Archive for category Kate Frye’s suffrage diary

Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: Rousing Rye

Although I am no longer the guardian of Kate’s diaries, I am still able walk in her footsteps. The hottest day of the year earlier this week found me in Rye in Sussex. I was recovering from a short, sharp illness but the overnight visit had been booked ages ago and I really didn’t want to forfeit the outing. However, rather than wafting around Rye as I had envisaged, I managed only to place myself for a brief moment outside the digs in which Kate Frye had stayed in April 1911 and take in the scene before retiring to enjoy a lady-like recline.

Kate had been sent by the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage to rouse Rye to the Cause. She had booked two rooms in the digs – the other was for one of the NCSWS ‘s founders – and Kate’s ‘sort-of’ friend – Alexandra Wright.

Their landlady was a widow, Mrs Jane Harvey, who lived in the house with her 23-year-old daughter, Lilian, who worked as a clerk.

Like the Rev Llewellyn Smith we were staying at the Mermaid Inn. I doubt it has changed much since Kate escorted him there 105 years ago.  If you have a feel for these things – that time is only a thin layer – you might sense the Rye of Kate Frye merging with that of Mapp and Lucia.

13 Market Street Rye (there is always a car in the foreground of this type of pic nowadays)

13 Market Street Rye (there is always a car in the foreground of this type of pic nowadays)

Wednesday April 19th 1911

Did not stop before Ashford and changed there for Rye. Got a porter to bring up my Trunk and walked to Mrs Harvey, 13 Market St. What will happen to me with such a number?

Real lodgings – but nice and clean and two nice large bed-rooms – much larger than the sitting-rooms. I went out for a few minutes stroll – came in about 7. Unpacked my bag – had supper at 7.30 – then my box and arrived so I went up and unpacked that – then wrote letters & diary till 10 o’clock. Felt rather tired – and very on Tour – the Sunday night feeling in a strange town being intensified by the Church Bells being practised.

[The last comment harks back to Kate’s days as an actress – on tour].

Thursday April 20th 1911

Up in good time to breakfast – wrote a little then out the shops – and then back to fetch Bills, which had been sent in last night – and to start my canvassing. Did all up and down the High St and Mint as a beginning. Didn’t feel very impressed with my work but suppose it is alright. In to lunch at 1 – then at 2.30 out to Playden where I had some addresses and found a lot more. It was a good way so I stuck to that district. No real success – so many people out. In to tea at 5.30.

A little more Bill distributing – then to the station to meet Alexandra, who arrived at 6.30. We walked straight up and a man came up with the box. She unpacked and we chatted. Had dinner at 7.30. Talked till 11 o’clock, then to bed. A lovely day.

 

Friday April 21st 1911

Breakfast at 8.30 – a little writing then Alexandra and I went out to the shops and bought lunch. She came in to do some writing for the rest of the morning and I went paying calls. Met with some success. Got in the Nonconformist set and kept on till 1 o’clock. Alexandra went out again from 2.30 till 3.30 – then came back and a Miss Harris, Winchelsea, and Miss Spalding, the nurse, here came to tea. Out at 5.30 till 7 again – more calls. A lot of people out but we got hold of the Vicar who promised to come. It was very windy all day and rather cold but the view was nice.

[Miss Margaret Spalding was the district nurse, who lived at Church Cottage. She joined the NCSWS.]

Saturday April 22nd 1911

A glorious day – really beautiful. Breakfast 8.30. Some writing – then I went out. Did the marketing – some canvassing – set Alexandra’s feet in the right direction for Playden and continued my canvassing unto past 1.

Came in very tired. Alexandra did not get in till past 1.30. At 3.30, having changed, we went out on business to station & Hotel etc – then tea at a Mrs Clements and her two daughters at 4.30. 4 other ladies were there to meet us. It was rather appalling – but I think I was given a gift. More calls after shopping. Tea at 7. Supper. Talk & writing.

[Mrs Elizabeth Clements, 56 year old widow of a leading Rye estate agent and valuer . One daughter, Katherine (Kitty), was a teacher of music. They lived at 6 High Street.]

Monday April 24th 1911

Alexandra had some writing to do – so I did the shopping and then more calls all the morning about town. After lunch, to Playden more calls, more success, and one fearful & furious Anti. It was a lovely day. A few more calls after tea with Alexandra and bearded one very notorious lady but found her quite nice. Then to tidy ourselves and to have our supper. More letters afterwards. Met and had a long chat with Miss Spalding

Tuesday April 25th 1911

Another nice day. To the shops in the morning and then canvassing again. But we are getting to the end of our list, and I really had to slack in a bit. I began to feel very tired – yesterday I was at it all day long. So after lunch I did not go out but had all the Literature to see to.

In the evening Alexandra and I went out together. A few successful calls – especially good with the school master. I think Alexandra converted him. Both awfully tired but in to change to go and have supper with Miss Spalding. There was another lady there. We talked all ‘Suffrage’ and came away at 10 – a little warm over our fire and then to bed.

Wednesday April 26th 1911

Alexandra was very nervous all the evening as to the result of the meeting but I felt sure it would be alright. Showers in the morning but the day was fine. Alexandra & I went out, bought dinner, paid Bills etc and did some jobs. After lunch Alexandra lay down on her bed and went to sleep and I did some of my packing up etc.

To the Hall at 4 o’clock to get it settled to our taste – a long job – to put out Literature etc. Back at 5.30. Miss Ogston had arrived and we began on the arrangements. She had had some tea – so we had ours – an egg. Then to change – leaving Miss Ogston to have some dinner at 7. Alexandra and I went to meet the Rev Llewellyn-Smith at 6.30 and take him to the Mermaid Inn. A chubby, cheerful young clergyman who seemed quite ridiculous when he spoke, as he constantly did, of ‘my wife’.

Leaving him to dine, we went on to the hall soon after 7. A Mrs Harrison and a Miss Mac Munn had arrived from Hastings so Alexandra took them back to Market St to have a rest – while I waited. [I] received the Stewards – two Miss Harrisons of Winchelsea, Miss Spalding and Miss Clements. They sold Literature and the Misses Harrison and I took the collection – £1-3-7. Lady Brassey took the Chair and her daughter came with her in a lovely car – they had to drive 50 miles so it was awfully decent of her, but she is very keen. A Lieut Col A Savile came to assist Lady Brassey take the Chair and spoke after her. Then Miss Ogston – then Mr Smith.

I didn’t hear the speeches as I was outside with the boys – then in amongst some rather troublesome youths. But nothing happened and we had an excellent meeting – quite full and overflowing. The Vicar came, bringing Miss Proctor, who had vowed she would not come. I was very glad when it was over. Every one congratulated us and seemed to think it was a record for Rye. Miss Ogston went off with the Harrisons of Winchelsea. Mr Smith and Miss Spalding walked up with us – then went on to their respective houses. Alexandra and I had an egg each and some bread & butter. Then I went through the Literature and collection and we did accounts til midnight. Then to bed.

[Mrs Darent Harrison and Miss Lettice MacMunn were both member of the committee of the Hastings and St Leonard’sW.S. Propaganda League.]

 

Thursday April 27th 1911

We woke to a pouring wet day and it kept on till after 12. The Rev Mr Smith appeared before breakfast was over – buoyant as ever. Then Miss Spalding came in and we all talked. She did not wait long, but he did not go till 11.30 or after and then we had to drive him forth. I went out about 10.30 to buy the dinner after I had packed up the Literature Box, and then we sat talking. Alexandra and I at last got upstairs to finish our packing – and left our boxes to come by Advance Luggage. Had lunch at 12. Then to the station for the 12.55 train – after parting with Mrs Harvey, our most kind and moderate landlady.

Kate was sent back to Rye later in the year but unfortunately Mrs Harvey’s digs were unavailable and the new ones not nearly so agreeable. Amongst all the other details of this second visit, she did record one incident in Market Street – outside the Guildhall. The ‘hot penny’ ceremony is associated with that of the election of the new mayor – and is still carried out today.

Rye Guildhall, Market Street

Rye Guildhall, Market Street

Thursday November 9th 1911

Did my shopping and met Miss White. We were just against the Guildhall and saw the Mayor & Corporation come forth. It was so funny. I laughed till I cried – such frock coats and top hats on such heads. Then we watched the ancient custom of throwing pennies from the Hotel Balcony to the crowds below – such a scramble as good many got hard bumped. A good many pounds must have been thrown away like that – some of the coppers were thrown out hot on a shovel. Then out 3 till 5.30 to Playden. Met two very violent ladies – one good Christian woman, entertaining a working party for the Church, pushed me out.

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

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

For more about Kate Frye’s suffrage campaigning see here

cover e-bookFor more about Kate Frye’s life story see here

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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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Suffrage Stories: British Liberalism on Radio 4: Millicent Fawcett And Votes For Women

You can listen here as Anne McElvoy and I recreate the NUWSS’s February 1907 ‘Mud March’ in an episode of the BBC Radio 4 series ‘British Liberalism: The Grand Tour’.

Mud March

 

From the BBC website:

Millicent Fawcett and Votes for Women

Anne McElvoy retraces a votes for women march, led by the non-violent Suffragist movement, to rediscover the story of its liberal leader, Millicent Fawcett.

With Elizabeth Crawford and Ben Griffin.

Producer: Phil Tinline.

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Suffrage Stories/ Palmisting For The Cause At A Café Chantant – December 1909

December was always a good month for fund-raising suffrage parties.

Cafe Chantant NUWSS Dec 1909 - Copy

For the suffrage movement was not all about militancy and processions. Money had to be raised to pay for the campaigning and for the management of the rapidly-developing organisations – and much of it was done in the time-honoured way of bazaars and balls. Here is a flyer for a Café Chantant organised by the London Society for Women’s Suffrage in December 1909.

The flyer comes from the collection of Kate Parry Frye, where it lay between the pages of her diary in which she describes the event itself.

She was living at home in North Kensington and had already had some experience as a reader of palms at earlier suffrage fund-raising events. On 6 December 1909 Kate wrote:

‘Agnes [her sister] and Katie [Finch-Smith – neé Gilbey -her cousin] arrived about 12.30. I had lent Katie a white dress as she had not got one and she had brought up the regulation white cap and apron and I also supplied the colours. I wore my best. We started off just before 2.30. One bus to the Grove [that is, Westbourne Grove] and another to Kensington and to the Town Hall for the Café Chantant got up for the Funds of the London Society and National Union.

It began at 3 o’clock. Katie left her things in the cloak room and we all went upstairs together. Agnes had to pay her 3/- to go in and for tea but Katie and I went in free. I found Mrs Rowan Hamilton who had charge of the Palmists and she hadn’t got me a table and I would not begin till she had one brought. I had told her two chairs and a table would be required. I had a little spot close by screens – my name up – ‘Katharine Parry’ – spelt wrong of course. I was just beside the tea tables so I could be near Katie till the fun began. We introduced her to lots of people. I hoped she enjoyed it but I think she got very tired.

 Miss Lockyer [she had been housekeeper to the murdered storekeeper, William Whiteley] with a friend came very early and I am afraid did not enjoy herself much. I just spoke to her but could not leave my corner and she thought 2/6 too much to consult me – it was a lot. There was another Palmist ‘Ravario’ and my crystal gazer – Clare Crystal. Agnes and Katie consulted her and found her rather poor. The Wrights were there, of course. Alexandra only a simple ‘Tea Girl’ but she selected Agnes to have tea with her – such an honour for Agnes. Miss Carl Hentschel was a Tea Girl and her Mother helping everywhere and lots of people I know.

At first I could not get any clients – no-one knew me. The first was a man about 3.30 – a funny sort of thing – then a lady, who was so delighted she went out to boom me and she did – for, for the rest of the day, I was besieged. I could have gone on all night. It was hard work but I enjoyed it. I had such nice interesting people – a few made me feel miserable, they were so unhappy – but some were charming – two insisted upon having my address. One said she would try and get me some engagements – a Miss May Oakley. I kept on till 20 minutes to 6 when Agnes dragged me out to have some tea – and John [Collins, her fiancé] came upstairs – he had been taking tickets from 2.30.

So I had some tea and he had a second tea. We had it from Miss Doake’s table as Katie was away. I had promised to go back at 6 o’clock and there was already a client sitting in the retreat. I kept on till 6.30 when the affair was over for the afternoon and we all four went home feeling very tired. John had to be back before 8 o’clock and we were not back till after 7 – so had to rush about and he had a meal as quickly as it could be got and go off.

Leaving Agnes behind, Katie and I left again at 8 o’clock and went by bus to Kensington. It was all in full swing again. The entertainment going on as before and more theatrical and Ju Jitsu displays and heaps of people. John was taking tickets again as happy as a cricket. I had said I would be back 9 till 10 – but I was pounced upon straight away. I had a horrid few moments when I missed my muff but John found it for me.

We worked till I was nearly done and told about 14 or 16 – and 17 to 20 in the afternoon. I had to refuse more as it was 10.30 and I was so tired – though the people came and begged me to go on. Gladys herself honoured me – and she told me that people were giving up their tickets for the other Palmists to come to me. John seemed playing about all the evening and Katie was serving coffee and cakes. There was an auction of cakes – and I bought a lovely Fullers cake. All the cakes had been given and were simply lovely ones. It was pouring with rain and we had to have a cab to the flat. Got in about 11.30.’

Interesting to see that Edith Garrud was happy to give jujitsu displays for the non-militant society.

For more about Kate Frye and the suffrage movement see here:

Kate Frye cover

 

 

For more about the entirety of Kate Frye’s life see here

cover e-book

Kate was very sympathetic towards the Women’s Social and Political Union and was, briefly, a member. She was particularly concerned about improving the life of her poorer sisters and without a doubt would have loved the film ‘Suffragette’.

Suffragette Film Poster 2

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All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere 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 Suffrage Diary: Kate And The ‘Right To Work’ March, 17 July 1915

Kate Frye coverThis summer is passing so quickly that I realise that I’ve missed – by two weeks or so-  the 100th anniversary of Kate Frye’s final involvement with the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. Still – better late than never -it would be a pity not to record an eye-witness account of the final ‘suffrage’ procession, which had morphed into one claiming for women a ‘Right to Work’ for the war effort.

Kate has been married for six months and is now ‘Mrs John Collins’ – but ever since the wedding John has been based at army camps on the east coast so she is, as before, living alone in her digs at 49 Claverton Street, Pimlico.

You can read about Kate Frye’s work as an organiser with the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage in Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s suffrage diary. – for full details see here.

Saturday July 17th 1915 

A very dull morning and it just started to rain as I went out. I was prepared for wild weather as the wind too was very fierce – a short grey linen dress – a woollen coat to keep me warm – Aquascutum – boots and rubbers – a small cap tied on – and an umbrella. It was fortunate I was so prepared as it turned out a wicked day and rained till 4 o’clock.

I went by bus to Westminster and walked along the Embankment to see if there were any signs of preparation but it was pouring by then so there was nothing. I went to Slaters in the Strand and had some lunch and back on the Embankment by one. There from the paving stones sprang up marshalls and assistant marshalls (I was a marshall with a broad red sash) all like me hurrying to posts. Mine was 101 and only 100 were given out – so I claimed mine and stood behind the last soldier with 101 until nearly 3.30.

But the rain kept the people away who would have filled the last of the 125 sections and we marshalls and assistant marshalls had very little to do. Our section commander never came along at all so we had to organise ourselves. Miss Barnes of the Knitting Dept came along to be in my section. She is a thoroughly good sort. Just before 3.30 we discovered if we were to march we must arrange ourselves – so a few people did one thing – a few another. I ran down the line telling people to come along and so we caught up with the front.

Banners and bannerettes were hastily pulled out of carts and we were off. I went up and down giving directions and making us as trim as possible. We were a motley crew but we had some fine banner bearers and the greater number of us looked very neat in rainproof coats. And so off again on the great Women’s Patriotic Procession organised by Mrs Pankhurst and led by her. Mr Lloyd George received a deputation of women concering Munitions.  Mrs Chapman [president of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage] walked all the way in the first section and went in with the deputation.

It was a long and interesting procession but would have been longer had the weather been better. But the rain stopped about 4 o’clock and actually just as I got back to the Embankment at 6 o’clock the sun came out. The procession started off at 3.30 sharp. There were no end of Bands and they helped one tremendously. The route was long – Embankment, Whitehall, Cockspur St, Pall Mall, St James, Piccadilly, Park Lane, Oxford St,  Regent’s St, Haymarket, Northumberland Avenue on to the Embankment again when we gave up banners and those who could went along on to hear Mr Lloyd George speak from a balcony looking over the Embankment. I saw him watching the whole thing from there as we went along.

Such a crowd to watch us all along the route and the Clubs packed with people. At intervals tables with ladies taking signatures of women ready to do munition work. It was very inspiring and invigorating and though I felt very tired and seedy before I think the walk did me good. I was a bit stiff and glad to sit down. I made my way to the Strand and had some tea.

Kate

 

Kate Frye (1878-1959) – was resurrected by ITV who put her (played by Romola Garai) in a series – The Great War: The People’s Story – and commissioned me to write her life. This story of an ordinary Englishwoman will appeal to all those interested in a real life lived – from the palmy days of Victoria to  the New Elizabethan age. For more details read here.

Download the e-book  from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal or from Amazon.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere 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 Suffrage Diary: London’s First Zepp Raid 1915

Kate Frye cover

 

Kate is living in Pimlico and still working at the office of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage in Knightsbridge. The society is now devoting itself to supporting the war effort.

‘Tuesday 1 June 1915

To office and a very busy day. News of a raid on London last night – Zepps – and bombs have been dropped – some deaths. No places mentioned but I know they went to the East End. So it’s come at last. It is a horrible feeling.

I had a quick lunch with Constance [Constance Gilbey, her cousin] at Tudor. had to go back before 2 o’clock though everything was ready for the meeting and it was a packed one. We had it in our Hall – and the speakers were Miss Damer Dawson – on the Women Police Service and Alexandra [Wright] on the Canteen [set up by the New Constitutional Society at the Enfield Lock Small Arms Factory]. I thought the latter did very well for her, but of course she could not be other than herself and a sort of unpleasingness creeps in and after Miss Dawson who was just delightful – well there it was. But the meeting was a great success – though as I told Mrs Hartley it was a Women’s Police audience and not ours.

Cleared up as much as I could – then as Alexandra and Mrs Fausset waited we ended by walking across the park together. We saw A. to her turning and then went on and had some dinner at Arthur’s Stores. Mrs Faussett’s husband is down with scarlet fever and she is very lonely. We walked together to Royal Oak where she got a bus and I continued my ramble to Marble Arch. Stopped on my way to send Post Cards to Mother, and John to let them know I was safe. Of course all our talk was of Zepps – everyone feverish with the subject and none of us too comfortable about the matter. 

Two buses back. A little writing then bed. I couldn’t sleep at first – so read. It been much warmer but a very heavy day.’

zepp raid

For more information on the first London Zeppelin raid see here

 Margaret Damer Dawson was one of the founders, in 1915, of the Women’s Police Service.

You can read about Kate Frye’s work as an organiser with the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage in Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s suffrage diary. – for full details see here.

cover e-book

 For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere 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: Talk at Wooburn Festival, 24 September 2014

Tomorrow – 24 September – I shall be presenting Kate Frye to the Wooburn Festival. I shall be talking about her life – from the age of Victoria to that of Elizabeth – in Bourne End and Berghers Hill – and describing her efforts to interest the area in ‘Votes for Women’.

Kate Frye cover

The talk will be illustrated with many photographs from Kate’s extensive archive and there will be an opportunity to look at other items of local interest from her collection that I will bring with me.

cover e-book

See here for full details of the talk – 7.30 pm at Bourne End Library.

Copies of Campaigning for the Vote will be on sale – signed if you wish!

For full details of both the Kate Frye books see here and here.

 

 

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Kate Frye’s Diary: Coming Soon: Kate Frye On Both The Small – And Even Smaller – Screens

 

ITV have issued this press release which includes mention of my forthcoming e-book, to be published by ITV, Kate Parry Frye: the long life of an Edwardian actress and suffragette.

ITV marks First World War centenary by telling the people’s story in partnership with Imperial War Museums

The extraordinary stories of ordinary people whose lives were transformed during the First World War will be told in their own words in a landmark new series for ITV, made in partnership with Imperial War Museums

Marking the centenary of the outbreak of the war in 1914, the experiences of men and women, young and old, from across Britain and the social classes that divided society at the time, are vividly brought to life in 4×60 series The Great War: The People’s Story, produced by Shiver [ITV Studios].

As part of ITV’s partnership with IWM, a book accompanying the series will also be published as well as three e-books. In addition to its partnership with IWM, ITV is also announcing two other programmes to mark the First World War centenary.

With narration from Olivia Colman, The Great War: The People’s Story tells the real-life stories of soldiers, from privates to officers, their wives and girlfriends left behind, and people from Britain’s villages and cities.  They are portrayed by a cast of actors including Alison Steadman, Daniel Mays, Claire Foy, Brian Cox, Romola Garai, MyAnna Buring and Matthew McNulty, who speak their words as they were written in their diaries and letters.

These moving accounts, revealing their intimate thoughts and feelings offer a raw insight into the profound impact of being caught up in a conflict that would change their lives – and Britain – forever.  Sourced from archives and libraries across the country, selected in partnership with Imperial War Museums, which provided much of the material, and brought to life by actors – each story conveys the hopes, fears, heroism and tragedies of countless ordinary British people…  made all the more powerful by the fact that every word is real.

Diane Lees, Director General of IWM, said: “IWM is pleased to have worked in partnership with ITV on the development of The People’s Story – The Great War. The Imperial War Museum was established while the First World War was still being fought, to ensure future generations would remember those who contributed during the conflict. This series, featuring a number of people whose diaries and letters are held in the museum’s archives, gives an insight into some of the experiences and innermost thoughts of individuals from the time. Now that the war is out of living memory, it is up to our generation to ensure that their stories are and continue to be told – the stories of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.”

Richard Klein, ITV Director of Factual, said: “This programme gives the stage to the authentic voice of the British people as they endured over four years of the greatest violence in human history. The diaries, letters and memoirs of privates and officers, wives and mothers, working class and the well-to-do all brilliantly and emotionally document the journey from the patriotism and positivity at the start of war to the gradual understanding of the deadly and mind-shattering realities of modern warfare to the final days of simple endurance and exhaustion. This is a beautifully composed portrait of a country during a war that changed everything for everyone.”

Ollie Tait, Executive Producer of The Great War: The People’s Story for Shiver added: “Alongside the heartbreak and horror of war, Britain was changing at an amazing pace for everyone and there is something hugely powerful about reliving this through the people who never thought their voices would be heard. We really wanted ‘The People’s Story’ to be a world apart from the usual approach to the First World War and to make it about us, to bring to life the treasured letters that are tucked away in attics across the nation.”

ITV Studios Global Entertainment (ITVS GE) and Imperial War Museums have signed a deal with Random House for The Great War: The People’s Story, a hardback non-fiction book to accompany the TV series. Written by Izzy Charman, the TV series producer, and published in partnership with Imperial War Museums, the book provides a narrative of the war years as seen through the eyes of the people featured in the show. The book will be available from 31st July.

ITVS GE will also be publishing three e-books based on three of the individuals in the TV series. Written by daughter Pamela Campbell, Reg Evans DCM – A Hero’s War In His Own Words is about a young soldier who was one of the first people to undergo facial surgery in Britain after a gunshot wound to the face. In Alan Lloyd – The Lost Generation, Izzy Charman tells the story of the just-married officer, a member of the privileged Lloyds banking family, who died in battle. Author Elizabeth Crawford explores the story of a working suffragette in Kate Parry Frye – The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette whose suffrage society turned to war work. All three e-books will be available from 31st July.

  • Press contact: 

grant.cunningham@itv.com

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Romola Garai plays Kate Parry Frye in The Great War: The People’s Story.

Pic 1 Kate Jan 1906I tell the whole story of Kate’s life (1878-1959) – based on her own outstanding diaries – in Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette to be published by ITV as an e-book on 7 August 2014.

Kate’s years as the organizer for a suffrage society are told in Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary, published by Francis Boutle in 2013.

Kate Frye cover

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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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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: Buckingham Palace, 21 May 1914

A hundred years ago today, on 21 May 1914, having failed to influence the government, Mrs Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union, decided to appeal directly to the King. Kate Frye, although not a militant suffragette, was there – outside Buckingham Palace – to witness the scene. This is the copy of the Daily Sketch that she bought that day and kept all her life. 

 

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The following is Kate’s diary entry:

‘Thursday May 21st 1914

To Office.Then in the afternoon I went to Buckingham Palace to see the Women’s deputation – led by Mrs Pankhurst which went to try and see the King. It was simply awful – oh! those poor pathetic women – dresses half torn off – hair down, hats off, covered with mud and paint and some dragged along looking in the greatest agony. But the wonderful courage of it all. One man led along – collar torn off – face streaming with blood – he had gone to protect them. Fancy not arresting them until they got into that state. It is the most wicked and futile persecution because they know we have got to have ‘Votes’ – and to think they have got us to this state – some women thinking it necessary and right to do the most awful burnings etc in order to bring the question forward. Oh what a pass to come to in a so-called civilised country. I shall never forget those poor dear women.

The attitude of the crowd was detestable – cheering the police and only out to see the sport. Just groups of women here and there sympathising, as I was. I saw Mrs Merivale Mayer, Miss Bessie Hatton and a good many women I knew by sight. I stayed until there was nothing more to be seen. The crowds were kept moving principally by the aid of a homely water cart. It was very awful. Mrs Pankhurst herself was arrested at the gates of the Palace. I did not see her but she must have passed quite close to me.

At the Buckingham Palace railings, 21 May 1914

At the Buckingham Palace railings, 21 May 1914

I went to Victoria and had some tea and tried to get cool, but I felt very sick. The King could have done something to prevent it all being so horrible – he isn’t much of a man. Back by bus [to the office of the New Constitutional Society where she was working]. They [Alexandra and Gladys Wright, friends and colleagues ] wanted to hear about it, but they don’t take quite the same view of it that I do. They seem so ‘material’ in all their deductions – it’s all so tremendously more than that.’

For much more about Kate Frye and her diary – published as Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s suffrage diary – click here

Kate Frye cover

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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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  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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Kate Frye’s Diary: A Visit To Ditchling And Tea With Eric Gill, 1910

In January 1910 Kate Frye is paying a short visit to Ditchling in Sussex, staying with her dear cousin, Abbie, and her husband, Basil Hargrave, at their home, Chichester House, 11 High Street, Ditchling. Eric Gill, engraver, calligrapher, printmaker, typeface designer and sculptor had settled in Ditchling in 1907, attracting a community of craftsmen – and women – to the village.

Abbie was a prolific novelist, who wrote under the name of  ‘L. Parry Truscott’.

Ditchling, East Sussex, 1912 by G.D. Elms. Ditchling Museum, courtesy of Public Catalogue Foundation and BBC Yuur Paintings

Ditchling, East Sussex, 1912 by G.D. Elms. Ditchling Museum, courtesy of Public Catalogue Foundation and BBC Your Paintings

Here we can see the parish church, St Margaret of Antioch, where Kate endured a ‘long dull sermon’. Abbie and Basil are both buried in the churchyard.

Eric Gill’s house, Sopers, was at 28 High Street. Much later, in 1930, Abbie’s son, Truscott Hargrave (b 1911) was to become secretary to the Saint Dominic’s Press, founded by Gill (who had by then left Ditchling).

Mr Wheelwright, whom Kate found ‘one of the most bitter and arrogant conservatives’, was William Wheelwright, an Australian-born worker in silver and copper. His wife, Helen Maud, was a Gloucestershire-born artist.

Dr Edwin Habberton Lulham, a medical doctor practising in Ditchling and Brighton, was also a poet and lecturer. He appears to have been living away from Ditchling at the time of Kate’s visit, his cottage available for rent. In 1911, when the census was taken, he was living in Margate . See here for more about him

From Kate’s Diary

Saturday 22 January 1910

Abbie busied herself after breakfast and I sat over the fire and read the papers and then wrote a couple of letters before helping Abbie arrange the dining room and drawing room for the afternoon. Then just before 12 o’clock we went out for an hour’s walk towards the Downs. We took the sheepdog, Bay, with us – he is at present the latest addition to the family party at Chichester House. Lunch at 1 o’clock – then we did a few more jobs – and Alice the maid began laying the tea and we put out the cakes and at 3 o’clock we went up and changed our dresses as the party commenced punctually at 4 o’clock.

We were 23 in all. only 3 men. Basil, the Vicar and the man, Mr Gill, who read the paper to start the debate. It was quite a clever paper – but he did not make it interesting really and it was not a popular subject – ‘The arts and crafts in the home’ – very few made any remarks at all and they were very far wide of the mark for the most part – some of them were very amusing. A Mr Davidson was really killing and the Vicar so pious. Basil’s speech was really the best as it did raise some points but no one took them up. It was over and everyone had gone soon after 6 o’clock.

Eric Gill

Eric Gill

Abbie hastened on the dinner – we changed our things again for walking apparel, had dinner about 7 o’clock – and then went off to a political meeting in the schools – but as a great concession by the Vicar (a rabid Conservative) to the Liberal Candidate, Mr Basil Williams. The place was very full of those who thought otherwise and they were so noisy they were a great trouble to the speaker. There were very few of his supporters there and I should think I was the only Liberal woman in the place. It is a most Tory village.

I much enjoyed the meeting but I must say I did not admire the spirit of some of the ‘hecklers’. One man who I found out was a friend of Abbie’s afterwards – a Mr Wheelwright was a fearful nuisance. There was a very good free-trade speaker first but he rather lost his temper with the folk and absolutely showed his teeth at them. Mr Basil Williams came on later from another meeting. A nice looking man and he spoke quite well. But he does not stand a chance – it is wonderful to get men to contest such seats, I think. A great crowd was waiting to hiss and boo him as he left in his motor car. What an ungrateful lot – to boo one of the party who gave them political emancipation.

Sunday January 23rd 1910

To the Parish Church where they have a pew by right with Chichester House. A bawling choir and a long dull sermon – but a beautiful old building. then for an hour’s walk. The roads very slippery until the rain started which it did just as we neared home. We went over Dr Lulham’s cottage which he has very nicely furnished but rather crowded. I should like to take it one day for a few weeks and stay in Ditchling.

Tidied ourselves and Mr and Mrs Wheelwright came to tea. I found him one of the most bitter and arrogant conservatives and Tariff Reformers I have ever come across and we talked politics all the time nearly and they stayed till quite 7 o’clock. I don’t think I could do with him myself – or with her for that matter. I do hate prejudice to that extent – but they are great friends here.’

See here for details of the published edition of Kate’s diary – Campaigning for the Vote.

The Ditchling Museum of Arts and Crafts has just re-opened after a major refit. See here for new opening hours and here for some of the Museum’s past projects.

Ditchling Museum of Arts and Crafts

Ditchling Museum of Arts and Crafts

For the Eric Gill Society see here.

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: The Suffrage Shop in Hythe High Street

Hythe Suffrage Shop

In mid-1912 this shop at 83 High Street, Hythe- now occupied by ‘Ideas’  – opened as the local Suffrage Shop and Club, run by Miss Georgina Cheffins and Miss Eva Lewis, who, although members of the WSPU, were Kate Frye’s most active supporters in the area as she went about her business of organizing meetings for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. I visited it myself in the summer of 2011 and found that the shop is quite large and, as Kate Frye describes, has a room at the back in which the Suffrage Club held its meetings.

Georgina Cheffins (1863-1932) was the daughter of a Portland cement manufacturer. and In the 1901 census, when she was living with Eva Lewis in the St James’s Mission, Temple Street, Sedgley, Cheshire, they are both described as ‘lay sisters’. Eva (Evangeline) Lewis (1863-1928) had been born in Ontario, Canada, the daughter of John Lewis, Lord Bishop of Ontario. She lived with Georgina Cheffins, who was very much the wealthier of the two, from some time before 1901 until her death.

Both women successfully evaded the 1911 census and in 1912 Miss Cheffins was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment after taking part in a WSPU window-smashing raid in London – breaking windows in Gorringes’ store. In court she declared she was a suffragist by conviction, having worked amongst the poor for 20 years.

When Kate first met them the two women lived at ‘Dunedin’, Seabrook Road, the long road connecting Hythe and Folkestone, but in early 1912 they moved to ‘Cravenhurst’, Napier Gardens, Hythe. When I visited Hythe in 2011 I did not know which house in Napier Gardens had been ‘Cravenhurst’ – and it is only today that I have found a piece of information that links the name of the house to a number – 24 – which is ,I think, opposite the house below – one of several in the street that I photographed at random. Anyway, I think no 24 was at the more secluded end of the cul-de-sac that is Napier Gardens .

Napier Gardens, Hythe

Napier Gardens, Hythe

In the summer of 1912 Votes for Women, the WSPU newspaper, reported that the Hythe Suffrage Shop had been visited by many WSPU members on holiday in the area – and that many volunteers had been out selling copies of the paper.

Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary is full of details of the delights – and tribulations – of spreading the ‘Votes for Women’ message in Hythe.  Although Miss Cheffins and Miss Lewis could on occasion be prickly, Kate kept in touch with them well into the 1920s.

See here for much more about Campaigning for the Vote

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: In Bed – Photographed With Radio Headphones At The Ready – 1920s

Kate in bed

 

Working my way through Kate Frye’s extensive collection of photographs I have just come across this one. It is so unusual to see a photo of a woman lying in bed that I thought I must share it with you all. You’ll note the radio headphones hooked on the brass bedstead which probably dates the photo to the second half of the 1920s. The photo would have been taken by Kate’s husband, John Collins, who was a keen photographer. Kate, for her part, was a keen and early radio listener, delighting as she did in all forms of music and drama.

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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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Campaigning For The Vote: Kate In Dover 100 Years Ago: A Sunday Visit From John, May 1913

Kate Frye coverKate Frye  is working in Dover, lodging  at 26 Randolph Gardens with the Miss Burkitts’, who are WSPU sympathisers and aunts of Hilda Burkitt, a well-known suffragette. A vignette of life in ‘digs’.

‘Poor Gertie’ was, as Kate explains in a previous entry, ‘Miss Odames – a being from Leicester who used to work in a Factory but is now quite well to do. She is very common and very plain.’ ‘Gertie’ was ‘Agnes Gertrude Odames, born in Leicester c 1878 who, in 1901, was a ‘corset maker’ but who, with her sister, was in 1911 able to describe herself as ‘of private means’. Gertie married in 1917 and when she died in 1951 left over £1000, having probably lived a more comfortable life than Kate. I have, as yet, been unable to identify ‘Bertie Bowler’.

Sunday 25 May 1913

A glorious day and quite hot. The others all of to Church. I as usual on Sunday took my time in getting up. While I was in the bathroom the young gentleman who we have been hoping and longing for came to say he would take the rooms. Miss Minn was in. I had to wait until he had departed to get upstairs. We are very excited.

I wore my thin coat and skirt out for the first time without a top coat. Walked along the front to the Town station and met John [her fiance, an actor] at 12.30. He had come down by the Miss Burkitts’ invitation to spend the day. We had not met for 5 months. It was very exciting. I think he was pleased and I enjoyed having him. He looks alright though a trifle thin – came to London last Sunday at the close of the Repertory season at Liverpool.

We walked along the front in the blazing sun and up and got in at 1.15. John behaved very nicely but of course he was a stranger in that homely atmosphere – however the Miss Burkitts seemed to get on with him.

John Collins' staged photo shoot in the Misses Burkitts' garden

John Collins’ staged photo shoot in the Misses Burkitts’ garden

We went in the garden afterwards and John took snapshots of the group and Janet [Capell] came in to be introduced. Then John and I took a tram as far as it went and strolled about the Admiralty Pier. It was a gorgeous afternoon. We had permission to be late for tea so we walked along the front and took a photograph of Mrs Wilson’s house and then back to tea.

Mrs Wilson's house at 5 East Cliff, Dover, photographed by John Collins while he and Kate were out for their walk

Mrs Wilson’s house at 5 East Cliff, Dover, photographed by John Collins while he and Kate were out for their walk

Then we sat in the garden and Bertie Bowler was there and sang his Ditties. I had told John to be nice to him – and BB said afterwards how nice he was. I don’t think John knew what to make of poor Gertie. Poor soul she looked hopeless in a stiffly starched white embroidery ready made gown. She says such amazing things.

Miss Minn took herself off to Church – a thing she never does in the evening but I think she is madly jealous. She was very nice when she said good-bye to John – said ‘I like you very much – I think you are almost good enough for our darling’ – but afterwards she never referred to him. Once or twice I dragged his name in but she wouldn’t say much. Poor Miss Minn. Miss Burkitt on the other hand chatted of him and said how much she liked him.

We had to walk as the trams were packed to the roof. I was not allowed on to the station – it was like a bank holiday – so i did not wait but came straight back on a Tram – just missing Miss Minn who had gone down after Church to come back with me. When I said she was naughty to go to Church – she said she thought the others would have had the sense to leave us alone together. I was very tired.

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk, from all good bookshops – especially Foyle’s, London Review Bookshop, Persephone Bookshop, British Library Bookshop, Daunts Bookshop, 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

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Campaigning For The Vote: Kate Frye and ‘Black Friday’, November 1910

Kate Frye coverKate Frye was present on so many important suffrage occasions – including ‘Black Friday’ – 18 November 1910.  On this day the suffrage societies learned that the Conciliation Bill, on which they had pinned their hopes, would be abandoned as, with the two houses of Parliament locked in confrontation over Lloyd George’s budget, Parliament was to be dissolved. The police were out in force and employed brutal tactics to break up the women’s demonstration.

Only a short excerpt of Kate’s ‘Black Friday’ diary entry appears in Campaigning for the Vote because it occurred in the period before Kate began work as a paid organizer for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. There was, alas, just too much material in her diary to make a book out of her whole suffrage experience. So, for those who would like more, here are full details of Kate’s experience that momentous day. 

Kate's invitation from the WSPU to attend the protest, Friday November 1910

Kate’s invitation from the WSPU to attend the protest, Friday 18 November 1910. Just imagine how many of these fragile flyers lay torn and trampled on the ground at the end of ‘Black Friday’. Kate carefully preserved hers, took it home and laid it in her diary

Friday November 18th 1910

Up in good time. Brushed Mickie [her dog] then took him for a walk – then started at 10.30 for the Caxton Hall. Train from Notting Hill Gate to St James’ Park. I got there about 12 – and the hall was already full and the crowd hanging about were soon after turned out of the vestibule – so I stood some time on the steps. Then from there we were turned into the street and I waited there, chatting with different women, till about 12.40 when the 1st deputation left the Caxton Hall for Parliament Square.

They were soon swallowed up in a seething mob and I simply flew with many other women by short cuts to Parliament Square where I landed more or less by chance in the thick of it. One could hardly see the plan of it all amid the hurly burly excitement, shouts, laughter applause & rushes of the enormous crowd which grew every minute. I was almost struck dumb and I felt sick for hours. It was a most horrible experience. I have rarely been in anything more unpleasant – it was ghastly and the loud laughter & hideous remarks of the men – so called gentlemen – even of the correctly attired top-hatted kind – was truly awful. It made all the men and women seem mad together. And the poor women – the look of dogged suffering & strain on their faces.

Spread - with newspaper cuttings laid in -  from Kate's Black Friday' diary entry

Spread – with newspaper cuttings laid in – from Kate’s Black Friday’ diary entry

I first reached the wall of the moat [round the Houses of Parliament] at the angle so I could see the door plainly and Mrs Pankhurst and the elderly lady [Elizabeth Garrett Anderson] – over 70 years of age – with her. Then I saw policemen breaking up the little standards held by a group of women. I saw deputations pass along and ugly rushes and ever the crowd grew.

I stood some time but I had to give up my place by the wall people pushed so and I was awfully afraid of getting crushed. So I got out to the road and there watched the deputations come along and saw the horrible hustling by the crowds of roughs and overheard the hideous laughter and remarks of the men looking on. Half of them made the remark that it was the funniest thing they had ever seen in their lives – all had their mouths open in an insane grin. One or two were so horrible that I just gazed upon them till they noticed me and moved away, not liking I suppose to be overheard. Several spoke to me – many indignant: ‘What good do you suppose this will do?’ ‘What else would you suggest?’ said I. Then he began the usual – that the militant methods had disgusted all nicely feeling people etc. I turned his attention to my two badges – constitutional societies, as I told him – and asked ‘What help have you ever given us?’ He walked away. Not one man did I hear speak on the women’s side. There may have been some, but not near me.

I saw Captain Gonne led off & heard afterwards of his doings. Many women there were of the WSPU – and a few London Society [ie members of the constitutional NUWSS society] – all standing about perfectly wretched & green – cheering them on to battle and off to Cannon Row when arrested. One poor lady in her wheel chair [probably Rosa Billinghurst]– propelled by hand – followed in the wake of a deputation – generally 6 to a dozen people – she rang her bell violently and the crowd gave way before her – it was a funny but dreadfully tragic sight.

As the crowd grew and the crowd kept being pressed back – I moved away and once, seeing some fighting women & policemen on the pavement coming my way, I stood back to the railing expecting them to go by. But, oh no – a burly policemen, taking me for one of a deputation, caught hold of me with an ‘Out you come’ and for some minutes I was tossed about like a cork on an angry sea, turning round and round – sometimes bumped on to a policeman – sometimes on a hospital nurse, who was fighting for all she was worth – pale to the lips but determined (and I afterwards saw her led off arrested ) – until I was with the others pushed out of the danger zone.

The others went back but I sat down by the railing for a few minutes. I can’t say the man actually hurt me and I was too excited to realise quite what was happening and I was so thickly dressed as not to feel the bumps much – but it wasn’t nice. I don’t know I could have spoken if I had wished to – but I didn’t wish and I didn’t speak. What I felt was – I am not going to get out of the trouble by saying I am not one of them for I am in heart and anyway he will probably think I am trying to trick him and it will do no good and if these women can stand so much I can stand this little. And of course it was nothing really – only a new experience.

Two ladies – one quite elderly came out of their first battle determined not to go back into it. They were a pitiable spectacle – their nerve had gone. One felt so sorry – they were beside themselves and were not aware they had in fact turned ‘coward’. A little lady – evidently there to plead with the faint hearted – spoke quietly to them, urging them to go when they felt rested. ‘But we couldn’t’, they said, ‘we have been half killed’. ‘Oh, but you must – you must go back again and again and again’ and so on. And I spoke to them – thinking an outsider’s word might turn their attention. Their eyes were brimming. They told me that they were supposed to go on till their strength was exhausted – they thought theirs was – but it wasn’t. But poor souls – their fight – of course they had never realised the awfulness of the business and what they would have to endure until they should fall fainting or injured. I wonder if they went back. Perhaps courage did come back to them but who could blame them – they were very saddening.

On the next page of the diary entry Kate laid in the WSPU's pamphlet prepared as a result of 'Black Friday'

On the next page of the diary entry Kate laid in the WSPU’s pamphlet prepared as a result of ‘Black Friday’

I couldn’t seem to leave even when I had crossed to the station side. I stood and watched the arrested being led off – & gave them a send off – but soon after 2 I gave it up and, leaving the horrid spectacle, went in to Westminster Bridge station. They were beginning to clear the Square of people. Hundreds of policemen were arriving and one could less than ever see the plan of it all. A lot of Yankee sailors had been mystified but delighted and a lot of people were frankly puzzled by it all – and it was a sad business explaining to them. I got back cold to the bone – fetched my lunch on a tray – and was glad of hot soup.

After a visit to friend for tea on way home] grabbed up some evening papers then home. Couldn’t keep my mind off the morning’s experience and we talked of little else. 105 have been arrested. It was about the most bitterly cold night I have ever been out in.’

As a result of what she had witnessed on ‘Black Friday’ Kate Frye joined the WSPU

receipt 001

Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary edited by Elizabeth Crawford. Now, alas, out of print

 Campaigning for the Vote cover

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

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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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All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere 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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Campaigning For The Vote: Book Launch Invitation

An invitation to those interested in Kate Frye – and the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

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Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Frye And The Problem Of The Diarist’s Multiple Roles

In the following article I discuss the ethics of ‘mining’ the diary that Kate Parry Frye kept for her entire lifetime  in order to re-present her in one role only– as a suffragist. The piece is based on a paper I gave at the 2011 Women’s History Network Conference. Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary is published by Francis Boutle Publishers at  £14.99

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

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

 Kate Parry Frye[1] was a diarist. She was also a girl, a young woman, a middle-aged woman, an old woman, a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a niece, a fiancée, a wife, an actress, a suffragist, a playwright, an annuitant, a letter writer, a Liberal, a valetudinarian, a playgoer, and a shopper. She was a rail traveller, a bus traveller, a tube traveller, a reader, a flaneur, a friend, and a political canvasser. She was a diner – in her parents’ homes, in digs, in hotels, in restaurants, in cafés and later, of necessity, a diner of her self-cooked meals. She was an enthusiast for clothes, a keeper of accounts, a reader of palms, a dancer, a holidaymaker, a visitor to the dentist, to the doctor, an observer of the weather, a worker of toy theatres, a needleworker, an animal lover – indeed dog worshipper – a close observer of the First World War and then of the Second.

Kate as a radio listener - 1920s/

Kate as a radio listener – 1920s?

She was radio listener, a television viewer, a neighbour and, finally, a carer, recording in detail the effect on her husband of the remorseless onset of dementia and the disintegration of his body and mind. Every one of these roles is played out in minute detail in the diaries Kate Frye kept for 71 years, from 1887, when she was 8 years old, until October 1958, barely three months before her death in February 1959.[2]

Moreover, each role has its variations, depending on time and place. Thus, for example, as a middle-class daughter, Kate Frye played the pampered child, the indulged adolescent and, later, the resentful adult.

Kate photographed c 1897

Kate photographed c 1897

She was for many years supported financially and lived comfortably.  In early womanhood she was afforded considerable freedom, her parents allowing her, indeed encouraging her, to train as an actress and to travel around Britain and Ireland with a repertory company. When that venture proved unprofitable she was able to return to life as a daughter-at-home, a role that appears to have combined the minimum of domestic chores with the maximum of freedom. Until December 1910 the family divided their time between two homes – a house, later a flat, in North Kensington and ‘The Plat’, a large detached, much-loved house on the river at Bourne End in Buckinghamshire.

Details of the auction of The Plat and its contents - the Fryes' possessions

Details of the auction of The Plat and its contents – the Fryes’ possessions

But Kate Frye was also the daughter of a man whose business failed, whose lack of financial acumen she judged harshly, forcing as it did her mother, her sister and herself to leave their homes and sell all their possessions. Before 1910 there had been periodic indications of financial instability, when, for instance, ‘The Plat’ was let out for the summer, but Kate’s father failed to take his wife and daughters into his confidence, making the ultimate catastrophe all the more shocking. To Kate’s shame the family subsequently relied on the charity of her mother’s wealthy wine-merchant relations, the Gilbeys.[3]  Her role in this performance might be studied, shedding as its does a clear light on the precarious reality of the long Edwardian summer. One year Kate could take for granted a life of boating and regattas, dressmakers, cooks and maids, the next she was living in dingy digs, attempting to raise money by hawking the family jewellery and old clothes around shops, while wondering if her relations had remembered to send the remittance and what she would do if they forgot..

Or perhaps one could look through Kate Frye’s eyes at the reality of working the towns of Edwardian England, Scotland and Ireland as an actress.

Kate Frye photographed in costume for her part in J. M. Barrie's 'Quality Street' - on tour in 1903

Kate Frye photographed in costume for her part in J. M. Barrie’s ‘Quality Street’ – on tour in 1903

For instance, between September and December 1903 she was a member of a Gatti and Frohman touring production of J.M. Barrie’s Quality Street and writes in considerable detail of company train travel, theatrical lodgings and the other members of the cast, among who was a young May Whitty.  Kate was paid £2 a week and includes in the diary some weekly accounts, which could be studied in conjunction with the management’s financial accounts of the tour.[4]  Or her diary could be used to give an insight into the issue of class and gender in the Edwardian theatre; Kate’s experience does not indicate that family and friends felt that her new role was in any way either imprudent or declassé.[5] Or her diary might be used to research the behind-the scenes world of post-1918 theatre, as Kate reports on her husband’s attempt to earn a precarious living as actor and stage manager.[6]  Kate’s involvement with theatre saw her performing on both sides of the stage – in her role as an actress and, in the auditorium, as a spectator – and her diary might also be used to study of the habits of playgoers over the decades, recording as it does her comments on the vast number of performances she attended. On occasion she thought nothing of seeing two plays in one day.

Kate kept a separate record of all the plays she saw - including Elizabeth Robins' 'Votes for Women!'

Kate kept a separate record of all the plays she saw – including Elizabeth Robins’ ‘Votes for Women!’

Or perhaps one could use her diary to study the nature of ill-health, real or perceived. Menstrual pain – ‘the rat pain’ – lurks behind some of Kate’s continuous complaints of ‘seediness’ and included in some of the diaries are small yearly calendars with the date of each menstrual period marked in pencil.

Kate's menstrual calendar

Kate’s menstrual calendar

But the feeling of ill-health suffered by Kate, by her elder sister, Agnes,[7]  and their mother was due to more than menstruation. For weeks at a time, year after year, one or the other, or all three, are confined to their beds. The doctor calls – and is paid – medications are prescribed and taken. For some of the time ‘seediness’ is endured and Kate, at least, gets on with things. It is noticeable that when she has an active life to lead, whether on tour as an actress or as a suffrage organiser, she makes many fewer complaints of ill-health. It is difficult to avoid the thought that some, at least, of the malaise was due to depression occasioned by lack of occupation. Kate did, after all, continue fit and healthy until she was 80. The diary could be read and edited to bring this aspect of her life to the fore, studying the links, in the first 50 years of the 20th century, between status, expectation and occupation – or lack of it  – and mental and physical wellbeing  Certainly Kate’s sister, who never worked and appears to have had few interests, seems to have given up on life, spending much of her later years in bed and drifting into death. However, although these aspects of Kate Frye’s life are intriguing, it is for her involvement with the Edwardian suffrage movement that she is now likely to be remembered. For Kate Frye’s diaries have been directed, by chance, towards an editor whose research interests centre on suffrage.

Kate was what one student of diary writing terms a ‘chronicler’, that is her diary was a ‘carrier of the private, the everyday, the intriguing, the sordid, the sublime, the boring – in short a chronicle of everything’ and in its extent is not a little daunting.[8]  But, reading the volumes covering the years prior to the First World War, one quickly realises that involvement in one of the major campaigns of the day provided Kate’s life – and her diary – with a focus. For the Frye family’s descent into near, if genteel, destitution coincided with the growth of the suffrage movement, which subsequently provided Kate with employment. Although she was untrained for any career other than acting, which she had found, in fact, did not pay, work of a political nature was not outside her sphere of knowledge, for one of her earlier roles had been that of the daughter of an MP. Kate’s father, Frederick Frye, had been the Liberal member for North Kensington from 1892 to 1895 and an interest in politics was taken for granted within the family. Over the years Kate had helped her mother with the regular ‘At Homes’ held for the Liberal ladies of North Kensington and had accompanied her father to many a political meeting.  

Flyer advertising the NUWSS 'Mud March'

Flyer advertising the NUWSS ‘Mud March’

The diary entries trace her growing involvement in the suffrage campaign, from participation in the first  NUWSS ‘Mud March’ in early 1907, through her performance as a palm reader at numerous fund-raising suffrage bazaars and dances, attendance at meetings of the Actresses’ Franchise League, marching in all the main spectacular processions,  stewarding at meetings, bearing witness to the ‘Black Friday’ police brutality in Parliament Square on 18 November 1910, to her employment, from early 1911 until mid-1915, as a paid organiser for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. The diary, as edited as Campaigning for the Vote, highlighting the detail Kate provides of daily life as a suffragist and illustrated with the wealth of suffrage ephemera with which she embellished the original, is an interesting addition to published source material.

Procession-Pic-for-Clive2

But what are the ethics of spotlighting this one role – or any role – from a lifetime performance?  Kate’s diary seems to lend itself quite naturally to a style of editing that sets her entries, replete with delightfully quotidian suffrage detail, within a linking narrative, explaining the greater campaign and providing information on people she meets in the course of her days. But, increasingly uneasy, the editor of Kate Frye’s diary felt it necessary to take soundings from commentators on diary writing in order to discover whether the perceived problem, that of highlighting only one of the diarist’s multiple roles – one of her many selves, is one that others have resolved.

Robert Fothergill’s Private Chronicles, published 35 years ago, is generally considered the earliest academic work to have made a serious study of diary-writing.[9] In his study Fothergill considered the diaries both of men and of women but since then much of the attention the genre has received has concentrated on diary writing by women. For in the 1980s and 1990s, with the growing interest in women’s history, academics such as Margo Culley, Cheryl Cline, Harriet Blodgett, Suzanne Bunkers and Cynthia Huff  saw women’s diaries as an exciting new source through which to re-examine and re-envisage women’s lives.[10] As Bunkers and Huff wrote, ‘Within the academy the diary has historically been considered primarily as a document to be mined for information about the writer’s life and times – now the diary is recognized as a far richer lode. Its status as a research tool for historians, a therapeutic instrument for psychologists, a repository of information about social structures and relationships for sociologists, and a form of literature and composition for rhetoricians and literary scholars makes the diary a logical choice for interdisciplinary study.’[11] These writers use metaphors such as ‘weaving’, ‘quilting’, ‘braiding’ and ‘invisible mending’ to describe the way in which a woman fashions her diary, a diary of dailiness rather than of great moments. But that ‘weaving’ or ‘quilting’ or ‘braiding’ lies at the heart of the problem. Is it legitimate to unravel this self-construction and fashion it into something else?

That question might be answered quite simply by a judgment made in 1923 by Sir Arthur Ponsonby and much quoted, even by the American women historians of the 1980s. For in English Diaries, Ponsonby was adamant: ‘No editor can be trusted not to spoil a diary.’[12] For his part, Robert Fothergill stated that the only respectable motive behind the amputation of a diary was the desire to make it readable – ‘commonly the abridgement or distillation of an unwieldy original, through the elimination of whatever was considered stodgy, pedestrian or repetitious’.[13]  But such an ‘amputation’ is not unproblematic, for what might be considered stodgy and pedestrian to one reader, or in one decade, might be lively and interesting to the next. To anyone interested in the daily life of a suffragist, even the repetitions in Kate Frye’s daily life are revealing.  Cheryl Cline elaborated Fothergill’s point, writing, ‘The most sensitive and careful editors, in cutting what they may feel unimportant, irrelevant, repetitious or even “too personal”, walk a very fine line. They may end up, for all their good intentions, ruining the work. Many editors have been neither sensitive nor careful. Editors have cut manuscripts they felt were too long, padded those they thought too short; re-arranged material to suit themselves; bowdlerized writings which revealed the less-than-perfect character of their authors. Too often, they have destroyed the originals once the edited version was published’.[14] So reservations about editing Kate Frye’s lifetime performance to refashion it as a ‘suffrage diary’ are, perhaps, not unjustified, although Kate Frye’s published diary will be neither ‘padded out’, or ‘bowdlerized’, nor will the original be ‘destroyed’. However, the charge of ‘re-arrang[ing] material’ is, perhaps, not inappropriate.  It is not that the published entries will have been re-arranged, rather they will have been accorded a prominence they did not have in the original.  

It is worth remarking that much of the academic literature on diary writing concentrates on the published diary.[15]  There appears to be little recent consideration of the ethics of, as Bunkers and Huff put it, ‘mining’ a manuscript diary for the light it throws on particular aspects of the past, other than the difficulty this creates for those critiquing diary writing per se. Indeed, these authors appear to suggest that it was only in the past that a diary would be treated in this way.  Fothergill touched on this point, condemning most severely ‘the ravages of editors, committed in, amongst other things, the name of thematic unity, writing that, from the point of view of his study of diaries, ‘A fatally damaging editorial approach is the subordination of a diary’s general interest to a specialist one, retaining only what is of use to the political or religious historian, for example.’[16]  However Cheryl Cline has taken a more tolerant attitude to this aspect of diary editing, commenting ‘The urge to make a “good story” out of a diary that seems rambling and disjointed…is the motive which guides many an editor’s blue-pencil. While many diaries..are written around a theme .. or an event .., most private writings are disjointed and far-ranging. In this case material may be extracted from them and shaped into a more cohesive narrative.’[17] She then cites, as a well-known example of editing for story, A Writer’s Diary, compiled from Virginia Woolf’s diary by Leonard Woolf.[18]  Kate Frye’s diary, edited to tell her suffrage story, might, therefore, be said to be keeping exalted company.[19]  However it is certainly true that since the middle of the 20th century, the move in diary editing has been towards the unabridged text, complete with full scholarly apparatus. But Kate Frye would never be given that kind of treatment. So is it better to give a wider audience a ‘ravaged’ text – or to leave it, unpublished, in its wholeness on the archive shelf? An argument for leaving it untouched might well be made by the academics who have stressed the importance of the diary as a complete self-construct, a form of autobiography or life writing.[20]  The author has considerable sympathy with this viewpoint, while recognising the specific interest to students of women’s suffrage in retelling the story of Kate’s suffrage years.

But perhaps, if theory cannot provide a clear answer, we should look for guidance to the diarist herself. What would Kate Frye have liked done with her text? Although she has been dead for 50 years that text is still alive with her personality and it is not inconceivable that someone who put so much of herself onto the page, developing her writing skill as she shaped her life, would have been happy to have known that she would one day reach out to a wider audience.

In this context it is worth considering for whom Kate Parry Frye had been performing. Most certainly in her diary she acted out her days for herself.  From her very early years the diaries had become an essential part of her life. On occasion she discusses whether to bring her diary writing to an end, but always decides to carry on. Until mid-1916, utilising the format that Cynthia Huff describes as ‘self-determined,’ Kate wrote her entries in a large ledger-type book, embellishing them with the addition of relevant ephemera.[21] When, on 16 November 1913, on reaching the end of yet another of these books, she wrote ‘And so I have come to the end of this volume with no book to go on with though I have written to Whiteleys.[22] It would be more sensible to leave off writing a diary – at any rate such an extensive one – but more lonely’. But she did acquire another volume from Whiteleys, although that was to be the last of this kind and she afterwards continued her record in purpose-made diaries, adhering, more or less, to the space allocated for each day and no longer inserting additional material..

So that is one explanation as to why Kate kept her diary; it was her daily companion.  In it she depicts herself as slightly aloof from her parents, sister and husband, her abilities unappreciated. As Fothergill has observed, ‘the function of the diary is to provide for the valuation of [self] which circumstances conspire to thwart.’[23] Financial circumstances certainly thwarted Kate’s ability to maintain the class position that for some years she had enjoyed, but in her diary she could continue to present herself as an aspiring member of the upper-middle middle class, although, after 1910, always conscious of the financial chasm that existed between this idea of herself and the reality. On March 17th 1913, when meeting her Kensington contemporaries, she notes: ‘They all seemed so smart and so well dressed and so of a different life – the life really that we have left behind. Oh what a difference money makes.’ Lack of money is a recurrent theme, although in her entry for 22 December 1913 she does try to overcome her regrets, writing, ‘I always feel given nice clothes … I could look nice and attractive. I hate being shabby. It is bad enough to grow old, but to grow dowdy with it, but what can one do without money and lots of it. I do seem to grumble. I seem to forget I am aiming for “goodness” in an advanced and suffrage meaning, and that really any other state is very petty.’ It was not that she struck extravagant poses in her diary, rather that there she felt that there her days were being re-enacted in front of an appreciative audience – herself.

Kate seldom dwells on the act of diary writing, but on Sunday 8 February 1914 was prompted to record:

‘I am reading ‘The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff’. It is too absolutely interesting for words – and yet all so natural….it isn’t far off me in the inmost soul. Only in performance she was a genius – she could do – I can only dream that I could and do – accomplish. It made me want to read my old Journals but how tame after Marie’s. I was always for putting time and place and leaving out the really interesting bits in consequence – though I sometimes think I catch atmosphere. That is the disadvantages of writing a diary instead  of a Journal – one only ought to write when one is inspired and at the moment the feeling or idea strikes one – but with a diary the date and correctness is the thing.’[24]

Perhaps it is fortunate for us the Kate did not write what she terms a ‘Journal’; it is the ‘putting time and place’ that makes Kate’s diary so interesting.[25] We can sit with her on the tube or bus, travelling around London; we can reconstruct the route taking her from Notting Hill Gate to the Criterion Restaurant in Piccadilly for a meeting of the Actresses’ Franchise League – and then eavesdrop on the proceedings;  we can go with her to Covent Garden to see the Russian Ballet – ‘as for M Nijinsky, well, words fail me’;[26] we can travel with her around the country roads of Norfolk, searching out suffrage sympathisers; and accompany her as she organises the transport of her boxes, a complicated business, to and from stations and ‘digs’ in the small towns of east and southern England.

For Kate Frye’s diary keeping makes no distinction between the daily chores – brushing her dog, having lunch, changing her books at Smith’s  – and life-changing events. Even so, like all diarists, it is clear that she edited her day and, unsurprisingly, for her diaries had no locks, did not make explicit the details of everything that happened to her.  For instance, it was only the reading of an entry in a post-Second World War diary that gave a clue to what lay behind her long association with – and eventual marriage to – John Collins, a fellow actor in the 1903 touring production of Quality Street, a relationship that, as presented in Kate’s words, seems rather puzzling. That post-war entry referred to the one for 20 September 1904, the day that Kate finally agreed to marry John.  The entry itself is, naturally, of interest because she is writing of the day of her engagement but, when read in context, is constructed – or self-edited – so as not to include anything particularly revealing, merely that, after some, perhaps rather melodramatic, hesitation, Kate had finally acquiesced to John’s repeated offer of marriage. However, on re-reading the entry in the light of the later comment, a rather different story emerges. Kate’s words – ‘..I had to promise, it is the only right thing left to do …I couldn’t marry anyone else now, as he says. I have burnt my boats and no one must ever know that my real self is hesitating’ – appeared to be those of  a woman who had realised that she had to make a decision, that she could no longer keep the man hanging on.  But, alerted by the entry written nearly 50 years later, a re-reading reveals a rather different story. For, it transpires Kate had acted in such a way that ensured that, this time, she had to agree to marry John. It is hardly worth speculating on what actually had occurred, although in this entry Kate does write of passion and desire. In fact his lack of money, coupled with her lack of inclination, meant that it was a further 11 years before Kate and John married. Although she often debates with herself as to whether she can continue with the engagement, Kate feels unable to escape what she sees as her obligation. The story of that day in Croydon digs – with the landlady out shopping – is only one, albeit major, episode where the diarist, while ostensibly being frank, has not made all explicit.

The 'Wedding Day'  page - 9 January 1915 -of Kate Frye's diary

The ‘Wedding Day’ page – 9 January 1915 -of Kate Frye’s diary

There are doubtless very many other such occasions on which the doings of the self as portrayed in Kate’s diary do not reflect exactly the experience of the self that enacted them, the self of the diary having been refashioned by the diarist’s pen. For Kate Frye recognised her diary’s usefulness in providing her with the daily discipline of putting words on paper. Her diary is written in direct, colloquial prose. Her writing is fluent and she makes virtually no corrections.  As we have seen, she was interested in ‘catching atmosphere’ and, although she never intended her diary for publication, she did aspire to literary success. Over many years she mentions time spent on ‘writing’ and a quantity of her manuscripts and typescripts, together with the rejection letters from agents and publishers, survive. Unsurprisingly, for one so enamoured of the theatre, these works are all plays, but only a one, co-written with John Collins, was ever published.[27] 

Kate as writer

Kate as writer

Regretting as she did her lack of literary success, it is difficult to believe that she would be averse to seeing her words in print now.

Recognising the affection Kate felt for her diary and the time and care she had spent on shaping it, it is worth considering what she had thought might happen to it after her death. In fact her will reveals that the diaries were in effect her main bequest. She left the many volumes, together with the lead-lined bookcase in which they were kept, itself an indication of the concern she felt for their well-being, to the son of one of her cousins. That cousin, long dead, had been the only one of her relations to have had similar literary aspirations, albeit rather greater success. For, Abbie Frye was a prolific Edwardian novelist who wrote under the name ‘L. Parry Truscott’.[28] Kate had clearly wanted the diaries preserved and had not been worried at the thought of their being read by a member of the younger generation  – and, by inference, a later general public. But would she have objected to being presented to the general public only in her role as a suffragist – for that is in effect how she is now re-created?

So let us now view the problem from the other side and consider the contribution that Kate Frye’s diary may make to our understanding of the suffrage movement and of the lives lived by its members. How does Kate’s diary stand among other diaries dealing with the suffrage movement? What makes it worth the trouble of editing and publishing? The main difference between the diary of Kate Frye and most others recording suffrage involvement that survive in the public domain is that the latter were written primarily because that involvement represented a singular experience, a highpoint in the diarist’s life. Thus, for instance, the militant campaign is well represented by diaries kept by imprisoned suffragettes, recording the horrors of forcible feeding.[29]  For the constitutionalists, two diaries kept by Margery Lees have survived. Leader of the Oldham NUWSS society, she has recorded in one the work of the society and, in the other, gives an account of her participation in a great NUWSS event, the 1913 suffrage pilgrimage.[30]

Apart from that of Kate Frye, only a handful of other diaries with suffrage-related daily entries are known. Those of the delightfully Pooterish Blathwayts of Batheaston, father, mother and daughter, have proved an excellent source for researchers of WSPU personalities and of the militant campaign in Bath[31] and that of Dr Alice Ker provides short factual notes on the suffrage scene in Birkenhead and Liverpool.[32]   The diary of Eunice Murray, a prominent Scottish member of the Women’s Freedom League, is in some ways comparable to that of Kate Frye, although the former’s comments on the suffrage campaign are more measured, while her actual accounts are less detailed.[33] Like Kate, Eunice Murray spoke at suffrage meetings but was not required to organise them and was certainly less concerned with ‘catching the atmosphere’ when writing up her diary entries. The diaries of the actress and novelist Elizabeth Robins  (held in the Fales Library, New York) record her involvement with the English suffragette movement but, again, although she contributed as a speaker, she was not working at the suffrage ‘coal face’, as it were.  None of these diaries, suffragist or suffragette, has yet been published. Excerpts from the diaries of Ruth Slate and Eva Slawson make clear their interest in the Cause and, interwoven with material from their letters, have been published, but within the overall narrative of their lives and concerns suffrage plays only a relatively minor part.[34]

  Kate’s diary is valuable because it records her continuous involvement as a foot soldier in the suffrage campaign. She is writing without the benefit of hindsight, recording the inconsequential details of, say, finding a chairman for a suffrage meeting in Maldon or dealing with an imperious speaker in Dover, as well as the rather more momentous suffrage occasions, such as waiting on the platform at King’s Cross station as the train carrying Emily Wilding Davison’s coffin is about to leave for Morpeth. We can trace day by day, week by week, Kate’s growing participation in the movement, reflecting as it does both the increasing publicity given to and acceptance of the suffrage campaign and the decline in her family’s fortunes.

In 1913 Kate was campaigning for the New Constitutional Society in Whitechapel, distributing NCS leaflets translated into Yiddish

In 1913 Kate was campaigning for the New Constitutional Society in Whitechapel, distributing NCS leaflets translated into Yiddish

Although we cannot say that she became an increasingly militant (although never actively militant)[35] supporter because she regretted her lack of education, in the very first entry in which she refers to suffrage, on 3 December 1906, she writes: ‘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” ‘[36] – or, again, in 1914, ‘Neither do I understand why I was born if I wasn’t to be educated.’ Kate’s education had been that considered suitable for her gender and class. She did not attend school, but until she was 16 was visited by a ‘daily governess’, although visits were not invariably daily. After that she received somewhat erratic tuition from teachers of French and music. Nor can we say she became a suffragist because she lacked economic power. But she was certainly aware that those two factors – a lack of education and a lack of funds – made life as a woman without the shelter of family money, or the ability to earn her own, very difficult.

Like so many other women at that time, Kate Frye saw the acquisition of the vote as one step towards autonomy.  It is our luck that for a few years she attempted to solve her economic problem by propounding the political solution, that is, she earned a living, of sorts, by becoming a suffrage organiser. It is extra fortunate that she did so for a society, the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage, about which very little has hitherto been known. In fact Kate Frye’s diary contains more information about the NCSWS and more of the society’s ephemera than exists anywhere else.

A page from the 'Organiser's Book' kept by Kate for perusal by the Committee of the NCS

A page from the ‘Organiser’s Book’ kept by Kate for perusal by the Committee of the NCS

Her elaboration of diary entries by the addition of leaflets advertising the suffrage meetings she attended, even on occasion leaflets she herself had arranged to have printed, and for the processions in which she took part, demonstrates how prominently the campaign figured in her life. Virtually no other ephemeral material is included during this period. 

We need only look to the diary for the answer to the question as to whether Kate Frye would object to being remembered as a suffragist. For on ‘Sunday 10 February 1918’ she wrote, ‘One of my afternoon letters was to Gladys Simmons[37] in commemoration of the passing of the Franchise Bill. Haven’t had a single letter from anyone concerning it – I said I wouldn’t but it seems very strange – that someone hasn’t thought of me in connection with the work.’ Now that her suffrage diary is  published, at last Kate Frye will ‘be thought of in connection with the work’ and be recognised as a suffragist.[38] However, the very act of publication highlights just this one of her many roles. Out of the multiplicity of Kate Frye’s self-constructions, it is the ‘self’ of her suffrage years that emerges. The reader will have to accept that ‘mining’ a diary in order to view an historical episode from a fresh angle may come at the expense of maintaining the integrity of the diarist’s conception of ‘self’.

Kate's diary entry for 21 May 1914 in which she records witnessing the WSPU demonstration in front of Buckingham Palace

Kate’s diary entry for 21 May 1914 in which she records witnessing the WSPU demonstration in front of Buckingham Palace


[1] Katharine Parry Frye (1878-1959), daughter of Frederick and Jane Kezia Frye. Frederick Frye was a director of a chain of licensed grocery shops, Leverett and Frye, a firm financed by the wine merchants W.& A.Gilbey, as a useful outlet for their wines. When Frederick Frye became an M.P., Gilbey’s took over the running of the business. The Irish branch still operates. Frederick’s father had been a ‘professor of music’ and for 64 years organist at Saffron Walden parish church. Jane Frye’s father was a Winchester grocer. In 1915 Kate married John R. Collins.

[2] In August 2010 correspondence on Guardian Online, which included contributions from members of the Women’s History Network, demonstrated that it is by no means unusual for contemporary women to keep daily diaries over decades of their lives..

[3] Kate’s Aunt Agnes (1834-1920, née Crosbie), her mother’s sister, was the widow of Alfred Gilbey (d. 1879). For details of the Gilbeys of Wooburn House, Wooburn, Buckinghamshire see B. B. Wheals (1983) Theirs were but human hearts: a local history of three Thameside parishes (Bourne End: H.S. Publishing).  From their relatively humble origins the brothers Walter and Alfred Gilbey grew wealthy as they developed England’s largest wine merchant business, W. & A. Gilbey.

[4] ‘Accounts and Legal’, Quality Street tour accounts (Theatre Museum), cited in Tracy C. Davis (2000) The Economics of the British Stage 1800-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p.217.

[5] For a discussion of the entrance of middle-class women into the acting profession see Tracy C. Davis (1991) Actresses as Working Women (London: Routledge) pp. 13-16.

[6] In the 1920s and 1930s Kate often joined her husband on tour. For instance, over many years she spent some time each year at Stratford-on-Avon, where her husband was stage manager for productions at the old Memorial Theatre.

[7] Agnes Frye (1874-1937)

[8] See T. Mallon (1995) A Book of One’s Own: people and their diaries (St Paul, Minn: Hungry Mind Press) p. 1.

[9] Robert A. Fothergill (1974) Private Chronicles: a study of English diaries (London: OUP).

[10] See Jane DuPree Begos (1977) Annotated Bibliography of Published Women’s Diaries (issued by the author); Margo Culley (Ed) (1985) A Day at a Time: the diary literature of American women from 1764 to the present day (Old Westbury NY: Feminist Press); Harriet Blodgett (1989) Centuries of Female Day: Englishwomen’s Private Diaries  (New Brunswick, London: Rutgers University Press); Cheryl Cline (1989) Women’s Diaries, Journals and Letters: an annotated bibliography (New York and London: Garland Publishing); Harriet Blodgett (Ed.) (1992) The Englishwoman’s Diary (London: Fourth Estate); Suzanne L. Bunkers and Cynthia A. Huff (1996) Inscribing the Daily: critical essays on women’s diaries (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press)  Suzanne L. Bunkers (2001) Diaries of Girls and  Women: a midwestern American sampler (London, University of Wisconsin Press).

[11] Suzanne L. Bunkers and Cynthia Huff ‘Issues in Studying Women’s Diaries:  a theoretical and critical introduction’, in Bunkers and Huff (Eds) Inscribing the Daily, p.1

[12] Sir Arthur Ponsonby (1923) English Diaries (London:Methuen & Co), p. 5.

[13] Fothergill, Private Chronicles, p. 5

[14] Cline, Women’s Diaries, p xxvii-xxviii.

[15] Exceptions include Bunkers, Diaries of Girls and Women. See also Cynthia Huff (1985) British Women’s Diaries: a descriptive bibliography of selected 19th-century women’s manuscript diaries (New York: AMS Press).

[16] Fothergill, Private Chronicles, p. 5.

[17] Cline,  Women’s Diaries, p. xxviii.

[18] L. Woolf (Ed) (1953) A Writer’s Diary. Being extracts from the diary of Virginia Woolf (London, Hogarth Press).

[19] Although, after Leonard Woolf’s ‘dismembering’, the diaries were reconstructed, in five volumes, edited by Anne Olivier Bell.

[20] For instance, Martin Hewitt (2006) Diary, Autobiography and the Practice of Life History in David Amigoni (Ed) Life Writing and Victorian Culture (Aldershot: Ashgate).

[21] Huff, British Women’s Diaries, p xiv.

[22] Whiteleys was a large department store, which, when Kate wrote this 1913 entry, was in Queensway. The store’s owner, William Whiteley, ‘the Universal Provider’, had been a close friend of the Frye family and his murder and subsequent trial are recorded in detail in Kate’s 1907 diary.

[23] Fothergill, Private Chronicles, p.82.

[24] .Marie Bashkirtseff, a young Frenchwoman, filled 85 notebooks with her journal, which was edited for publication after her death in 1884. An English edition, Mathilde Blind (Ed. and Trans) 1890, The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff (London: Cassell)  2 volumes. Philippe Lejeune has described the Journal as foreshadowing ‘a line of diaries where introspection, active contestation of the condition of women, and interest in writing stand out as defining features’, see Philippe Lejeune The “Journal de jeune fille” in Nineteenth Century France in Bunkers and Huff, Inscribing the Daily, p119.

[25] Some attention has been paid to this distinction by scholars of diary writing. Suzanne Bunkers, after initially believing that what distinguishes a journal from a diary is that the diary is ‘a form of recording events, and the journal is a form of introspection, reflection, and the expression of feeling’, comes to the conclusion that the distinction is untenable, see S. Bunkers, Diaries of Girls and Women, p 12.

[26] Diary entry for 9 July 1912.

[27]   Katharine Parry and John R. Collins (1921) Cease Fire!: a play in one act  (London: French’s Acting Editions).

[28] Gertrude Abbie Frye (always known as Abbie), later Mrs Basil Hargrave (1871-1936). The works of ‘L. Parry Truscott’ were mistakenly attributed to Katharine Edith Spicer-Jay in Halkett (1926) Dictionary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous English Literature, (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd), Vol 1. By 1926 ‘L. Parry Truscott’’s star had waned and Abbie, by now a widow, was vitually penniless.  A considerable amount of information about the interesting life of Abbie Frye can be gleaned from Kate Frye’s diary.

[29] See the manuscript prison diaries of Mary Anne Rawle, Elsie Duval and Katie Gliddon (Women’s Library); the manuscript prison diaries of Olive Walton and Florence Haig (Museum of London); and the manuscript prison diary of Olive Wharry (British Library); The manuscript prison diary of Anne Cobden Sanderson (London School of Economics) has been edited by Anthony Howe but is, as yet, unpublished.

[30] Both Margery Lees’s diaries are held by the Women’s Library.

[31] The Blathwayt diaries are held in the Gloucestershire Record Office. See June Hannam ‘Suffragettes are Splendid for Any Work’: the Blathwayt Diaries as a Source of Suffrage History in Clare Eustance, Joan Ryan and Laura Ugolini (Eds.) (2000) A Suffrage Reader: charting directions in British Suffrage History (London: Leicester University Press).

[32] Dr Alice Ker’s diaries are held in a private collection.

[33] The manuscript of Eunice Murray’s diary are held at the Women’s Library, together with a bound copy of the Diary of Eunice Guthrie Murray, transcribed by Frances Sylvia Martin.

[34] T. Thompson (Ed.) (1987) Dear Girl: the diaries and letters of two working women (1897-1917) (London: Women’s Press).

[35] Kate Frye joined the WSPU in November 1910, after witnessing the ‘Black Friday’ demonstration, but was soon appointed as a paid organiser for the newly-formed New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage.

[36] The quotation is taken from Modern Love by George Meredith, first published in 1862.

[37] As Gladys Wright, she had been a very old Kensington friend of Kate Frye and hon. Sec. of the NCSWS.

[38]  Campaigning for the Vote: The Suffrage Diary of Kate Parry Frye, is published by Francis Boutle

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Campaigning For The Vote: Kate Frye and Knightsbridge

Kate Frye coverIn early 1911 Kate Frye took up her position as a paid organizer for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. The Society had been founded in January 1910 to take a position between that held by the militant Women’s Social and Political Union and the ‘constitutional’ National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. Although its members did not want to break the law themselves, the NCS did not condemn WSPU tactics and supported its policy of campaigning against government (Liberal) candidates at elections, thinking the NUWSS had become too ineffectual.

Unlike the other main suffrage societies that had their offices either around the

Burberry shop, Knightsbridge. The offices of the NCS were inside this building

Burberry shop, Knightsbridge. The offices of the NCS were inside this building

Holborn/Strand area or in Victoria/Westminster, the NCS took up residence in Knightsbridge. They rented an office in Park Mansions Arcade which ran through a relatively newly-built block of mansion flats between Knightsbridge and Brompton Road. The shop area at street level is now occupied by a major Burberry store, into which the Arcade has,  at some time in the past, been incorporated. The Arcade part now houses a  recently created Burberry Menswear department. To see today’s glamorous reality and to imagine Kate and her co-workers at the NCS  walking through this space –  full of thoughts of converting the women – and men – of Britain to the Cause – click here.

Knightsbridge was an area that would have appealed to members of the NCS, many of whom lived in Kensington and Paddington.  Many of these women had belonged to  the London Society for Women’s Suffrage (NUWSS), but had become disenchanted with what appeared to be lack of progress, although were not quite prepared to go so far as to join the militants. However, you can see from the entertainments offered at the opening of the Park Mansions Arcade Office, that members of the WSPU and the Actresses’ Franchise League lent their support.

Notice of the opening of the NCS office

Notice of the opening of the NCS office, April 1910

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Campaigning For The Vote: Kate Wrestles With North Norfolk, 1912

Kate Frye cover In early summer 1912 Kate Frye was in Norfolk, based in East Dereham, organizing the ‘votes for women’ campaign for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage in Norfolk. In May the sitting MP for the Northwestern Division of Norfolk died and a by-election was called. Kate hurried to Hunstanton to organise the NCS campaign – rather at a disadvantage vis a vis the other suffrage societies, the WSPU and the NUWSS, both of which had many more organisers, money, and, above all, cars at their disposal to cover the constituency. But Kate did her best. For example:

On 28 May she hired a motor for 22/- from Johnson’s Garage in Hunstanton to take the Society’s speakers, Miss McGowan, Mrs Chapman (the Society’s president)  and Mr Lloyd (supposedly an Australian although she began to have her doubts) to Burnham Market. Tuesday May 28th 1912 [lodging in Hunstanton at Palace House, Westgate] Had a lot of writing to do in the morning and had to go out to make arrangements and then a great rush to get something to eat and off to Burnham Market at mid-day. I took the Literature to the Hotel, left it here and ordered tea – then I canvassed hard and walked all the way to Burnham Overy.

Hoste Arms, 2013

Hoste Arms, 2013

Came [back to Burnham Market] to Hoste Arms Hotel – found one of my Irish friends [these were Irish political organisers also in the area campaigning for the by-election]  still there- the younger married one- at least the other was married too – but I gathered he was separated from his wife. My friend greeted me quite tenderly – we met as old friends – there were two other Irishmen – Anti Home Rulers and two Liberals – a young coming-on Politician – quite nice looking – and an older man who, I was told afterwards, was Mr Ouithwaite – a candidate somewhere. We all had tea and eggs and Suffrage discussions – Mr Ouithwaite was quite violent – but I really had him every time – quite a roar went up at some some my answers – I enjoyed that tea party immensely. I think we all did – Mr Ouithwaite least of all, perhaps, but I felt I was scoring – and as only the two odd Irishmen were inclined for Votes for Women I had no help. No 1 Irish was not so rabid though.

Burnham Market, 1912

Burnham Market, 1912

I only got to the Schools just in time to have the doors open and let the crowd in – no policeman there so the boys had to go – it looked like a rowdy meeting from the first. The place was pretty full when the car arrived – Miss McGowan with Mrs Chapman and Mr Lloyd. Miss McGowan took the Chair – and they were fairly quiet while she spoke – but directly Mrs Chapman got up the trouble began. No one could hear her – she was feeling so dreadfully ill with a feverish cold – she must have had a miserable evening and I felt so sorry for her – and the people were so insolent. I went and stood right at the back amongst the rowdies and it was a lively evening – and so stuffy. Mr Lloyd (from Australia) stood on a Chair and bellowed – ‘Oh men of England’ over and over again – he tried his best and was cheery but not much of what he shouted could be heard. I took a collection – which was brave I think – but I felt I had to do something. I was so disappointed and we drove off amidst groans. A very Liberal place – but the boys were the mischief – once in they wouldn’t quiet. We motored back to Hunstanton – left Mrs Chapman at the ‘Golden Lion’ – then Mr Lloyd at the Temperance Hotel in our road – then home. The WSPU had been holding a meeting in the Town Hall and Miss Mansell had been down to help Steward – but only about 100 people turned up – some said 50 – so they had an open air afterwards as Mrs Massy and Mrs Haverfield were there. That was just over so we three tramped off to Roberts Room where Mr Hemmerde [the Liberal candidate] was speaking – a small room but well filled. He was just answering questions put to him by our lively friend Mr Lloyd – so when the people came out we gave away our handbills. ‘ 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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  or from all good bookshops.  

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

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Campaigning For The Vote: Kate Converts Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

Kate Frye cover‘The Plat’ at Bourne End in Buckinghamshire had been the Frye family’s country house since the late 1880s.  

The Plat, Bourne End

The Plat, Bourne End

The house was right on the River and teas were served on its lawns during the annual Bourne End Regatta.

Bourne End Regatta

Bourne End Regatta

Kate’s father, Frederick Frye, had been an influential figure in the neighbourhood but by 1911 had lost control of his business and the family finances were in dire straits. In order to earn her keep Kate now took employment as a paid organiser for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. She spent much of the time working away from home but in the autumn of 1911 did succeed in launching the  Bourne End and District Women’s Suffrage Society.

Thursday October 19th 1911 [Bourne End: The Plat]

So hot – very foggy and dull, some rain but fortunately it didn’t keep on. Agnes and I walked up to Mrs Bleek-Leech’s at Lindenhurst  as she was most kindly having the first meeting of the Bourne End and District Women’s Suffrage Society. It was such a success – about 50 people present. Miss Dove [headmistress of Wycombe Abbey School] was going to take the Chair but in her absence Daddie did so. Mrs Cecil Chapman [president of the New Constitutional Society] came to speak. She spoke for an hour and was most stirring. Mrs Graham from Henley also somehow got there and spoke for a few minutes on the sweated workers at Reading. Mrs Smart proposed a Vote of Thanks all round. Then tea. Mrs Leech had arranged it all most beautifully and was quite charming about it. I was as busy as a bee, of course. A good bit rested on me but I was delighted at the success. Mrs Chapman must have touched her hearers’ hearts and although we only made 10 or so members. People said that they had never heard suffrage before but were so interested they promised to come on Dec 15th. Every one was pleased. We stayed last finishing up things. Then after supper accounts for the 3 Suffrage Papers and the Standard.

Bourne End and District Society

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk

 or from all good bookshops.

 

 

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

 

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Campaigning For The Vote: Kate Frye In ‘Spitalfields Life’

Kate and her Suffrage Diary have been given most generous coverage in that most admirable  of blogs 

Kate Frye cover

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

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Campaigning For The Vote: Kate In Norfolk: East Dereham

Kate Frye coverBetween 1911 and 1914 Kate Frye spent over 20 weeks organising the New Constitutional Society for Women Suffrage’s campaign in Norfolk. For the greater part of that time she was based in East Dereham.

In Campaigning for the Vote entries – such as these samples below relating – at random –  two days in  Kate’s Norfolk experience – are fully annotated, giving biographical details of most of the people she mentions. Thus Kate’s diary is of interest  to local historians over and above the light it sheds on the suffrage campaign in the area. For instance, ‘Miss Cory’ was Violet, daughter of the London and Provincial bank manager. The Corys lived above the bank, now Lloyds TSB and still there at 38 Market Place. For a most interesting tour around  Dereham’s Market Place – an area with which Kate became intimate – see here.

Tuesday March 25th 1913 [lodging at  63 Norwich Street, East Dereham]

Most of the day spent in hunting about for rooms for Mrs Mayer with no success – even the Kings Head refused to have her. Canvassing and bill distributing – beginning, as usual, to feel anxious about the success of next Monday’s meeting. Changed and out at 4 to Miss Cory’s to tea. I went to call on Mrs Pearse when I left there and saw Mr Pearse and asked him to take the Chair but he would none of it. We had all been so ‘naughty’ etc and of course the destruction of the golf links had been the last straw. He is a pasty-faced Villain. But I wish he would take the Chair for us because if he does not I don’t know who will and I shall have to do it – the very idea curdles my blood.

On 10 March 1914 a WSPU member, Mary Richardson, attacked the Velasquez painting, ‘Venus with a Mirror’, hanging in the National Gallery, in order to draw attention to what she saw as the slow destruction of Mrs Pankhurst, who had, on 9 March, yet again been arrested.

Wednesday March 11th 1914 [lodging at 3 Elvin Road, East Dereham]

Miss Cory here at 10.30 and we went through the people I am to call upon. Out 12 to 1. To see Miss Shellabear. Very off, of course, the latest – the Rokeby Velasquez – is upsetting everyone now. Out 2.45 to 6.15. Calls.

Quebec Hall is now a Christian Eventide Hall. Photo courtesy of Quebec Hall website

Quebec Hall is now a Christian Eventide Hall. Photo courtesy of Quebec Hall website

Happened on the new people at Quebec Hall who are keen WSPU. Had tea with Miss Louisa Gay who has done 8 months [in prison]– a very jolly girl – she means to do some waking up if she can. Then to see Mr and Mrs Hewitt – I do like them so. Miss Cory and Mrs Goddard here 8 to 10. Talking. Talking. Talking.

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

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Campaigning For The Vote: Kate In Kent: Folkestone

Kate Frye coverIn the course of the years 1911-1914 Kate Frye spent over 20 weeks organising the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage’s campaign in Kent.  She recorded every detail of her daily life in the entries she made in her diary and a selection, relating to the conduct of the campaign, are included in Campaigning for the Vote.

Kate spent time in Ashford, Folkestone, Hythe and Dover, canvassing house-by-house and organising meetings in drawing-rooms and public halls.

Below are three samples of Kate’s Folkestone experiences.

Saturday October 21st 1911 [Folkestone: 4 Salisbury Villas]

Quite a mild day and needed no fire till evening but inclined to shower. I wrote letters – then at 11 to Mrs Kenny’s – 63 Bouverie Road, Folkestone.  

The Kennys' house in Bouverie Road

The Kennys’ house in Bouverie Road

She had asked me to lunch but Mrs Hill wanted me back again so, as there wasn’t much I could do, I just had a chat with her and Mrs Chapman, who is staying there, and came back again. Changed and got back to Mrs Kenny’s at 2.30 for her party at 4. Miss Lewis of Hythe took the Chair and Mrs Chapman spoke. There were between 70 and 80 people – mostly very smart – a military set. Mrs Kenny is very nice and Colonel Kenny is quite sweet. Some of the men were very amusing. I got a golf ball from one and sold it for 2/6. And got one young officer to buy The Subjection of Women. There was a most gorgeous tea, which no-one hardly touched. Mrs Hill and I walked home together – got in about 6.30. Another evening of gabbling chat and to bed about 10 o’clock. She is very nice but so intellectual. I feel sorry for the child. A most terrific gale raged all night. I thought the house must be blown in. 

Kate spent two weeks in Folkestone on that occasion, returned for another two in February 1912 and that autumn spent a further three weeks attempting to galvanise the Kent campaign into a semblance of life.

Saturday October 5th 1912 [Folkestone: 33 Coolinge Road]

In my morning of calls, I only found two people at home. At 12.30 I gave it up. I did feel depressed. More so when, having met Mrs Kenny at the Grand Hotel at 3.30, where she was attending a wedding reception of a Miss Cooper, and whose good-byes I just came in for, Mrs Kenny and I called together upon the manager’s wife, Madame Gelardi, and to my horror I found that her husband would not contemplate for a moment letting us have a Suffrage At Home in the reception room. Well that does put the lid on things.The time is slipping away here – the days fly, I love the place and am very comfortable in my rooms but I cannot seem to work here and I feel utterly miserable about it.

Kate’s mention – in the entry below – of ‘this split’ refers to the announcement Mrs Pankhurst had made on 17 October at an Albert Hall meeting that the Pethick-Lawrences were no longer involved with the WSPU. The Pethick-Lawrences’ departure had been unilateral. Lady Irving was the – long-estranged – widow of the actor, Sir Henry Irving

Coolinge Road, Folkestone

Coolinge Road, Folkestone

Tuesday October 22nd 1912 [Folkestone: 33 Coolinge Road]

As for the work I am doing here I am clean off it – I am doing nothing towards ‘Votes for Women’ – what do the people of Folkestone care and what is the good of trying to make them care? Propaganda may have had its uses in the past, it may still please some people, but I don’t want to go on talking about the Vote – I want to get it! And I am wondering more than ever what is the way to get it. This split, if split it is between the Pankhursts and Pethick-Lawrences is depressing, but I am not at all sure there it not more in it than meets the eye. Anyway here one feels so out of things – the Vote seems a very tiny speck in an ocean of talk and twaddle.

Back to tea and to write letters, then at 8 o’clock I tidied myself and went off to call on Lady Irving by appointment at 8.30. I was interested and so much enjoyed the interview, and she joined us as a member. I had been told of her powdered face, how, like the cat, she always walked alone, that all Folkestone hates her. I liked her immensely, she seems the only real person I have met, the only understanding person. I am told her temper is abnormal, that may be, she was sweet to me, and, after all, these sweet-tempered creatures can be temper trying enough for anything. That she and Henry Irving could not get on together I can quite understand. ‘No surrender’ is writ large in her composition – and after all why should the woman always give way. I imagine she had very strong views as to what was fitting for a wife and probably he did not live up to these. I did not stay long but we got a lot in the time and I think she liked me. How wonderfully young she is. Suffrage to her finger tips, and Suffrage before it was passably comfortable to be Suffrage.

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

 

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Now Published: Campaigning For The Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary, Edited By Elizabeth Crawford


Kate Frye cover

An extract:

‘Saturday June 14th 1913. [Kate is lodging in Baker Street, London] I had had a black coat and skirt sent there for Miss Davison’s funeral procession and the landlady had given me permission to change in her room. I tore into my black things then we tore off by tube to Piccadilly and had some lunch in Lyons. But the time was getting on – and the cortege was timed to start at 2 o’clock from Victoria.

We saw it splendidly at the start until we were driven away from our position and then could not see for the crowds and then we walked right down Buckingham Palace Rd and joined in the procession at the end. It was really most wonderful – the really organised part – groups of women in black with white lilies – in white and in purple – and lots of clergymen and special sort of pall bearers each side of the coffin.

She gave her life publicly to make known to the public the demand of Votes for Women – it was only fitting she should be honoured publicly by the comrades. It must have been most imposing.

The crowds were thinner in Piccadilly but the windows were filled but the people had all tramped north and later on the crowds were tremendous. The people who stood watching were mostly reverent and well behaved. We were with the rag tag and bobtail element but they were very earnest people. It was tiring. Sometimes we had long waits – sometimes the pace was tremendous. Most of the time we could hear a band playing the funeral march.

Just before Kings Cross we came across Miss Forsyth (a fellow worker for the New Constitutional Society) – some of the New Constitutional Society had been marching with the Tax Resisters. I had not seen them or should have joined in. I had a chat with her.

Near Kings Cross the procession lost all semblance of a procession – one crowded process – everyone was moving. We lost our banner – we all got separated and our idea was to get away from the huge crowd of unwashed unhealthy creatures pressing us on all sides. We went down the Tube way. But I did not feel like a Tube and went through to the other side finding ourselves in Kings Cross station.

Saying we wanted tea we went on the platform and there was the train – the special carriage for the coffin – and, finding a seat, sank down and we did not move until the train left. Lots of the processionists were in the train, which was taking the body to Northumberland for interrment – and another huge procession tomorrow. To think she had had to give her life because men will not listen to the claims of reason and of justice. I was so tired I felt completely done. We found our way to the refreshment room and there were several of the pall bearers having tea. ‘

Campaigning for the Vote tells, in her own words, the efforts of a working suffragist to instil in the men and women of England the necessity of ‘votes for women’ in the years before the First World War.

The detailed diary kept all her life by Kate Parry Frye (1878-1959) has been edited to cover 1911-1915, years she spent as a paid organiser for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage.  A  biographical introduction positions Kate’s ‘suffrage years’ in the context of her long life., a knowledge of her background giving the reader a deeper appreciation of the way in which she undertook her work.  Editorial comment adds further information about the people Kate meets and the situations in which she finds herself.

Campaigning for the Vote  constitutes that near impossibility – completely new primary material on the ‘votes for women’ campaign, published for the first time 100 years after the events it records.

With Kate for company we experience the reality of the ‘votes for women’ campaign as, day after day, in London and in the provinces, she knocks on doors, arranges meetings, trembles on platforms, speaks from carts in market squares, village greens, and seaside piers, enduring indifference, incivility and even the threat of firecrackers under her skirt. Kate’s words bring to life the world of the itinerant organiser – a world of train journeys, of complicated luggage conveyance, of hotels – and hotel flirtations – , of boarding houses, of landladies, and of the ‘quaintness’ of fellow boarders.

This was not a way of life to which she was born, for her years as an organiser were played out against the catastrophic loss of family money and enforced departure from a much-loved home. Before 1911 Kate had had the luxury of giving her time as a volunteer to the suffrage cause; now she depended on it for her keep. No other diary gives such an extensive account of the working life of a suffragist, one who had an eye for the grand tableau – such as following Emily Wilding Davison’s cortége through the London streets – as well as the minutiae of producing an advertisement for a village meeting.

Moreover Kate Frye gives us the fullest account to date of the workings of the previously shadowy New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. She writes at length of her fellow workers, never refraining from discussing their egos and foibles. After the outbreak of war in August 1914 Kate continued to work for some time at the society’s headquarters, helping to organize its war effort, her diary entries allowing us to experience her reality of life in war-time London.

ITV has selected Kate Frye – to be portrayed by a leading young actress – as one of the main characters in a 2014 documentary series to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

See also ‘Kate Frye in “Spitalfields Life”‘ and ‘Kate Frye in “History Workshop Online”‘

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£14.99 +UK postage £2.60. Please ask for international postage cost), or from all good bookshops. In stock at London Review Bookshop, Foyles, Daunt Books, Persephone Bookshop, Newham Bookshop and National Archives Bookshop.

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

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

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: ‘Campaigning for the Vote’ Is Here

Kate Frye coverHere is the front cover of Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary –   published by Francis Boutle Publishers

The key points about the book are:

  •  Drawn from a new primary source, Campaigning for the Vote tells, in her own words, the efforts of Kate Frye, a working suffragist, to convert the men and women of England to the cause of women’s suffrage. The detailed diary Kate kept all her life (1878-1959) has been edited to cover 1911-1915, years she spent as a paid organiser for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage.
  • No other diary gives such an extensive account of the working life of a suffragist, one who had an eye for the grand tableau – such as following Emily Wilding Davison’s cortége through the London streets – as well as the minutiae of producing an advertisement for a village meeting.
  • With Kate for company we can experience the reality of the ‘votes for women’ campaign as, day after day, in London and in the provinces, she knocks on doors, arranges meetings, trembles on platforms, speaks from carts in market squares, village greens, and seaside piers, enduring indifference, incivility and even the threat of firecrackers under her skirt.
  • Kate’s words bring to life the world of the itinerant organiser – a world of train journeys, of complicated luggage conveyance, of hotels – and hotel flirtations – , of boarding houses, of landladies, and of the ‘quaintness’ of fellow boarders. This was not a world to which she was born, for her years as an organiser were played out against the catastrophic loss of family money and enforced departure from a much-loved home. Before 1911 Kate had had the luxury of giving her time as a volunteer to the suffrage cause; now she depended on it for her keep.
  • Kate Frye gives us the fullest account to date of the workings of the previously shadowy New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. She writes at length of her fellow workers, never refraining from discussing their egos and foibles.
  • After the outbreak of war in August 1914 Kate continued to work for some time at the society’s headquarter, helping to organize its war effort, while allowing us to experience her reality of life in war-time London.
  • Campaigning for the Vote is over 200pp long and contains over 70 illustrations, all drawn from Kate Frye’s personal archive. ISBN 978 1903427 75 0 £14.99
  • Advance orders may be placed either with me or with the publisher – or with any good bookshop.
'Campaigning for the Vote' - Front and back cover of wrappers

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

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: ‘Votes for Women!’ At The Royal Court, April 1907

Kate Frye photographed in costume for her part in J. M. Barrie’s ‘Quality Street’ – on tour in 1903

Kate Frye, besides being a life-long diarist, had a life-long devotion to the theatre, for a few years at the beginning of the 20th century even putting herself on the stage. However, on this afternoon in April 1907, it is her experience as a theatre-goer that she records. Her growing interest in women’s suffrage, which had been instigated by her new friends, Alexandra and Gladys Wright, was stimulated by a visit to the Royal Court Theatre to see Votes for Women!  – a play by the American actress and author, Elizabeth Robins.

‘Tuesday April 16th 1907 [London: 25 Arundel Gardens, North Kensington]

..Changed my dress before lunch. Agnes and I had to leave at a quarter to two and went up to Notting Hill Gate. There met Mrs Wright, Alexandra and Gladys. They had asked us to join them in a theatre party to see ‘Votes for Women’ at The Court – but Mrs Wright told us it was her party and wouldn’t let us pay for a thing. They took us first-class to Sloane Square and in the Dress Circle – second row right – in the centre – to see the piece. It was a most enjoyable and interesting afternoon. I loved the piece – it is quite fine – most cleverly written and the characters are so well drawn. Needless to say the acting was perfection as it generally is at the Court Theatre and the second act – the meeting in Trafalgar Square – ought to draw the whole of London. I was besides myself with excitement over it – so were the Wrights – we all loved it. It was a jolly afternoon – and most awfully kind of them to take us like that. Gladys was very keen to know if it would have any effect on people. I can’t tell – people are not so easily influenced, I fear, except in isolated cases. I wanted to know what the men were thinking of it.

Miss Wynne Matthison was fine – really great, I thought – as Vida. Dorothy Minto was good and I liked Jean Sterling Mackinlay.  Aubrey Smith was just the man for the part and played it well. Lewis Casson, Holman Clark were good too and Edmund Gwenn was fine and so amusing as a ‘Labour Member’. Miss Maud Milton, Miss Frances Ivor, Miss Gertrude Burnett and Agnes Thomas all played well and added to the complete success of the piece. The papers have not done it credit, I think – they have only seen the novelty of the idea and situations – not the cleverness in writing and construction. It was pouring when we came out. Mrs Wright took us to a tea shop and gave us tea and then we all came home by train together.’

Votes for Women! (n.b. the exclamation mark that Kate omitted) was first performed on 9 April 1907, directed by Granville Barker. The title had been changed from more the rather more anodyne ‘The Friend of Woman’.  The Pankhursts were in the audience on the first night.

Nearly 100 years later, on 19 March 2003, Samantha Ellis wrote a most interesting piece on the play and its production for guardian.co.uk. See here for the whole article.

She notes that, like Kate, the critics loved the second act,

‘which had 40 actors, a plastercast base of Nelson’s Column and two huge ‘Votes for Women’ banners. For the Sketch it was “the finest stage crowd scene that has been seen for years”; to the Observer, it was “a marvel of verisimilitude akin to that which might be achieved by a joint use of megaphone and cinematograph”. Beerbohm, writing in the Saturday Review, felt that Dorothy Minto, playing one of the speakers, “caught exactly the spirit of her part – the blithe spirit of the budding platformist”. The Illustrated London News praised Agnes Thomas, playing a speaker identified in the script only as “A Working Woman”, for having “just the rasping Cockney tones, the termagant attitude, that are required” but carped: “There never were such speeches in Trafalgar Square.”

Edith Wynne Matthison

The play’s heroine, Vida Levering, a militant with a mysterious past, who may have been based on Christabel Pankhurst, was played by doe-eyed Edith Wynne-Matthison. Her casting affronted some reviewers; the Times’s critic sniffed, “The cause would make much more headway than it does if all its advocates were as fair to look upon and as beautifully dressed as Miss Wynne-Matthison,” and wondered: “Why, by the way, does Miss Levering take such care to make the best of her good looks and pretty figure and wear such charming frocks? Is it to please other women?”

He also cast doubt on the play’s polemical power: “Whether … the cause Miss Robins has at heart is likely to be advanced by hanging it on to other questions of seduction, abortion, and infanticide is perhaps doubtful.” He was not the only one to dislike the plot, in which Vida is revealed as the quintessential fallen woman, who hates men because an ex-lover forced her to have an abortion. Beerbohm claimed that he “yawned outright” when the ex-lover’s perfidy was revealed by the creaky device of a dropped handkerchief.

At the final plot twist, “when the ex-lover became a born-again suffragette”, even the Stage’s critic became distressed: “Except to those who have the Cause at heart … this might have seemed a rather lame and impotent conclusion.” For the Illustrated London News’s critic, the “play proper [was] not so interesting; its melodramatic story … [was] far too long and … far too thin”. But the suffragettes did not care. Robins gave them a quarter of her royalties, and in 1909 the play was staged in New York and Rome, selling the feminist message far beyond London. It also converted its leading lady, Edith Wynne-Matthison, to the cause; she and Robins founded the Actresses’ Franchise League in 1908 “ensuring that men like the Times’s critic could never again imply that suffragettes could not be glamorous”. ‘

Elizabeth Robins

As far as I remember Kate Frye, although she became a member of the Actresses’ Franchise League very soon after it was founded and was very proud to walk with the AFL in the 1911 Coronation Procession, makes no mention of seeing any of the short plays written to be performed by members of the suffrage societies. Some of these plays – such as How The Vote Was Won by Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John – have been collected in The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays, edited by actress and researcher Naomi Paxton, recently published by Bloomsbury. See here for details.

Kate Frye did, however, have a starring – if silent – role in the first production, directed by Edith Craig, of Christopher St John’s controversial play, The Coronation. You can  read her full diary entries relating that experience 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

Copies available from Francis Boutle Publishers, or from Elizabeth Crawford – elizabeth.crawford2017@outlook.com  (£14.99 +UK postage £3. Please ask for international postage cost), or from all good bookshops.

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

For much more about Kate Frye’s life as an actress see Kate Parry Frye: the long life of an Edwardian actress and suffragette  by Elizabeth Crawford  for details see here

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: Myra Luxmoore, Suffrage Artist

57 Bedford Gardens (now renumbered as 77)

57 Bedford Gardens (now renumbered as 77, courtesy of wikipage on William Magrath)

I first came across mention of ‘Miss Luxmoore’ in the pages of Kate Frye’s diary. Obviously a suffragist, with a Studio at 57 Bedford Gardens, Campden Hill, I presumed she was an artist.  But who was she? Her name is not recorded in, for instance, Lisa Tickner’s Spectacle of Women, the vademecum  on suffrage artists. Intrigued, I thought it worth finding out more about Miss Luxmoore and her world.

So, to begin at the beginning, here are three entries from Kate Frye’s diary in which she records meetings held at Miss Luxmoore’s Studio.

Tuesday February 9th 1909

Dinner at 7.30. Off at 8 o’clock to Bedford Gardens – Miss Luxmoore’s Studio to a Suffrage meeting. Got there in good time and started to work at once stewarding and trying to make converts. Got a young man student to join the Men’s League. Mr Mitchell and Miss Clementina Black were the speakers and did very well. Alexandra [Wright] was in the Chair. I waited at the end  helped count the money etc and walked up to Notting Hill Gate with the Wrights and Miss Black and walked all the way home. Was not in till after 11 o’clock. Very much enjoyed the meeting and the Suffrage atmosphere and meeting all those students was like a page out of a book.

Tuesday March 30th 1909

I changed my dress had a bit of something to eat then off at 7.30. Walked to Richmond Road took a bus to Bedford Gardens and went to Miss Luxmoore’s Studio Suffrage meeting. Gladys was there. Mrs Graves took the chair. Miss Meyer helped and Mrs Stanbury spoke – but, besides ourselves, there were only 15 audience. Mrs Henry of the Camden Institute was there. I had sent her a card and she quite disgraced herself and made Mrs Stanbury very uncomfortable by hissing loudly, then walking out with her poor unfortunate daughter. Something Mrs Stanbury said upset her – she was only talking history but Mrs Henry took it to mean the Queen of Spain – but I could not understand it till I got home and found from Daddie that Mrs Henry has become a ‘pervert’ to the Roman Catholic Church. It made a nasty impression on us somehow. We had a chat afterwards and all got very low spirited. There has been another raid on the House – several arrests and the women much knocked about – it is all so awful.

Tuesday May 4th 1909

Went off at 7.30 [pm] Walked to Richmond Road – a bus from there to Bedford Gardens – and to Miss Luxmoore’s Studio for a Woman’s Suffrage meeting. Such a crush of people and no end of helpers. Mrs Carl Hentschel, Miss Abadam and Mr Walter McLaren were the speakers. Miss Hentschel [her father, Carl Hentschel, was a lithographic printer, responsible for some suffrage posters], Miss Porter, Miss Meyer and, of course, Gladys and Alexandra. I had sent Miss Lockyer [who had been the late William Whiteley’s housekeeper] a ticket and she was there with Miss Clara Whiteley – and who should be there but one of the Miss Hollingsworths (Jessie) taken by some friend. I made three members – which wasn’t bad – and I waited with the others to help clear up and walked to Notting Hill Gate with them. Then came home in a bus. Was so tired. Mother was waiting up. Supper & bed. Mrs Carl Hentschel’s maiden speech and she did it very well and I don’t think I ever heard a more rousing speech than Miss Abadam. Mr McLaren [Walter McLaren, Liberal MP] was stupid.’

My research has shown me that ‘Miss Luxmoore’ was Myra Elizabeth Luxmoore (1860-1918), born in Paddington, the only child of John and Jane Luxmoore. By her first marriage, however, Jane had at least three daughters, Myra’s elder half-sisters. John Luxmoore worked for the Great Western Railway as a superintendent locomotive engineer. After a period based in Paddington, the family followed John’s work to Newport in south Wales and finally to Newton Abbot in his native Devon.

By 1888, giving her address as Somerford, Newton Abbot, Myra Luxmoore was exhibiting as an Associate with the Society of Women Artists. By 1891 she had moved to London and was living at 32 Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square. She then spent a brief time living at 87 Cadogan Gardens before moving, c 1905, to her studio at 57 Bedford Gardens. After that she began exhibiting regularly at the Royal Academy. Around 1912 Myra Luxmoore moved to 80 Redcliffe Square, Kensington, remaining there until her death in 1918.

You can see from the photograph (above) that 57 Bedford Gardens had been purpose-built with artists in mind, with large windows to provide ample light.  A google search shows photographs of the inside of the apartments as they are today – lofty spaces, providing ample room for a suffrage meeting.

When researching suffrage boycotters of the 1911 census I was interested to note that, while the enumerator wrote in his book that Myra Luxmoore was the occupier of a studio at 57 Bedford Gardens, he marked the apartment as unoccupied on census night. Presumably she, along with several other of the artists who shared the address, had opted to spend the night elsewhere. Her distinctive name is to be found nowhere else in the census returns.

MMyra Luxmoore's card published by the Conservative and Unionist Women's Franchise Association

Myra Luxmoore’s card published by the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association (photo courtesy of Ken Florey)

I had wondered where Myra Luxmoore’s suffrage allegiances lay and have recently discovered this card (left) illustrated by her and published by the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association. I think, therefore, it would not be too far-fetched to think that she was a supporter of the CUWFA. Incidentally, as far as I remember, this is the only postcard issued by the CUWFA that I have ever seen.

The majority of Myra Luxmoore’s exhibited works bear rather wispy titles – such as ‘Roses and Sweet Lavender’, or ‘What’s O’Clock?’ – although a few portraits are noted. One such was the portrait of Norah, the 18-year-old daughter of Sir John Craggs MVO, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1913. By 1910 another of Sir John’s daughters, Helen, was a full-time paid organiser for the WSPU. This was most definitely not a career move of which her father approved and I wonder if he would have commissioned the portrait if he had known that the artist had strong suffrage – although not militant – sympathies?  [Incidentally Helen Craggs in 1957 married, as her second husband, the widowed Lord Pethick-Lawrence.]

One portrait by Myra Luxmoore is known to hang in a public collection, that of the Very Rev Edward McClure (1833-1906), Dean of Manchester.

Verallery, y Reverend Edward C. MClure, Manchester City Art Gallery, courtesy of BBC - Your Paintings

Very Reverend Edward C. MClure, Manchester City Art Gallery, courtesy of BBC – Your Paintings

Other of her works were collected by Mother Agnes Mason, Foundress of the Community of the Holy Family. Click here to read about her connection with Myra Luxmoore and her works. The article also gives some, unverified, information about the Luxmoore family’s friendship with the family of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

 

 

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

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10 Comments

Kate Frye: A War-Time Birthday: 9 January 1917

Kate

Kate

On her birthday – 9 January 1915 – Kate Frye had at last married her long-term fiance, John Collins.  Two years later he was fighting in France and she was living with her mother and sister in a house at Berghers Hill, Buckinghamshire, courtesy of her mother’s sister, the wealthy Mrs Agnes Gilbey. A small cluster of cottages on a ridge at the top of a steep hill above Wooburn Green, Berghers Hill lay exposed to the elements. The wind whipped through Kate’s cottage, bedrooms were icy, the pipes froze – and burst. The walk down the hill to Wooburn Green and Cores End, whether by the road or the path through Wooburn Manor Park (the Gilbey property), was treacherous in winter.  

Tuesday 9 January 1917

Woke to a terrible morning – dark & cold & sleet. It continued to sleet & snow & hail at intervals all day and the wind out was cruel. The anniversary of our wedding day. Two years ago at Hove. All day long & into the night I kept thinking at this time we were doing so & so and Oh it was sad to think of the present and to wonder whether John was alive or dead. It comes so suddenly – the death to them and it would be hours & days before I should hear.

Agnes [Kate’s sister] still seedy & in bed and so cross with both Mother & I. I went off soon after 10.30 to Cores End to seek a Cod’s Head for the cats & fish for her dinner. Couldn’t get the former, the latter she refused to eat when cooked and sent up.

Writing letters most of the evening and after supper sat over the fire trying to get warm & thinking, thinking. Fortunately Mother went to bed. A letter from John – the first since Friday.

 

For more on Kate – look out for Elizabeth Crawford (ed): Campaigning for the Vote: the suffrage diary of Kate Parry Frye to be published by Francis Boutle Publishers in February 2013

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: Palmist At The Women’s Freedom League Bazaar

WFL BazaarBy 1909 Kate Frye was keenly involved – as a volunteer – in the women’s suffrage campaign. Although she belonged to the constitutional London Society for Women’s Suffrage she was happy to give her services to other, more militant,  suffrage societies – such as the Women’s Freedom League.

Dramatis Personae for these entries

Marie Lawson (1881-1975) was a leading member of the WFL. An effective businesswoman, in 1909 she formed the Minerva Publishing Co. to produce the WFL’s weekly paper, The Vote.

May Whitty (1865-1948) and Ben Webster (1864-1947) were a well-established theatrical coupleKate had toured with May Whitty in a production of J.M. Barrie’s Quality Street in 1903.

Ellen Terry (1847-1928) the leading Shakesperean actress of her age.

Edith Craig (1869-1947) theatre director, producer, costume designer, and a very active member of the Actresses’ Franchise League.  She staged a number of spectacles for suffrage societies, working particularly closely with the Suffrage Atelier and the Women’s Freedom League. In January 1912 Kate appeared in Edith Craig’s production of The Coronation.

Lena Ashwell (1862-1957) actress, manager of the Kingsway Theatre, a vice-president of the Actresses’ Franchise League and a tax resister.

Thursday April 15th 1909 [The Plat, Bourne End]

I went up to London at 9.50 all in my best. Went to Smiths to leave the books – then straight from Praed St to St James Park by train and to the Caxton Hall for the 1st day of the Women’s Freedom League Bazaar. Got there about 11.30  – everything in an uproar, of course. I had to find out who was in authority over me and where I was to go to do my Palmistry. I had to find a Miss Marie Lawson first and then was taken to a lady who had charge of my department and she arranged where I was to go. A most miserable place it seemed – in a gallery overlooking the refreshment room. I meant to have gone out to have a meal first – but it all took me so long running about getting an extra chair etc that I should have missed the opening. Then another Palmist hurried up – the real thing who donned a red robe. I was jealous. Madame Yenda.

Kate kept Madame La Yenda's card within the pages of her diary

Kate kept Madame Yenda’s card within the pages of her diary

We got on very well, however, and exchanged cards (I have had some printed) it was all about as funny as anything I have ever done and I have had some experiences.

Then I went back to the main room which was beginning to get thronged and stifling from the smell of flash- light photographs. I discovered Miss May Whitty and Mr Ben Webster and chatted to them while we waited for Miss Ellen Terry who was half an hour late. Miss Whitty was awfully nice and I quite enjoyed meeting her again. Ellen Terry looked glorious in 15th century costume and was very gay and larkish. Her daughter Edith Craig was there to look after and prompt her – and ‘mother’ her – what a mother to have had. I expect she had to pay for it. She is a sweet-looking woman with a most clever face – only a tiny shade of her Mother in it but Ellen Terry took the shine out of everyone – what a face to be sure. When she went round the stalls I went to the Balcony and for a little time Madame Yenda and I tried to work up there together but it was impossible. All my clients had to disturb her as they walked to and fro so at last I came out to find 3 more Palmists waiting and nowhere for them to work. One, a real professional, was very cross especially at the small fee being charged and I don’t think she could have been there long. Two other girls, looking real amateurs, were also there. So I sat a while at a table outside and told a few but it wasn’t very satisfactory and at 2 o’clock I went out for some lunch leaving the four others there. I went into a Lyons place in Victoria Street and then went back a little before 3 o’clock meaning to have a look round the Bazaar but I was pounced on to begin again and I was alone at it all the afternoon from 3 till 5.45 up in the gallery. I was left at it with sometimes just a few minutes in between but must have told 40 hands I should say. I did about 7 or 8 before 2 o’clock. We were only supposed to give 10 minutes at the outside but I could not quite limit myself and sometimes, when there wasn’t a rush, I had long talks with the people. It was very interesting and on the whole I think I was successful. Train to Praed St and to Smiths for the books and home by the 6.45.

 Friday April 16th 1909 [The Plat, Bourne End]

Ribbon from the WFL Bazaar carefully preserved by Kate

Ribbon from the WFL Bazaar carefully preserved by Kate

I went straight to Caxton Hall by train from Praed St to St James’s Park – left some flowers at the flower stall. Mother had packed up some lovely bunches for me. Then I went up to the l[ondon] S[ociety] for W[omen’s] S[uffrage] office on business connected with the Demonstration – then back to the Caxton Hall for the opening of the Green White and Gold Fair on the second day. Miss Lena Ashwell was punctual 12 o’clock and she looked delicious and did it all so nicely. Madame Yenda was there but no other Palmists. My chatty friend, who greeted me rapturously, helped fix up the gallery a much nicer place – but clients did not come very early -they were all following Lena Ashwell – so I had 1/- from Madame Yenda myself. I think she was clever but, of course, I am rather a hard critic at it. She told me a great many things I know to be absolutely true and she gave me some good advice especially about morbid introspective thoughts and I think she is quite right. I do over worry. I am to beware of scandal which is all round me just now. She predicts a broken engagement, a rich alliance and always heaps of money. I should have immense artistic success in my profession if only I had more confidence in myself and if only I had some favourable influence (a sort of back patter, I take it) to help me but such an influence is far away. I shall never live a calm uneventful existence. I shall always spend so much of myself with and for others. I am rather glad of that. I was just beginning to tell her her hand but I wouldn’t let her pay as she told me she was very poor and I could see it when some clients came for us both and we both had to start our work.

I didn’t feel a bit inclined for work at first but got into it and had wonderful success. Kept on till 2 o’clock – went to the Army and Navy Stores then and had some fish for lunch – then back – saw the ‘Prison Cell’ for 5 and was very interested – then started work at 2.45 and never moved off my chair till 6.15. I did have an afternoon of it. Madame Yenda had gone and I was alone in my glory. I must have had quite another 40 people if not more and they were waiting in line to come in to me. I seem to delight some of the people and one or two said I quite made them believe in Palmistry. One old lady came back for another shill’oth [shilling’s worth] as I had been so good with her past and present she wanted her future. I must have been very clairvoyant as I told the people extraordinary things sometimes and they said I was ‘true’. Of course one or two I could not make much headway with but that must always be so.

Where I found I had missed my train I wanted to go on but my chatty friend was really awfully decent and would not hear of it. She said if I would tell one man who had been waiting ever so long that was all I must do and she would send the others away. There were about 18 waiting and she did – rather to my relief. I felt ‘done’

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

 

You can listen here to a talk I gave in the House of Commons – ‘Campaigning for the Vote: From MP’s Daughter to Suffrage Organiser: the diary of Kate Parry Frye’.

Copyright

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 Suffrage Diary: The Mud March, 9 February 1907

Kate Frye had first joined a suffrage society in the spring of 1906.  Her choice was the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage (later renamed the London Society for Women’s Suffrage) – a constituent society of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies  Interest in the long-running women’s suffrage campaign leapt ahead in the following few months and in February 1907 the NUWSS staged the first open-air suffrage spectacular – a march through the wintry, muddy London streets. For obvious reasons this became known as the ‘Mud March’. Kate’s estimate of 3000 participants accords with later reports.

Saturday 9 February 1907 [25 Arundel Gardens, North Kensington]


Mud MarchIn bed for breakfast – and what was my utter disgust – and disappointment – to hear the torrents of rain – and there was not a shadow of its coming last night – it was bitterly cold. As it was so heavy I hoped it would stop – but it went on and on into a fine heavy drizzle. They said I should be mad to go in the procession and though I knew I must – I went out at 12.30 taking Mickie a walk and sent a telegram to Alexandra Wright telling her the rain prevented my joining them. I had arranged to be at their house at 1 o’clock and go with them to Hyde Park. We all had lunch. I knew I was going all the time – but couldn’t go. Off to wash my hands. 2 o’clock. ‘They will be just starting’, said I. Then as I washed I made up my mind I would go rain or no rain and – lo – the rain had ceased. I prepared a plan to Agnes.  She too knew she was to be of it – both flew upstairs and were out of the house before 2.15.

We tore to Notting Hill Gate – meaning to go the quickest way. No motor bus – so we tore for the train – it came in as I started to race down. In we scrambled – had to change at South Kensington much to our disgust – but we were not kept long. We flew out at Charing Cross and up Villiers Street. No sign of the Procession of Women Suffragists in the Strand. They were timed to leave Hyde Park at 2 o’clock so I had to pluck up my courage and ask a policeman. No, they had not passed. So, knowing the route, we flew up as far as Piccadilly Circus and there in about 2 minutes we heard strains of a band and waited, anxious and expectant. The crowd began to gather and we were nearly swept away by the first part – a swarm of roughs with the band – but the procession itself came – passed along dignified and really impressive. It was a sight I wouldn’t have missed for anything – and I was glad to have the opportunity of seeing it as well as taking part in it.

Mud March 1We stood right in front so as not to miss our contingent – and I asked if they knew where it was. Miss Gore Booth said it was coming and we were fearfully excited and I was so anxious not to miss our lot. I shrieked out when I saw Miss Doake’s red head in the distance and we dashed up to them and asked if we could join in. Alexandra carried our banner. Mrs Wright said come along here – it felt like boarding an express train but I suppose it was a quite simple rally though I cannot look back on it as that – but we were so excited and so anxious not to miss them. We walked three abreast – Miss Doake, Agnes and I – I was on the kerb side – behind us Gladys [Wright], Miss Ellis and Mrs Doake. North Kensington was not very well represented but I really do not know who else of us was there.

Then the real excitement started. The crowds to see us – the man in the street – the men in the Clubs, the people standing outside the Carlton – interested – surprised for the most part – not much joking at our expense and no roughness. The policemen were splendid and all the traffic was stopped our way. We were an imposing spectacle all with badges – each section under its own banners. Ours got broken, poor thing, unfortunately, and caused remarks. I felt like a martyr of old and walked proudly along. I would not jest with the crowd – though we had some jokes with ourselves. It did seem an extraordinary walk and it took some time as we went very slowly occasionally when we got congested – but we went in one long unbroken procession. There were 3000 about I believe. At the end came ever so many carriages and motor cars – but of course we did not see them. Lots of people we knew drove.

Flyer advertising the NUWSS 'Mud March'

Flyer advertising the NUWSS ‘Mud March’

Up the Strand it was a great crowd watching – some of the remarks were most amusing. ‘Here comes the class’ and two quite smart men standing by the kerb ‘I say look at those nice girls – positively disgraceful I call it.’ Then ‘Ginger hair – dark hair – and fair hair’ ‘Oh! What nice girls’ to Miss Doake, Agnes and I. Several asked if we had brought our sweethearts and made remarks to express their surprise at our special little band. ‘All the prizes in this lot’ etc. The mud was awful. Agnes and I wore galoshes so our feet were alright but we got dreadfully splashed. It was quite a business turning into the Exeter Hall. A band was playing merrily all the time – the one which had led the procession – and there was one not far off us. Three altogether, I was told.

Exeter Hall in 1905

Exeter Hall in 1905

We got good seats and of course had to wait some time before the meeting started – it was just after 4 pm when it did – but there was a ladies’ orchestra performing and playing very well and a lady at the organ in between whiles. The meeting was splendid. Mr Walter McLaren in the Chair and Israel Zangwill as chief speaker – he was so splendid and most witty. Miss Gore Booth – Mrs Fawcett – Mrs Eva McLaren – Lady Strachey and several other ladies spoke and Keir Hardie made an excellent speech. It was altogether a wonderful and memorable afternoon – and felt we were making history – but after all I don’t know, I am sure, what will come of it. The MPs seem to have cheated and thoroughly ‘had’ us all over it. They wanted the Liberal Women’s help to get into the House and now they don’t care two straws or they are frightened of us. We walked up to Tottenham Court Road and came home by bus. It was nearly 7 o’clock when we got in. .. I felt bitterly tired all the evening after the excitement.

Dramatis Personae for this entry

Agnes, Kate’s elder sister

Mickie, Kate’s beloved dog

Alexandra and her sister, Gladys, lived at 10 Linden Gardens. It was under their influence that Kate had joined the London Society for Women’s Suffrage.

Violette Mary Doake (b 1888) her parents were Irish, which may account for the red hair. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth Doake, was also a suffragist. Her father, Richard Baxter Doake, described in the 1911 census as a ‘tea planter’, was elected as a Progressive party member in 1892 to the LCC seat relinquished by Frederick Frye. In 1901 the Doakes lived at 24 Stanley Gardens, close to the Fryes. By 1911 they had moved to 25 Ladbroke Gardens.

Walter McLaren and his wife, Eva were members of a family of long-standing supporters of women’s suffrage. He had been Liberal MP for Crewe in the 1890s and regained the seat in 1910.

Israel Zangwill, Jewish novelist and very effective writer and speaker in support of women’s suffrage

Lady Strachey had worked for women’s suffrage since the 1860s. She remarked that after this march she had to boil her skirt.

Keir Hardie,  first Independent Labour Party MP. He had strongly supported a motion in favour of women’s suffrage at the Labour party conference on 26 January

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 from Kate Frye’s personal archive.

ISBN 978 1903427 75 0

Copies available from Francis Boutle Publishers, or from Elizabeth Crawford – elizabeth.crawford2017@outlook.com (£14.99), or from all good bookshops.

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

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

Campaigning for the Vote– Front and back cover of wrappers

 You can also listen here to a Radio 4 programme as Anne McElvoy and I follow the route of the ‘Mud March’.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere 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 Suffrage Diary: Banner Bearer For The 13 June 1908 Procession

Asquith became prime minister in April 1908. In response to his claim that he needed proof that large numbers of women really wanted the vote, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies – and the WSPU – decided to mount a spectacular summer procession through London. The magnificent banners, such as that for North Kensington, carried some of the way by Kate, were the work of the Artists’ Suffrage League, in particular of Mary Lowndes.

Mary Lowndes’ design for the North Kensington banner – with swatches of suggested material (courtesy of the Women’s Library@LSE)

The design of the North Kensington banner, held in the Women’s Library, can be seen

Banners – 13 June 1908 (courtesy of Women’s Library@LSE)

 The banner itself was photographed during the course of the 13 June 1908 procession. ‘North Kensington’ is being held high; unfortunately the ‘Home Makers’ obscure the North Kensington banner bearers. Was one of them Kate?

Saturday June 13th 1908 [Bourne End]

Kate’s ticket for the June 1908 Suffrage Procession

The great day dawned at last looking rather threatening – dull and very windy. I did not know quite what to wear but chanced the day wisely as it fell out and wore my best cream linen skirt and embroidery blouse and made myself look nice. I took a coat with me. Down to breakfast, had a chat to Agnes, who was very disappointed not to be going but really she was not up to it and it would have been no use attempting such an exacting and arduous day. It took it out of me. I was ‘going’ inside all day. Went up to London by the 9.53 train wearing my decorations – my ‘Votes for Women’ disk – my National Union Suffrage brooch and my red and white ribbon – the one that went through that exciting evening at the Paddington Baths. I wore them all day and it was most amusing to see the looks given to them. I went shopping in Whiteleys. Then a bus to Bond Street, walked through Burlington and along to the Strand – there I began to see some of my fellow marchers and the Lyons where I lunched was crowded with them – every one agog, of course, to see us.

Then I went to the A.A. [the Actors’ Association] tidied myself up and went upstairs. Quite an excitement there to see me and I found Eve Erskine wavering as to whether or not she should join the march. She rather aggravated me by some of the things she said about it. Then she is so tactless and really doesn’t know. It was from her I learned that there would be a contingent of Actresses headed by Gertrude Kingston, Lillah McCarthy and Mrs Pat [Campbell] and I must own I did feel deadly disappointed not to be going with them. I am sure Miss Gladys [Wright] kept it from me on purpose as she knew how eager I was to get the theatrical people to go and I said how I should like to march with them. So for that reason she did not send me a plan of the order of procession, I feel sure. Not quite straight because, any way, if she had said they really needed my help in Kensington I should have gone. But she and Alexandra went with the graduates and they wanted me responsible for N[orth] Kensington. There was really no-one else. Mrs Wright could not have carried the Banner or any of the small women if they could have it would not have looked right and comfortable. So I was offered up as a sacrifice. I think it was only right a Frye should be the Banner Bearer for North Kensington and I loved to do it and felt very proud but at first I must own to feeling a bit sick over it. I had a few words with Mr Halliwell Hobbs, who was crimson in the face with annoyance about it all. I said ‘will you shake hands though I am going to carry a banner.’ He simply could not bear himself – it so upset him to see my decorations. Eve walked or rather ran – we got so excited seeing the crowds – to the Embankment and there I lost her. I suppose she found her Block and marched with them for I saw her no more.

Kate preserved her programme

The crowds and the excitement was terrific and I really didn’t know how I should find my banner in it all. First I saw Miss Corbett who gave me a plan. Eve had one so I am sure Gladys ought to have sent her Banner Bearer one. And then I found I should be Block 8 – and a nice scamper I had right up Whitehall before I came to my place. Whitehall was quieter, but the crowds on the Embankment were terrific. At last I came to the Block for the London Society and found a messenger boy with the little White and Red Banners we had before. He gave it up to me on hearing my name and I was left alone. As I got there soon after 2 o’clock it was alright but I longed for some friendly face. I had had a glance at some of the Banners as I sped along – they were lovely. At last one or two women whose faces I knew turned up and then three girls with a huge and beautiful banner – one of the Artist League ones – the one Gladys meant me to carry and take the responsibility of. They were in too much of a hurry, the girls, to be off to tell me how to manage it and I had my flapping coat and the wind was terrific. I got one of the others to hold the little one till Mrs Wright and a lot of other people came. Then a tall girl carried the little one at the back of the Kensington Block. Some one very kindly carried my coat and I got the frog fixed round the banner more comfortably. Miss Madge Porter carried one cord, Miss Meyer the other.

We were immediately behind the Holborn section and Lady Grove’s pretty daughters carried that Banner – a huge one – but, lucky beggars, they had two poles to support it. Mine was fearfully heavy, especially in the wind – but I was given a gift with it I think. It was a beauty  nauge cloth – brown and yellow silk and cloth of gold. Mrs Percy Harris was just behind. She had to fall out early as she went very strange and there were lots of people I know by sight. We were quite a smart collection – all in our best summer attire. The stewards marshalled us six abreast behind the Banner which had to stand out. The whole thing was most wonderfully organised.

Programme details for the procession

Before we moved off John [her fiance] arrived on the scene with Mr Andrews [a friend] and was most proud to shake hands with me and I think the whole thing quite converted him. They went off to see the Banners, then took up their stand in Trafalgar Square and watched us go. John watched it over an hour. He saw me but I didn’t see him. He says I was laughing away and looked to be enjoying myself. Some of the remarks were enough to make one laugh. I saw Mr Dickenson [the M.P.] go past and G.B. Shaw while I was waiting and there were all sorts of weird and curious men – one dressed up like a Jack in the Box to represent Adam, I think – but I couldn’t make him out.

Before 2.30 we were off to the strains of a Band and marshalled in order and we reached one side of the Embankment. We were given 2.30 to assemble – so those who turned up then must have had a difficulty in finding us. It took some time – then there was half an hour’s wait in line – then we began to manoeuvre about – the police directed us. I don’t really know what we did but we turned back round the road while a stream passed us the other way then round me went again over to the side of the trams which made some of them nervous. The trams were packed with people to see us. Then a long wait again – 3.30 I should say before we moved off – and then a very slow procession up Northumberland Avenue – halts of five minutes at a time, it seemed. We were in the middle of two Bands so we were never dull and sometimes with the clamour of the two together it was terrific but the marches helped me along and we three kept step. Oh the crowds – packed like sardines the other side of Piccadilly – some of the roughest of the rough on the Embankment but for the most part quite friendly and polite. There seemed so few policemen in comparison that if the crowd had liked to be disagreeable it would have been awful. The clubs and hotel windows and steps were thronged. Most of the people seemed interested – some were laughing. We only had passage enough just to pass along till we got to the Square then our pace mended till it grew terrific and had almost to run to keep up and going up Waterloo Place was a great strain. From the bottom we could see the Banners winding up and up.

We were about 10,000 with 70 Artist League banners – lots of others and hundreds of Bannerettes shimmering in the wind. For the most part after Piccadilly the crowd was quite a different class and quiet and respectful – many men raised their hats to us and ladies clapped their hands – lots of children? were in the crowd and ‘Mother’ made one clap his hands at me. One nice old clergyman bared his silver locks to each Banner Bearer. Of course it was a very different thing from last year [ie the February ‘Mud March’] – gigantic in comparison and, as for the crowds, I had never seen anything like them except at Royal Weddings etc and a good long route we had. Up Northumberland Avenue, Lower Regent Street, Piccadilly, Knightsbridge, Exhibition Road to the Albert Hall. The first part of them must have been in the hall soon after we left the Embankment. I was in the last section  – No 8, the London Society – but I could not see our end and after us came all the motor cars and carriages. The Social and Political Union people had a four in hand and were up and down distributing notices of their great demonstration on Sunday week in Hyde Park. The Graduates and Doctors looked simply lovely – I am sure they must have got some cheering ‘Well’ I heard one man say, ‘what I like about them is there isn’t one with a bit of powder on’.

‘Lucky you have dropped your garter’ ‘Have you mended the socks’ Have you washed the baby’ and such remarks as those were rife and, of course, lots of comments on one’s personal appearance – rather painful some of them –‘Oh look at this nice girl’ ‘isn’t she a beauty’ etc but really most of the people were quite kind and sympathetic. I think it must have been rather a stirring sight – it seemed to me ‘magnificent’. I felt it was moving the people. I heard people say in awestruck tones ‘I don’t believe it will ever end’ Miss Meyer took the Banner from me in Piccadilly and carried it to the end – she hadn’t had all that tiring first part and the long waits and she was strong and capable. I must say I was getting a bit done with it but I would have liked it again later only she seemed quite happy and I did not like to take it from her. Gladys had written to say she would help me with it. She took it in the hall and sat with it also.

The approach to the [Albert] hall was very slow again – but the pace all along Piccadilly had been tremendous. I think we must have been catching the first lot up where it had been broken at Trafalgar Square for the traffic. I got in the hall about 5.10 and they started the meeting just as I sank down. I must own to feeling completely done when I left the Banner. I got cramp in both feet at once and felt 1,000 but I dashed into the hall found the seat in my box with the Wrights and Alexandra, like an angel, got me a cup of tea. She, Gladys and another girl looking most awfully charming in cap and gown. Mrs Stanbury was there and Mrs Lambert and several people I knew. I had to keep my eye on the clock but I heard Lady Henry Somerset, Dr Anna Shaw, Mrs Fawcett and [then] Miss Sterling present the Bouquet to Mrs Fawcett – then the procession of Bouquets till the platform looked like a garden. They were just singing ‘For she’s a jolly good fellow’ when I came out. I got a cab, still very lame, and drove to Paddington. There I met John and Mrs Harris and the train was looking out for me – so we travelled down together, talking all the way…

The Actors Association, a club to which both Kate and John belonged, was at 10 King Street, Covent. Garden.

Halliwell Hobbs, 30-year-old actor, was clearly a young fogey.

Margery Corbett (1882-1981- later Dame Margery Corbett-Ashby) was the daughter of a Liberal MP. At this time she was secretary of the NUWSS

Lady Henry Somerset (1851-1921) was a wealthy philanthropist and leader of the temperance movement.

Mrs Percy Harris, née Marguerite Frieda Bloxam, wife of Percy Harris (later Sir Percy Harris), who became a Liberal MP in 1916, lived in Bourne End.

Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919) US physician, temperance reformer and, at this time, leader of the National American Woman  Suffrage Association.

Frances Sterling (1869-1943) joint honorary secretary of the NUWSS.  

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

 

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: Two Days in April 1908

Kate Frye was a devoted theatre goer. She had trained as an actress and had toured for two or three years from 1904 and joined the Actresses’ Franchise League as soon as it was founded. 

A scene from ‘Diana of Dobson’s’ – an article in ‘The Sketch’, 10 February 1908. Courtesy of the V & A

 ‘Diana of Dobson’s, a romantic comedy that also criticized the ‘live-in’ conditions that Edwardian drapery stores imposed on their staff, was written by Cicely Hamilton (1872-1952)  actress, author, and active suffragist. Lena Ashwell (1862-1957) was both the leading actress in the production and the manager of the Kingsway Theatre. ‘Diana of Dobson’s was the second play in Ashwell’s first season at the Kingsway. She was later a vice-president of the Actresses’ Franchise League and a tax resister. Dennis Eadie, in the ‘elderly character part’ was then only 33 years old.

The walk from Tottenham Court Road to the  Kingsway Theatre in Great Queen Street, to the west of Kingsway, would have taken the Fryes through the still relatively unsavoury St Giles and Seven Dials area.

Wednesday April 8th 1908

Mother, Agnes and I left just before 2 o’clock and went by bus to Tottenham Court Road and walked to the Kingsway Theatre just before 3 o’clock and we went in to the reserved seats to see ‘Diana of Dobsons’. It is nearly a month since I got the seats. We very much enjoyed our afternoon. The play is most interesting and amusing and sad too – underneath it all. Lena Ashwell, though her voice sounded tired, was very good – so was Hollard – and Dennis Eadie excellent in an elderly character part. It is quite a novel sort of play and I don’t wonder it is popular. It ought to make people think. The scene of the first act must be a revelation to lots of people.

The next day’s ‘Suffrage Discussion’ was organised under the aegis of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage – a constitutional society. Although it was to be several years before the founding of the Jewish League for Women’s Suffrage, there was obviously already an interest in the subject among the Jewish community.

Mrs Gertrude Spielman (1864-1949) born in Germany, was the wife of Meyer Spielman, who was later knighted. She was actively engaged in educational and other forms of social work, particularly with the Norwood Jewish Orphanage and was, in 1912, to be a founder of the Jewish League for Women’s Suffrage. 

Aylmer Maude (1858-1938) translator of Tolstoy, Fabian, was renowned as a persuasive lecturer. 

Mrs Campbell Lethbridge (1873 -1945), a woman of mystery, was born Sybil MacGregor Allen, in 1894 married William Lonergan, but by 1901 had become Sybil Campbell Lethbridge, a popular and prolific author. Find out more about her here.

Israel Zangwill, Jewish novelist, was always a great favourite of Kate’s.

Israel Zangwill, photographed in 1905

Thursday April 9th 1908

Agnes and I left in a cab at 8 o’clock to Mrs Spielman, 38 Gloucester Square. Got there with Alexandra and Gladys [Wright] and some of the other stewards and we all went up together. There was nothing for us to do at first except make the people sit tight – such a pack it was – hundreds – nearly all Jews except our own friends. It was a Suffrage Discussion – Mr Aylmer Maude in the chair – Mrs  Campbell Lethbridge spoke, Miss Spielman (oh! that was  painful) and Mr Zangwill. He, of course, was beautiful – but I am much afraid too frivolous to do any converting. He was so funny he made me laugh until the tears ran down my face. The discussion was most amusing – such weird people got up and said things. Afterwards we went up and talked to people. I got five members and did better than anyone – but it was hard work. I didn’t give myself any rest and kept straight on – while Agnes looked after our guests and saw they got something to eat. We came back in a hansom. Got in at 11.45 and then had supper. It was past one before John [her fiancé] departed and 2.30 before we got off to bed. I was tired.

 

 

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: Spring 1908 – Suffrage Hope – WSPU in Albert Hall ‘a little too theatrical but very wonderful’

Another extract from Kate Frye’s manuscript diary. An edited edition of later entries (from 1911), recording her work as a suffrage organiser, is published as  Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s suffrage diary.

H.Y. Stanger’s Bill, 1908

Kate’s MP, Henry Yorke Stanger, was the promoter of the current Enfranchisement Bill – the latest in the long line that stretched back through the latter half of the 19th century. Despite, as Kate describes, the bill passing its second reading, the government eventually refused to grant facilities to further the debate. However, that blow was yet to come as Kate records in these entries details of the suffrage meetings she attended in February and March 1908. She had the knack of always being present on the great occasions – and on 19 March was in the Albert Hall to witness the rousing – and profitable – reception given to Mrs Pankhurst on her release from prison. 

Dramatis personae:

Miss Harriet Cockle, was 37 years old, an Australian woman of independent means, lving at 34 de Vere gardens, Kensington.

Mrs Philip Snowden – Ethel Snowden (1880-1951) wife of the ILP politician, Philip Snowden.

Mrs Clara Rackham (1875-1966) was regarded as on the the NUWSS’s best speakers. In 1910 she became president of the NUWSS’s Eastern Federation, was founder of the Cambridge branch of the Women’s Co-operative Guild, and was sister-in-law to Arthur Rackham, the book illustrator.

Margery Corbett (1882-1981- later Dame Margery Corbett-Ashby) was the daughter of a Liberal MP. At this time she was secretary of the NUWSS.

Mrs Fanny Haddelsey,wife of a solicitor, lived at 30 St James’s Square, Holland Park.

Mrs Stanbury had been an organiser for NUWSS as far back as 1890s.

Tuesday February 25th 1908 [London-25 Arundel Gardens]

We got home at 5.15 and had tea. Then I did my hair and tidied myself and Agnes and I ate hot fish at 6.30 and left soon after in a downpour of rain for the Kensington Town Hall – we did get wet walking to the bus and afterwards. We got there at 7 o’clock to steward – the doors were opening at 7.30 and the meeting started at 8.15. I was stewarding in the hall downstairs and missed my bag – purse with 6/- and latch Key etc – very early in the evening which rather spoilt the evening for me as I felt sure it had been stolen. It was a South Kensington Committee of the London Society for Woman’s Suffrage and we were stewarding for Miss Cockle. It was a good meeting but not crowded but, then, what a night. Miss Bertha Mason in the Chair. The speech of the evening was Mrs Philip Snowdon, who was great, and Mrs Rackham, who spoke well. The men did not do after them and poor Mr Stanger seemed quite worn out and quoted so much poetry he made me laugh. Daddie had honoured us with his presence for a little time and had sat on the platform – so I feel he has quite committed himself now and will have no right to go back on us. We were not in till 12.20 and then sat some time over our supper.

Wednesday February 26th 1908

Before I was up in the morning Mother came up in my room with my bag and purse and all quite safe. It had been found and the Hall Door Keeper had brought it. I was glad because of the Latch Key. Daddie generously had paid me the 6/- which I was able to return.

Friday February 28th 1908

Mr Stanger’s Woman’s Suffrage Bill has passed the second reading. I had to wait to see the Standard before going to my [cooking] class. That is very exciting and wonderful – but of course we have got this far already in past history. Oh! I would have liked to have been there.

MargWednesday March 11th 1908

To 25 Victoria Street and went to the 1st Speakers Class of the N.[ational] S.[ociety] of W.[omen’s] S.[uffrage]. I was very late getting there and there was no one I knew so I did not take any part in the proceedings and felt very frightened. But Alexandra Wright came in at the end and I spoke to Miss Margery Corbett and our instructoress, Mrs Brownlow. And then I came home with Alexandra from St James’s Park station to Notting Hilll Gate.

Thursday March 12th 1908

Mother went to a Lecture for the NKWLA  [North Kensington Women’s Liberal Association] at the Club and Agnes and I started at 8 o’clock and walked to Mrs Haddesley [sic] for a drawing-room Suffrage Meeting at 8.30. Agnes and I stewarded and made ourselves generally useful. The Miss Porters were there and a girl who I saw at the Speakers’ Class on Wednesday. Alexandra was in the Chair and spoke beautifully – really she did. And Mrs Stanbury spoke. Mrs Corbett and Mrs George – all very good speakers. Mrs Stanbury was really great and there were a lot of questions and a lot of argument after, which made it exciting. It was a packed meeting but some of the people were stodgy. Miss Meade was there with a friend – her first appearance at anything of the kind she told us and she said it was all too much for her to take in all at once. The “class” girl walked with us to her home in HollandPark and we walked on home were not in till 11.45. I was awfully tired and glad of some supper and to get to bed.

Mrs Pankhurst had been arrested on 13 February as she led a deputation from the ‘Women’s Parliament’ in Caxton Hall to the House of Commons. She was released from her subsequent imprisonment on 19 March, going straight to the Albert Hall where the audience waiting to greet her donated £7000 to WSPU funds. Kate was there.

Thursday March 19th 1908

I had a letter in the morning from Miss Madge Porter offering me a seat at the Albert Hall for the evening and of course I was delighted….just before 7 o’clock I started for the Albert Hall. Walked to Notting Hill gate then took a bus. The meeting was not till 8 o’clock but Miss Porter had told me to be there by 7 o’clock. We had seats in the Balcony and it was a great strain to hear the speakers. It was a meeting of the National Women’s Social and Political Union – and Mrs Pankhurst, newly released from Prison with the other six was there, and she filled the chair that we had thought to see empty. It was an exciting meeting. The speakers were Miss Christabel Pankhurst, Mrs Pethick Lawrence, Miss Annie Kenney, Mrs Martel and the huge sums of money they collected. It was like magic the way it flowed in. It was all just a little too theatrical but very wonderful. Miss Annie Kenney interested me the most – she seems so “inspired” quite a second Joan of Arc. I was very pleased not to be missing so wonderful an evening and I think it very nice of Miss Porter to have thought of me. She is quite a nice girl of the modern but “girlie” sort – a Cheltenham girl and quite clever – but very like a lot of other girls. Coming out we met, strangely enough, Mrs Wright and Alexandra (Gladys was speaking at Peckham) and after saying good-bye to Miss Porter I walked home with them as far as Linden Gardens. Got in at 11.30 very tired indeed and glad of my supper. Mother was waiting up.

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

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Kate Frye’s Diary: Learning the ‘Two Step’ for Suffrage

Another extract from Kate Frye’s manuscript diary. An edited edition of later entries (from 1911), recording her work as a suffrage organiser, is published as Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s suffrage diary.

Working for women’s suffrage involved taking part in many different kinds of social activities. In the first month of 1908 Kate danced, stewarded and was lectured by Ford Madox Hueffer – all in the suffrage cause.

The flyer produced – presumably by the Wrights – for the lecture that Ford Madox Hueffer gave in their house. I wonder if the error in the spelling of his middle name was pointed out to them?

Dramatis personae for these entries:

‘Mrs Wright and the girls’: Mrs Lewis Wright and her daughters, Alexandra and Gladys, who then lived at 10 Linden Gardens. It was under their influence that Kate had joined the London Society for Women’s Suffrage, a constitutional suffrage society.

Geoffrey Stanger: the son of H.Y. Stanger, Liberal MP for North Kensington, who had introduced a women’s suffrage bill into the House of Commons.

Miss Mason: Bertha Mason, honorary treasurer of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Socities – a suffragist of long-standing.

Miss Frances Sterling: joint honorary secretary of the NUWSS.

Ford Madox Hueffer (later Ford Madox Ford): author, then living in Kensington with Violet Hunt.

Friday January 10th 1908 [London: 25 Arundel Gardens, North Kensington]

I sat over the fire and had another little rest and got dressed early in my white satin dress. It is pretty – a charming frock – the nicest I have ever had, it seems to me. I did my hair Greek fashion with a silver and turquoise band round it which I have made myself – and though it’s me what says it and shouldn’t ‘I did look nice’. Even Mother said I did, I heard after from Agnes. Agnes’s dress was pretty too. And Mother has made hers beautifully but it hadn’t on a trace of style and she really did not look very nice……We had a private omnibus to the Grafton Galleries and got there about 9.15. Met Mrs Wright and her party just inside but by the time our four men had helped themselves we hadn’t many dances left. The girls introduced me to a few but I thought theirs rather a scratch lot – one boy wasn’t bad and Geoffrey Stanger, but one or two others I had I lost as soon as possible. It was a great pack – too many people for dancing in comfort somewhere about 300 and they have made for the London Society of Women’s Suffrage about £70…We stayed to the bitter end and I danced every dance except a few extra at supper time .. I learnt to do the Two Step with Mr Stanger and loved it. We reached home at 3.20 and were able to stir the fire into a blaze. John went off before 4 o’clock but we four sat over the fire talking till 4.30 and it was 5 o’clock before I was in bed as I always like to put some of my things away and tidy the room.

Thursday January 16th 1908

Changed at 6.30 and Agnes and I went off at 7.30 to Miss Mason’s (9 Hyde Park Place) for a Drawing-room Suffrage Meeting at which we had promised to Steward and get there at 8 o’clock for 8.30. We started to walk but we were all in our best and it started to drizzle and we took a cab from the top of the hill. The speakers were the Hon Bertrand Russell, Mr Mitchell Morton and Miss Frances Sterling. She made a most excellent speech and it was a most successful meeting. We did much good work in the way of getting members for the Society and it was all most encouraging and enthusiastic. They had a meeting here last night too – 70 people – but Alexandra said they were a most cold unenthusiastic audience – they could not do anything with them. She has paid Agnes and me a great compliment in saying ‘ I always like to see Agnes and you come into a room – then I know the thing will “go”’. I suppose we have a lot of personality and a lot of electrical excitement and it does help. John is quite in the movement now – though still apt to go back on us in the society of his own sex. .. These meetings are so exciting. I never feel like settling off after them.

 Friday January 24th 1908

Changed after tea and at 5.30 Agnes and I went by motor bus from Notting Hill Gate to Oxford Circus and to the Queen’s Hall for the Liberal Federation Woman’s Suffrage Meeting. As we had been asked to act as Stewards and had to be there at 6 o’clock. We stewarded up in the Balcony but there was very little to be done. A good meeting, but not very full. But the audience was a very enthusiastic one and the speeches went well. Mrs Eva McLaren in the chair. Miss Balgarnie, Mrs Conybeare, Mrs Booth and the usual Liberal Women’s Federation people. It was a meeting for women only but there were a number of men stewards. The doors were opened at 7 o’clock and it commenced at 8 o’clock. Mother was there and we met at Oxford Circus and the three of us came home together by bus.

Wednesday February 5th 1908

They had quite a dozen awful Hampstead females there [at home] so we slipped quietly away and hurried to Notting Hill Gate so as to be at the Wrights (10 Linden Gardens) punctually at 4.45. Gladys had asked us to help them  I stood in the hall and looked at tickets and sold others etc and later went up to hear the lecture from 5 to 6 by Mr Ford Maddox [sic] Heuffer on the Women of the Classical Novelist of England. It was most interesting and a breezy discussion followed. We got in at 6.30 .. I was very tired but I worked till 11 o’clock directing envelopes for the South Kensington Committee of the L.S.W.S. for a meeting to be held at the Town Hall on the 25th inst.

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

 

 

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Kate Frye’s Diary: Canvassing for the Progressives in North Kensington,1907

Another extract from Kate Frye’s manuscript diary. An edited edition of later entries (from 1911), recording her work as a suffrage organiser, is  published as Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s suffrage diary.

The 'Morning Leader' supported the Progressives and in late-February 1907 Kate laid this leaflet in between the pages of her diary

The ‘Morning Leader’ supported the Progressives and in late-February 1907 Kate laid this leaflet in between the pages of her diary

The LCC elections were due to be held on 2 March 1907; Kate and her family supported the Progressive Party. In fact, before becoming an MP, her father had been an LCC councillor on the Progressive ticket.

Dramatis Personae for these entries:

Sir Weetman Pearson, Lady Denman’s father, in 1910 became Lord Cowdray and it was as ‘Lady Cowdray’ that his wife was to be involved with a number of suffrage organisations.  Lady Pearson was, according to Lady Denman’s biographer, ‘determined to become a leading political and social hostess’ and the Pearsons’ house at 16 Carlton House Terrace, its opulent interior decorated in the mid-19th century by Owen Jones in the islamic style, provided a perfect setting. As we shall read, Kate, who was something of an expert on these matters, rated the Pearsons’ tea very highly.

H.Y. Stanger: Liberal MP for North Kensington, the seat once held by Kate’s father, in February 1908 introduced a women’s suffrage bill, which passed its second reading before being blocked. This was the greatest progress a bill had made since 1897.

Thomas McKinnon Wood: member of the London County Council for Central Hackney (1892-1909) – leader of Progressive Party (1898-1907). Elected MP for a Glasgow constituency, 1906.

Mr Jephson: Henry Jephson, retired civil servant, who was standing again as a Progressive member for North Kensington on the LCC.

Violette Mary Doake (b c. 1888): lived with her parents at 24 Stanley Gardens, Kensington. In 1892 her father had been elected as a Progressive member of the LCC for Kensington North; unsurprisingly the Doake family was staunchly suffragist.

Thursday February 21st 1907

At 2.30 Mother and I went by train from Notting Hill Gate to Charing Cross and walked through the Horse Guards and up the Duke of Yorks steps to Carlton House Terrace – Sir Wheetman [sic] Pearson’s house – by invitation of Lord and Lady Denman to a drawing Room meeting to hear Mr McKinnon Wood – Mr Wilks and the work we could do for the Progressives at the L.C.C. elections.

Nearly all ladies there. Lord Denman was a sort of Chairman & both he and Lady Denman spoke – she seems very nice. My dear friend Mr McKinnon Wood spoke again most beautifully – I do admire him. Of course I knew it all but I dare say some the facts came new to a good many there. Mr Stanger, Mr Jephson and Mr Percy Harris were there.

There was a most gorgeous tea downstairs afterwards it really was quite perfect – such cakes – in such quantities – I made a pig of myself and eat [ate] three and I had my tea and milk poured out of solid gold articles. I really did enjoy the party and the house is wonderful – what a position – looking out on the Park.

Friday February 22nd 1907

I dressed myself. John [her fiance] came at 7.30 to dinner and afterwards Daddie took he, Agnes and I up to the Horbury Rooms [Ladbroke Road] to the Opposition L.C.C. Candidates’ meeting – Mr Davis and Major Skinner. Well I thought it would be interesting but I never expected to be so thoroughly amused.

The Chairman was so funny and Harcourt-Smith such a noodle – a Dickens character with an eye glass. And as for Major Skinner I have never seen or heard the like really. He didn’t seem sharp and made quite an object of himself. He tried to propitiate the ladies – I never heard anything so awful. I blushed for him. He kept right away from the question of the L.C.C. altogether.  The only decent man there, for though Mr Whittiker Hampson speaks well, I wouldn’t trust him, was Mr Hume-Williams who opposed Mr Stanger at the Parliamentary Elections. He is a gentleman and speaks well, but he was not convincing – none of them were – they all talked nonsense – have no programme of work at all to bring forward. Their great cry is ‘give us a chance’ and they tell awful stories about the rates, which have really nothing to do with the County Council. It will be a real grief to me if those two dreadful people get in.

John, a thoroughly conservative spirit, doggedly tory, to the backbone was quite turned over by them though he thinks he upholds their views. I do so hate him to be a ‘Moderate’ thinker. We came back and talked them over and laughed merrily at their expense till John had to go at 11 o’clock.

Wednesday February 27th 1907

When I got home at 5 o’clock I found a note and bundle from Gladys Wright asking me to deliver some Women’s Suffragist things. So after tea Agnes went out with me and we did Arundel Gardens and Elgin Crescent – a tremendous number of Women Voters in both. They were papers urging the Women to use their Vote. I feel rather shaky as they are sure to Vote Conservative but that is a cowardly way of looking at the matter, I know.

Thursday February 28th 1907

Went off to the [North Kensington Liberal] Club – Mother, Agnes and Florence [the Fryes’ maid] were there – and the room was full. Miss Jephson, Miss Doake, Mr McArthur, Mr Lewis, Mr Hatt and the usual workers and lots of people I did not know all working at top speed.

LCC election 1907 1Saturday March 2nd 1907

The great London County Council Election day at last and, very fortunately, a beautiful day for it. I should have been canvassing all this week, much as I hate the work – but I am so interested in the Election – but I have felt so awfully seedy I simply hadn’t the strength for it…Agnes and I went to the Pembridge Ward Committee Room and got some work to do. I had Westbourne Grove to do and it took me till 4.30. Mother and Agnes went together. I got so tired I felt nearly dead when I had taken the cards back and came home to tea. But I couldn’t rest and after tea Mother and I walked up to the Golborne Ward Committee Room.

It is depressing work in this Ward. There is no enthusiasm – but up there there was very little excitement amongst the workers – and my heart sank though most of them were cheerful. We saw Mr Jephson in the Committee Room. Miss Jephson, Mrs and Miss Doake, Mrs Willis and lots of workers. Mr Jephson was flying about madly in his Motor Car. Mother and I did three streets – Blagrove Road and two other long ones and kept on till within a few minutes of eight o’clock.

I got so excited and interested that I don’t know how I managed to keep going as I did. I did feel ill but I did some good work. Got one woman to vote who had never used her vote before. I had almost to hold her by force and interest her by telling her how I worked to get a vote. She decided she would go if she was driven. So I sent Mother off to find a carriage and I waited and hung on to her. It was so long coming I flew into the middle of the road and managed to stop Mr Jephson’s car almost by main force it seemed to me – but just then Mrs Widgery drove up in a carriage and she took the woman and a man who went to look after her.

Sunday March 3rd 1907

Florence brought me the news and later the paper. Jephson and Pope beaten and the whole of London swept clear by the Moderates. ‘God help London’ I say since London does not seem inclined to help itself.

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

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Suffrage Stories: Suffragettes and Tea Rooms: From ‘Sheltered Anonymity’ to Sites of Protest

Advertisement for Alan’s Tea Rooms in ‘Votes for Women’.

Last week’s posts on ‘Suffragettes and Tea Rooms’ were based on the research I had done for the item that aired on Woman’s Hour on 4 September. The posts gave details of a few of the London tea rooms and restaurants – – some of them vegetarian – that we know were favoured by suffragettes. I had been curious to know more about the reality – the geographical position and the look of the interiors – of the cafes whose names are scattered through the columns of the suffragette newspapers. I had wondered ‘Why were suffragettes attracted to one place rather than another?’ ‘Whose businesses were they?’ – and hope that in last week’s posts I have, at least partially, answered these questions. In the absence of any other information, I was pleasantly surprised by how much detail could be gleaned from such superficially dull sources as rate books and the files of liquidated companies. I now have a much clearer image in my mind – as I walk around London – of the places in which militant activity was discussed – and indeed practised – by suffragettes a hundred years ago.

Corner of Alan’s Tea Rooms – as pictured in ‘The Idler’, 1910

For political movements need sheltering spaces – of all sizes – in which those involved can exchange views. In the 19th century women could attend the hundreds of formal suffrage meetings and conscious-raising talks that were held in Britain’s town halls and assembly halls – or, if suitably couth,  the ‘drawing-room’ meetings held in the houses of the better-off. But until the late 1880s there were very few places outside the home in which respectable women could congregate – for refreshment  – to meet their friends – or to discuss politics. The coffee houses, chop houses, ale houses and public houses that had for centuries enabled men to congregate, do business and eat and drink – had been socially barred to respectable women. It was only towards the end of the century that middle-class women were able to move independently– without any vestige of social censure – out of the home and around the streets of the metropolis.  One practical element lining the path to freedom was a new type of business – the café, tea room or restaurant designed with women in mind. These were places that women could visit – either alone or in company – where their presence was not seen as an invitation to molestation –  where they could eat and drink – and, most importantly, use the lavatory –  without breaking any social taboos.

Kate Frye – suffrage organizer and frequenter of restaurants and tea rooms

That there were indeed still taboos around the presence of a woman in some places of public refreshment, even as late as 1911, is evident in one of the entries from Kate Frye’s diary. (My edition of her suffrage diary, Campaigning for the Vote, will be published in the autuimn). She is staying in a hotel in a small Norfolk market town, while organising meetings for a suffrage society. :

22 March 1911 ‘Came in, had my lunch [in the hotel dining room] in company with four motorists. It is funny the way men come in here and, seeing me, shoot out again and I hear whispered conversations outside on the landing with the waitress. Then they come in very subdued and make conversation one to another and try not to look at me. Awfully funny – they might never have seen a woman before – but I suppose it does seem a strange place to find one.’

For, by the 1900s, the situation in larger towns and cities had changed. When not out organising meetings in the provinces, Kate lived and worked in London and there she paid daily visits to cafes, restaurants and tea rooms where she never felt out of place. Aimed particularly at the woman shopper – or woman clerical worker – here she could feel comfortable – both physically and mentally. Some of the cafes were part of chains – such as the ABC, founded in the 1880s, and Lyons in 1894. For a rare photograph of a Lyons interior – dating from the 1920s -see here.  These chains catered for upper-working-class and lower- middle-class women who could enter their premises with equanimity and sit in sheltered anonymity at separate tables – and be served, not by waiters, but by waitresses. Kate Frye, belonging to a slightly higher strata of society, favoured rather smarter chain restaurants – such as Slaters’ – or tea rooms such as Fullers’. However it was in a Lyons tea room close to Parliament Square that she sat on the evening of 21 November 1911 with a group of suffragettes who were poised to embark on the smashing of the windows of government offices.

And quite apart from the chains, the first decade of the 20thcentury saw a proliferation of small refreshment rooms – ‘Tea Rooms’ – that were even more closely aimed at a female clientele. These were likely to be run  – as were Alan’s Tea Rooms and the Tea

Advertisement for The Tea Cup Inn in ‘Votes for Women’.

Cup Inn – by a woman or a couple of women friends – and allowed women, who may have had no training in anything other than ‘home responsibilities’, the possibility of running a business, while at the same time allowing other women the ability to enjoy the freedom of moving around the city – or town – by providing a space in which they could pause for refreshment. 

As we have seen, a few London tea rooms and restaurants were particularly favoured by suffragettes – as, similarly, were they in provincial towns. In Newcastle, Fenwick’s cafe was the venue of choice of the group of women, including Dr Ethel Bentham and Lisbeth Simm, set up the ‘Drawing-Room Cafe’ meetings where women could meet to discuss discuss politics. In Nottingham  the WSPU held meetings at Morley’s Cafe, a teetotal establishment, originally opened to provide an alternative to the pub. In Edinburgh the Cafe Vegetaria was particularly favoured by the local Women’s Freedom League society – and it was on its premises on the night of 2 April 1911 that suffragettes gathered – as they did at the vegetarian Gardenia in London – to evade the census enumerator

A year later, however, although so popular with women, tea rooms were not immune from the effects of the 1 March 1912 WSPU window-smashing campaign. Two ABC shops were attacked – one in The Strand and one in Bond Street – here is the photographic evidence.  

When, from the end of 1913, the WSPU campaign became ever more desperate, the tea rooms and restaurants that women had made their own themselves became sites of protest. On December 20th a suffragette dining at the vegetarian, suffrage-sympathising,  Eustace Miles restaurant was able to make a long speech castigating the government’s treatment of suffragette prisoners – and was, so The Suffragette reported,  listened to with eager attention, while her companion distributed leaflets. And althougb the management did eventually ask the speaker to stop she was allowed to continue with her ‘meeting’ and, afterwards, to remain in the restaurant. However, most cafes were not so amenable. When, on the same day, at Fullers’ in Regent Street, a woman began to address the crowded restaurant from the gallery and her two companions showered down leaflets, they were very quickly asked to leave. The newspaper report reveals that the subject of the woman’s address was a comparison of the treatment by the government of Sir Edward Carson and Ulster rebels with that meted on suffragettes. A few days later, when another interruption took place at Fullers’, the management had their answering tactic in place; the orchestra immediately struck up to drown out the speaker.

Soon after, The Suffragette reported an incident at a Lyons Corner House when a woman rose and spoke for a few moments – amid both applause and criticism. When two uniformed Lyons men tried to drag her roughly from the building they met with determined opposition and she finally left, the paper reported, with quiet dignity- escorted to the exit –to murmurs of  ‘Isn’t she plucky’.

These protests carried on all through the spring and summer of 1914. Although similar interruptions were made in churches and theatres, it is singularly apposite that customers in tea rooms and restaurants, as they ate their lunch or tea, should have had their attention drawn to the forcible feeding of suffragette prisoners. In fact one of the very last militant action came at the end of July 1914 when women interrupted lunch at the Criterion Restaurant, imploring customers to attend a meeting to be held by Mrs Pankhurst in Holland Park. That, I think, was the final WSPU rally, before the outbreak of war in early August put an end to militancy.

Even as restaurants came under attack there were still some establishments that felt it worthwhile to advertise in The Suffragette.  One such was one I had not come across before – Molinari’s Restaurant at 25 Frith Street in Soho., which advertised (January 1914) that they would ‘donate 5 % of their takings to the Cause for suffragists who wear the badge.’  Molinari’s was still advertising in suffrage papers in 1915 and I was amused to discover that in the 1920s the Home Office reported that its proprietor, Angelo Molinari, was the proprietor of ‘doubtful’ restaurants – suspected of running brothels in upstairs rooms.  Thus, although the credentials of such suffrage-sympathising refreshment rooms as Alan’s Tea Rooms, the Eustace Miles and the Gardenia are beyond reproach, there were always those commercial operators prepared to take advantage of trusting suffragettes. I suspect, though, that the atmosphere of Molinari’s was not that of Alan’s Tea Rooms Angelo Molinari was not often called to donate any percentage of their profits to the Cause.

.Here is link to Woman’s Hour ‘Suffragettes and Tea Rooms’ item aired on 4 September. It begins at c 27 mins – and is available for 2 more days only.

 

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: Suffragettes and Tea Rooms: The Criterion Restaurant, Kate Frye, and the Actresses’ Franchise League

Criterion Restaurant and Piccadilly Circus c 1910

The glamorous Criterion Restaurant lies at the heart of theatreland, facing onto Piccadilly Circus. Owned by Spiers and Pond, it had been built, together with the adjoining theatre, in 1874 and during the last century and a quarter has undergone many changes – although now restored to glory. Before the First World War Spiers and Pond’s empire encompassed railway refreshment rooms as well as other large London restaurants, such as the Holborn, at the north end of Kingsway, the setting for many breakfasts held by the WSPU to celebrate the release of their prisoners from Holloway.

The Criterion today

Although the Criterion has now only one restaurant – on the ground floor – in its Edwardian heyday it offered many more spaces – not only in which to dine – but also for hire; the Victoria Hall and the Grand Hall, on the first floor, were two such spaces. The Grand Hall, magnificently decorated, ran across the front of the building, overlooking Piccadilly Circus. The lavish interiors were very much a hallmark of the Spiers and Pond establishments –  renowned especially for the high standard of their ladies’ cloakrooms – a point, I would imagine, our suffagists and suffragettes would have appreciated.

The Actresses’ Franchise League was founded at the end of 1908 and by the spring of 1909 began to hold its meetings at the Criterion, which was conveniently placed so as to allow its members to spend the afternoon listening to rousing speeches and yet be close at hand to give their own performances in the evening. By all accounts the meetings were extremely well attended, the AFL having no trouble in filling either of the two main halls.

Kate Frye on tour in J.M. Barrie’s ‘Quality Street’.

Kate Frye (whose post-1911 suffrage diary, Campaigning for the Vote, is published by Francis Boutle ), was a proud member of the AFL, having spent two or three years treading the boards of provincial theatres. Her diary entries allow us to eavesdrop on some of those Criterion meetings.

‘Friday April 2nd 1909

Out at 2 o’clock – bus to Piccadilly Cicus and to the Actresses’ Franchise League meeting at the Criterion Restaurant. Miss Eva Moore was receiving and gave me a gracious handshake and Ada Moore was there. Also Eve, Mr Stanger [a sympathetic Liberal MP] and Miss [Frances] Sterling I heard speak. Lady Strachey was in the Chair and Lady Grove had spoken. I also heard Miss [Lillah] McCarthy, the Treasurer, speak and Miss Adeline Bourne, the Secretary, and I went up and spoke to Mr Stanger after the meeting.. His wife was also there. It was a huge meeting – no end of the profession there and they seemed enthusiastic but I have never got much faith in them. …

Friday February 4th 1910

Started off about 1.45 for the Victoria Hall Criterion Restaurant – went by bus. We went early as we wanted a good seat to see Miss  Pankhurst. The place was packed before they began at 3 o’clock. Miss Granville took the chair and Miss Adeline Bourne as Secretary and Miss Maud Hoffman as Treasurer spoke in a more or less business-like fashion and Lt Col Sir something Turner spoke – an old dodderer. I could hardly keep my face straight he looked in such a loving fashion at the ladies but of course the thing of the afternoon was Christabel Pankhurst. She is a little wonder. So young and girlish looking – I suppose she is only 22 or 23 with such a charming way with her. She spoke very nicely too. It was not a brilliant speech but she was suiting herself to her audience I have no doubt – but it was so sincere and so fair. I have only heard her once before – at the Albert Hall – and one cannot judge like that – so I am glad to have been at such close quarters with her. She is not really pretty – has a crooked mouth and bad chin but her eyes are nice and she has a pretty forehead. Her hair was very untidy and I think would suit her so much better done low than on top in an ugly little knob. But though so faulty her face lights up so when she speaks and she has such a charming way with her that is very superior to mere prettiness….

Friday November 4th 1910

A bitterly cold day –had lunch then left at 1.15 – took a bus to Oxford Circus and went to steward at The Actresses’ Franchise League meeting at The Grand Hall Criterion. It was great fun.. A Mrs Fagan was in the Chair, Lady Constance Lytton, Mrs Pertwee , Mr Cecil Chapman and Mr M Campbell-Johnston were the speakers.. Then, amongst the audience, Hilda Fletcher – an old Ben Greet companion – the girl who helped me with the Banner at the second march and I chatted to lots of people – made 17/6 and had great fun. Two old gentlemen who were very taken with the Actresses and attending their first Suffrage meeting were most amusing.

Friday December 16th 1910

Changed my dress – at 2.15 bus to Oxford Circus and walked to the Criterion – to the Birthday Tea of the Actresses’ Franchise League. It was packed – a huge success. Eva Moore recited, Bertha Moore and daughter sang.’

The Criterion was used by women’s societies other than those campaigning for suffrage. Here is a photograph of a Women Writers’ Dinner held in the Grand Hall in 1900.  Of the suffrage societies, it would seem that the AFL was the most regular user of the Criterion, although in April 1909 the WSPU held a breakfast there for released prisoners and in February 1910 and June 1911 the Women Writers’ Suffrage League held meetings in the Victoria Hall.  It is interesting to note that on 26 October 1911, when the International Women’s Franchise Club held a dinner at the Criterion, a vegetarian option was chosen by a fairly high proportion of the guests –  25 out of the 130 who attended.

Although the suffrage sympathisers who attended such meetings  were overwhelmingly middle class, one would like to  imagine  (as one can in a blog) that, through their association with, perhaps, the AFL, less well-off women would have had the opportunity to luxuriate in the splendid surroundings of the Criterion, enjoy a wash and brush up in the opulent Ladies’, and fill up on the tea that brought the afternoon to a close.

Here is the link to Woman’s Hour (4 Sept) podcast that includes item on ‘Suffragettes and Tea Rooms’.

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Kate Frye’s Diary: ‘Paddington Pandemonium’

In the following diary entry Kate describes the pandemonium that occurred at a December 1907 suffrage meeting organised by the North Kensington Local Committee of the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage – the non-militant London NUWSS society – chaired by Mrs Millicent Fawcett.  From Kate’s account the main culprits were medical students from nearby St Mary’s Hospital and from University College Hospital in Bloomsbury, such student having had, through the ages, a reputation for unruly behaviour. From Kate’s observation, the stories of stinkbombs and the release of mice, specifically intended to upset the genteel female audience at suffrage meetings, were all too true.

Lady Grove (1862 -1926) was a leading Liberal suffragist and author of The Human Woman, 1908. The Paddington Baths, in Queen’s Road, Bayswater, were soon to be demolished to make way for an enlarged Whiteley’s department store.

Thursday 5th December 1907 [25 Arundel Gardens, North Kensington]

At 2 o’clock Agnes and I started off to Linden Gardens and called for Alexandra Wright and several of her helpers and we all walked to the Paddington Baths to help arrange the room for the meeting in the evening. There was a good bit to do – numbering the chairs – partitioning them off and hanging up banners and posters etc. Left [home again] just before 7 o’clock in a bus to Royal Oak and went to the Paddington Baths for the London (Central) Society’s meeting for Women’s Suffrage. Gladys and Alexandra have been weeks getting it up and I did no end of clerical work for it at Bourne End. We were the first Stewards to arrive after Gladys and Alexandra and were decorated with rosettes and given our directions. Lots of the women were very nervous of a row. My department was the gallery, to look after people up there and give invitations for a private meeting next week.

The people came in thick and fast and the doors were opened at 7.30 and with the first group of young men below in the free seats I knew what would happen. The place was soon hot, bubbling over with excitement, and I had my work cut out keeping gangways clear and looking after people and telling them they would be safe. We had expected an exciting evening but this realised our worst expectations. It was Bedlam let loose. A couple of hundred students from St Mary’s and University College Hospitals arrived and insisted on sitting together and never ceased all the evening singing, shouting, blowing tin trumpets, letting off crackers, letting loose mice and, what is worse, scenting the floor with a most terrible-smelling chemical.

Report from the ‘Daily Mail’ 6 December 1907, clipped by Kate and laid in her diary

From the very start they never gave a single speaker a moments hearing. Mrs Fawcett was in the Chair and Lady Groveand others spoke and they went on with the meeting to the bitter end – and bitter it must have been to the speakers. I never heard a word. I felt too angry to be frightened though I must own I did not like the fireworks and saw the most appalling possibilities in that frantic howling mob of mad animals. Agnes owns to being terrified – all the more credit to her for sticking to her place amongst them and she was with them all the evening. I felt mad at not being there in the midst of them. When I could leave I just went down and spoke to John, who I saw standing near Agnes. She had decorated him as a Steward to help in case the worst happened.

I went back to my post until I was no longer any good there and then I went into the very midst of the seething mass and talked to any of them I could get at. Just to silence them, as I did for a few minutes at a time, was a triumph. Cries of ‘Oh I think I like Suffragettes’ as I went amongst them and, then, ‘He is flirting with a Suffragette’ taken up and sung by them all. I spoke like a Mother to several and smiled at them. If they had only known my true feelings I don’t think they would have been so polite to me. Great credit to all the women in the building is due – not only the Stewards – but the audience there.  There was never any excitement or panic amongst them and only one Stewardess failed us. She, poor thing, was so terrified she bolted without waiting for hat or coat – but of course we keep that dark. The men Stewards were very good but quite powerless to stop the noise and hubbub. And what could four policemen do? It was an organised ‘Rag’ and nothing but a force of police to outnumber them could have stopped them. They longed for a fight and said so – and no end of them had most terrible looking clubbed sticks which they brandished. We did the only possible thing, I consider. Kept as much order as we could and tried to avoid bloodshed. We had a little unfortunately when, after the meeting was over, they charged for the Platform, sweeping everyone before them. Very fortunately there were large exit doors each side of the platform and most of the people got out of them. I was flung aside and then followed them up. They tore down as many banners as they could and stole one and tore down all the posters. They were like wild cats. The policemen chased them round a little but we would not allow any arrests to be made. The firework ringleader was caught but allowed to go. I spoke to Mrs Wright – red with rage. Poor things, we were all either red or white. Mr Willis, Mrs and Miss Doake and several others. Mr Percy Harris was Stewarding. One man Steward got a most awful crack on the ear and was considerably blooded – he looked awful. Several of the boys had their collars torn off and became very proud in consequence. It was a great wonder and a still greater mercy that more damage was not done. I felt so responsible for the ordinary public who had paid their money. I could only hope to get over the evening safely for their sakes. Personally I wished and still wish to smash the Boys, though at times I could not help laughing. They were not nice boys – all plain and common looking – mostly undersized and no gentlemanly looking one amongst them. I was glad to notice that as I hope they are not the best we can show in our hospitals.

After the general public had gone the police sent word that it was impossible to clear the hall while there was a woman left in it so we left with Mrs and Miss Doake and all came back in the bus with Mrs Willis. Miss Doake said she had never enjoyed a night so much in her life before. I cannot say the same. It was a terrible experience. We could not lose that terrible smell from our noses and mouths. I could taste it through everything at supper. John came home with us and did not leave till after 12o’clock. Agnes and I were too excited to go to bed and sat talking of our experiences. Lots of people will be made all the keener through it, but a great many will be very disgusted I fear.’

As you can see from this note, carefully preserved by Kate, Mrs Fawcett’s meeting was re-arranged for early 1908 – to be held in the safety of Bertha Mason’s house in nearby Hyde Park Square.

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: first canvassing

Kate lived in Arundel Gardens, North Kensington

Another extract from Kate Parry Frye’s manuscript diary. These entries dates from the period two years before Campaigning for the Vote – the edited version of her diary published by  Francis Boutle Publishers – begins. This episode marks the first time Kate is involved in active doorstep – or, at least, letterbox – campaigning. She was to do a great deal more of it over the next few years.

Gladys Wright was a university-educated young woman, a fellow Kensington resident, and already an active suffragist, working for the London NUWSS – non-militant – society.

‘The Grove’ was Westbourne Grove, the local shopping mecca, home of Whiteleys, the Universal Provider.

Kate preserved mementoes of Whiteley’s funeral

The Fryes were – or had been – very friendly with William Whiteley, who had been gunned down in his own store just two months earlier.

 Monday 19 March 1907 [25 ArundelGardens, Notting Hill]

Up to breakfast and found a letter from Gladys Wright asking me to do some work with them for the Suffrage. A Motor Bus to Strakers in the Edgware Road where I bought 500 envelopes. Changed my things and wrote letters till dinner time – then after dinner started addressing my envelopes and did about half until 11.30 when I went to bed very tired.

Thursday March 19th 1907

Changed my dress after lunch then wrote some letters till tea time. Our At Home day but no visitors arrived. After tea I sat and finished directing my envelopes.

Thursday March 20th 1907

Up at 11.30. The notices had come for the envelopes so I filled Lansdowne Road and Lansdowne Crescent. Sent Agnes [her sister] out with them. I took out ArundelGardens and Powis Square – a most awful place – high flats – and Powis something else. After lunch Agnes and I went out again delivering – more Powis and Colvilles. Colville Mansions nearly killed us the stairs were awful. We got in about 4 o’clock feeling very tired.

Thursday March 21st 1907

Mother went to Committee [Liberal] meeting in the afternoon. Agnes and I went out at 3 o’clock and delivered the last two streets of the meeting notices – then went to the Grove and did a little shopping.

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: 14 March 1907

Kate Frye coverKate is now being swept up into general suffrage enthusiasm – as a member of the NUWSS London society. The hostess of this meeting at 60 Onslow Gardens was Mariana (c 1853-1933), wife of Hylton Dale, a coke and coal merchant.. She was a University of London graduate, a member of the Fabian Society, author of Child Labour under Capitalism and active in many causes, such as the National Association of Women’s Lodging Houses, as well as the suffrage movement. As Kate mentions, one of the purposes of the meeting was to gather signatures for ‘Miss Black’s Declaration’. Clementina Black [left], journalist and author and, like Mrs Dale, always concerned for the working woman, had formed a Women’s Franchise Declaration Committee four months earlier, in November 1906, in one of the many, alas futile, attempts to disprove the statement that women did not really want the vote. It sent out forms to women engaged in business and the professions and at the time of Kate’s contribution the Committee had already gathered nearly 31,000 signatures – drawn particularly from the fields of education, social work, office work, trade, and art.  Needless to say, the resulting Declaration, with its 257,000 signatures, was brushed aside by the government, as had so many other attempts to reason made by suffrage societies over the previous 40 years. It is little wonder that the call to militancy met with such success.

Of the speakers, Mrs Stanbury was a member of the Fabian Women’s Group and an organiser for NUWSS; Frances Sterling, another Kensington resident, was joint honorary secretary of the NUWSS.

Thursday March 14th 1907 [25 Arundel Gardens, North Kensington]

Changed my dress after lunch and soon after 3 o’clock Agnes and I walked to Notting Hill Gate and went by train to South Kensington and went to Mrs Hylton Dale’s house in Onslow Gardens to a Woman’s Suffrage Meeting. Alexandra and Gladys Wright were to have done all the work of getting it up and asked us to act as Stewards. So we had to get there punctually at 3.45 to receive instructions, leave our coats, put on badges etc and get some tea. Tea was at 4 o’clock, the meeting at 4.30. Such a lovely house, a beautiful tea – everything so nice – and a glorious room upstairs for the meeting and it was packed. One of the doors had to be taken out and the people sat up and down the stairs and crowded the landings. Such a rich, fashionable, beautifully-dressed audience for the most part. I was busy getting signatures before the meeting began and after it was over and Gladys and I collected. It really didn’t seem to matter asking those rich people to give. We collected £3 3s  and got signatures to Miss Black’s Declaration.  They want a million names to it. At present there are only about the first hundred thousand. It was a most interesting meeting – such an unusual class of people and I loved working. A Mrs Stanbury was in the Chair. She was fine. Miss Clementina Black, Miss Sterling and Mr Walter McLaren MP were amongst the speakers and the questions asked and answered afterwards were most amusing. One girl I was very taken with – she really did look beautiful and her sister was most fascinating – I got them to sign and found the one was Lilias Waldegrave the actress. Agnes and I didn’t realise how tired we were till we came away – we had been standing all the time and getting so excited. We were not in till after 7 o’clock.

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 – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£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.

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

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: 3 December 1906

Kate Frye coverKate’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’.

Monday 3 December 1906

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 – elizabeth.crawford2017@outlook.com  (£14.99 +UK postage £3. Please ask for international postage cost), or from all good bookshops – and Amazon.

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

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