Irish Citizen, while full of their activities, does not directly report the WSPU attacks, except to print a letter from Margaret Cousins stating that ‘the IWFL had no connection with or knowledge of the action of English suffragettes in Dublin’.

Although distancing themselves from the WSPU, disliking what they saw as English interference in Ireland, the IWFL prisoners did embark on a sympathetic hunger strike with the WSPU prisoners, who had received lengthy jail sentences with penal servitude.. The Irishwomen, however, were not forcibly fed, this procedure being only carried out in Irish prisons on English prisoners. Jennie Baines and Mary Leigh were both released, ill, the former after 12 days, the latter after five weeks; Gladys Evans endured the forcible feeding until 3 October, when she was released into the care of a member of the IWFL This incursion into the south of Ireland by WSPU militants was, however, a ‘one-off’,  –  as the Irish Citizen had suggested the opportunity of harrassing Asquith on Irish soil had been too good to miss.

We believe, however, that the rousing of the Irish people in this matter had best be left to Irish women, who understand the psychology of their countrymen as the ablest English advocate never can.

The first acts of suffrage militancy in Ulster were committed by Irish suffragettes on 16 November 1912 when windows were broken in the GPO in Belfast as a protest against the defeat of Philip Snowden’s amendment to include women in the third Home Rule Bill. Two IWFL members had, for the same reason, broken windows in the Custom House in Dublin. Two months later, on 28 January 1913, when it seemed likely that the second reading of this Home Rule bill would pass without an amendment including women in the franchise, Margaret Cousins and others again attacked the windows of a government building, this time of Dublin Castle.  The women were each sentenced to a month’s imprisonment and went on hunger strike until they were treated as political prisoners. It is noteworthy that all acts of suffrage militancy in Ireland by Irish suffragettes up to this time were reaction to the continued failure to include women in Home Rule bills rather than in the Reform bills with which women in the rest of Britain were concerned.

By the autumn of 1913 with the Home Rule bill assured, although women were still excluded from it, the focus of the Irish suffrage campaign moved from Dublin to Ulster, reflecting the growing importance of that arena in national politics. This stage of the campaign was, however, to be, in the main, waged by the WSPU. The IWFL appears to have blamed the various Ulster suffrage societies for not working sufficiently hard and thus allowing a vacuum into which the WSPU could slip. In early September 1913 Sir Edward Carson announced that if a Home Rule bill were passed, he would set up a separate provisional government in Ulster. Moreover, a letter, dated 10 September, from Sir Edward to the secretary of the Ulster Unionist Council intimated that the draft articles of this Provisional Government would include the franchise for women on the basis of the Local Government Register. Needless to say Carson had never before been considered as a politician sympathetic to the suffrage cause – and suffrage campaigners, while on the surface accepting it as something of a coup, certainly wished to see this statement clarified. The WSPU – with Dorothy Evans as its organiser -had arrived as a formal presence in Ulster very shortly before and their aim over the next few months was to get Carson to state in public that women would be enfranchised under any Ulster government. This he never did.

If the arrival of the WSPU did not put much fear into Carson it certainly threw the Belfast-based Irish Women’s Suffrage Society into confusion. Shortly after the arrival of the WSPU in Belfast, the IWSS passed a resolution to declare itself in favour of militancy – if you couldn’t beat them, join them. Matters became even more complicated as individual members of the older societies changed allegiance. In fact by 20 April 1914 so many members of the IWSS had joined the Belfast branch of the WSPU that the former society collapsed. The Irish Citizen continued with its objection to an English society bringing its campaign to Ireland.   However, although the WSPU tactics might be classed as ‘English’ they were now being carried out by Irishwomen. Despite this, the Irish Women’s Suffrage Federation, in completely disassociating all its constituent societies from any involvement in militancy, stated ‘The Northern Committee of the IWSF wish to place on record their disapproval of the policy of the WSPU in Ulster, and to explain the fact that the WSPU is an English association, and has no connection with any Irish suffrage organisation’.

It is clear why the WSPU thought Ulster a particularly suitable arena in which to employ its militant tactics. The suffragette campaign in the whole of the United Kingdom in that year before the outbreak of the First World War was set against the background of increasing militarism in Ulster. The Ulster Volunteer Force had been formed in January 1913, an illegal organisation, but with strong links to both the Orange Order and the British army. In retaliation nationalist Ireland raised the Irish Volunteers. In her editorials in The Suffragette, Christabel Pankhurst drew legitimacy for her campaign of terrorism from the success that threats of violence by the UVF were achieving in Ulster. The WSPU, like the UVF, and unlike the IWFL in Dublin, did not confine itself to threats against government property only. Houses, bowling pavilions, pillar boxes and railway stations were fired, culminating on 31 July 1914 in an explosion in Lisburn Cathedral, after which Dorothy Evans and three other women were arrested, imprisoned and went on hunger strike, only being released after the outbreak of war.

There was never much WSPU action in the south of Ireland, although branches were set up in Dublin and in Cork, the latter by Geraldine Lennox, then on the run as a ‘mouse , and Flora Drummond spoke in Cork and Dublin in February 1914.  Nor, it must be said, was there much activity at all in 1914 from the IWFL. The political agenda was, of course, now concentrated on Ulster but it has also been suggested that the IWFL kept a low profile because it did not wish to be associated with what was perceived to be the ‘English’ campaign in the north. The WSPU was not particularly interested in rousing the Irish people, but was more intent on using and increasing the turmoil in Ulster as a means of putting pressure on the political machine at Westminster. As Christabel later put it in Unshackled, ‘It was not that we were concerned to question or assert the moral justification of Ulster’s militancy, actual or prospective, but we did claim the same immunity from prosecution and imprisonment for militant women whose grievance was at least equal and whose militancy was far milder’

The WSPU intervention in Ireland had the effect, then, of diminishing, for a year from September 1913, the campaign that had been waged by the Irish suffrage societies. We have no way of knowing whether the militant campaign might have had some positive effect – it was, of course, called off in August 1914. Dorothy Evans then returned to England – although she remained a close friend and co-worker of Hanna Sheey-Skeffington. That militancy – Unionist militancy, that is – could have an effect on the Asquith government was made clear when the Home Rule bill – which received the Royal Assent on 18 August 1914 – excluded Ulster, although its enaction was postponed until the end of the war.

Throughout the years of war the Irish suffrage societies carried on the campaign in their various ways. They found it was to be no easier to wrest the vote from Irish politicians than it had been from the English. In fact the Irish parliamentary party tried hard to prevent the extension to Ireland of the 1918 Representation of the People Bill, by which the Westminster parliament gave the vote to women over 30.

The Sheey Skeffingtons were probably correct, in principle, in stating that the rousing of the Irish was best left to Irishwomen.  However, there is no escaping the fact that in the years before the First World War, because there were so many Irish suffrage societies that, because of the divisive nature of Irish society in general, were unable to pool their efforts, little success had been achieved in influencing either the Irish public or Irish politicians to give women the vote. The WSPU was not interested in the nuances of the Irish Question, but saw Ireland – specifically Ulster – as another battle ground on which to engage with the enemy. Christabel Pankhurst used the parallels of the Unionist and the suffragette campaigns to emphasise the injustice being done to women by the Asquith government.

Perhaps the incursion from England gave the Irish societies food for thought. It is certainly true that during the war years the Irish societies managed a greater degree of co-operation than heretofore.  For the December 1918 general election the IWFL co-operated with Sinn Fein to run two women candidates, Winifred Carney in Belfast – who was not successful – and Constance Markievicz, in Dublin, who, famously, was – the first woman MP elected to the British parliament, although she did not take her seat at Westminster.

Constance Markievicz, police photo on her arrest after the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916.

Constance Markievicz, police photo on her arrest after the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916.

In 1922, six years before women in Britain, Irishwomen over 21 were granted the vote, albeit reluctantly, by the Irish parliament. In the final stage of the Irish suffrage campaign it was most certainly the effort of Irishwomen, still led by Hanna Sheey Skeffington, that achieved the final victory.


Further reading: E. Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: a regional survey, Routledge, 2008 (paperback).





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Suffrage Stories: Millicent Fawcett’s Bookplate

Here is Millicent Fawcett’s bookplate

MGF bookplate
Rather lovely, I think.

New Dawn, Aesthetic Lilies, Aesthetic Dress (not that Millicent, unlike Rhoda and Agnes Garrett, ever favoured such a style in reality) and the tools of her trade, the Scales of Justice, Books, Pen and Ink

Artist unknown

For those who have not yet seen Millicent at work at her desk in the drawing room of 2 Gower Street, click here


WALKS/Suffrage Stories: Millicent Fawcett and Queen Elizabeth I

Now that the Women’s Library Reading Room is open on the 4th floor of LSE Library, here is another idea  for those who might want to stretch their legs during their visit.

Why not take a gentle meander along Fleet Street and visit Queen Elizabeth I as she stands in her niche over what was the entrance to the Parochial School attached to the church of St Dunstans in the West? Not only is this thought to be the only surviving statue of the Queen carved in her lifetime, but she has a very close connection to Millicent Fawcett, in whose honour the Fawcett Library (as the Women’s Library was originally known) was named.


Statue of Queen Elizabeth I at St Dunstan's in the West

Statue of Queen Elizabeth I at St Dunstan’s in the West

It is thought that the statue was carved in 1586. It then led a rather adventurous life before coming to rest in this niche on the facade of St Dunstans in the West when the church was rebuilt here in the 1830s. Nearly a century later it was in a dilapidated state and its restoration was financed by Dame Millicent Fawcett and her sister, Agnes Garrett, together with ‘Miss Jones of Lincoln’s Inn’ and Gwen John. The latter was not, as is sometimes stated, Gwen John the artist, but Gwen John, playwright and actress, author of a biography ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and a play ‘Gloriana’. Gwen John, whose real name was Gladys Jones, lived with Winifred Jones (‘Miss Jones’), presumably her sister, at 9 Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn. See here for National Portrait Gallery of this Gwen John.

Millicent Fawcett, c 1928

Millicent Fawcett, c 1928

In a rather neat sequence of events, on 28 June 1928 Dame Millicent Fawcett presided at the Annual General Meeting of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, at which the preservation of old churches was the topic of discussion, on 2 July the  Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act, for which she had been campaigning since 1866, became law, and on 31 July she unveiled the restored statue of Queen Elizabeth I. See the unveiling here, although Millicent Fawcett, modest as ever, cannot be seen. However the curtain she caused to be moved, moves. Which is sort of symbolic of the influence she exerted during her long life.

While the statue was undergoing restoration it was discovered that it had originally been coloured. So, the statue was repainted, following the original colours as closely as possible. The farthingale and corsage were white, the face was tinted a flesh colour and her crown was gilded.  Alas, this colouring is no longer obvious to the passer-by and the Queen has rather faded back into the facade of the building.

Millicent Fawcett died just a few days over a year after unveiling the statue and in her will left £700 towards its upkeep, although that fund may now have been exhausted and wound up.

If you wanted to pause, you could combine veneration of the Virgin Queen and thoughts of the venerable suffrage campaigner with a coffee from the stall that is now a permanent fixture just below her niche.

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Suffrage Stories: 1911 Census: Vanishing For The Vote


Vanishing for the Vote 1 001

As readers of this blog will know, since 2009 I have been involved in research on the suffrage boycott of the 1911 census. With Dr Jill Liddington, I worked to uncover the women who followed the call to boycott the census. We studied the circumstances of those who did – and those who did not – refuse to complete the census form and produced, first, a paper for the Women’s History Network Conference, held in Oxford in September 2009, and then an article ,‘Women do not count, neither shall they be counted’: Suffrage, Citizenship and the Battle for the 1911 Census‘ published in the History Workshop Journal in 2011.

It was intended to develop this research into a book, but I decided to pursue other projects  – such as the setting up of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery and writing Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary - as well, of course, as running my bookselling business,’ Woman and Her Sphere’ –  while Jill turned the census research into Vanishing for the Vote. 

I continued, however, to be very interested in uncovering 1911 census boycotters – and wondering about their lives –  and, at odd moments, wrote up my discoveries for the Woman and Her Sphere blog – and gave a paper, ‘No Vote No Census’ ,at the National Archives Conference on the 1911 census, held in the autumn of 2011. You can listen to it here.

Jill later asked me to help compile the extensive  Gazetteer of Suffragettes/Suffragists that constitutes the end section of Vanishing for the Vote.  This is  based on the original research we carried out, supplemented by details of many additional boycotters that prolonged acquaintance with the digitized census has now uncovered.

I am sure that all who are interested in the Edwardian suffrage campaign will be delighted to read Vanishing for the Vote – which takes us right into the lives of the women – and their families – who were prepared to defy the census enumerator in order to highlight their lack of citizenship.

Vanishing for the vote recounts what happened on one night, Sunday 2 April, 1911, when the Liberal government demanded every household comply with its census requirements. Suffragette organisations urged women, all still voteless, to boycott this census.

Many did. Some wrote ‘Votes for Women’ boldly across their schedules. Others hid in darkened houses or, in the case of Emily Wilding Davison, in a cupboard within the Houses of Parliament.

Yet many did not. Even some suffragettes who might be expected to boycott decided to comply – and completed a perfectly accurate schedule. Why?

Vanishing for the vote explores the ‘battle for the census’ arguments that raged across Edwardian England in spring 1911. It investigates why some committed campaigners decided against civil disobedience tactics, instead opting to provide the government with accurate data for its health and welfare reforms.

This book plunges the reader into the turbulent world of Edwardian politics, so vividly recorded on census night 1911. Based on a wealth of brand-new documentary evidence, it offers compelling reading for history scholars and general readers alike.

Sumptuously produced, with 50 illustrations and an invaluable Gazetteer of suffrage campaigners.

To be published by Manchester University Press:

Hardback £65

Paperback: £16.99

37 Lavender Gardens, Battersea -home of John Burns, minister in charge of the Census

37 Lavender Gardens, Battersea -home of John Burns, minister in charge of the Census

Burns' house is remarkably similar in style to that of Henry Nevinson and his wife, Margaret, at 4 Downside Crescent, Hampstead. However, although sharing a similar attitude to architecture, Burns and the Nevinsons were poles apart as regards the Census. While Henry Nevinson was in the thick of the Census parties in central London, Margaret spent the night in this house with a group of women, all of whom refused to give details to the enumerator.

Burns’ house is remarkably similar in style to that of Henry Nevinson and his wife, Margaret, at 4 Downside Crescent, Hampstead. However, although sharing a similar attitude to architecture, Burns and the Nevinsons were poles apart as regards the Census. While Henry Nevinson was in the thick of the Census Night fun in central London, Margaret spent the night in this house with a group of women, all of whom refused to give details to the enumerator. It was not a happy marriage.

32 Well Walk, Hampstead. 'Vanishing for the Vote' reveals something of the domestic argument that went on behind this front door on Census night between Jane Brailsford and her husband, Henry.

32 Well Walk, Hampstead. ‘Vanishing for the Vote’ reveals something of the domestic argument that went on behind this front door on Census night between Jane Brailsford and her husband, Henry. The Census had a knack of highlighting domestic disharmony.

118 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, home of WSPU activist, Maud Joachim. The enumerator was handed out through this door a census form returned with 'Informaiton Refused'.

118 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, home of WSPU activist, Maud Joachim. The census enumerator stood at this door and was refused all information

Clemence Housman resisted the Census as well as Tax. Her Census story is well told in 'Vanishing for the Vote'.

Clemence Housman resisted the Census as well as Tax. Her Census story is well told in ‘Vanishing for the Vote’.

2 Campden Hill Square, home of the Brackenbury family, later became known as 'Mouse Castle' when escaping suffragettes found shelter under its roof. On Census Night it was home to an estimate 25 women and one man.

2 Campden Hill Square, home of the Brackenbury family, later became known as ‘Mouse Castle’ when escaping suffragettes found shelter under its roof. On Census Night it was home to an estimated 25 women and one man.

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Suffrage Stories: The British Museum’s Hunger-Strike Medal And The 1911 Census Boycott

Rather belatedly you might think, I’ve just realised that the British Museum holds a hunger-strike medal.  It, together with a Holloway brooch (which rather oddly is the main image used to illustrate the item online), was awarded to ‘Joan Cather’. Her’s was not a name I recognised from previous suffrage research, so I immediately set about finding out something about her.

The first trace I came across for a woman of that name were a few entries on the London Electoral Register in the 1920s and ’30s. Thus, I discovered that a Joan Cather had been living in London, at 23 Upper Montagu Street, sharing the house with John Leonard Cather. Rather oddly, apart from her death in 1967, this Joan Cather hadn’t left any other trace.

So I turned to John Leonard Cather – looking first at his entry on the 1911 census. And, lo and behold, on his census form he had written ‘Conscientious scruples prevent me from rendering a return of the female occupants of this house for the purpose of assisting statistical tables which will be used as the basis for further vexatious legislation affecting women, & in which they have no voice. Should the Conciliation Committee bill be passed into law this session the additional details will be forthcoming.’

A note has been added ‘Two Females inserted in Summary Books by the Registrar being the probable number.’ One of these would doubtless have been his wife, Joan, and the other a female servant.

Clearly I had the right Cathers.

At this time they were living at ‘Red Cottage, Cavendish Road, Redhill’ and John Cather gave his occupation as ‘Motor Body Builder. Lieut Royal Navy (Retired)’. He had married Joan Waller (1882-1967) in 1908 and was clearly fully supportive of her involvement in the suffrage cause. Indeed, when the militant ‘Men’s Society for Women’s Rights’  was formed in 1912,’ Lieutenant Cather’, as he clearly liked to be known, was its honorary secretary.

Joan Cather’s Hunger-strike Medal gives the date of the imprisonment that related to her hunger-strike as 4 March 1912 – which would indicate that she had taken part in that month’s WSPU window-smashing campaign. However, despite trawling through the relevant issues of Votes for Women, I haven’t yet managed to find a report of the damage she caused to merit this custodial sentence. Nor does her name appear on the Roll of Honour compiled by Suffragette Fellowship c 1960. It is possible that she was using an alias when she was sentenced. It would seem that the British Museum acquired the medal and brooch in 1975, seven years after the death of Joan Cather, but I’m not sure if it was given to the Museum by a family member or whether it was purchased. Perhaps I shall find out!

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Suffrage Stories: The 1911 Census: A Liverpool Boycott – Or John Burns Meets His Waterloo

As I have explained in previous posts, the militant suffrage societies, the Women’s Freedom League and the Women’s Social and Political Union, laid plans to boycott the 1911 census. They urged individual supporters to either refuse to complete their census form or to evade the enumerator by absenting themselves from home on census night. In order to provide shelter for such evaders some women offered ‘open house’ for Census Night.

One such woman was a Liverpool woman, Mrs Florence Hall, who, as Votes for Women reported in its 31 March 1911 issue, ‘would be opening her house – Glenamour, The Park, Waterloo, to Census Resisters’.

Scene of the Waterloo 1911 census boycott (courtesy of Rightmove website)

Scene of the Waterloo 1911 census boycott (courtesy of Rightmove website)

And that is what she did. The head of the household, Joseph Albert Hall, was at home on Census Night  but took part in the boycott, giving no details of his family and leaving the form unsigned.

The census form for ‘Glenamour’ was completed by the Enumerator who noted those present that night as: Joseph Albert Hall, 50 and his wife Florence N Hall, 45, and a daughter, also Florence N. Hall, 14,  together with 2 anonymous men and 9 anonymous women.

Florence Hall had written across the Census Form:

No Vote No Census. House full of evading & resisting suffragettes & male supporters of whom I decline to make any return or give any particulars’

The house, which still carries the name ‘Glenamour’ (now 65 Park Road, Waterloo) was – and is – a large, semi-detached house . On the Form the Enumerator set the number of s rooms (for the purpose of the Census) at 10 (unsurpisingly, it is now divided into flats).

The boycott of the census was by no means the only active contribution that Joseph and Florence Hall made to the ‘Votes for Women’ campaign –  I think we can take it as read that they were members of the Tax Resistance League.

Tax Resistance League postcard

The Women’s Freedom League paper,  The Vote, reported in its 9 November 1912 issue, that:

‘The goods of Mr. J.A. Hall, of “Glenamour,” on October 31, Waterloo-park, Lancashire, were sold for the second time  the first time had been in 1911] against distraint consequent on his refusal to pay income-tax on house property belonging to his wife. The goods were bought in by a friend for the amount of the tax and expenses.

Mrs. Hall, who attended the sale in the unavoidable absence of her husband, explained — by the courtesy of the auctioneer — to the large company of sympathisers present that this action was taken as the most practical and emphatic protest possible against the stupid and unjust action of the Revenue authorities who, despite the fact of the Married Woman’s Property Act under which she herself is liable for her own debts, had forced the issue under the Income Tax Act of 1842. This Act, whilst making the husband liable for the payment of any tax on his wife’s own income, leaves him absolutely without any power to obtain from her any information with regard to her income if she declines to disclose it.

Mrs. Hall emphasised the absurdity and unfairness of such an enactment, and said it was a matter for considerable surprise that, quite apart from the merits of the woman’s question, men had not bestirred themselves to force the Government to remedy this utterly impossible state of things and make women, if they could, pay this or any other tax whilst withholding from them the Parliamentary vote.’

It hasn’t been easy to find out much more about the Halls. I think Florence’s maiden name was ‘Nightingale’ – it’s rather startling just how many female ‘Nightingale’ children around the time of her birth – 1868 – were still being named for the heroine of the Crimea. Joseph Hall was born in Liverpool, the son of a cooper, and seems to have worked in export sales. The couple had been over to the US for some time at the end of the 19th century, returning in 1898. By that time they had one daughter (who may have been the one given the name ‘Florence’ on the census form, but whose real name was ‘Marjorie’). In 1901 the Halls were living in Leytonstone, now with a new-born son, Harold, who may have been one of the anonymous males enumerated ten years later in ‘Glenamour’.

The Halls  returned to the US in October 1913, but must have returned to Britain because I next come across them in 1921, travelling over to Los Angeles with Harold, who is now an engineer. By 1927 the Halls have quit these shores for good and are permanent residents in the US, living in Glen Avenue, Port Chester, Westchester Co, New York – which Street View shows me looks rather agreeable.

To listen to a talk I gave on the suffragette boycott at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census click here

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Suffrage Stories: The 1911 Census: The Leicester Suffragettes’ Mass Evasion

As I have explained in previous posts, the militant suffrage societies, the Women’s Freedom League and the Women’s Social and Political Union, laid plans to boycott the 1911 census. They urged individual supporters to either refuse to complete their census form or to evade the enumerator by absenting themselves from home on census night.

In order to provide shelter for would-be evaders some local branches of the societies organised  ‘events’ – either in houses taken specially for the occasion or in the branch office.

In  Votes for Women, 24 March 1911, under the heading: ‘Some Country Arrangements’, the Leicester WSPU branch revealed their plan. ‘An all-night party is being arranged. Apply for all arrangements to Miss Dorothy Pethick, 14 Bowling Green Street, Leicester.

Dorothy Pethick, then the WSPU organizer in Leicester, was the sister of Mrs Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, one of the WSPU leaders. Kate Frye was to encounter her two years later, while campaigning at the Reading by-election in  October 1913 and described her (see Campaigning for the Vote ) as ‘very like her sister, Mrs P Lawrence and is very nice. Most compassionate’ –  ‘She went off dressed up to the nines to sell Votes [for Women].

Leicester WSPU Shop (courtesy of

Leicester WSPU Shop – scene of the all-night party on the night on 2 April 1911 (courtesy of

Dorothy Pethick did, indeed, organise an all-night party and I’ve recently managed to uncover the census form that George Cooper,  the local Registrar, completed for: ’14 Bowling Green Street Leicester – Suffragettes Office.’

He described how:

‘Suffragettes – about 20 – varying in age from 17 to 50. Most of these were people of no occupation – a doctor’s wife and daughter were amongst them.’

He appears to have taken matters further than any other Registrar and had spent some time inspecting:

‘Women’s Suffrage Society Report and Balance Sheet dated Wed 15 March 1911′

to come to the conclusion that:

‘Number of members in Leicester and Leicestershire 264

Number residing in sub district of south Leicester 93

Number accounted for on schedules 72

estimated number not enumerated 21

of which 13 females spent the night at 14 Bowling Green Lane

There were 33 females in and out of this building during the night.’

That is the most thorough contemporary assessment by a Registrar of a local WSPU census boycott that I’ve yet seen. He appears to have taken the trouble to check the names of those listed in the WSPU Report against the names of those who had completed census forms.

The ‘doctor’s wife and daughter’ mentioned by the Registrar will be Mrs Alice Pemberton Peake, wife of William Pemberton Peake, ‘medical practitioner’, who lived at 21 Oxford Street, Leicester. On census night he was at home with his daughter, Lily (aged 19) and son, Charles (aged 14) and one servant. He described himself as ‘married’, but of his wife and second daughter, Helena (aged 17), there is no trace. On 21 March Mrs Pemberton Peake had taken the chair at a WSPU meeting in Leicester.

Alice Hawkins was another WSPU member absent from home on census night – she’d doubtless joined the party at 14 Bowling Green Lane. Another WSPU member, Evelyn Carryer, had written ‘No Vote No Census’ across her form and gave no other details – other than writing ‘unenfranchised’ in the Disability Column – but it isn’t clear from this whether she had actually absented herself as well as making this written protest. More research might, by a process of elimination, build up a picture of the others of the  13 census evaders who spent the night at 14 Bowling Green Street on the night of 2 April 1911. The picture will, however, always be hazy. One hundred  years later it is well nigh impossible to place an evader with total certainty in any particular place. Although the boycott had little effect on national statistics, it certainly was successful in hiding from history the determined evader.

To listen to a talk I gave on the suffragette boycott at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census click here

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Suffrage Stories: The 1911 Census: The Bradford Boycotters

Mary Phillips

Mary Phillips

‘NO VOTE NO CENSUS Posterity will know how to judge the Government if it persists in bringing about the falsification of national statistics instead of acting on its own principles and making itself truly representational of the people.’ Mary Phillips

This is the statement that Mary Phillips, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) organizer, wrote across the census form issued for 68 Manningham Lane, Bradford – the WSPU’s office.

The Enumerator noted in his Census Summary Book that 68 Manningham Lane was ‘a Lock Up Shop no sleeping accommodation’. Nothwithstanding,  he recorded that Mary Phillips and 9 other females – suffragettes – had spent the night there – but that he was unable to obtain any information about them.

Mary Phillips had advertised in Votes for Women (31 March) the ‘At Home’ for Census Night – from 11pm on 2 April to noon on Monday 3 April – and I wonder if she was rather disappointed that she was supported by only 9 others. For what it is worth, there is no mention at all in the following week’s issue of the meeting planned for Wednesday 4 April in which members were to tell of ‘Where I spent Census Night’. Had Bradford, perhaps, not been that enthusiastic?

Manningham Lane, Bradford (image courtesy of Maggie Land Blanck)

Manningham Lane, Bradford (image courtesy
of Maggie Land Blanck)

To listen to a talk I gave on the suffragette boycott at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census click here

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: The London Opera House, Kingsway

Ever since the decision was made for the Women’s Library to move to LSE (now open as the Women’s Library @ LSE) I have been writing posts that draw attention to the many locations associated with the women’s movement in the area around Aldwych and the Strand. My hope is that researchers in the Women’s Library, when taking a break from their labours, will welcome some information that will allow them to see the surrounding area with fresh eyes.

Today I would like to direct your attention to the site between Portugal Street and Sardinia Street that now houses the Peacock Theatre. Many readers will have been to that theatre, rather oddly sited in the basement of a modern office-type block – if only to take younger members of the family to the annual Christmas treat of ‘The Snowman’. Have you ever wondered why there is a theatre there – in what is now a rather untheatrical area? The answer is related to the wonderful building in the photograph below. 

London Opera House, Kingsway. (Image courtesy of

London Opera House, Kingsway. (Image courtesy of

The London Opera House, its rooftop adorned with figures representing Melody and Harmony, opened 102 years ago today – on 13 November 1911. It occupied an entire block of Kingsway, between Portugal Street and Sardinia Street, and was built for Oscar Hammerstein (Sr) , whose idea was that it should rival the Covent Garden Opera House. The building was opulent and enormous, capable of seating over 2600 people.

Its first season ran from its opening until March 1912, when there was then a hiatus. It was this lack of a follow-up season that, I think, accounts for the fact that on Friday 15 March it was available to be hired for a ‘Suffragists’ non-militant and non-party demonstration’ by the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. Kate Frye was its organizer and in Campaigning for the Vote  you can read of her efforts, which included mustering the banners of the various suffrage societies – she collected that of the WSPU from Mrs Garrud’s gym – in order to decorate the auditorium. Eva Moore and May Whitty of the Actresses’ Franchise League were amongst the suffragists on the platform, very fitting in such a theatrical venue.

It was not the first time in its short life that the Opera House had held a suffragette meeting. The previous week, the police, on the hunt for Christabel Pankhurst who had given them the slip from nearby Clement’s Inn, searched the Opera House, where she was reported to be hiding. However the New York Times reported that all they found was ‘Oscar Hammerstein sitting alone in state at a big table in the vestibule, with a printed notice behind him reading “Subscriptions department for the Grand Opera Summer Season”.’ The reporter described how ‘Outside the Opera House were posters announcing tomorrow’s meeting’  ‘So you are a sympathiser’, said the correspondent to Mr Hammerstein. ‘I don’t know anything about it,’ he replied, ‘except that I let the opera house to them before they started on their stunts, and can’t break the contract, or else they might break up the opera house’.

The London Opera House was so well-placed in the middle of suffrage society territory – and right beside the Tea Cup Inn, a favourite haunt – that it was to be the venue for various other suffrage meetings.

Hammerstein’s Summer Season was his last at the London Opera House and in July he gave up and returned to America. The theatre re-opened in December, staging variety shows and showing films, but not before it had once again, on 4 November, been hired by the suffrage societies who held a joint meeting protesting at the proposed reform bill.

Pankhurst The War 001It was at the London Opera House on 8 September 1914 that Christabel re-appeared when her exile came to an end, beginning her speech by saying ‘It is very good to be back in one’s own country again, amongst one’s own friends’ – and ending by promising ‘[The war] will sweep away, it must and shall sweep away, the superstition, the narrowness, the jealousy, the suicidal folly which have made of our country two opposing camps – the enfranchised men in one, and the voteless women in the other’.

From 1917 -1940 the building became a cinema – the Stoll Picture House – but from 1942 to 1957 reverted to live theatre – before being demolished in 1958. Planning permission for the replacement building required the incorporation of a theatre – hence The Peacock.

Virginia Woolf BuildingThe  office block has now, I see, been taken over by King’s College, which is marching up Kingsway into LSE territory. It is now known as the ‘Virginia Woolf Building’. Which allows my imagination another suffrage spin – to visualise Mary Datchet returning down Kingsway from her suffrage society office in Russell Square to her flat near the Strand. She glances at the poster outside the London Opera House advertising a suffrage meeting (perhaps her society, the PDS, would have been taking part but perhaps, as it probably supported adult, rather than women’s suffrage, not). Little did she suspect that her creator’s name would 100 years later adorn its – rather less – opulent – successor.

The copy of Christabel Pankurst’s 8 September 1914 speech, The War, referred to above will be for sale in my next catalogue.

For much more about the London Opera House and its successors click here.

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Suffrage Stories: The 1911 Census: The Gillingham Suffragettes’ Boycott

Jezreel's Tower in 1906. (Courtesy of Medway

Jezreel’s Tower in 1906. (Courtesy of Medway

It was in a hall associated with the crazy folly that was Jezreel’s Tower that a band of Gillingham suffragettes amused themselves on the night of 2 April 1911 as they sought to evade the census enumerator.

The protest was arranged by Laura Ainsworth (for whose biographical details see her entry in my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide), who had a couple of months earlier taken up her post as WSPU organizer in North Kent, charged with starting a campaign to cover Maidstone, Chatham, Gravesend and Sittingbourne. For a photo of Laura Ainsworth click here

Not long after her arrival the WSPU revealed that it planned to call on its members to boycott the national census – the point being that for this census the government had constructed a new set of questions directly relating to women’s fertility, with the intention of using the resulting statistics as a basis for future legislation. Suffragettes argued that the government could hardly expect them to co-operate when, without a parliamentary vote, they would have no control over any new laws affecting their work and welfare.

Laura Ainsworth called on the women of North Kent to join in this boycott, on 24 March announcing in Votes for Women that in order to provide a place for women to shelter so as to be absent from their own homes on the night of 2 April – and thereby not be counted by the enumerator there –  ‘A public hall has been taken and a social evening is being arranged. The hall will be open at 11.30 pm. Refreshments are being provided.’

The ‘public hall’ that was rented was the Dancing Academy run by 31-year-old Mrs Alice Ada Worrall in Jezreel Hall, Canterbury Street, Gillingham. Mrs Worrall and her husband, William, an engine fitter and nominal principal of the Dancing Academy, were safely at home (71 Duncan Road, Gillingham) with their three children on census night. Presumably they were not active WSPU supporters, merely happy to take an evening’s rent for their premises.

Jezreel's Hall, Canterbury Street. (Image courtesy of Medway

Jezreel’s Buildings, Canterbury Street, before their demolition in 2008. (Image courtesy of Medway

I’m sure a local Gillingham historian will be able to correct me if I’m wrong, but I assume that there was a hall – Jezreel’s Hall – within this block associated with the Tower and that was where the Dancing Academy was sited. I’ve come as near as I can to getting the information correct because (thanks to my new zippy computer and the complicated dance between two websites – and I have at last uncovered the census form that was completed by the enumerator that night.

The address on the form is ‘Dancing Academy, Jezreel’s Hall, Canterbury Street. Gillingham’. The ‘Head of House’ is ‘Mr Worrall’.

The form is unsigned, presumably completed by the Registrar, who notes ‘Party of Suffragettes assembled in Dancing Academy – 40 in number 1 male and 39 females’.

The suffragettes may have intended for their boycott to escape totally the notice of the census authorities – even though we can be sure the latter were studying the pages of Votes for Women and would have known that something was planned in the area. However, as the Chatham, Rochester and Gillingham News reported on 8 April, the exuberance of the party caused so much noise that the police came to investigate. They then alerted the enumerator who was able to record the numbers present. It was the knowledge that such a form did exist that has been so tantalizing. Even though the Gillingham boycotters were not very successful in eluding the enumerator they have certainly foxed for a good long time this 1911 census detective.

You can read here a piece that BBC Kent put up on its website on the 100th anniversary of the census boycott back in 2011 and here a post written by a Chatham Grammar School for Girls pupil after a visit to the Medway Archives.  To listen to a talk I gave on the suffragette boycott at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census click here

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Suffrage Stories: The 1911 Census: More Birmingham Boycotters

John Burns, the suffragettes and the census boycott

Suffragette evaders of the 1911 census can be very difficult to uncover – that, of course, was their intention. It is well nigh impossible to identify individual evaders who, with their companions, took part in one of the organised mass evasions. However it is particularly tantalising when the organisers of a mass evasion publicised its whereabouts in the suffrage press and yet proof of the protest in the form of a group census form cannot be found. We can be sure that the authorities were studying Votes for Women and knew exactly where such gathering would take place.

Dorothy Evans (right) after she had left Birmingham to organize for the WSPU in Ulster

Dorothy Evans (right) after she had left Birmingham to organize for the WSPU in Ulster

One such is the mass evasion that took place in Birmingham. The WSPU organizers there, Dorothy Evans (for her biographical details see my Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide) and Gladys Hazel (1880-1959, who had been a teacher at King Edward’s School, Handsworth, and was later to be a suffrage organizer in Bristol) entered fully into the spirit of the census boycott. By 17 March (as quoted in Votes for Women of that date) they were planning all-night entertainment -‘ a meeting, speeches, dancing and probably a play. There will be chalking parties at 6, baths at 7 and a second breakfast at 8. Evaders of the Census who attend these parties have been asked to apply for forms in order to return them with ‘No Vote No Census’ written across them.’

The following week Votes for Women divulged further information – Resisters were to assemble at the office at 11pm for the entertainments, the baths were to be had at Kent Street and the 8am breakfast at Lyons in New Street.

With all this information available, how was it that I couldn’t find a census form for the office – 97 John Bright Street – where the all-night meeting was to take place? Well, whether it’s due to my speedy new computer – or the experience that has accrued from four years of searching the census websites – I have just discovered the relevant document.

There it is: The cover reads:Name of Head of Family etc: Suffragists. Address: WSPU Committee Rooms, 97 John Bright St.

The form shows that of the 130 Suffragists who spent the night there 120 were female and 10 were male. The Superintendent Registrar wrote on the form ‘This schedule is filled in as per instructions received from General Office April 8th 1911′

Moreover I have also uncovered the individual census forms for Dorothy Evans and Gladys Hazel, left for them at their lodgings, 34 Harold Rd Edgbaston. They filled them out identically, quoting the rubric – ‘Votes for Women’ ‘No Vote No Census’ and the enumerator wrote on each – ‘Housekeeper informs me that Miss Evans (Miss Hazel) did not sleep at no 34 Harold Road on Sunday’.

At the terrace house – still there and still available to let – though the agents now aim for students as tenants rather than suffragettes – the women shared three rooms between them – while the landlord, Thomas Wilkes, his wife (presumably the housekeeper mentioned by the enumerator) and nephew had the run of the remaining six.

If only a fraction of the 130 Birmingham evaders filled in their census forms, as did Dorothy Evans and Gladys Evans, they should be somewhere on the census websites – if only we could track them down. However, without a name or an address, this is difficult – although not impossible. Perhaps those who took part in Fight for the Right – the short film about the Birmingham suffragettes – will be inspired to uncover these hidden suffragettes.

See also: Suffrage Stories: An Entire Birmingham College Boycotts the Census

Suffrage Stories: ‘From Frederick Street to Winson Green: the Birmingham Women’s Suffrage Campaign 

To listen to a talk I gave on the suffragette boycott at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census click here

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: Following In Kate’s Footsteps: Norfolk

It was in this  house, 65 Commercial Road, East Dereham, that on Thursday 16 March 1911 Kate Frye embarked on her career as an organizer for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage

65 Commercial Road, East Dereham

65 Commercial Road, East Dereham

In 1911 this was the home of Mrs Alice West, a widow, who lived here with her young daughter, Hilda, and was able to accommodate at least two paying guests. Over the next couple of years Kate was to be a frequent lodger, describing the rooms on that first night as ‘So nice – comfortable and so clean and a fire in my room to unpack by.’

I was paying a flying visit to Norfolk (to view ‘Houghton Revisited’, the once-in-a-lifetime rehang of Walpole’s pictures at Houghton Hall) and took the opportunity to follow Kate Frye around Dereham, Fakenham and Burnham Market.  These were all places in which, between 1911 and 1913, she worked hard to spread the suffrage message.

During the several months that she spent, on and off, in Dereham, there were occasions when it was not possible for her to stay with Mrs West and she then took up residence around the corner from Commercial Road – at 63 Norwich Street, the home of another widow, Mrs Martha Cox. Kate gives the impression that this house was in a poorer condition and caused Mrs Cox, who was most well-meaning and attentive, a great deal of hard work to keep clean and in good order.

For instance, from Kate’s diary: ‘9 May 1912 I am really comfortable here, Mrs Cox is ever so good, too good and I hate to think of her work all day long in this rotten old house.’ I, therefore, wasn’t much surprised, as we walked down Norwich Street, to find that Mrs Cox’s house has been demolished.

Formerly the Dereham branch of the London and Provincial Bank

Formerly the Dereham branch of the London and Provincial Bank

On the day that Kate commented on Mrs Cox’s ‘rotten old house’, this is where she had spent the afternoon – in the apartment above this bank – then the London and Provincial. Here lived the most reliable suffrage sympathisers that Kate encountered in Dereham – the family of the bank manager, Charles Cory.  And, on that afternoon – 9 May 1912 – it was in their drawing room that Kate succeeded in setting up the Dereham branch of the New Constitutional Society. The Corys’ daughter, Violet, was honorary secretary. When compiling The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide I had wondered why this small Norfolk market town was one of the few places to boast a branch of the NCS.. Kate’s diary provides the answer.  It was to Dereham that she was sent and so it was here that she went to work. Why, out of the whole of England, Dereham was selected by the NCS still remains a mystery.

A year earlier, less than a week after arriving in Dereham, Kate organised her first public ‘Votes for Women’ meeting. It was held in Dereham’s 18th-century Assembly Rooms. On 22 March 1911 Kate wrote in her diary: ‘I was over at the hall at 7. We opened the doors at 7.20 and in very little time the place was full. I had to stand at the door and kept the youths and maidens out till the police officer arrived and then went up to sell Literature.

Entrance to the Assembly Rooms, Dereham

Entrance to the Assembly Rooms, Dereham

Here is the door outside which Kate stood that evening in March 1911.

Having formalised the presence of the NCS in Dereham by setting up its branch, Kate lost no time in arranging another public meeting. The evening of Wednesday 12 June 1912 turned out to be one of the most personally exciting she ever enjoyed – she certainly kept evidence of it and occasionally referred to it in diary entries many years later.

Assembly Rooms, Dereham - front view

Assembly Rooms, Dereham – front view

It was only by visiting the Assembly Rooms that I made proper sense of Kate’s description. Of that evening she remarks that ‘Miss Cory sold tickets downstairs and I was the doorkeeper and spoke to everyone coming in.’ I now realise that the main hall is upstairs – behind the windows in the first floor in this photograph. (A slimming club was using the hall when I visited and, in the circumstances, I didn’t like to take a photograph of the interior!). That evening Kate was probably stationed upstairs – welcoming the audience and waiting with bated breath for the arrival of the main speaker, the Rev Hugh Chapman. She had already met him at the station and taken him to the King’s Head in Norwich Street, where he was to stay, and had been swept off her feet (as she had in the past) by the apparent fervour of his greeting.

Chapman eventually arrived – brought along from the King’s Head by a fellow clergyman.. The two were friends –  the Rev Harold Davidson, rector of nearby Stiffkey, was to become notorious in later years when, after having been defrocked, he met his death at Skegness when a lion turned on him while he was performing as ‘Daniel in the Lion’s Den’. It would appear that Kate could spot a wrong ‘un, describing Davidson, after this one brief meeting, as ‘a frivolous clergyman with a frivolous wife and a beyond-all whopping frivolous young lady – destined for the stage – the whole party seemed quite mad.’ Clearly an apt summation. Anyway that was just the beginning of what was to be for Kate a memorable evening in Dereham.

A month previously – in May 1912 – Kate had lived for a few weeks in Fakenham, campaigning for the NCS at a by-election. She stayed in digs at 1 Carlton Villas, Queen’s Road – an address that I wasn’t able to identify with certainty when I visited. The 1911 census is not very helpful – the Queen’s Road enumerator having failed to give addresses on the cover of the forms in his area.

Queen's Road, Fakenham

Queen’s Road, Fakenham

But if I don’t know exactly where in Queen’s Road she stayed, I do know that she must have passed this jeweller’s shop – still here a hundred years later – as she walked to and from the centre of Fakenham each day.

W. Parker and Son, Norwich Street, Fakenham

W. Parker and Son, Norwich Street, Fakenham

The shop’s owner told me that the clock, too, has been there all that time -the only difference being that it now runs on a battery.

Dereham Church

Fakenham Church

On Sunday 19 May 1912, while lodging at Carlton Villas,  Kate wrote in her diary ‘Had a great scramble to get to Church by 11 o’clock but I did it. I always think Suffragettes look such heathens if no one goes. I was the only representative. ‘

A few days earlier Kate had made a recce visit to Burnham Market – finding it ‘Such a quaint pretty spot’. She did all the things that a good organiser should do – identifying a room available for hire, the name of the local policeman, the name of likely supporters etc. These included Mr Hammill, the local doctor, who lived in this lovely house, and whom she described as ‘political’.

Burnham House, Burnham Market

Burnham House, Burnham Market

Burnham House is just over the way from the Hoste Arms, where we stayed the night – most comfortably.

Hoste Arms, 2013

Hoste Arms, 2013

And It was in the Hoste Arms- on 23 May 1912 that Kate enjoyed a brief flirtation with a couple of Irish politicians – anti-Home Rulers. You can read more of this in a previous post – Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Wrestles With North Norfolk, 1912 and much more about Kate Frye in Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary edited by Elizabeth Crawford. For a full description of the book click here Wrap-around paper covers, 226 pp, over 70 illustrations, all drawn from Kate Frye’s personal archive. ISBN 978 1903427 75 0 £14.99. Copies available from Francis Boutle Publishers, or from Elizabeth Crawford –  or from all good bookshops.  

Armed with Campaigning for the Vote you, too, can follow in Kate’s footsteps – not only in Norfolk, but also in London, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

'Campaigning for the Vote' - Front and back cover of wrappers
‘Campaigning for the Vote’ – Front and back cover of wrappers

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WALKS: Mrs Ayres Purdie, Kingsway And (Alas) Covent Garden Tube Station

Ever since the decision was made for the Women’s Library to move to LSE (now open as the Women’s Library @ LSE) I have been writing posts that draw attention to the many locations associated with the women’s movement in the area around Aldwych and the Strand. My hope is that researchers in the Women’s Library, when taking a break from their labours, will welcome some information that will allow them to see the surrounding area with fresh eyes. Today I would like to direct your attention to Craven House – on the north-east side of Kingsway.

I had long thought that I must find out more about the rather intriguing life – and death – of the woman whom I knew to have been in business there, but the building has spent a long time under scaffolding and it was only when it recently re-emerged that I turned my attention to it.  To my pleasure – and rather to my relief – I then discovered that the research has already been undertaken. For Stephen Walker, of the Cardiff Business School, has published an excellent short study of the life of Mrs Ethel Ayres Purdie in Critical Perspectives in Accounting, vol 22, issue 1, 2011. I would most heartily commend this article to all those interested in practical suffragism. (I see that a copy of the journal is available for consultation in the LSE Library.)

Craven House, Kingsway

Craven House, Kingsway

It was in Craven House that around 1908 Mrs Ethel Ayres Purdie put up a brass plate to  indicate that her accountancy practice was open for business. A few months later, in May 1909,  she was elected a member of the London Association of Accountants and thus became the first woman in Britain to be admitted to an accountancy organisation. (The LAA is now subsumed in the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, based close to the Women’s Library at 29 Lincoln’s Inn Fields.)

Rather as Elizabeth Garrett was able to qualify as a doctor only by finding and exploiting a fault-line in the medical educational system, so Mrs Ayres Purdie was only able to obtain membership of a professional organisation because the LAA was recently formed and not yet entrenched in tradition. It had been called into being in 1904 to address the needs of accountants debarred for one reason or another – such as the inability to serve a long period of articles – from the senior organisations. Mrs Ayres Purdie had, of course, on account of her sex, already been rejected by the senior, more prestigious, accountancy associations. In fact even the LAA rejected her on her first application, but  a few months later more enlightened elements persuaded the Association to accept her. Yet another barrier that convention had erected against working women had been breached and another, potentially lucrative, profession was now open to them.

Who was Mrs Ethel Ayres Purdie? 

She had been born Ethel Ayres in Islington in 1874. The 1881 census shows her, the elder daughter of Henry William Ayres, an ‘engineer toolmaker’, living at 14 Owen’s Row on the borders of Islington and Clerkenwell – coincidentally only a few doors away from where I live and where I am writing this piece. No 14 is long-since demolished and the space it occupied is now the site of City and Islington College. As was the case with all the houses in Owen’s Row, no 14 was in multi-occupation  – although the Ayres shared with only one other family (my own house, admittedly rather taller, was home  in 1881 to 16 people). By 1893 the Ayres had moved down the road to the more leafy surroundings of 15 Northampton Square, the central area of which had been recently re-designed (1885) by Fanny Wilkinson for the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association. (For much more about Fanny see Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle and here.)

Nos 8-18 Northampton Square (now demolished), photographed in 1953. Courtesy of British History Online, Survey of London vol 46

Nos 8-18 Northampton Square (now demolished), photographed in 1953. Courtesy of British History Online, Survey of London vol 46

After leaving school Ethel Ayres was employed in the Telegraph Department of the Post Office, just the kind of occupation to appeal to a lively, ambitious girl. of the skilled artisan class.

In 1897 she married Frank Sidney Purdie, who lived in Coptic Street, in the shadow of St George’s Bloomsbury, where the couple were married. Frank Purdie was the son of a silversmith and worked as a commercial traveller. He was probably then employed by his father but later became a traveller in educational supplies. The couple moved  out to Willesden – and when the 1901 census was taken were living at  Sellons Avenue with their first son, 3-month-old Harold Ayres Purdie. A second son, Desmond Tremeer Purdie (Tremeer was Ethel’s mother’s maiden name) was born in the autumn of 1902. A year later the family had moved to 11 St Alban’s Road, Harlesden.

Over the next four years, while caring for two young children and running her household, Ethel Ayres Purdie attended accountancy classes run by the Society of Arts, passing her final exam in 1906. By then she and Frank had left Harlesden and were living with her parents at 13 Stock Orchard Crescent, Lower Holloway. (This is evidenced in the London Local Electoral Register. On the night of the 1911 census Frank is at home with her parents – and there is no trace of Ethel, who was clearly evading the enumerator, presumably taking her young sons with her.) It may be that they moved specifically so that the children might have the care of their grandmother while their mother was studying.

Mrs Ayres Purdie certainly used 13 Stock Orchard Crescent as her first practice address before, very soon, becoming sufficiently confident of her professional future to rent an office (no 52) in Craven House. Kingsway had been formally opened in 1905 but building was slow to progress and the street was still lined with hoardings disguising unsold lots. Craven House was one of the first of the new – imposing – Kingsway buildings and by choosing to set up her office here Mrs Ayres Purdie was positioning herself at the heart of London’s most modern development. The choice of Kingsway may have also, of course,  been influenced by its proximity to many of the women’s organisations in which Mrs Ayres Purdie was now interested.

Having personally advanced the woman’s cause in her chosen line of work, she was clearly a woman sympathetic to the newly-energised suffrage movement. In fact she was able to both provide financial advice and to earn fees by supporting a range of women’s organisations. For instance she was financial adviser to the Women’s Social and Political Union and, later, to the East London Federation of Suffragettes, auditor to the Women’s Freedom League, to Minerva Publishing (the proprietor of the WFL paper, The Vote), and, from the First World War to 1920. of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance. In addition she was a founder member and leading light of the Women’s Tax Resistance League, which held many of its early meetings in her Craven House office.

'The information given above is compiled for the Women's Tax Resistance League by Mrs Ethel Ayres Purdie, A.L.L.A., Income Tax Expert'

‘The information given above is compiled for the Women’s Tax Resistance League by Mrs Ethel Ayres Purdie, A.L.L.A., Income Tax Expert’

She wrote the text for several WTRL leaflets – including  No Vote No Tax. For it was in the realm of tax law and advice that Mrs Ayres Purdie excelled – fighting against the unfair treatment of married women in the British income tax system. All her battles are clearly set out in Stephen Walker’s comprehensive article and illustrate how imperative it was (and is) to augment political campaigning with concrete action. Thus Mrs Ayres Purdie brought cases to court to test the boundaries of tax law, as well as representing individual women who refused to pay tax while they were denied the parliamentary vote. She was the author of a play, Red-tape Comedy, published in The Vote in November 1912, which was based on the case she had conducted for Dr Alice Burns, a married woman doctor.

Women's Tax Resistance League badge

Women’s Tax Resistance League badge

Mrs Ayres Purdie advertised her services in suffrage-related papers such as The Common Cause ,The Vote, and The Englishwoman –  the only woman entitled under the Revenue Act 1903 to appear on behalf of clients before the Special Commissioners of Income Tax. She named this part of her practice ‘The Women Taxpayer’s Agency’ to make her area of expertise quite  explicit.Her practice was so successful that she was able to employ three or four clerks and In 1914  took on a female pupil who served five years’ of articles under her.

Women Tax Payers' Agency

After the WSPU window-smashing campaign of March 1912, which affected businesses in the area, Mrs Purdie’s landlord objected to the notice advertising the Agency that she displayed in a window  of Craven House but, rather than removing it, she merely moved her office across Kingsway to new premises in the most happily named, Hampden House (John Hampden being the ‘patron saint’ of tax resisters).

In 1914 she was personally involved in the case of Edwy Clayton, the scientist accused of producing explosives for the WSPU. Not that Mrs Ayres Purdie was a bomb maker – but she was accused of trying to help Clayton save some of his possessions and thereby deprive the Treasury of its dues – see The Times, 2 April 1914, for the delightfully intricate details of this trial. Amazingly enough she was acquitted. With the WSPU ensconced in Lincoln’s Inn House – very close by, on the same side of Kingsway – Mrs Ayres Purdie was conducting her business at the heart of militancy – both physically and metaphorically.

With the outbreak of war Mrs Purdie found new organisations to advise – for instance she was auditor to the Women’s Auxiliary force. In the post-war world she became auditor to the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries, whom we have already encountered on a previous Walk, and In 1919 appeared in front of the Royal Commission on Income Tax to argue that the income tax system was not fair in its treatment of married women. She apparently told the Commissioners that, as the letters about her business that the tax authorities sent to Hampden House were addressed to her husband, they remained unopened as he did not visit the premises. She was reported as saying that ‘I have never yet made a return of my income, and no tax has ever been paid on it’. I must say I do find this rather extraordinary – surely the tax authorities were not so lax as to ignore this potential windfall? I wonder what was the repercussion of divulging this information to the Royal Commission?

In 1919 Ethel Ayres Purdie moved her office  further south down Kingsway, on the same side of the road, to no 84.  She and Frank had moved during the War from Stock Orchard Crescent to nearby Hillmarton Road (no 34).  Her father died in October 1922.

Gillespie Road Tube Station as it was in Mrs Ayres Purdie's day (now rebuilt and renamed Arsenal)

Gillespie Road Tube Station as it was in Mrs Ayres Purdie’s day (now rebuilt and renamed Arsenal)

On 21 February 1923 Mrs Ayres Purdie gave a lecture – ‘If I were Chancellor of the Exchequer’ – at the International Women’s Franchise Club in Grafton Street, Mayfair. But clearly all was not well. Barely three weeks later, around 16 March, there was an incident at Gillespie Road tube station (now Arsenal) when she had to be restrained from falling in front of a train. Gillespie Road is a station on the Piccadilly line -the line that she would have used to travel to her office – but not the nearest to her home. Holloway Road station, also on the Piccadilly line,  is very much closer to Hillmarton Road. This ‘incident’ was obviously not an aberration for ten days later, on 26 March, at Covent Garden station, the ‘work’ end of her Piccadilly line journey, Mrs Ayres Purdie, as her death certificate states, ‘jumped in front of a train’ and shortly afterwards died of her injuries at Charing Cross Hospital. An inquest was held on 29 March and a verdict of ‘Suicide while of unsound mind’ was recorded.

The inquest reports have been destroyed and the only information that can now be gleaned comes from newspapers.  The Evening Standard reported, 29 March 1923, that Frank Purdie had revealed that ‘his wife had been suffering from nervousness and insomnia, and feared that she was losing her mental power, and would be unable to carry on business’. The Daily merely commented that tube stations were an incitement to suicide.

Who can know what was in Ethel Ayres Purdie’s mind? There is no mention of a suicide note. Was ‘business’ to her so central to life that the possibility of ‘failing mental power’ would be a total disaster. Possibly.  She was only 48 years old, her mother was still living (d 1931) and her sons were in their very early 20s.

The Vote, 13 April 1923, devoted its front page to an obituary of Mrs Ayres Purdie – including the only photograph of her that I have seen – telling nothing of the cause of her death – only that it was ‘sudden’ and ‘to be deplored’ (but I think that what was meant that her death itself was deplored not its execution). In the general manner of such tributes the piece is relentlessly upbeat – describing her as having a ‘winsome, cheery personality’ (though one would have hoped that some of her fellow members of the WFL might have noticed that she had been less ‘cheery’ of late) and noting that she was a devoted mother and the “‘best of chums’ to her husband”.

Naturally one should not be purient but I could not help noticing that  barely two years later Ethel’s ‘chum’  remarried – choosing as his second wife a young woman (Muriel) who, aged 25, was only two years older than the elder of his sons.  However around this time the names of Frank and Muriel Purdie, together with that of Ethel’s son, Harold, are all listed together on the London local electoral register as occupiers of 84 Kingsway, Mrs Ayres Purdie’s former office, suggesting, perhaps, that the second marriage had not caused any family dissension. Life can be so much more surprising and shocking than a novel or a narrative history (suffrage or otherwise) that has all the players concentrating on the one goal little regarding the specifically personal factors that may, in reality, be overwhelming their thoughts.

Covent Garden tube

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Suffrage Stories: Marjorie Hamilton: An Unknown Suffrage Artist

Procession-Pic-for-Clive2 I have long admired this image, created to advertise the 1911 ‘Women’s Coronation Procession’. This particular item was carefully laid by Kate Frye between the pages of her diary. She was proud to be marching that day in the Actresses’ Franchise League contingent.

However I have only just discovered the name of the artist of this appealing flyer was and have immediately set about trying to find out what I can about her.

The name was delivered to me by Ken Florey who, in his superb Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia: an illustrated Historical Study, mentions the image, naming the artist as ‘Marjorie Hamilton’. The US suffrage society, the Women’s Political Union, had clearly recognised an appealing design when they saw it and used it to advertise a meeting held by Mrs Pankhurst in New York’s Carnegie Hall (see Votes for Women, 5 January 1912). Marjorie Hamilton’s name doesn’t appears in Lisa Tickner’s Spectacle of Women – and I must admit that I had not come across it in my own researches into women suffrage artists.

However, now that I have looked into the matter, I see that on 9 June 1911, in the issue that immediately preceded the Procession, the cartoon that appears the front page of  Votes for Women was drawn by Marjorie Hamilton. Moreover, I actually hold a copy of the front page of this issue in my bookseller’s stock – I just hadn’t looked sufficiently closely at the image to notice the signature.

Front page of 9 June 1911 issue of 'Votes for Women'

Front page of 9 June 1911 issue of ‘Votes for Women’

To have been given this position on the front page of Votes for Women was, indeed, something of an accolade – the paper’s usual artist, ‘A Patriot’ [Alfred Pease], had made way for her. Marjorie Hamilton’s ‘cartoon’ is, in fact, an advertisement for the Procession, with the lead character in her drawing dressed in the same way as the suffragette on the flyer. The latter, however, makes a very much bolder impression – the image greatly strengthened by the use of colour.  While the Votes for Women front-page picture is signed with her full name –  that is, ‘Marjorie Hamilton’ – the flyer carries only initials –  but these do appear to read ‘MH’. When describing the artist responsible for the image on the cover of the lavish Programme produced for the occasion of the Procession, Votes for Women  is rather coy – referring to her only as ‘an artist member of the WSPU’.  So who was Marjorie Hamilton?

My research indicates that she was born in Derbyshire in 1882. Her father, Arthur Hamilton, was a banker – a partner in S.Smith & Co’s Bank, Derby. Her mother, Georgina (nee Stokes) had been born in South Africa.  Marjorie had a slightly younger sister, Vera, and in 1891 the family lived, presumably in considerable comfort, with three servants and a live-in (young) governess, at The Mount, Duffield Road, Derby. Ten years later, in 1901, the family was living above the bank premises at 7 Market Head, Market Place, Derby, along with six domestic servants and a bank clerk. However, less than a year later Arthur Hamilton, now described as of ‘The Grange’, Ewell, Surrey, died, leaving £10,800. It was in 1902 that Smith’s Bank lost its individual identity when it merged with the Union Bank of London.

Georgina Hamilton, with her daughters, may have moved to Canada c 1906. Certainly Marjorie noted on a subsequent Canadian immigration form that she had lived in Canada from 1906-1908. Her sister, Vera, married in Vancouver in 1908 and in 1911, when the Canadian census was taken, was living there with her mother, her husband and two young children. Even though she was a member of the WSPU, Marjorie Hamilton, luckily for us, did not boycott the 1911 UK census and can be found, describing herself as an ‘art student’, as a boarder at 4 Mills Buildings, Knightsbridge, an 18th-century court on the north side of Knightsbridge High Road, close to the Barracks. At this time Mills Buildings was a rather raffish address, although her fellow boarders all appear very respectable.

The census was taken on 2 April 1911 and it must have been very soon after, while Marjorie Hamilton was living here, that she was given the rather important ‘Coronation Procession’ commission. Marion Wallace-Dunlop and Edith Downing were in charge of the artistic design of the Procession, which was being executed at 12 Smith Street, Chelsea. Perhaps  it was they who spotted her talent for graphic design. Incidentally on the night of the 1911 census those resident at this address were Miss Dean, a 27-year-old artist’s model, together with a young secretary and a shop assistant whose surroundings, with 8 rooms, between the three of them, were rather more spacious than those of their neighbours. I wonder if they let out one or two of those 8 rooms to the WSPU? It is clear from the reports in Votes for Women that there was a great deal of activity going on at 12 Smith Street in May and June 1911.

Alas, however, that is about all I can discover of Marjorie Hamilton’s career as an artist. I don’t even know where she was studying.

I next catch sight of her in February 1917 at Liverpool, embarking on the SS Carmania for New York. Her address is given as ‘Cranleigh, Surrey’ and her occupation is ‘artist’. So, in the six years that had elapsed she had presumably had – or at least had attempted to pursue – art as a career.

I did wonder why, in the midst of a war that made Atlantic travel so dangerous, she was making this journey. And then I realised that her final destination was not New York but Victoria, British Columbia and that she must have been going out to be with her mother – who died a month or so after her arrival.

Another seven years go by until in 1924 I found her again, once more about to enter Canada. However this time it is not as an artist but as the prospective matron of the Waifs and Strays Society Receiving Home at 661 Huron Street, Toronto.  This was Elizabeth Rye House – a home to where girls were sent from England to be trained for domestic service. On the immigration form Marjorie Hamilton gave her present occupation as ‘matron’, which may, or may not, indicate that she had found that art did not pay and that she had to find an other means of earning her living.

And there the trail for the moment ends. I know that the Toronto home closed in 1931 – but don’t know if Marjorie Hamilton was still there then. Did she return to England – or remain in Canada. I know that her sister died in Sussex in 1943 – but can find no further trace of Marjorie.

And all this is what comes of wondering who was the artist responsible for a delightful purple, white and green flyer produced something over 100 years ago.

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Suffrage Stories: ‘Laura Grey': Suffragettes, Sex-Poison And Suicide

Lavendar Guthrie's Hunger Strike Medal and Votes for Women brooch, photo courtesy of Christie's

Lavendar Guthrie’s Hunger Strike Medal and Votes for Women brooch, photo courtesy of Christie’s.

On the morning of Monday 8 June 1914 – a year to the day after the death of Emily Wilding Davison – a young woman was found lying unconscious on the floor of her flat at 111 Jermyn Street, close to Piccadilly Circus. She was discovered by her charwoman, Mrs Spicer,who called the police. They in turn called a doctor, who spent some time attempting resuscitation. But the young woman could not be revived. She had taken an overdose of veronal, a barbiturate to which she had apparently become addicted. Around her were scattered seven empty veronal bottles and by the side of one of them were 23 loose tablets. She had left a suicide note, dated 5 June, addressed to her mother and signed with the initials ‘J.L.G.’, although the young woman was known to her landlord, charwoman and a circle of relatively recently acquired friends as ‘Laura Grey’.

The story revealed by the inquest was one that might be thought too contrived if one read it in a novel, or watched it unfold on stage or film. In it we find all the tropes that concerned British society at that most febrile of times in the summer of 1914.

Laura Grey’s death. caused a brief but spectacular newspaper sensation. In this case the ‘ruin’ of a well-brought-up young woman was associated not only with the familiar evils of drugs, the stage and night clubs but also with the exotic addition of the very topical phenomenon of window-smashing, imprisonment and hunger striking – all that denoted involvement in the militant suffragette movement. On the day that her death was first reported the newspapers were full of reports of police raids on suffragette hide-outs and of suffragette bombing, arson and a hatchet attack on a painting by Romney in the Birmingham Art Gallery.

‘Laura Grey”s real name was Joan Lavender Baillie Guthrie. She had been born in 1889 to a well-off young couple – her father doesn’t appear to have had employment as such, but was involved with the Volunteers, the territorial army of its day. He was Cambridge-educated but had been born in South Africa. During the Boer War he returned there as an officer in the Imperial Yeomanry, dying of enteric fever on 16 May 1900. His wife must have been alerted to his condition because she set sail for Cape Town on 5 May. I don’t know if she arrived before he died, but she returned to Southampton on 14 June having, presumably, seen him to this grave.

In December 1900 Mrs Baillie Guthrie with her two daughters (Lavender and Lilias, as they were known) set off for the Continent. I don’t know how long they spent abroad, but there is no trace of any of them in the 1901 UK census. Lavender apparently received a good education – she was reported to be a proficient student of Latin and Greek – but where and how this was acquired I don’t know.

Mrs Baillie Guthrie first appears on the London local electoral register in 1909 which may indicate that the family had only recently returned from living abroad. It was, anyway, about this time that Lavender Guthrie first joined the Women’s Social and Political Union. As her mother remarked at the inquest, ‘She was not quite a normal girl. She studied very hard, and had ideas of Socialism and of giving her life and her all to her more unfortunate sisters.’ A picture was being painted at the inquest of an unbalanced mind – that Lavender, when about 16 years old, had damaged her face with a chemical. Indeed, the doctor who tended to her when she was dying remarked on a scarring to her face. However, as set out in the inquest report, this episode is directly linked by her mother to Lavender’s desire to do good in the world.

Her mother also said that Lavender was an obedient daughter and, although a member of the WSPU from the age of 18, did not take part in any militant activity until 1911 when she was 21 and had reached the age of majority.

One other aspect of Lavender Guthrie’s character that was considered by her mother as not quite normal was that ‘she thought we were too luxurious in our life. All her life she had been a very good and spiritual-minded girl, and had not cared for any of the ordinary pleasures of life or enjoyments of life. All her ideal was to work, and work very hard.’ She said that Lavender had tried hard to find work to support herself but ‘she found that the wages of unskilled women labour would not support life.’ It was only when she was successful in getting employment on the stage that she was able to earn sufficient to enable her to leave home, apparently, at the end of 1912.

However, for some months in the early part of 1912 Lavender had had no need to seek work as she was  a prisoner in Holloway Gaol  She had taken part in the March 1912 WSPU-organised window-smashing campaign. and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for wilful damage. The window she had broken was that of Garrards, the famous jewellers, perhaps targeted it as a protest against the luxurious lifestyle that she abhorred.

In Holloway she went on hunger strike, was forcibly fed and was released after serving about four months. During this time Holloway was packed with suffragette prisoners – among them Emily Wilding Davison – and Lavender Guthrie would have known and been known to these most committed members of the WSPU.

While in Holloway Lavender Guthrie wrote the following poem that was subsequently published in Holloway Jingles, an anthology collected and published by the Glasgow branch of the WSPU. The dedicatee, ‘D.R.’ is thought to be Dorothea Rock. The poem has been singled out by literary critics as having more merit than most of the other ‘Jingles’. (Another poem in the anthology is by Emily Wilding Davison.)

To D.R.

Beyond the bars I see her move,

A mystery of blue and green,

As though across the prison yard

The spirit of the spring had been.

And as she lifts her hands to press

The happy sunshine of her hair,

From the grey ground the pigeons rise,

And rustle upwards in the air,

As though her two hands held a key

To set the imprisoned spirits free.

To this suffragette’s autograph album Lavender Guthrie contributed a few lines from Robert Louis Stevenson – ‘The conditions of conquest are easy; we have only to hope a while, endure a while, believe always and never turn back’. Below her given name she added in brackets her stage and suffragette name – Laura Grey. It was the name she used when arrested. Like some other women – particularly of the middle class – she did not want her real name to appear in the papers in order not to embarrass her family. It is likely, therefore, that it was first as a suffragette soubriquet that Lavender adopted the name ‘Laura Grey’, which then gave her a ready-made stage name.

It seems that Lavender Guthrie suffered  from the after effects of forcible feeding and there is the suggestion that it was after her release that she discovered that veronal could ease the ‘neuralgia’ from which she now suffered. Her mother said that Lavender was ‘very ill’ after her release from prison.

Lyceum Theatre

Lyceum Theatre

Lavender’s first stage engagement was in the Lyceum Theatre’s Christmas 1912 pantomime – The Forty Thieves – doubtless an excellent vehicle for displaying the thinly-veiled flesh of the ‘pantomime girls’. At the time the Lyceum was renowned for staging the best pantomimes in London.

Now able to leave the comfort of her Kensington home,  ‘Laura Grey’ lived at first in rooms in Handel Mansions, Brunswick Square, Bloomsbury. Bloomsbury then had a rather louche reputation. However it was not long before she moved to the flat in Jermyn Street, close to the bright lights of Piccadilly. A couple of years earlier (when the 1911 census was taken) the tenant of the flat was a 24-year-old American ‘dancer (artistic) not in work’, who declared that she was married with one child. However neither husband or child was living with her and I feel that here, too, is a story of quiet desperation waiting to be uncovered.

There is no indication in the inquest report of the other shows in which Laura Grey was engaged (although there must have been at least one or two because the Lyceum was described as the first).  The coroner did not disguise the curl of his lip when he referred to her as a ‘pantomime girl’. As such she represented all that was meretricious and sleazy in the eyes of right-thinking people. Pantomime Girl, a novel by Annie Louise Daniells published in 1913 ,did not allow the central figure a happy ending – even if she was not actually forced, unlike poor Laura Grey, to suffer the ultimate wages of sin.

For not only did Laura Grey die, but she died pregnant. How much further could a young middle-class woman fall? The coroner had no trouble at all in revealing the cause  – her involvement with the suffragettes. He read in full the letter that accompanied the award of her hunger-strike medal, sent to Lavender Guthrie by Mrs Mabel Tuke of the WSPU,  and commented ‘Could anything be more calculated to upset the mind of a young girl than receiving this document and this travesty of a medal. The effect was quite clear. She leaves her home, her sister, her mother, for a garret in order to earn her own living and probably devote herself to this cause. She is next on the stage as a pantomime girl. Next we find her in the company of men frequenting night clubs and taking money from them. There is no more about the suffragist movement. The girl seems to have been absolutely degraded, and from then her whole history is one of drink, drugs, immorality, and death from her own hand.’

The jury duly returned a verdict of suicide during temporary insanity. However, this is just what Lavender Guthrie had anticipated. In the note she left for her mother she wrote ‘Of course the kindly Coroner will call it temporary insanity, but as a matter of fact I think this is about the sanest thing I have yet done. I am simply very, very tired of things in general.’ In fact her mother had been so worried about her that she had called in two women doctors – Dr Helen Boyle, who specialised in mental disorders, and Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson, who had actually been imprisoned in Holloway at the same time as Lavender – hoping that they would be able to certify her as insane. Their visit to Jermyn Street, accompanied by two nurses  -so certain were they, from what they had been told by Mrs Guthrie, that they would need to remove Lavender – had taken place on 26 May. The doctors, however, had not found Lavender suffering from any delusions that warranted restraint.

It is difficult to know exactly what Laura Grey’s  Jermyn Street life had been like. She left over £1000 in her will, although this money might not have been easily accessible. According to her mother, although she had initially refused to accept an allowance, by the time of her death she had agreed to receive an annual allowance of £100. Was she receiving money from men, as the Coroner suggested – or assumed? Who knows? Her mother noted at the inquest that she ‘lived in a very self-sacrificing manner, denying herself everything.’ However, it would appear that she must have spent at least some of her money on drink and drugs. When asked by the Coroner if she knew that her daughter ‘had taken to drink’, Mrs Guthrie gave the immortal reply, ‘I had heard of absinthe: I do not know whether that is drink’. Laura Grey’s regular consumption of veronal was evident from the bottles found in the flat. In the touching letter she left for her mother she wrote, ‘I have been taking veronal for the last six months practically every night. I only lied to you about it because I knew you would worry if I told you the truth’.

In this letter Laura Grey also writes, ‘During this last year I have met some very dear souls, both men and women. If you ever come across them and they speak to you of me give them a welcome for my sake, even though I may have met them in bad and immoral ways’. In July Mrs Guthrie wrote a short letter in the Daily Mail, in which she thanked those who had got in touch to sympathise at her loss – and there is a hint that among these may have been some of the ‘dear souls’ to whom Lavender refers. In which case it appears a rather generous letter.

The night clubs frequented by Laura Grey were named as the Astor Club (already defunct by 1914), the Mimosa, the Leicester and the Albert Rooms. They were all doubtless of a transient nature and have vanished leaving no discernible trace.  newspaper reported that ‘she generally wore evening dress at these resorts, but lately she appeared in costumes of the futurist fashion

Betty May (courtesy of Kirsty McKenzie Design Facebook Page)

Betty May (courtesy of Kirsty McKenzie Design Facebook Page)

Betty May, exotic dancer, good-time girl and another frequenter of Soho haunts, in her racy memoir – Tiger-Woman – published in 1929, places Laura Grey in the bohemian Cafe Royal, alongside many better known figures, such as the futurist painter C.R.W. Nevinson. ‘I knew her well’, Betty May writes, ‘and the night before she was found dead she came over to me in the Café and gave me a book she had promised to lend me. We had a long chat and she seemed quite cheerful. She was tall and slim, with a very fine forehead. At one time she had been a militant suffragette.’ Whether or not this charming scene actually did take place I don’t know. Betty May’s memoir doesn’t strike me as totally reliable, but the fact that she chooses to mention Laura Grey at all 15 years after her death is interesting. If Laura Grey was in the Cafe Royal the night before she died, that fact was not mentioned at the inquest. Indeed there was a suggestion in the press that she may have taken the veronal on the Friday night and lain undiscovered all weekend until Mrs Spicer arrived on Monday morning.

Cafe Royal, by Willian Orpen, 1912

Cafe Royal, by Willian Orpen, 1912

Betty May also mentions, as another of the bohemian haunters of the Cafe Royal, both William Orpen, the painter of the above picture, and the poet, Anna Wickham who’ always dressed very severely, and had a deep voice that used to frighten me a great deal’.

Anna Wickham

Anna Wickham

Whether or not Anna Wickham actually knew Laura Grey she was sufficiently moved by her fate to write a poem, Laura Grey, that was published in the Daily Herald (a left-wing newspaper) on 16 June 1914.

And Anna Wickham was not the only member of the literati to be inspired to poetry by Laura Grey’s death. On 14 June 1914 Gilbert Cannan, poet and essayist, wrote to Lady Ottoline Morrell,  ‘these last days I have been haunted and most passionately moved the story of the girl, Laura Grey. Her unassailable spirit thrust deliberately through the worst of life has shone splendidly for me and I wrote this poem which I send to you now..’His biographer, Diana Farr, commented ‘ Here was a girl that Gilbert would have loved to cherish and the poem he sent to Ottoline called simply Laura Grey was his response to a story which moved him deeply.’

But there were many others who were moved in a different direction. The novelist, E. W. Hornung, the author of Raffles, a brother-in-law of Arthur Conan Doyle, and a Kensington friend of the Guthrie family, wrote a letter to The Times, published on 13 June as an Appreciation of ‘Laura Grey’. Referring to her throughout as Lavender Guthrie, he described her as ‘a beautiful and gentle creature: one both gracious and unaffected, indeed as great-hearted and noble-minded and sweet-tempered a girl as ever looked like a Greek goddess and carried herself like a queen.’

This paragon, this icon of young British womanhood, did however have one fault – ‘Erratic and wilful she no doubt had always been.’ It was this fault, ‘observable outside her family circle’, that had caused her to associate with the militant suffragettes, whose ‘methods and practices both inside and outside prison’ oozed ‘slow and subtle sex-poison.’ It was this that had robbed Lavender Guthrie of her ‘bloom’ – ‘the thirst for sensation had become a passion and the craze for revolt had become a disease’. For this he laid the blame firmly on the leaders of the WSPU.

All the newspapers were awash with letters about the case. A few were sympathetic to Laura Grey’s fate but most, like a correspondent to the Daily Express, saw her as the ‘Victim of the Furies’. And you will have no difficulty in guessing who these were.

For their part, the WSPU put its own particular spin on the sad story, declaring that Laura Grey had long left their ranks and it was because she was no longer a suffragette that she had fallen in with the wrong sort of people. Why were the names of the men which whom she had associated – particularly the father of the child she was expecting – not publicised? It was the Government and the attitudes of society that were responsible for Laura Grey’s death. In fact her ‘ruin’  ideally illustrated Christabel Pankhurst’s slogan of the last couple of years – ‘Votes for Women and Chastity for Men’.

It was certainly not a good moment for the WSPU to be associated with drug-taking, for at this very time – amongst all the other newspaper reports of suffragette mayhem – was the story – sensationalised in the popular press – that a solicitor’s clerk had been discovered attempting to smuggle a drug to Grace Roe, one of the WSPU leaders, now on hunger strike in Holloway. The drug was actually an emetic – enabling her to be sick after forcible feeding – not a barbiturate – but the man and, indeed, woman in the street, could now even more easily associate ‘drugs’ with ‘suffragettes’.

If only Laura Grey/Lavender Guthrie had been able to hold out for a couple more months might the war have made a difference to her situation? With the great change that British society was about to undergo, the birth of baby to yet another unmarried young woman might have felt of little less consequence in general, although doubtless still fraught in the particular. In her farewell letter to her mother she sent ‘My love to Lilias, and I hope she will be very happy and marry some decent man whose children you could be proud of’. This strikes me as the saddest sentence in a long, sad letter. Lilias never married. If Mrs Baillie Guthrie had wanted only grandchildren of which she could be proud, she was to be disappointed.

Nearly 100 years after the sad event, Lavender Guthrie’s suicide still has the power to shock. Although I had known of the case in a general way it was only a week ago, when going through cuttings accumulated by my diarist, Kate Parry Frye for all about Kate Frye’s diary click here), that I came across a copy of Hornung’s letter to The Times. Kate had clipped it and neatly folded it and I doubt anybody else had looked at it until I opened it out last week. I have checked and, although she was in London at the time, Kate makes no mention of the case of Laura Grey in her diary – but it had obviously not gone unremarked.

In another neat leap through the century, Lavender Guthrie’s hunger-strike medal that I illustrate at the head of this post is now held in the collection of Ken Florey, who illustrates it beautifully in his  Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia: An Illustrated Historical Study. So, the very hunger-strike medal that in 1914 was in the Jermyn Street room as poor Lavender Guthrie took her overdose of veronal, was taken away by the police and then held up to such contempt and ridicule by the Coroner, is, a century later, the prized and treasured possession of a dedicated collector of suffragette memorabilia.


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Suffrage Stories: Make Millicent Fawcett Visible

Because of copyright issues, I don’t feel able to show you the  portrait of Mrs Pankhurst that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. But I wonder how many of you know without looking  here which one I mean?

As I thought, a great many. That is doubtless because the portrait is on permanent display.

Mrs Pankhurst's statue

Mrs Pankhurst’s statue

Mrs Pankhurst’s presence is also kept before us in the shape of her statue in Victoria Tower Gardens, right next to the House of Commons.

Both of these images are not where they are by chance. Immediately after her death  former suffragettes determined to memorialise their leader in this time-honoured tradition – a portrait painted for the national collection and a statue erected in a prominent and relevant position.

Therefore, it’s unsurprising that Mrs Pankhurst is remembered.

But what of Mrs Millicent Fawcett, whose method of campaigning for the vote for women differed from that of Mrs Pankhurst, but who was in many ways the more effective politician. Indeed, it was she who finally delivered ‘votes for women’.

Mrs Fawcett has no statue. Indeed, droll and dry woman that she was,  I’m sure she would turn in her grave if such an idea were to be mooted.

The National Portrait Gallery’s only painted portrait of Mrs Fawcett is this one by Ford Maddox Brown that depicts her as the tender young wife of Henry Fawcett, the blind politician. There is no hint in this picture of her future career. Incidentally this painting hangs, not in London, but in Bodelwydden Castle.

Tate Britain does hold this portrait of Millicent Fawcett, painted at the end of her life by her friend Annie Swynnerton. Mrs Fawcett is shown wearing academic dress, her honorary degree robes from St Andrews.

This painting is permanently in storage. It was shown at the Royal Academy in 1930 and, after being bought for the nation as a Chantrey Bequest purchase, has never been seen in public since.  When I was writing Enterprising Women  I arranged to see the painting in the Tate’s store. There was no difficulty – beyond making an appointment – in gaining access – but how very different from saying ‘hallo’ to Mrs Pankhurst every day, if one so chose, in the National Portrait Gallery.

Why can’t this portrait be brought out of storage and, if it doesn’t fit into the Tate Britain hanging policy, be transferred to the National Portrait Gallery where it would admirably complement Mrs Pankhurst.

Mrs Fawcett was not, of course, without staunch memorialising supporters. But, rather than a statue, they put their efforts into a building – Women’s Service House in Marsham Street, Westminster – and named the large hall inside for Mrs Fawcett. Financial exigency has long since separated the building from the women’s movement  (although we are thankful that it has been given a new lease of life by Westminster School) and Mrs Fawcett’s name has been obliterated here as it has been from the library with which it was once synonymous.

However Mrs Fawcett’s lifelong work for the women’s cause is still commemorated in the vigorous efforts of The Fawcett Society. I am sure, sensible woman that she was, she would much rather that that was the case than that her portrait should hang in the National Portrait Gallery. And, yet, knowing how responsive the public is to the visual image, I do wish she might be allowed to share Mrs Pankhurst’s limelight.

Because it would be too ironic to devote a post to bemoaning the lack of visual representation of Mrs Fawcett, her she is, wearing an National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies badge. You can read very much more about Millicent Fawcett, Annie Swynnerton – and all the members of the extensive and energetic members of the Garrett circle in my Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle-  available online from Francis Boutle Publishers or from all good bookshops (in stock, for instance, at Foyles, Charing Cross Road).

Millicent Fawcett c 1912

Millicent Fawcett c 1912


Read much more about Millicent Fawcett – and all the Garretts – in Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle

and when in London visit the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery.

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Suffrage Stories: Women’s Tax Resistance League Sale, Hampstead, May 1914

Mrs Thomson Price's goods being sold

The photograph above was taken on Monday 18 May 1914 at the sale in Hampstead of goods belonging to Mrs Louisa Thomson Price and others – all of whom had refused to pay their tax. ‘No Taxation Without Representation’ was the motto of the Tax Resistance League.

The Vote  (the paper of the Women’s Freedom League with which Mrs Thomson Price was closely associated) reported (22 May 1914) ‘At Hampstead on May 18 a large group of tax resisters had their goods sold at Fitzjohns Estate Auction Rooms. They were Mrs Thomson Price, Mrs and Miss Hicks, Mrs How Martyn , Mrs Milligan, Mrs Hartley, the Misses Collier, and the Misses Dawes Thompson. A procession with a band marched from Finchley Road station to the auction rooms at Swiss Cottage and after the sale an excellent meeting was held at the corner of the Avenue Road. From a gaily decorated wagonette speeches were made by Mrs Thomson Price, Mrs Nevinson and Mrs Kineton Parkes, explaining the reason of the protest.

Below is the note made by Louisa Thomson Price on the reverse of the photographic postcard.

Reverse of photo

Mrs Louisa Thomson Price was born Louisa Catherine Sowdon in 1864 and died in 1926. She was the daughter of a Tory military family but from an early age rebelled against their way of thinking and became a secularist and a Radical. She was impressed by Charles Bradlaugh of the National Secular Society. In 1888 she married John Sansom, who was a member of the executive of the NSS. She worked as a journalist from c 1886 – as a political writer, then a very unusual area for women, and drew cartoons for a radical journal, ‘Political World’. She was a member of the Council of the Society of Women Journalists. After the death of her first husband, in 1907 she married George Thomson Price. She had no children from either marriage.

Louisa Thomson Price was an early member of the Women’s Freedom League, became a consultant editor of its paper, The Vote, and was a director of Minerva Publishing, publisher of the paper. She contributed a series of cartoons – including these 6 that were then produced as postcards. The ‘Jack Horner’ cartoon was also issued as a poster for, I think, the January 1910 General Election. Louisa Thomson Price took part in the WFL picket of the House of Commons and was very much in favour of this type of militancy. In her will she left £250 to the WFL. and £1000 to endow a Louisa Thomson Price bed at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.

I have a very rare suffrage artefact – a Women’s Freedom League postcard album once owned by Mrs Thomson Price -for sale in my catalogue 180.

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Suffrage Stories: New Post On No 10 Website & Other Suffrage Guest Blogging

In the past – very suffragette -month the following guest posts commissioned from me have appeared:

For the No 10 website: We Wanted to Wake Him Up: Lloyd George and Suffragette Militancey

For the OUP Blog: Why is Emily Wilding Davison remembered as the first suffragette martyr?

For the British Library Untold Lives Blog: Emily Wilding Davison: Perpetuating the Memory

I also took part in Clare Balding’s Secrets of a Suffragette (Channel 4 TV), can be heard talking about Kate Parry Frye and Emily Wilding Davison’s funeral procession on Parliamentary Radio, and took part in the ‘Women’s Rebellion’ programme in Michael Portillo’s Radio 4 series 1913: The Year Before. To listen to the last two  see under ‘Links’ – to the right.

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Suffrage Stories: Mrs Frood, Topsham’s Suffragette/ist

Some time ago, when researching a talk,  ‘No Vote No Census’, that I gave in October 2011 conference on the 1911 census organised by the National Archives, I came across the boycotting census form of Mrs Frood of Topsham. Since then I have passed on this discovery to a researcher associated with Topsham Museum who has been able to link Mrs Frood directly to the 1913 Suffrage Pilgrimage, the 100th anniversary of which is being celebrated in Topsham today, 4 July 2013.

The 3 March 1911 edition of Votes for Women contains a letter from Mrs M.C. I. Frood of Station Road, Topsham,  in which she described how, early in the morning of the polling day for the last election (which must have been Dec 1910/Jan 1911),  she went out with a pot of ‘good, white oil paint’ [I like the fact that it was 'good] and ‘printed on the inner edge of the pavement along which voters would pass on the way to the polling station ‘Taxation Without Representation is Tyranny’ and ‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves. I also printed it along the brick wall of my field, which they also had to pass coming and going to and from the train. ..On the large doors of my field, near the same spot, I printed ‘No Votes No Taxes’. I find my field gate a useful place to stick cartoons and cuttings from Votes for Women.’

A month later Mrs Frood was one of those suffragettes who boycotted the 1911 census. Together with one of her daughters, her servant, Beatrice Hutchings and six unknown females, to whom she had clearly given boycotting shelter, she refused to fill in any details on her census form, writing across it ‘If I am intelligent enough to fill up this paper, I am intelligent enough to put a cross on a voting paper. No Vote No Census.’

The census enumerator, Mr.H. J. Baker, reported this act of civil disobedience to the Census Office and received a reply from its Secretary, Archer Bellingham, instructing him to fill out the form with the best information he could muster. Mr Baker then annotated the letter, quoting Mrs Frood as saying to him that she had had  a ‘house full’ of boycotters on census night – and ‘that I am therefore adding to Numbers 6′.  With this number revealed as an arbitrary choice of the enumerator, we can only speculate as to how many Topsham women spent the night at Little Broadway House in Station Road.

Although in 1911 it would appear that Mrs Frood, as a correspondent to Votes for Women, was a supporter of the WSPU, by 1913 she is listed in The Suffrage Annual and Women’s Who’s Who as secretary of the Topsham branch of the NUWSS. Perhaps she was one of those who were dismayed by the WSPU’s increasingly militant tactics. It was one thing to paint slogans (with ‘good’ paint’) on pavements and walls, but quite another to break windows and commit arson. So it was as a leading local NUWSS member that Mrs Frood took part in the Suffrage Pilgrimage in early July 1913.

Who was Mrs Frood?

Mrs Mary Catherine Isabella Frood (nee Campbell, c. 1856-1931) had been born of Scottish parentage in Canada and was living in New Zealand when, in 1878, she married James Nicholson Frood (d. 1913), an Irish-born doctor. She had five children, the first four, all daughters, born in New Zealand and the last, a son, born at sea c 1888 – presumably as the family was returning to England. One of her daughters, Hester, was successful as an artist. Although Mrs Frood actually died in London, her address was still in Topsham – 26 The Strand (Old Court House).

26 The Strand, Topsham. Photo courtesy of Derek Harper (

26 The Strand, Topsham. Photo courtesy of Derek Harper (

Where was Dr Frood in 1911?

Dr Frood was living with his family (whose name was misrendered as ‘Froud’) when the 1901 census was taken.  But where was he in 1911? The name on the cover of the census form had been written as ‘Dr Frood’, but this had been amended to ‘Mrs Frood’ and it is she who is shown as ‘Head of Household’. I can find no trace of James Frood elsewhere in the 1911 census, although he did not die until 1913, his death registered in the local area. Interestingly under the terms of his will probate was granted to the Public Trustee rather than to his wife or any other member of the family.

Where was Little Broadway House?

Thanks to Street View I can see Station Road and the pavement along which Mrs Frood painted her slogans. Thanks to Paul Tucker (see Comment below) who tells me that Little Broadway House is still there – the house with the overhanging upper window that I can see in Street View – although now divided into two.  Presumably the ground to its side was Mrs Frood’s field. So let’s take a moment to visualise  its gates – decorated with Votes for Women cartoon – a reminder to those walking past on their way to the station that one Topsham woman was prepared to do her bit to win  ‘votes for women’.

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Suffrage Stories: Suffrage Sympathisers In Late-19th-Century Alton, Hampshire

While researching ‘women’s suffrage’ in the Hampshire Record Office, Anthony Brunning came across an interesting record of the 19th-century campaign. He has kindly given me permission to publish – below – the names of the Alton women who in 1894 signed the Special Appeal, organised in the hope of  convincing the government of the day that women were serious in their call for enfranchisement. The names were, mistakenly, excluded from the final total of 257,796. If anyone has any further information on any of the ladies listed, do let me know.

As the documents bearing the names included in the grand total were, apparently, returned to the various societies with which they were associated, Mrs Wickham’s collecting book is a rare survivor of one of the campaigns that belies the popularly-held view that the 19th-century women’s suffrage campaign lacked enterprise.

You can find details of the Special Appeal Committee in the entry of that name in my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide. 

Alton Suffragists in 1894

by Anthony Brunning

Among the documents in the Wickham Family papers held by the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester is a Booklet for collecting signatures for an appeal to the House of Commons for an extension of Parliamentary Franchise to women. The booklet was produced by a Special Appeal Committee, formed for the purpose of collecting signatures, under the Chairmanship of Mrs Fawcett.[1] The signed books were to be returned to the Secretary at the Appeal Office (Albany Buildings, 47, Victoria Street, Westminster) by15 January 1894. A page at the end of the booklet states that “the booklet was to be returned to Mrs. Wickham, Binsted Wyke or Miss Julia Cameron, 47 Victoria St., Westminster.”

At the beginning of the booklet is the appeal:


Of all Parties and all Classes

To the Members of the House of commons


Many of the women who sign this appeal differ in opinion on other political questions, but all are of one mind that the continued denial of the franchise to women while it is at the same time being gradually extended amongst men is at once unjust and inexpedient.

In our homes it fosters the impression that women’s opinion of questions of public interest is of no value to the nation, while the fact of women having no vote lessens the representative character of the House of Commons.

In the factory and workshop it places power to restrict women’s work in the hands of men who are working alongside of women whom they too often treat as rivals rather than as fellow-workers.

In Parliament it prevents men from realizing how one-sided are many of the laws affecting women.

We therefore earnestly beg you to support any well-considered measure for the extension of the Parliamentary franchise to women.

Each page had two tear off slips in which ladies could signify their consent to the Appeal.  Each slip had line for signing their Christian and surname, stating their title (Mrs., Miss, or other), give an address and record the name of the Parliamentary constituency in which they lived. Above the tear-off slips were three directives: “N.B. ― All Women over 18 may sign. Each must sign for herself. No one may sign twice.” Each slip began with the statement “I have read the Appeal from Women and desire that my name be added.” The booklet contained twenty-five pages of slips with serrations between them.

Thirty of the ladies who signed came from Alton, two from Binsted 4 miles east by north from Alton and one from East Worldham, 2 miles south-east of Alton. All lived with the Eastern Division of Hants (Petersfield).

Name Title Address
Sophia Emma Wickham Mrs Binsted Wyke, Alton
Eleonore Clements Mrs Binsted Wyke, Alton
Maria Hall Mrs The Manor House, Alton
Ethel M. Hall Miss The Manor House, Alton
Edith Turner Mrs Wey House, Alton, Hants
Emma Isabel Redding Mrs High St., Alton
Mabel E. Trimmond Miss The Parmont, Alton
M. L. Bedding Miss High St., Alton, Hants
Eliza Little Mrs High Street, Alton, Hants
Louisa Trimbrell Mrs High Street, Alton, Hants
M. Conduit Mrs Regent House, Alton, Hants
E. M. Green Miss Regent House, Alton, Hants
Elizabeth J, Castle Mrs High St., Alton
L. Eleanor Faith Miss High St., Alton
Gertrude E. Burrell Mrs Brooklands, Alton
Theodosia Hanson Miss Alton, Hants
Mildred E. Trimmer Miss The Pavement, Alton, Hants
Helen Mary Hall Mrs Brook House, Alton, Hants
Ellen Osborn Miss RosebankSchool, Alton, Hants
Emily Piggott Mrs West End, Alton, Hants
Louisa Dyer Mrs Ivy House, Alton, Hants
Alice M. Dyer Miss Ivy House, Alton, Hants
Bessie Farthing Mrs Westfield, Alton
Florence C. Farthing Miss Westfield, Alton
Bertha Leslie Mrs Alton, Hants
Annie Laura Dyer Mrs Hill House, Alton
Mary Hanna Petar Miss Weybourne, Alton, Hants
Selina Petar Miss Weybourne, Alton, Hants
H. Katie Wilkman Mrs Alton, Hants
Frances J. Chalcraft Mrs Anstey Lodge, Alton, Hants
Millicent Chalcraft Miss Anstey, Alton, Hants
Katharine S. Fell Mrs Worldham Rectory, Alton, Hants
Annie Moule Mrs High Street, Alton

On the inside back cover the collector of signatures was ask to sign, giving name and address in testimony of the authenticity of the contents.

Mrs Sophia Emma Wickham, 60,[2] was the wife of William Wickham, esq, chairman of the County Magistrates for Alton Petty Sessional Division, who according to the 1891 Census was ‘living on his own means and a magistrate’.[3] Katharine Fell, 49, was the wife of Reverend George Hunter Fell, 72, vicar of East and West Worldham.[4]

The booklet is interesting in that it gives an indication that there was a women working for extension of the franchise to women in Alton and district in 1893 and that by mischance it was not sent to Central Office. It may be possible to identify the ladies using the 1891 Census and Kelly’s Directory for Hampshire.


Hampshire Record Office HRO 38M49/D9/29. Printed booklet, ‘Women’s Suffrage: An appeal from women’ belonging to Sophia Wickham, 1894.

[1]    The Committee was composed of: President: Mrs. Fawcett. Treasurer: Mrs. Frank Morrison. Members: The Lady Frances Balfour, Miss Balfour, Miss Helen Blackburn, Mrs. Leonard Courtney, The Lady Knightley, Mrs. Eva McLaren, Mrs. Massingberd, Miss Mordan, Mrs. Wynford Philipps, Mrs. Broadley Reid, The Lady Henry Somerset, Mrs. T. Taylor (Chipchase), Miss Vernon. Secretary: Miss Julia Cameron.

[2]    Age given after the names is the age in 1893 calculated from the age given in the census consulted.

[3]    Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, 1895, 28. TNA: PRO RG12/952/24/2. Binsted, Hants.

[4]    Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, 1895, 574. TNA PRO RG11/1247/74/14. East Worldham, Hants.

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Suffrage Stories: Bloomsbury Links (Part 2)

In 1907 it was Philippa Strachey, sister of Lytton, who, as secretary of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage, organised the first large-scale London street procession of women prepared to risk ignominy by making  of themselves a public spectacle. Thus, in heavy rain, on 9 February 1907 Lady Strachey, Philippa’s mother, walked at the head of ‘The Mud March’, a soubriquet earned from the state of the streets  (see here for Kate Frye’s experiences that day).

Flyer advertising the NUWSS 'Mud March'

Flyer advertising the NUWSS ‘Mud March’

On 5 February John Maynard Keynes had written to Philippa Strachey, ‘I hear that you may want hired roughts next Saturday. If I can be of any use I am at your service after 1 o’clock’. He kept to his word and acted as chief steward at Exeter Hall in the Strand where, at the end of their march, the suffragists rallied for speeches from, among others, Lady Strachey. Keynes had long been exposed to the workings of the women’s suffrage campaign; his mother was a practical exponent of ‘women’s rights’ and his father, a close friend of Henry Fawcett, had in 1888 been auditor of the Cambridge Women’s Suffrage Association. This influence had permeated sufficiently for Keynes, in 1912, to demur at the inscription of ‘Votes for Women: IDT’ on a bas-relief by Eric Gill depicting a copulating couple, in which the woman was on top. ‘IDT’ was Gill’s way of making light of the issue as the letters stood for ‘I Don’t Think’. Keynes wanted to buy this work but only did so after Gill agreed to remove the inscription.

Lady Strachey

Lady Strachey

Lady Strachey had been an early supporter of the women’s suffrage campaign, having in 1867 signed one of the first petitions in favour of women’s suffrage, probably that presented by John Stuart Mill on behalf of the Edinburgh Society. From 1901 she had been a regular subscriber to the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage, as was her husband. A week after the Mud March Lady Strachey was present at Caxton Hall on the occasion of a WSPU ‘Women’s Parliament’, a meeting that ended in chaos and arrests. Elizabeth Robins, actress and suffragette, afterwards wrote to Lady Strachey, ‘I looked for you during the later evening and was very relieved that you were not to be seen, for the fact was that the police grew very violent as the hours went on…’

Lady Strachey also deployed her pen in aid of the Cause, writing, between 1907 and 1909, a number of pamphlets for the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, including Reduced to the Absurd, a series of humorous syllogisms (such word-play being a Strachey speciality) and, around 1910 supplying the words for several rollicking songs, which  were published by the LSWS as Women’s Suffrage Songs. In 1909 Lady Strachey became a member of the editorial committee of a newly-founded feminist journal, The Englishwoman, which was in effect an NUWSS attempt to provide a forum for serious feminist discussion. Grant HandicappedOne of Lady Strachey’s co-founders of The Englishwoman was Mary Lowndes, a stained glass artist and chairman of the Artists’ Suffrage League, a society devoted to publishing suffrage propaganda. The ASL each year ran a competition for the design of a poster; Duncan Grant, nephew to Lady Strachey, was the competition’s joint winner, sharing a prize of £4, in the autumn of 1909. He had previously submitted a design, unsuccessfully, for the 1907 competition but was encouraged to try again. It may have been that a weakness in conveying the suffrage message had been responsible for his failure in 1907 because in 1909 Barbara Forbes, Lowndes’ companion and the secretary of the ASL, took the trouble to give him the subject for his design. In its final rendition the poster was described in the NUWSS weekly paper, The Common Cause, 4 November 1909, as depicting ‘a stalwart Grace Darling type struggling in the trough of a heavy sea with only a pair of sculls, while a nonchalant young man in flannels glides gaily by, with a wind inflating his saile – the vote -[treating] with good temper a subject which often causes bitterness’. The Houses of Parliament loom on the horizon as the goal of both vessels. By an interesting coincidence the winner of the ASL’s competition in 1908, with a poster ‘What’s Sauce for the Gander is Sauce for the Goose’ had been Mary Sargent Florence, whose daughter, Alix, was in 1920 to marry James Strachey, Lady Strachey’s youngest son.

The Tax Resistance League logo - as seen on this banner - was designed by Mary Sargant Forence

The Tax Resistance League logo – as seen on this banner – was designed by Mary Sargant Forence

Mary Sargent Florence was a leading light of the Tax Resistance League, designing their badge and banner, and  in 1912 and 1914, putting principle into practice,  refused to pay her taxes, and had goods distrained and sold.

The next ‘ Suffrage Stories: Bloomsbury Links’  post will discuss the life and work of Ray Strachey – a Strachey-by-marriage.

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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison or Harold Hewitt?

Emily Davison at the Derby 4 June 1913 or Harold Hewitt at Ascot 20 June 1913

Emily Davison at the Derby 4 June 1913 or Harold Hewitt at Ascot 20 June 1913

For many years, since I acquired this photograph, I had thought it showed Emily Davison lying on the Derby racetrack on 4 June 1913, tended by policemen.

However, it has just been suggested to me that it in fact shows Harold Hewitt who, at Ascot just over two weeks later ran in front of the racing horses, with a ‘suffragist’ flag in one hand and a fully-loaded revolver in the other,  in what was deemed a ‘copycat’ action. For details of the event and Hewitt’s action see Lesley Gray’s blog.

Although I have no firm evidence one way or the other, I am minded to believe that the photograph is of Hewitt. There is little to go on but the narrow belt and slanting side pocket do indicate trousers rather than a skirt. Hewitt was, apparently, wearing a loose Norfolk-type jacket which may well be the one in the picture. The filmed images of Emily Davison with which we are now so well acquainted do indicate a rather fuller skirt – with petticoats.

In addition to the information given in Lesley’s blog, I can tell you that Harold Charles Hewitt, who had a Cambridge degree, came from a family with a large estate at Hope End in Herefordshire had lived for lengthy periods of time in Canada and Switzerland and in 1913  was, apparently, planning to go and farm in Africa.

The night before Ascot he had stayed at a hotel in Hart Street, Bloomsbury (perhaps the Kingsley Hotel, right next to St George’s where Emily Davison’s memorial service had been held on 14 June). He had, according to the report in The Times, been present at Emily Davison’s ‘funeral’ -although whether in the church or taking part in the procession is not made clear. The newspaper reports concentrate on his interest in anti-vivisection and apparent hatred of horse races rather than on any particular suffrage sympathies. Tenants at Hope End who knew Hewitt reported that ‘he had always been eccentric on religious matters’.

Harold Hewitt died in 1961 aged c 86, a comparatively wealthy man, the head injury he sustained at Ascot in 1911 having done little to shorten his long life.

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Collecting Suffrage: 14 June 1913 Emily Wilding Davison’s Funeral Programme: Updated

Official Programme for Emily WIlding Davison’s Funeral Procession

I published this post last October, before the extent of interest in the 100th anniversary celebrations of the event commemorated in this 4-pp pamphlet had become clear. I am relieved to report that no suspicious flurry of spurious Emily Davison-related items has appeared on the market. Although the main text of this post is as it first appeared I have updated it with two extra scans of the inside and back cover of the programme. They were made merely for my own research purposes some time before I had a visually-sophisticated blog audience to amuse – so – apologies for their appearance – but I think you will find the details of interest.

For the last 100 years the strange death of Emily Wilding Davison has transfixed the public. It is likely to be the one thing that the ‘man – or woman – in the street’ knows about the suffragette movement. Bizarrely the last seconds of her conscious life are still with us –growing in impact as the internet allows everyone to view footage of film that was in the past relatively difficult to access.  In this piece by Andrew Marr the BBC has worked its wonders on the Pathé News original, allowing us to see details that the passing years had blurred. I have always wondered if it was by chance that she chose to position herself alongside a section of the Derby racecourse that was in full view of the film camera. The camera was mounted on a stand and would have been clearly visible. However the camera was, presumably, positioned there in order to capture pictures of the horses entering the final straight and Emily Davison may have chosen to be there for the very same reason. You will now have had the opportunity of viewing the enhanced footage of the film broadcast by Channel 4 in Clare Balding’s Secrets of a Suffragette.

All material related to Emily Wilding Davison’s funeral is scarce – and very collectable – however one of the scarcest is the 4-page ‘Official Programme, Timetable and Route of the Funeral Procession, Saturday June 14th 1913.

I must say that I do find it rather odd that this item should be so very scarce for, as you can see from film and photographs,  the streets of London were packed on the day. The hordes must have failed to arm themselves with the Programme or, if they did, to have then discarded it.

Inside pages of the programme for Emily Davison's funeral procession

Inside pages of the programme for Emily Davison’s funeral procession

In Campaigning for the Vote, Kate Frye, who followed the procession through Piccadilly to Bloomsbury and then on to Kings Cross, in her long diary entry comments on the vastness of the crowd. But even she, who was an inveterate hoarder of suffrage memorabilia, does not seem to have acquired  a copy of the Funeral Procession Programme. The result is that, in nearly 30 years of dealing in suffrage artefacts,  I have only seen one copy of this item for sale. In fact, if a spate of them were now to hit the market, I shall be very suspicious!

Back cover of the Emily Davison funeral procession

Back cover of the Emily Davison funeral procession

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: The International Suffrage Shop

Another in my series documenting the places  that would once have been so familiar to both suffragettes and suffragists in the area surrounding the new home of the Women’s Library @ LSE. The main sites once occupied by the International Suffrage Shop have long since been swept away but, as a devotée of  books and bookselling,  I would like to ensure that this brave venture is commemorated.

In 1910 the International Suffrage Shop was  opened by the actress, Sime Seruya in a room on the third floor of 31 Bedford Street, Covent Garden,  lent to her by Edith Craig. In March 1911 the shop moved to spacious new premises – 15 Adam Street – on the south side of the Strand, not far from where Virago ran a bookshop, with which I was associated, in Southampton Street in the late 1980s. (Incidentally, the Virago Bookshop, along with the late-lamented Silver Moon and Sister Write’s in Islington – the latter’s premises now, ironically, a Cook Shop – represented a brief flowering of interest in women-oriented reading material of which the Persephone Bookshop in Lamb’s Conduit Street is now, I think,  the only surviving bricks and mortar representative – at least in London.)

The International Suffrage Shop was described as ‘The Only Feminist Bookshop’ and had on  sale all kinds of feminist as well as general literature, modern plays on social questions, art and children’s books, pictorial posters, badges and newspapers, photographs and postcards.

The shop also acted as a publisher for Cicely Hamilton’s Pageant of Great Women and Margaret Nevinson’s In the Workhouse and its logo is to be found on the (rare) photographs, published separately, of the leading characters – such as Ellen Terry – who took part in the original pageant.

The ISS had a large room – complete with ‘a picture lamp and sheet’ that could be let out for meetings and, positioned so centrally, was a useful place for assignations. For instance, Kate Parry Frye arranged to meet some friends there on the afternoon of 21 November 1911, before going, first, to have tea at the cafe in the Cecil Hotel and then on to a window-smashing demonstration in Parliament Square.

Kate Frye's copy of the flyer for the ISS Benefit Performance of 'The Coronation'

Kate Frye’s copy of the flyer for the ISS Benefit Performance of ‘The Coronation’

Alas it was as difficult then as it is now to make a living through book selling and the International Suffrage Shop was always in financial difficulties. Kate Frye played a leading, if silent, part in Christopher St John’s  banned play, The Coronation, published by the ISS and staged by Edith Craig in January 1912 as a Benefit Performance in aid of the shop. A long description of the occasion can be found in Campaigning for the Vote.

As the WSPU campaign became more physically militant the International Suffrage  Shop, which boasted two very large plate-glass windows, became a prime target for retaliation. Helena Swanwick described how when, one evening, she was attending a meeting at the shop medical students broke in and threw books about. The police, apparently, would do nothing to help. On at least one occasion one of the shop’s windows was broken.

When the Strand was widened in mid-1913 the shop had to move and certainly by the time it was forced to close in April 1918, threatened with bankruptcy, its address was 5 Duke Street, Adelphi (then off Villiers Street). In 1913 it would appear that the original founders had relinquished their connection and that it had been taken over by Miss Adeline West Trim, who had been in charge of the Book-Selling Department from the beginning and had managed to keep the shop open throughout the First World War and who, alas, died soon after, in 1920 aged barely 50.

For other posts in this series see:

Where and What Was the Aldwych Skating Rink ?

Where And What Was Clement’s Inn ?

The St Clement’s Press

Where And What Was the ‘Votes For Women Fellowhip?’

Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary edited by Elizabeth Crawford

For a full description of the book click here

Wrap-around paper covers, 226 pp, over 70 illustrations, all drawn from Kate Frye’s personal archive.

ISBN 978 1903427 75 0


Copies available from Francis Boutle Publishers, or from Elizabeth Crawford –, from all good bookshops – especially Foyle’s, London Review Bookshop, Persephone Bookshop, British Library Bookshop, Daunt Books, The National Archives Bookshop and Newham Bookshop. Also online – especially recommend very favourable price offered by Foyle’s Online (and they pay all taxes!)


Campaigning for the Vote cover‘Campaigning for the Vote’ – Front and back cover of wrappers

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Suffrage Stories: Parliamentary Radio Interviews Recorded At The Emily Wilding Davison Event In The House Of Commons, Tuesday 4 June 2013

Alison McGovern MP5 June 2013

100 years since Emily Wilding Davison, the Suffragette died Parliament pays tribute to her

Westminster has paid tribute to the Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison 100 years after she was knocked down by the King’s Horse at Epsom races.

Kate Frye Cover“Parliament and Votes for Women” The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art and Parliament Week, paid tribute to Emily with a special tour of the places in Westminster Emily and others targeted with her Suffrage militant activities.

Boni Sones, our Executive Producer, spoke to the Labour MP Alison McGovern, Elizabeth Crawford, the suffragette historian, and Irene Cockroft, of the Bourne Hall Museum in Ewell, Surrey. All had their own Emily stories, including an eye witness account of Emily’s funeral procession from Kate Frye.

Listen to the interview…

Download this interview (.mp3 format, file size: 14.5MB) Iright click and then click on ‘open link in new tab’ button/

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Suffrage Stories: Kitty Marion, Emily Wilding Davison And Hurst Park

Emily Wilding Davison died in Epsom Hospital during the afternoon of Sunday 8 June. However, by the previous evening a plan was already afoot to commemorate, if not yet her death, at least her action at the Derby.

Kitty Marion

Kitty Marion

In a previous post I explained that Kitty Marion, one-time music-hall artiste – by 1913 a full-time militant suffragette, wrote in her unpublished autobiography that Emily Davison, on the eve of the Derby had given her a purse containing a sovereign, ‘for munitions’. She went on to say that ‘the following Sunday, when unaware of her death, Betty Giveen and I made good use of the ‘munitions’ Emily had paid for.’ It transpired that  ‘some one living in the vicinity of Hurst Park race course [had] suggested to Clara [aka 'Betty'] Giveen and me that the Grand Stand there would make a most appropriate beacon, not only as the usual protest but, in honour of our Comrade’s daring deed for which she paid with her life.’

Whether or not Kitty Marion’s story of Emily’s purse and the sovereign is true (I am horribly suspicious of post-event stories that place an autobiographer in the centre of a dramatic scene – cf Mary Richardson) there is no doubt that, on the evening of 8 June, Kitty Marion and Betty Giveen set out for the Hurst Park stadium at Molesey (near Hampton Court), apparently equipped with their ‘munitions’  – a gallon of oil and fire lighters -together with a piece of candle to ignite the oil-soaked material they was to be used as a wick. In the event the ‘fuse’ ignited far too quickly – an hour was supposed to elapse before the blaze started – and the women had to depart in haste. The stadium was gutted.

The women had difficulty, hampered by their skirts, but with the aid of a piece of old carpet they had brought along, in clambering over the fence that  surrounded the grounds and it interests me that in her autobiography (admittedly written many years later)  Kitty Marion specifically comments ‘We both regretted that there was no movie camera to immortalise the comedy of it.’  If the power of the ‘movie cameras’ was in their mind on 8 June, it makes Emily Davison’s positioning of herself at Epsom on 4 June all the more convincing. Movies were by 1913 firmly embedded in the contemporary mindset.

For more about the firing of the stadium see Fern Riddell’s blog post.

The mistake made over the setting of the fuse rather bears out my contention that  fires, once started, are not easy to control. Suffragette arsonists – as any other fireraiser, male or female – could never be certain that they would not cause injury to themselves or others. They were lucky.

Leaving the stadium ablaze, Kitty and Betty then walked from Molesey to Kew – to the home of Dr and Mrs Casey (and of their militantly WSPU daughter, Eileen) at 25 West Park Road, Kew. [The house is a typical Edwardian semi; I have often walked past it on my way from Kew Gardens station to the National Archives.]  Kitty writes that Mrs Casey,  after meeting her and Betty had invited them to stay at her house. Mrs Casey confirmed this meeting in her trial evidence, reporting that she had met Kitty, for the first time, at the WSPU Summer Fair on the evening of 7 June. Presumably in handing to them a latch key to the house so that they could enter during the night without waking the household, Mrs Casey was aware that they were likely to have committed some law-breaking act and had not, as the defence claimed, been attending a party.

During the course of the 7 June meeting Mrs Casey had told Kitty which room in her house would be free for them and in her evidence said that the next morning  ‘she saw Miss Marion with Miss Giveen asleep in a top room’. The report continues, ‘witness opened the door and said “It’s time to get up for breakfast.”‘

Apparently, however, the house was being watched by police and Kitty and Betty were soon arrested there. They had, in fact, encountered a policeman in the early hours of the morning close to Kew station as they were trying to work out the exact location of West Park Road. The newspaper evidence appears to indicate that the police were watching the Caseys’ house, which, if true, would seem to indicate that far more research needs to be done on the deployment of police surveillance against WSPU sympathisers.

On Tuesday 10 June Kitty and Betty were charged at Richmond court and released on bail of £2000 each on sureties partly offered by two wealthy WSPU supporters, Mrs Williams and Mrs Potts.

Although Betty Giveen, who was from Birmingham, had from 4 June been lodging at 7 Great Ormond Street in Holborn and Kitty had digs at 86 Kennington Road, Lambeth, in  court they both named 118 King Henry’s Road, Hampstead, the home of the WSPU Hampstead secretaries, the Misses Collier, as an address that would find them. That evening Kitty Marion returned once again to the Empress Rooms and the WSPU  Summer Fair, where a wreath dedicated to the memory of Emily Davison now rested against the statue of St Joan.

The trial of Kitty Marion and Betty Giveen was held at Guilford on 3 July. Both the newspaper reports and Kitty Marion’s autobiography  record, as Kitty put it, ‘great astonishment at the Freemasonary among suffragettes, for one to trust a mere acquaintance who had never previously been to her house, with a latch key and to bring another, an utter stranger. Neither court nor counsels could grasp the idea’. ‘She was a Suffragette’, said Mrs Casey, ‘that was quite good enough for us. We trust anyone who is a Suffragette.’

Kitty Marion was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude and immediately went on a hunger-and-thirst strike. For much more about Kitty Marion (and Eileen Casey) read, their entries in The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide.  There is an interesting blog post about Eileen Casey and her mother, Mrs Isabella Casey, on the National Archives website.




















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Suffrage Stories: June 2013

In case readers of Woman and Her Sphere haven’t had enough Emily Wilding Davison here is a piece I was commissioned to write for the OUP blog. Or, to be exact, this is the piece I chose to write, having been commissioned to write something about Emily Davison.

OUP Blog Why is Emily Davison the first suffragette martyr?

Do readers have any views? Do you think I’m too cynical?

And here is a link to one programme in what sounds like an interesting series to be broadcast in the 1.45 slot (15-min programmes) for 2 weeks starting on Monday 10 June. The second programme, Tuesday 11 June, is devoted, I think, to the suffrage movement. I was interviewed at length, but have no idea how the material has been edited!


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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison and Kate Frye – Derby Day 1913

The memorial brooch to Emily Davison that Mary Leigh kept all her life

The memorial brooch to Emily Davison that Mary Leigh kept all her life, I can’t explain the scribbles!

In yesterday’s post I explained that on the evening of 3 June 1913 Emily Davison went to Kensington, to the WSPU Summer Fair. I think it likely that the idea of doing ‘something’ next day at the Derby only crystallised during the course of that evening or night.

For, the next morning, Emily travelled into town from 133 Clapham Road, where we believe she was staying with her friend, Mrs Alice Green, in order to visit WSPU headquarters in Kingsway and acquire two WSPU flags. The journey she would have followed involved travelling on the City and South London Railway (now the Northern line) to Bank, changing there to the Central line and exiting at British Museum, a station long since incorporated into Holborn station. From there it was a short walk to WSPU headquarters at Lincoln’s Inn House.

A WSPU flag

A WSPU flag

If she had planned in advance to travel to Epsom that day, Emily would surely have picked up the flags earlier. It would have been much easier to travel from Clapham to Victoria, without making a detour into Holborn. As it was it would appear that she rolled up the flags, which are made from quite heavy woollen material, pinned them inside the back of her coat (according to the police report) and set off for Victoria.

Victoria Station

Victoria Station

As I have explained in an earlier post, at Victoria it is more than likely that the only ticket Emily could buy, whether she wanted it or not, was a special Derby Day  excursion return – at the not inconsiderable price of 8 shillings.  The one she travelled took her to Epsom Downs station, close to the Grandstand, but quite a distance from Tattenham Corner. She may have arrived around the middle of the day, possibly in time for the first race.

The Derby began at 3.01pm. As the horses approached Tattenham Corner a mere 4 seconds elapsed between Emily Davison ducking under the rails and being knocked flying by Anmer. The horse got to his feet and the crowd rushed forward to surround Emily Davison and Herbert Jones, the jockey.

The main witness, a policeman, Frank Bunn, who was standing near to the point where Emily went under the rail,  made clear at the inquest that there was no identification of  Emily until after she was admitted to Epsom Cottage Hospital. The identification may have come from the marking on a handkerchief in her pocket. Here is the complete inventory of Emily’s possessions, as noted by Frank Bunn.

  • ‘On her jacket being removed I found 2 Suffragette flags, 1½ yards long by ¾ yards wide, each consisting of green, white and purple stripes, folded up and pinned to the back of her jacket, on the inside.
  • On person, 1 purse containing 3/8¾d.,
  • 1 return half railway ticket from Epsom Race Course to Victoria No 0315,
  • 8 ½d stamps,
  • 1 helper’s pass for Suffragette Summer Festival, Empress Rooms, High Street, Kensington for 4th June 1913,
  • 1 race card,
  • some envelopes and writing paper,
  • 1 handkerchief Emily Davison Mrs. E.W.D 8 88.
  • 2 postal order counterfoils No. 790/435593 for 2/6, ‘crossed’ written in ink thereon, one 20H/924704 for 7/6 E.Gore 1/4/13 written in ink thereon,
  • one insurance ticket dated May 10th 1913 on G.E. railway to and from New Oxford Street,
  • 1 key,
  • 1 small memo book’

Some of these items survive in the collection of the Women’s Library @ LSE

As she lay on the racecourse, Emily Davison was tended by Mrs Catherine Warburg, a member of the wealthy banking family, a woman with, the inquest reported, some nursing experience. The Warburgs’ had an estate nearby in Surrey and,  quite incidentally, one of Mrs Warburg’s sons, Edmund, was to become an eminent botanist.

While Herbert Jones was carried into the racecourse ambulance, Emily had to rely  on the goodwill of a race goer and was taken to Epsom hospital in the car of Johann Faber, who lived at nearby Ewell and, among his other activities, was the Danish consul general in London.

The reverse of Mary Leigh's Emily WIlding Davison brooch, annotated, characteristically,  in Mary's handwriting

The reverse of Mary Leigh’s Emily WIlding Davison brooch, annotated, characteristically, in Mary’s handwriting

There is no contemporary evidence to suggest that Emily Davison was accompanied to Epsom by anybody else. Mary Richardson, another militant suffragette, claimed, both in her autobiography and in a BBC interview, to have been standing near Emily and to have seen her dash onto the race track. However, I do not believe this. She wrote the book- and recorded the interview – in 1953, forty years after that Derby Day. She was impoverished and to create some hype placed herself at the scene of every major suffragette drama. This is, I feel, a pity as the parts of the book which can be tied to historical fact do have power, but in 1953 (as, perhaps, now) the public only wanted drama from the suffragettes. If she had really been close at Epsom on 4 June 1913 she would surely have written about this – or it would have been reported – in The Suffragette, even if not called as a witness at the inquest. Moreover she rather gilds the lily by claiming to be at the Derby to sell copies of The Suffragette, a paper that, at this very time, the Home Office was not permitting to be sold. I cannot imagine that the masses of police manning the Derby would have allowed Mary Richardson to ply her wares. But such is the power of the media that careful reasoning is always trumped by the easy soundbite.

Kate Frye coverIf we do not know what Mary Richardson was really doing for the Cause on Derby Day, there is no doubt what Emily Davison was doing and, indeed, what Kate Frye, another stalwart campaigner, working at this time in Fakenham, Norfolk, as organizer for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage, was up to.

Kate’s diary entry for 4 June 1913 tells us that she was unsuccessful in her search for a chairwoman for a meeting (the reason often given was that whichever local worthy she approached did not want in any way to be associated with the militant suffragettes, even though the NCS was, as its name suggests, a constitutional society) and spent some hours walking round the town, canvassing for members. A thankless task and, of course, hardly the stuff of drama.

She ends the day’s entry with ‘My good landlady talks more than I need but she seems to like me and as she has never had a lady lodger before I must make a good impression.’ So, in her own way, Kate was breaking boundaries on that day 100 years ago. I am sure we are all grateful that, as women, we are not barred as lodgers. Presumably in previous years that ‘kind landlady’ had turned women away, doubtless worrying that they would give her house a bad reputation. My point being that revolutions require a succession of infinitely small changes – as well as the grand gesture.

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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison On The Eve Of The Derby 1913

On Tuesday  3 June 1913  Emily Davison was present at the Suffragette Summer Fair, held in the  Empress Rooms, on the north side of Kensington High Street, just  west of Kensington Palace.  

Advertising the 'All in a Summer Fair, June 1913

Advertising the ‘All in a Summer Fair, June 1913

The WSPU’s fund-raising  ‘All In a Garden Fair’ saw the hired room transformed into  ‘a beautiful rose garden under an Italian sky’, lined with pergolas wreathed in pink rambling roses. In the centre of the hall was an illuminated fountain, which was  set in a grass lawn, surrounded by clipped box trees and garden seats. This verdant scene was surrounded by stalls  selling WSPU merchandise and all kinds of  goods donated by members. The Ladies’ Aeolian Orchestra and the Actresses’ Franchise League contributed live performances. A centrepiece of the Fair was a statue of Joan of Arc, who had come to prominence with her beatification in 1909 and by 1913 was very much a symbolic heroine to  suffragettes.

Emily Davison’s biographer, Gertrude Colmore, reported that Emily attended the Fair with her ‘Comrade’, Mary Leigh, and that ‘Saluting, she stood there, reading the words upon the pedestal,  “Fight on, and God will give victory”‘ These , reportedly Joan of Arc’s last words, were those that were to appear all too soon on banners draped on Emily Davison’s grave.

Kitty Marion

Kitty Marion

Another suffragette who places herself with Emily Davison at the Fair was Kitty Marion, music hall artiste and militant suffragette. In her unpublished autobiography she states that, with Emily Davison, she was among a group of friends who discussed the possibility of making a protest the next day at Epsom.  As she remembered it nothing was decided but. ‘Before we parted that night, Emily gave me a tiny green chamois purse containing a sovereign for “‘munitions I might need soon”‘.  We have only Kitty Marion’s word that Emily Davison made this cryptic comment to which, of course, she then gives her own interpretation; I shall publish a post in a few days time recounting What Kitty Did Next.  Did  Emily Davison, who we know was by no means well off and with no employment,  on the evening before the Derby really give away the large sum of a sovereign (£1 then, worth about £65 today). It doesn’t seem very likely, but, if she did, what could she have meant by it?

For, although Emily Davison is not known to have undertaken any militant acts since the end of 1912, Kitty Marion most certainly had.  While standing talking on 3 June at the ‘All in a Garden Fair’, it was with the knowledge that in the course of the previous few weeks she  she had been responsible for setting fire to at least three houses – the latest, from the evidence of her scrapbook, being a house in Folkestone on 17 May. One of these houses, severely damaged on 15 April, was ‘Levetleigh’, the Hastings home of an MP.  In addition she had set fire to a succession of stationary railway carriages  in places such as Teddington, around London’s outer suburbs.

So, as the women stood together ‘under the Italian sky’, at least one of them had, metaphorically and, probably, literally, traces of paraffin on her hands. It is difficult to believe that Emily Davison was not aware of the arsonists in her circle and that for all the the ‘beautiful rose garden’ that surrounded them and the girls in virginal white standing outside the Empress Rooms inviting passers-by to step in, the atmosphere within the group was not increasingly febrile. For reasons that I will put forward in tomorrow’s post, I think it was in the course of this evening – and not before – that Emily Davison made up her mind to take the train the next day to Epsom – and the Derby.



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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison And That Return Ticket

Emily Wilding Davison

Emily Wilding Davison, wearing a WSPU’ Boadicea’,  brooch, her ‘Holloway’ brooch and her hunger-strike medal. The latter was buried with her.

Ever since 1988, when  the Women’s Library@LSE  (or, as it was then, the Fawcett Library) was given, by descendants of Rose Lamartine Yates, items that had belonged to Emily Wilding Davison, the fact that amongst these was her return ticket, issued on 4 June for travel between Victoria Station and Epsom Race Course, has been considered important in assessing whether or not she intended to act in such a way as to harm herself. Click here to view an image of the ticket,  an item in a digital exhibition launched to mark the 100th anniversary of Emily Davison’s death.

The argument was, in essence, that if Emily Davison had a return ticket she intended to return. However, no contemporary report, either at the inquest, in newspapers or in the memoirs of her friends, made such a deduction. The first occasion on which this theory was put forward, as far as I can discover, was  in a 1988 Guardian article celebrating the gift to the Fawcett Library.

Some while ago I decided that this lack of contemporary comment required further investigation and that in order to determine what message the ticket carried it was necessary to look more closely at the workings of pre-First World War rail routes between London and Epsom, in particular the arrangements that were in place on 4 June 1913.  Experience has taught me that a lack of awareness of just such quotidian details can often lead historians astray. Thus, before attempting to interpret Emily Davison’s motive on Derby Day, it is necessary to understand the detail that shaped her day.

I quickly realised that, as Derby Day has dwindled in importance – no longer the epitome of a wonderful day out for Londoners – so has an appreciation of the logistics that 100 years ago brought hundreds of  thousands of  Londoners, of all social classes, by carriage, car and, most importantly, by train to Epsom. For Derby Day in 1913 was still the Derby Day of William Powell Frith’s painting and of the wonderfully descriptive scenes depicted by George Moore in Esther Waters, almost a national holiday, racing augmented by funfairs and sideshows. For instance, on 4 June 1913  many London theatres cancelled their matinees, knowing that their audiences would be elsewhere.

First I researched the route that Emily Davison had taken. From newspaper advertisements placed by the train companies in the Manchester Guardian and the Times I saw that on Derby Day virtually all the usual train services were suspended and special trains ran to the three Epsom stations – Epsom Town, Epsom Downs and Tattenham Corner.

Plaque showing map of L B & S C Railway system at  Victoria Station

Plaque showing map of L B & S C Railway system at Victoria Station

Each of these stations was linked to a different rail company. Emily Davison’s ticket was issued from Victoria Station. I discovered that the only company that ran trains from Victoria was the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, the rather circuitous route taken by the line ending at Epsom Downs station.

Each of the rail companies advertised the virtues of its Epsom station – so, while the Charing Cross/London Bridge line trumpeted Tattenham Corner as the only station on the race course (and, indeed, at this time trains only travelled to that station on race days), the L B & S C Railway claimed Epsom Downs as the station nearest the Grandstand – and described it as the ‘Racecourse Station’. The return ticket gives the route for return as ‘Epsom Race Course to Victoria’.

On Derby Day 1913 all the companies put on special excursion trains. The L B & S C ran ‘cheap trains’ from Victoria up until 9.38 am and after that – between 10.15 am and 1.38 pm – put on 17 ‘fast trains’. The cost of Emily Davison’s ticket – 8s 6d  ‘with no particular class of carriage guaranteed’ – does not seem cheap. In 1913 the WSPU paid its organizers £2 10s a week – and Emily did not even have the luxury of such employment; the 2013 equivalent of the ticket price is over £40.The advertisements do not give much detail about prices.  No ‘8/6 ticket’ is mentioned, but the ‘ Pullman Limited’ Non-Stop train that left Victoria at 12.15 cost 12/6 (return) and another Derby Day ‘Special Through Train’ from Willesden cost 6/6 so I would conclude that Emily Davison caught one of the ‘fast trains’ from Victoria to Epsom Downs.

Epsom Downs station on Derby Day, 1907 (image courtesy of Nick Catford's 'Disused Stations' website)

Epsom Downs station, packed with trains, on Derby Day, 1907 (image courtesy of Nick Catford’s ‘Disused Stations’ website)

The advertised arrangements for Derby Day stress, as I have mentioned, that certain ordinary services to Epsom were suspended and others were altered. A reading of the advertisement would strongly suggest that it was not possible, on Derby Day, to buy any ticket from Victoria to Epsom Downs other than one that included a return element. The L B & S C Railway concentrated on running only ‘excursion’ trains on Derby Day, intent on transporting the hordes looking forward to this highlight in the holiday calendar, and that these tickets were, of necessity, ‘return’.

My feeling is that the explanation for no contemporary comment being made of the fact that Emily Davison had bought a return ticket – quite an expensive ticket – was that her contemporaries would have recognised that Derby Day excursion tickets were by their very nature ‘return’. On that day railway companies operating between London and Epsom  had a captive market and made the most of it.

Moreover, even if  Emily Davison had not expected to be injured at Epsom, she could hardly have been certain of returning to London that day. If, when she bought her ticket, she was then intending to step onto the race course and cause disruption to the Derby she would surely have known that, at the very least, she would to be arrested. I would suggest that the fact that she had notepaper, envelopes and stamps in her pockets (she does not appear to have been carrying any kind of bag) might indicate that she had thought it would be likely that she would need to write a letter or two that day, possibly from a police cell.

I would suggest that it does not seem likely that, impoverished as she was, that Emily Davison, with the expectation of, at the least, detention, would have spent so much on a return ticket if she had not been compelled to do so.

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Clare Balding’s Secrets Of A Suffragette: Channel 4 Sunday 26 May 8pm

Balding press release

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Suffrage Stories: Bloomsbury Links in Life And Literature

Night and DayIn Night and Day, set in 1910, Virginia Woolf writes explicitly of the  suffrage campaign. She places the office of her suffrage society, the ‘S.G.S.’, in the heart of Bloomsbury, in Russell Square. Mary Datchet works there (‘From ten to six every day’) in an office on the top-floor of a large house ‘which had once been lived in by a great city merchant and his family’. When Mary Datchet is found ‘lost, apparently, in admiration of the large hotel across the square’, she could in fact have been looking at not one but two  imposing hotels – the Russell and the Imperial.

A house with just such a view, number 23, on the north-western corner of the square, belonged to Sir Alexander Rendel, grandfather of Ellie Rendel, close friend of Ray Strachey. Although by 1910 the offices of the main women’s suffrage societies were in real life based either in Westminster, where Ray Strachey was busy working for the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, or around the Strand, Russell Square had indeed, in the later years of the 19th century, been a centre of the  movement. The northern corner of the Hotel Russell (perhaps the very hotel on which Mary Datchet’s gaze rested) had replaced 8 Russell Square, where Dr Richard Pankhurst, his wife Emmeline, and their young family had lived from 1888 to 1893.

Women's Franchise LeagueIt was here, in the 1890s, that the Pankhursts’ art-furnished double drawing room had provided a useful gathering place  for conferences of the Women’s Franchise League, a society aimed at winning the vote for women. The most lavish of these conferences, held over three days in December 1891, was illustrated in the Graphic and reproduced 40 years later in Our Mothers (ed. Alan Bott & Irene Clepahane),  a book owned by Virginia Woolf and consulted by her when writing Three Guineas.

Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy photographed c 1906

Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy photographed c 1906

The chief founder of the Women’s Franchise League was Mrs Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, one of the 19th-century’s most active workers for the women’s Cause. Virginia Woolf’s father, Leslie Stephen, was in touch with Mrs Elmy on at least one occasion, for it is she he thanks for the information he used when compiling the entry for the Dictionary of National Biography on her brother, Joseph Wolstenholme.

The latter was, until his death in 1891, an intimate of the Stephen household; the two men had met at Cambridge where, before an unfortunate marriage, Wolstenholme had been a fellow of Christ’s College. Noel Annan describes a dinner in Wolstnholme’s rooms at Christs’ at which Leslie Stephen took issue with the opinions held by his dining companions. He accused them of ‘drivelling radicalism’ and joked: ‘to give women votes – why, it might save the Church of England for a quarter of a century’.

There were many reasons for objecting to the vote for women but Joseph Wolstenholme was not to be swayed. In 1870 he and two other fro Cambridge subscribed to the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage, the most radical of the women’s suffrage societies, founded by his sister in 1865.

Joseph Wolstenholme

Joseph Wolstenholme

Whatever differences they might have had on such subjects, Leslie Stephen remained an affectionate friend, inviting Joseph Wolstenholme to share the Stephen holiday each summer in Cornwall and reminiscing about these visits in the Mausoleum Book in which he alludes to Wolstenholme’s ‘Bohemian tastes and heterodox opinions’. Quentin Bell has suggested that the character of Augustus Carmichael in To the Lighthouse  was based on that of Joseph Wolstenholme. Carmichael and Wolstenholme certainly shared a taste for opium. Carmichael does not, however, reveal his opinion on women’s suffrage.

Virginia Woolf with her parents at Talland House, Cornwall, in 1892. Alas, the 'Woolly One' would be holidaying with them no more

Virginia Woolf with her parents at Talland House, Cornwall, in 1892. Alas, the ‘Woolly One’ would be holidaying with them no more

Virginia Woolf included memories of ‘The Woolly One’ (as Wolstenholme was fondly known to the young Stephens) in A Sketch of the Past  and mentions in 22 Hyde Park Gate, that George Duckworth thought ‘old Mr Wolstenholme not one of the “nice people”‘.

So we can recognise that, as Mary Datchet’s eyes gazed across Russell Square from the S.G.S. office, threads of association   spooled forth linking her and her creator to two of the most influential activists for women’s suffrage. It would be a mistake, however, to identify the ‘S.G.S.’, the acronym never elucidated, with a women’s suffrage society.

In 1910 Virginia Stephen offered her services to the People’s Suffrage Federation (P.S.F.), a society formed in October 1909  to promote adult (not merely female) suffrage and to remove the property basis as the qualification for citizenship.

To her friend and teacher, Janet Case, Virginia wrote in a letter dated 1 January 1910: ‘I don’t know anything about the question. Perhaps you could send me a pamphlet, or give me the address of the office …You impressed me so much the other night with the wrongness of the present state of affairs that I feel that action is necessary.’

Mecklenburgh Square, bloomsbury

Mecklenburgh Square, Bloomsbury

So it was that Virginia Stephen spent a short time working in an office in Mecklenburgh Square, addressing envelopes for the P.S.F., while absorbing details that were to be transported across Bloomsbury to the office of the S.G.S.  As the adult suffrage for which the P.S.F. was committed was also known as ‘universal suffrage’, perhaps we could unravel the initials of Mary Datchet’s society and reconstruct them as ‘The Society for General Suffrage’.


Hotel Russell

Hotel Russell

All things pass away and, as Mrs Pankhurst’s double drawing room made way for the terracotta splendour of the Hotel Russell, so the ‘Virginia Woolf Burger and Pasta Bar’ that at the beginning of the 21st century nestled in the hotel’s northern corner where once the members of the Women’s Franchise League held earnest debate, is, alas,  no more.  How suitable, then, that the hotel’s new dining room is named ‘Tempus’, with Night following  Day in the diurnal rhythm that sweeps us onward while Mary Datchet still stands, ‘lost in admiration’, gazing out across Russell Square.

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Suffrage Stories/Campaigning for the Vote: Selfridge’s and Suffragettes


The Suffrage Annual and Women's Who's Who

The Suffrage Annual and Women’s Who’s Who

Selfridge’s opened its glamorous, purpose-built store in Oxford Street on 15 March 1909 and Kate Frye, an ever curious shopper, paid her first visit there on 29 March. (For Kate’s published suffrage activities see here.)

In the morning Kate attended a meeting of the Dance Committee of which she, along with the actress Eva Moore, was a member – they were organising a fund-raising dance for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. Then she met her fiance, John Collins, and, together, they went along to inspect Selfridge’s.

‘We had some lunch there and did the roof and tried to make ourselves giddy – it was lovely up there. Then we systematically did the shop beginning with the top. We had 2d of gramophone each and generally played about and it was 4.30 by the time we had finished. It is a wonderful building but there is nothing in the goods to especially attract. The place was packed and a good many people were buying.’

Kate was, of course, a keen suffrage sympathiser and, although she may not, on that first visit, have appreciated it, Selfridge’s was to be generally supportive of the suffrage cause.  For four years later, advertising itself as ‘Selfridge and Co: The Modern Woman’s Club-Store’ on the book’s purple cover, Selfridge’s put its stamp on what is now one of the most useful research tools available to suffrage historians.

The Suffrage Annual and Women’s Who’s Who, published in 1913,  contains irreplaceable details about women involved in the suffrage campaign – both militants and constitutionalists. It is likely that  Selfridge’s underwrote much of the expense of producing it for, as you see, besides its cover advertisement, the store took running advertisements along the foot of every page.

It is reported, but I have yet to verify, that on occasion Selfridge’s dressed their windows in the purple, white and green colours of the WSPU and even flew the WSPU purple, white and green flag from the store’s flagpole.

Gladys Evans

Gladys Evans (photo courtesy of Ward Skinner)

However, one clear link between Selfridge’s and the suffragettes is this woman, Gladys Evans, the daughter of  a man, now dead, who had owned the British weekly magazine Vanity Fair –a very influential ‘society’ paper  ( not to be confused with the Conde Naste magazine which in 1914 adopted the name). Gladys joined Selfridge’s in 1908 in preparation for the opening of the new store and worked there for over a year before leaving to take over a WSPU shop. In 1911 she emigrated to Canada, where a sister had settled, but returned in March 1912 after learning of the arrests of Mrs Pankhurst and Mr and Mrs Pethick Lawrence.

Firmly back on the WSPU warpath, in July 1912 Gladys went over to Dublin where Asquith was on a formal visit and, with other suffragettes, Mary Leigh and Jennie Baines, set fire to a theatre – empty at the time – but the one in which Asquith was due to speak that evening. Gladys Evans was given a long prison sentence, went on hunger strike and was forcibly fed for 58 days.

There was a good deal of lobbying to get her and her companions given the status of political prisoners – which would have allowed them better conditions. One of those who wrote on Gladys’ behalf was Selfridge’s staff manager, Mr Best. and 253 of the store’s employees signed a Memorial sent to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland pleading for a remission of Gladys Evans’ sentence – see Votes for Women, 6 September 1912. Apparently, even Mr Selfridge himself was sympathetic, though reluctant to put pen to paper in Gladys’ support because, as an American, he thought it might look as though he were trying to interfere in matters that didn’t concern him. Gladys and Mary Leigh were eventually returned to England, where they promptly gave the police the slip and went on the run.

For most of her later life Gladys Evans lived in the US, dying at the age of 90 in Los Angeles. Evans’ family history relates that Gladys gave all her suffragette papers to the New York Public Library. I have not, however, been able to find a listing for them. That might be a research project for an interested New Yorker.

Selfridge’s suffrage sympathies may have stood the store in good stead when the WSPU went on its window-smashing campaigns in November 1911 and March 1912.  Many department stores- even those which, like Swan and Edgar, were regular advertisers in Votes for Women – were targeted. But Selfridge’s  windows – 21 in all, of which 12 contained the largest sheets of plate glass in the world – escaped unscathed.

Sarah Bennet, photographed by Lena Connell

Sarah Bennet, photographed by Lena Connell

However in February 1913, in protest against the fact that the government had been withdrawn the proposed Franchise Bill, Sarah Benett, one-time treasurer of the Women’s Freedom League, was sentenced to six month’s imprisonment after breaking one of these windows.  Incidentally, Sarah Benett in 1916 sent a donation to Maud Arncliffe Sennett towards the expense of employing Gladys Evans as an organizer for the Northern Men’s Federation for Women’s Suffrage.

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Suffrage Stories: The 1911 Census: A Bristol Boycotter

There is no end to the interesting family histories one unearths while digging into the suffrage boycott of the 1911 census.

I recorded in the Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide  that  in 1913 a certain ‘H.M. T Lehmann’ was the honorary  secretary (pro tem) of the Bristol branch of the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement and that his address was ‘Rock Mount, Shirehampton’. As a child I lived in Bristol very close to Shirehampton, so this address stayed with me and I thought that when I had an idle moment I would investigate this 3-initialled man about whom I knew nothing.

When I came to look at the census return for ‘Rock Mount’ I was very interested to discover that, although there was no mention on the form of ‘H.M.T’ Lehmann – the householder,  Caroline Edith Lehmann, was a census boycotter. She wrote firmly across the form:  ‘Being an unrepresented ratepayer I refuse to give any information respecting myself or my household for the benefit of an Un-Liberal government. C.E. Lehmann. ‘ But who were Caroline Edith and H.M. T. Lehmann? There names, as far as I know, appear nowhere else in suffrage history.

Well, it took some untangling – but here goes.

Caroline Edith Mayne was born in 1859 in Kidderminster, daughter of a former captain in the 10th Dragoons In 1883 she married John Harold Watson, a minor Kidderminster industrialist, with whom she  had 2 daughters, Hilda and Joyce. Ten years later, in 1893, Watson filed a petition for divorce against her, citing a Weston-super-Mare pharmacist, Henry Ruck. The petition goes into considerable detail, describing adultery committed in 1888 and 1893 – and presumably at times in between – at various addresses -in Weston Super-Mare,   particularly at 5 Royal Crescent where Caroline Watson was staying. The decree nisi was given in 1895. Ruck’s wife divorced him for desertion in 1895. While the Watson divorce case was being heard Caroline was only allowed access to her children once a week – at her mother’s Kidderminster house. It is clear that her husband was trying to prevent her having any access at all and after the divorce the two daughters remained in Kidderminster with their father. I wonder how often they saw their mother in later life?  Neither married.

In November 1897 in London – at 41 Burlington Road, Paddington – Edith Caroline gave birth to a son – Heinz Maurice Talbot Lehmann. On his birth certificate his father is given as Ernst Lehmann, journalist, and his mother as Caroline Edith Lehmann, late Watson, formerly Mayne. I can find no trace of a marriage between the two – but it may, of course, have taken place abroad.

Four years later, when the 1901 census was taken, mother and son, who was now known as ‘Henry’ rather than ‘Heinz’, were living at Ramsbury Road, St Albans. Caroline Lehmann is described as married, but there is no trace on the census of Ernst Lehmann either here or elsewhere in England. The fact that his son’s name has been anglicized may indicate that by now Ernst was removed from the household – either by separation or death.

At some point between 1901 and 1911 mother and son moved to Shirehampton, on the outskirts of Bristol, to a house in Station Road that went under the name, variously, of  ‘Rockmount’ or ‘Rock Mount’.

Henry Lehmann may have gone to school at Clifton College. Caroline was to remain living in Shirehampton for the rest of her long life. Her later address was Talbot Cottage, 27 Grove Leaze.

Caroline Lehmann’s interesting marital history and the separation from her two daughters may well have coloured her views on ‘votes for women’. How could they not? Had she encouraged her son to take up the position as ‘hon sec pro tem’ of Bristol’s Men Political Union? He was barely 16 in 1913 but, from what I have learned of his subsequent career, would certainly have been ‘up’ for anything that might set him in opposition to the establishment.

Henry Lehmann joined the army in October 1914. His military record states that he was 19 but he was, of course, actually  only 17. I wonder if he consulted his mother before taking this step? I rather doubt it.  On 17 December 1915, at the grand old age of 18 and 1 month, Henry Lehmann, now a 2nd lieutenant in the 3rd Essex Regiment, gained his Aero Club Aviator’s certificate. He qualified while flying a Maurice Farman biplane. His address at this time was 192 Redland Road, Bristol. The Royal Aero Club album containing his 1915 photograph can be accessed by subscribers to While serving with the Royal Flying Corps, he was awarded the Military Cross.

In 1917 Henry married and with his wife, Joyce, had two daughters – Yvonne and [Bridget] Margaret. The couple divorced in 1925, with Joyce being given custody of children. Matters had obviously become rather desperate as Joyce forewent maintenance on condition that Henry had no communication with her.

In January 1928 Joyce Lehmann was living in Malvern with her younger daughter, working as  secretary to Malvern Ladies’  College, having left the elder daughter, Yvonne, in Shirehampton in the care of her mother-in-law, with whom she clearly had a rapport despite the divorce. Henry Lehmann arrived one day at the school and, posing as a ‘Major Brown’ asked to see Mrs Lehmann.  Despite this trick, Joyce Lehmann felt compelled to agree to her ex-husband’s request to take their daughter for a walk. She was clearly fearful that he would cause a scene and  jeopardise her position at the school.

Henry did not return young Margaret at the due time and Joyce Lehmann was forced to institute court proceedings.  After an Interpol search Margaret  was discovered two weeks later, enrolled in a boarding school at Lille, and returned to her mother.

Henry Lehmann had an exotic post-First World War flying career, on occasion wing-walking with a flying circus and working as an advisor the the Chinese Nationalist air force. The latter position resulted in questions being asked in the House of Commons.

Clearly a man of parts, in 1940, while based in Sydney, Australia, Henry designed and built a sailing yacht, the  Escapee,  which, classed as a ‘tall ship’, is still sailing in the 21st century.

Lehmann later emigrated to Canada, flying with the Canadian Royal Air Force and as a commercial pilot – and died in 1956, the same year as his mother.

Anyway, all this is what comes of wondering who was the ‘hon sec pro tem’ of the Bristol branch of the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement. Alas, I was unable to discover any images that I could use to enliven the story – but perhaps readers may consider it quite lively enough without.

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Suffrage Stories: Advertisers in ‘Votes for Women': Amy Kotze ‘Artistic Dresses’

Amy Kotze advertised weekly in 'Votes for Women'

Amy Kotze advertised weekly in ‘Votes for Women’. This is the ‘School Dress’

Who were the dress makers whose advertisements adorn the pages of Votes for Women? Were they suffragettes or did they just see a useful marketing opportunity?

Amy Kotze was one such, advertising, as on the left, clothes for children (made up in Liberty fabric) as well as hand-embroidered  ‘Artistic Dresses and Djibbahs’.

 Amy Charlotta Wilhelmina Heynes Kotze was born in 1884 at the Cape of Good Hope, the daughter of a South-African-born lawyer.  Her parents were married in England before going out to  South Africa and then returning to England in 1898. Amy was educated at a convent school and then studied at Sydenham Art School. Her father, Frederick Kotze, appears to have left the family in June 1901, returning for good to South Africa. Amy, with her mother and sisters continued living at 83 Croxted Road, Dulwich.

In 1907 Amy walked into Libertys, asked for a job, and was then employed there

 Aesthetic gown, 1908-10, produced by Libertys at a time when Amy Kotze was working for them. Picture courtesy of Augusta Auctions

Aesthetic gown, 1908-10, produced by Libertys at a time when Amy Kotze was working for them. Picture courtesy of Augusta Auctions

In an interview she gave in 1976, quoted by Barbara Morris in Liberty Design, Amy Kotze described how, influenced by artistic, reformed dress, she made herself a loose tunic which was much admired by friends. She then made a dress for Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and then set up on her own as a dress maker. She worked for a short time at home and then nearby, in Half Moon Lane, Herne Hill, before moving into Town where from 1910 she had a workshop just along the street  from Libertys, first at 3  and then at 8 Great Marlborough Street.

In the night of 2 April 1911 Amy Kotze’s mother and sister are recorded by the census enumerator at the family Dulwich home, but there is no trace anywhere of Amy. Thus she was another of those who appear to have successfully joined the  boycott of the census organised by the Women’s Social and Political Union and the Women’s Freedom League .

Amy Kotze paid rates on the Great Marlborough Street premises until 1923. When interviewed she remarked that after the First World War her trade was  killed by ‘off-the-peg’ dresses and she then founded the Little Gallery in the same premises, citing Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska as artists she had championed.  However I have seen a rather earlier review (Observer, February 1914) of a Little Gallery exhibition at 8 Great Marlborough Street, where works by Walter Sickert and Charles Ginner, among others, were being shown.

After 1923, probably until 1934, Amy Kotze was in business with her sister, Louie (1873-1975), at 5 Avery Row, a delightfully bohemian Mayfair by-way, by which time the street directory described their premises as a ‘fancy repository’. I imagine that, as with the Little Gallery, this involved selling their own work and that of other artist craftsmen.

Amy Kotze was now quite comfortably off, living from 1935 until 1948 at Brick House, Great Hormead in Hertfordshire  before moving to Greenfields, Henley, near Dorchester in Dorset. She died in Weymouth in 1976, presumably not long after giving the interview in which she described her early career.


Miss Folkard 3 Hills Place, Oxford Circus (1853-1921)

1911, aged 57,  1 Hoveden Road, Cricklewood – living with sister – andAlice Northcott, dressmaker’s assistant

First as dressmaker on 1901 census – when mother was alive apparently none of daughters worked. Had opened shop at 3 Hills Place in 1903

When she died she left £4056

Minnie Roberta Mills

b Cheltenham 1870

By 1891 father had died and mother and 3 surviving children had moved to Brixton – Roberta was an assistatnt in a photographic works. In 1901 as an artist – retoucher and in 1911 leather craft worker, living with mother at 7 Stansfield Road Brixton


Suffrage Stories: Mrs Alice Singer, Miss Edith New And The Suffragette Doll

Feature on Edith New in Swindon Heritage magazine

Feature on Edith New in Swindon Heritage magazine

The arrival of the first issue of the admirable Swindon Heritage  magazine has reminded me of a slight connection I had some years ago with an interesting object created by Edith New – the subject of one of its articles.

It was in 2006 that I was approached by a BBC TV producer planning a spin-off of the Antiques Roadshow -to be called the  Antiques Roadshow Greatest Finds. The idea was that they would take a few of the more intriguing items that had been brought to Roadshows in the previous year and research and discuss them in greater depth. The item that was brought to my attention was a Suffragette Doll. My research into its history and that of the woman who had owned it proved utterly fascinating. In addition I had a most enjoyable couple of days making the film that developed from the research.

I am only sorry that I do not have a photograph of the doll, which was dressed as a suffragette in prison uniform. Items such as this may occasionally appear on ebay or at auction but it is not that difficult to ‘forge’ a Suffragette Doll and what one needs is provenance, linking it to its original owner. This ‘Roadshow’ doll was just such a treasure – handed down through a family. What is more to my great pleasure I was able to discover more of the original owner, Mrs Alice Singer, than, when given the commission, I thought would be possible.  For, like Kate Frye (the subject of my latest book, Campaigning for the Vote).   Mrs Singer had kept a diary which, although a very much more sketchy affair than Kate’s, did reveal a good deal of her involvement with the Women’s Social and Political Union. The diary is now held in Israel by a branch of the family, but they were kind enough to let me have a look at it for the purpose of researching the programme.

Mrs Alice Singer (1873-1955) was born Alice Emma Isabel Isaac, the eldest of three daughters of Stephen Hart Isaac (1850-1877) and his wife Simi Seruya Isaac. Sime Seruya was of Portuguese extraction, although she was living in London when they married in 1872 at Bayswater Synagogue. At this time, and presumably later, when Alice was born, Stephen Isaac was working as the assistant manager of a coal mine at Colwick in Nottinghamshire. When he married he was living at Colwick Hall with his uncle, Saul Isaac, who was the lessee of the mine. Saul Isaac, was at this time MP for Nottingham (1874-80).

When Stephen Isaac died, aged 26, (at 31 Warrington Crescent, Paddington) on 2 January 1877, he was a widower. His death certificate shows that he had been ill for c. 9 months, probably with TB. His wife had died in Lisbon on 4 September 1876, a week after the birth of her third child. It is possible that they were in Lisbon for the sake of Stephen’s health. Lisbon was a place favoured by those suffering from TB. The fact that Sime had family there would have been an obvious attraction.

The three young girls, Alice, Daisy and Sime Seruya Isaac (who was now more than 6 months old) were left under the guardianship of their grandfather, Samuel Isaac, although Sime was brought up by her Portuguese grandparents. Alice, therefore, was orphaned by the time she was 4 years old.  She lived at Warrington Crescent until her marriage, I think. [NB across the road, at no 2 Warrington Crescent, there is a plaque to Alan Turing.  Interestingly -  and the ghosts pile up in London - that was also the address in 1866 of  Louisa Garrett Smith (eldest sister of Millicent Garrett Fawcett and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson) the very first secretary of the first London women’s suffrage society.]

Samuel Isaac was an army contractor – his firm was the largest European supporter of the southern (Confederate) states during the American Civil War – and failed on the fall of the Confederacy. After a while he became the main promoter of the Mersey Tunnel, which he was responsible for building.

Samuel (1812-86) and his wife, Emma (nee Hart), with the 2 elder girls, continued living at 31 Warrington Crescent until at least 1881. By 1886, when Samuel died, they were living at 29 Warrington Crescent. [Warrington Crescent, north of Paddington, was a smart address – houses were then new, large and italianate]. In 1891 Sime Seruya Isaac was boarding at a school at Kew. She went on to become an actress – a leading member of the Actresses’ Franchise League and one of the founders of the International Suffrage Shop.

Alice was educated at home by a governess and in 1895 married Julius Singer (1870-1926), son of Simeon and Charlotte Singer. In 1899 her sister, Daisy, married Julius’ brother, David.

Simeon Singer (1846-1906) was a leading light in the Jewish establishment in England, minister of the New West End Synagogue, St Petersburgh Place, Bayswater, from 1878 until his death. He was the translator and editor of the Authorized Daily Prayer Book, still the standard prayer book of Orthodox Jews in Britain. He is clearly still, a hundred years after his death, a strongly felt presence in the synagogue. Julius had four brothers and a sister and the family was clearly at the heart of Anglo-Jewry. Julius died in 1926 (18 Reynolds Close, Golders Green). During the course of the diary Alice is definitely anti-religion – of any kind.

When the census was taken in 1901 Alice and Julius Singer were living at Darby Green Farm, Darby Green, Yateley, Hampshire, which Alice had bought in 1900. Julius was described as a ‘wine and spirit merchant’. However, around 1908 his work seems to have involved the tea industry in some way –probably Lyons – and by then the family had moved to London. In 1911 they were living at 18 Reynolds Close, Golders Green where, on the day of the census, only two servants were at home. There is no trace elsewhere of the Singers – were they evading the enumerator to join in the suffragette boycott of the census?

In 1906 Alice and Julius appear to have been Conservative supporters. In later life Alice lamented that she wished she had been brought up in Fabian circles and, like her sister, Sime, moved dramatically to the Left. She visited Russia in the 1930s. She was keen to use women doctors (Dr Honor Bone) and opticians (Amy Sheppard – who worked at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital for Women). She was keen on passing fads – such as vegetarianism, psychology etc – which clearly infuriated her children!

Alice Singer joined the WSPU after attending one of their meetings on 18 February 1907 and by November was prepared to give some time to the cause, addressing envelopes in the office at Clement’s Inn. A week later, when she and her husband attended a WSPU rally in the Queen’s Hall, Julius bought a copy of the new card game – ‘Suffragette’. for my post about this game click here.  At the end of the month the Singers took the momentous decision to adopt a child – being themselves still childless. In the casual fashion typical of the time a girl, Mary, was found for them by Mrs Ernestine Mills, a fellow suffragist.  (For an example of Ernestine’s work as a jeweller, see here).  The Singers were on very friendly terms with the Ernestine and her husband, on occasion staying with them at their Dorset home at Studland.

The Singers continued to be involved members of the WSPU, Alice’s activities only briefly curtailed in 1909 by a long-awaited pregnancy. Emmeline Christabel Kenney Singer (known as ‘Christabel) was born on 10 December. A studio photograph, taken by Lena Connell, is still held by the family, showing Alice with Mary and Christabel. Baby Christabel has a WSPU badge pinned to the hem of her frock.

It was in 1908/9 that Alice Singer bought the Suffragette Doll – presumably at a WSPU fund-raising event. Remarkably in a diary entry of 1931 she reveals that she had met again, at a Suffragette party, the maker of the doll – Miss Edith New. It was such luck that she chose to put this connection on paper – such an ephemeral link but one that gives the doll such an excellent provenance.  On 22 August 1908 Alice Singer had attended the WSPU breakfast honouring Edith New and Mary Leigh on their release from Holloway. For much more about Edith New do read the Spring 2013 edition of ‘Swindon Heritage’ – a lively and well-produced model of a local history magazine – click here for details.

There is a strong Antiques Roadshow connection linking Edith New and Alice Singer’s Suffragette Doll – for in 2011 a quantity of Edith’s suffragette memorabilia, now held in the Swindon Heritage Centre (see,  was brought to the Roadshow when it visited Swindon. Coincidentally it was the Roadshow expert Hilary Kay who discussed this collection, as she had the Suffragette Doll a few years earlier.

In March 1912 Alice Singer was arrested after taking part in the WSPU window-smashing campaign. When arrested she had a hammer in her hand and when charged said of the windows, ‘I thought it was only one, they seemed like marble, not going to break.’ Alice had chosen to break three windows in the West Strand Telegraph Office, close to Trafalgar Square. Her family thought it appropriate that she, essentially law abiding and a respecter of property, should have chosen quasi-official premises, rather than privately-owned property.

Alice  was remanded in Holloway  until she appeared in court on 13 March. By now the Singers were living in Golders Green and a solicitor was organised by Mrs Lilian Hicks to represent the Hampstead women. Alice was charged under the Malicious Damage to Property Act and in court declared, ‘I only did it as a political protest. I admit I did it, but not for malice. I plead not guilty to malice.’ She agreed to be bound over – that is, not to commit any other such acts – for 12 months. Only one other woman also agreed to be bound over – all the other women (over 100 had been arrested) were sentenced to prison – their sentences varying but some repeat offenders getting as long as six months. Most of the other women were either single or with older families. Christabel was only 2 years old and I imagine Alice could not contemplate being away from home – in prison – for any length of time. The diary does not reveal any guilt at not opting for imprisonment.

Julius was very supportive while Alice was in prison – he visited her – but was kept waiting for 2 hours before seeing her for a short time ‘We forgot all we really wished to say in the fluster of the time limit and presence of wardresses..’

Alice Singer continued to work actively for the WSPU, in 1913 becoming treasurer of the Hendon and Golders Green branch. In November 1918 she was at last able to cast  her first  parliamentary vote – ‘I recorded for Mrs Edith How-Martyn for the new constituency of Hendon’. Edith How-Martyn, who had been a leader of the Women’s Freedom League, was standing as a Labour candidate but was unsuccessful.

The Suffragette Doll, treasured by Alice’s descendants, is silent testimony to her involvement in the ‘votes for women’ campaign and her indirect connection to Edith New, Swindon’s own suffragette.

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