To celebrate the release on 12 October of the film ‘Suffragette’ (for which I was an historical consultant) I will post each day an image of a suffrage item that has passed through my hands.
For my current catalogue – No 189 – which contains a good deal of suffrage material – as well as general books and ephemera by and about women – see here.
As Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence mentions in this leaflet, she – with Christabel Pankhurst, Annie Kenney, Mabel Tuke, Lady Constance Lytton and Elizabeth Robins – had represented the WSPU in a joint deputation from all suffrage societies to Asquith and Lloyd George to protest against the government’s intention to introduce a manhood suffrage bill, which just might, if the House of Commons desired, be amended to include women. This had been a bitter blow to suffrage campaigners who had pinned their hopes on putting before Parliament a Conciliation Bill – which would have enfranchised a proportion of women.
The deputation had received no comfort from Lloyd George and Asquith and this flyer was the WSPU’s response.
Kate Frye, whose diary I have edited as Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s suffrage diary (click here for details), went along to Parliament Square that Tuesday evening. In fact it was she who laid this very flyer between the pages of her diary and thus preserved it. She was an organiser for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage [NCSWS] but rather sympathetic to the WSPU – and always liked to be on the scene of any dramatic action.
This is what she wrote of the evening in her diary:
‘I went in to Lyons and had coffee and a sandwich. Who should I happen to sit next but Miss Ada Moore [an actress and active member of the WSPU] and 2 ladies – ready for the fray. I wonder I wasn’t arrested as one – for I soon realised I was dressed for the part to the life. Long cloth ulster or coat, light hat and veil was the correct costume – no bag purse – umbrella or any extra. I only had enough money to get home with in my coat pocket – the rest I had put in the suit case – the latch key was slung round my neck. It was awfully exciting – one felt like a red revolutionist.
Miss Moore & party left at 7.30 – her work lay in Whitehall, she told me – but she looked very white and strained and we did not talk much. I began to feel pretty green with all the force of strife in the air – I felt I too should only be in my rightful place when officially performing.
I left Lyons at 7.45 and strolled about. At the stroke of eight there was smashing of glass at some government office – the War Office I took it for – and I saw several – 8 or 9 or more – ladies led off – all very quietly done – no rough usage – no struggling. I followed them down Whitehall to Canon Row. More arrests – more broken glass – more crowds, a little jostling – people being moved on this way or that way – for the most part silent crowds – growing bigger and bigger – a rush to see another arrest – a bigger crowd surging up the street following the policeman with the arrested women but oh! what a different scene from last year when the women were so brutally knocked about.
I suppose the crowd was worse over the other side of Parliament Square but I was too timid to wander far, and I met Mrs Hartley [a founder of the NCSWS], her daughter, 2 friends and Miss Green and we all kept together, and we shouted whenever a prisoner was led along – “Bravo” “Well Done”. People took it up – but for the most part stood and watched silently. As far as I could see there no ill feeling whatever from the crowd to the women – the men stared solemnly at the proceedings.
We met Mrs Chapman and Miss Forsyth. Mrs Chapman [president of the NCSWS] was anxious as her daughter, Mrs Mansel, was ‘in’ it. We stood talking and got a crowd round us so had to “move on”.
We saw Mrs Pethick Lawrence led into Canon Row. There was a good deal of excitement then a huge crowd pushing along with her and other ladies. It was awfully cold and it was all very dreadful but I have never seen work better done – nearly every window in Whitehall with a large round hole right in the centre. Downing St was guarded. No one was allowed near.
Then people seemed drifting away so I made my way to Charing Cross – got my suitcase from the cloak room.’
This demonstration was the first to use mass window-smashing tactics – a later, similar, event is shown near the beginning of the film ‘Suffragette’. On 21 November 1911 220 women and 3 men were arrested and the next day around 150 of these were sentenced to period of between five days’ and two months’ imprisonment.