Kate’s family had always taken an interest in politics; her father had been Liberal MP for North Kensington in the 1890s and into the 20th century her mother was the president of the North Kensington Women’s Liberal Association. However, the meeting described below is the first occasion that Kate mentions in her diary her attendance at a specifically ‘suffrage’ meeting and of the disturbances that had been caused by the WSPU’s ‘rowdy attacks’.
At 8 o’clock [evening] Agnes [Kate’s elder sister] and I went off to KensingtonTown Hall to a Woman’s Suffrage meeting – got up by the Central Society. Lady Frances Balfour was presiding. We went by bus – when we got there the large hall was packed. Alexandra Wright was at the top of the stairs and directed us up to the overflow meeting and that was packed too. After a bit the speakers came in to us – the Hon Mrs Bertrand Russell, Miss Gore Booth, Lady Frances Balfour and Mr Cameron Corbett M.P. I heard excellent speeches all of them – they really did put the case in a nutshell and were most instructive and interesting.
Then Gladys Wright came and fetched me out and came and asked me to act as a Steward and collect – then later she went in for Agnes – and we both did what we could. We collected in the Gallery first – then later I was stationed to get the people as they came out. It was very amusing really – and I got so hot and excited – off my head with it – we certainly are in the thick of things always. Some of the people gave a lot – others shook their heads and frowned. One man said I wanted too much – to marry as well as a Vote. I had quite a flirtation on the stairs with a big smart young man – who stopped to ask me a question – he didn’t seem to know anything about anything and when he said the speaker had referred to Earl Percy as ‘half asleep’ – I said ‘That is true about a great many people’ – he did laugh.
I am afraid I felt I was more like a helper at a Bazaar than at so grave a thing as a Woman’s Suffrage Meeting – but then it is so hard for me to be serious about anything – but I am in earnest – I really do feel a great belief in the need of the Vote for Women if only as a means of Education. I feel my prayer for Women in the words of George Meredith ‘More brains, Oh Lord, more brains.’ But we are coming along and not slowly by any means. Of course all these rowdy attacks on the Ministers and these imprisonments have sounded coarse and unpleasant and the jokery made of it most bad for the cause – but women have waited patiently for so long the sort of women who have gone for the matter in this rowdy method are not the best educated or most refined amongst our members.
At this meeting every thing passed off in a most orderly dignified spirit – and the speeches from the women were delightful and must have come as a revelation to many of the audience. There was a declaration there for any working woman there who cared to sign – a number did – I did – as I have a profession [Kate was a rather unsuccessful actress]. Naturally they don’t want crowds of names without any meaning or strength in them. We came home after hearing the amount collected nearly £20 – about the cost of getting up a meeting – the reason for the collection. Bus to Notting Hill – got in soon after 10.30 – in a frenzy of excitement.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org (£14.99 +UK postage £3. Please ask for international postage cost), or from all good bookshops. In stock at London Review of Books Bookshop, Foyles, National Archives Bookshop.