Archive for category Suffrage Stories

Suffrage Stories: ‘Woman And Her Sphere’ At Buckingham Palace


Yesterday was surreal – as I found myself at Buckingham Palace to receive an OBE for ‘Services to Education – in particular for promoting knowledge of the women’s suffrage movement’. This was an event so far removed from my expectations from life that to mention ‘wildest dreams’ would be to give it too firm a reality.

However it was a most interesting occasion – wonderfully orchestrated – ceremonial and yet convivial – and I was delighted that the history of the women’s movement should be honoured in this way..

After bidding farewell to the gilt, crystal, and red velvet, to the Beefeaters, the Gurkhas, and the Guards, to numerous paintings of the royal family through the ages, and, noted in passing, to a Jan Steen, a de Hooch, and a Vermeer, I and my family party of 12 enjoyed a merry, afternoon-long lunch.



Suffrage Stories: Mrs Pankhurst’s Statue – UPDATE 22 October 2018

This statue of Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, erected by her admiring and loving followers, will remain THE memorial to her at Westminster.

I reported on 15 September the very welcome news that, as a result of a vigorous public protest, Sir Neil Thorne and the Emmeline Pankhurst Trust had withdrawn the planning applications they had made to Westminster Council to remove the existing statue of Emmeline Pankhurst and resite it in Regent’s Park.

They had made these applications in order to make way for a new statue of Mrs Pankhurst that they had commissioned, for reasons that are not entirely clear, and intended to place on Canning Green to the west of Parliament Square.

The planning application came up for consideration at a meeting held on 2 October 2018, the minutes of which were issued on 15 October 2018. Perhaps unsurprisingly the decision was:

That the application be refused on the grounds that it is contrary to the Council’s Saturation policy for the reasons set out on page 18 of the agenda and due to the presence of a second statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in the vicinity.

You can read the minuted report here –

I won’t begin to wonder how much money and time has been spent on this project – or why. You may each have your own views.

The result seems to be a victory for both historical – and common – sense.




Suffrage Stories: Save Mrs Pankhurst’s Statue: UPDATED 15 SEPTEMBER 2018

A planning application has been made to Westminster Council to dismantle this statue of Mrs Pankhurst – which stands as close as possible to the Houses of Parliament.

The plan is to banish this statue to the grounds of Regent’s University, a private university, in Regent’s Park. See the planning application here.

The group behind the application calls itself ‘The Emmeline Pankhurst Trust’ but has no connection with the other Pankhurst Trust that is working to restore the Pankhursts’ home in Nelson Street, Manchester. Nor does it have any connection with the Pankhurst family. Rather, it is a mysterious group led by a former Conservative MP (for Ilford South), Sir Neil Thorne, whose wife, according to a newspaper report, was walking her dog through Victoria Tower Gardens when she encountered Mrs Pankhurst’s statue and, knowing nothing of its history, thought it might be better placed elsewhere.

This statue was funded by the Pankhurst Memorial Fund set up following Emmeline’s death in 1928 and championed by fellow suffragettes Kitty Marshall and Rosamund Massey. Flora Drummond was the chair of the group and Lady Rhondda the treasurer. A fund of £2500 was raised, the statue commissioned, and in 1930 it was unveiled by the prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, with Dame Ethel Smyth conducting the band. See Pathe newsreel of the occasion here.

In the 1950s works in Victoria Tower Gardens endangered the statue but, thanks to the dedication of her surviving friends, it was moved even closer to the Houses of Parliament, to the present site. Ever since 1930 it has been the scene of commemoration, not only by former suffrage campaigners, but by hundreds of thousands of members of the public who have invested their memories in this site. Here is a 1955 newsreel item of former suffragettes meeting by the statue (then in its original position in Victoria Tower Gardens) in celebration.

Sir Neil Thorne and his group propose to create a new statue of Mrs Pankhurst and site it on Canning Green, which is a rather forgotten stretch of grass separated from Parliament Square by a very busy road. Those campaigning for the statue to Millicent Fawcett were at least able to claim for her a site in Parliament Square itself. This proposed new statue to Mrs Pankhurst would be way in the background – separated from Parliament by two main roads and the whole of Parliament Square. What is the sense in that when at the moment she is closer than any figure (other than Oliver Cromwell!) and when photographs of the statue (and the memorial to Christabel Pankhurst at the base) also capture the Mother of Parliaments? If Sir Neil Thorne’s group had their way she would be very lonely, stranded with George Canning on a meaningless piece of grass and all the history invested in the original statue forgotten

Because, unsurprisingly, Westminster Council won’t countenance two statues to Mrs Pankhurst within a short distance of each other, Sir Neil Thorne’s group has had to find a way of removing the original statue, which at the moment is Grade 2 Listed.

There was an attempt to try and move it to her grave in Brompton Cemetery, but that came to nothing. So now their idea is to remove it to the grounds of Regent’s University in far off Regent’s Park, with which Mrs Pankhurst has no association whatsoever. Sir Neil Thorne, however, does – in that he is a member of the Steering Group Committee for the British Chinese Armed Forces Heritage project, a collaboration between the Ming-Ai (London) Institute and Regent’s University. Presumably this association is not unconnected to the offer by Regent’s University to remove the problem of the original statue. Who do you think will see it in the shrubberies of Regent’s Park?

Here is the planning application for the erection of the statue in the grounds of Regent’s University. It contains a spurious attempt to link the fact that the buildings now occupied by Regent’s University were erected by Bedford College – once a woman-only college – and that, therefore, this is a suitable home for Mrs Pankhurst’s statue. This is nonsense – as Mrs Pankhurst was never involved in any campaign to advance women’s education. Such a meretricious elision of historical truth.

Finally, you can read the planning application for the new statue here. You will note that when it was first presented in 2017 it received a number of comments in support. On reading them I think you will get the sense that those supporting the new statue don’t seem to know anything of suffrage history, far less the fact that Emmeline Pankhurst already has a statue.

Of course, if this ‘Pankhurst Trust’ had wanted to erect a new statue to Mrs Pankhurst that did not involve casting the original aside as though it was of no consequence, I would have no objection. But I feel very strongly that we should honour the intention and actions of those who committed their time and money to setting Mrs Pankhurst in such an excellent position next to Parliament. If the group behind these planning applications would like to honour the memory of Mrs Pankhurst they would do better to support the original ‘Pankhurst Trust’ , which is attempting to create a museum in the Pankhursts’ former Manchester home, rather than wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds on an unnecessary piece of statuary and in the process destroying a valuable site of suffrage history.

Time is running out. If you do not agree with these three plans:

  1. to dismantle the existing statue of Mrs Pankhurst from its existing site  – OBJECT 
  2. to re-erect  the original statue in the forecourt of Regent’s University – OBJECT
  3. erect a new statue of Mrs Pankhurst on Canning Green – OBJECT

Updates: 22 August 2018

1. A couple of online petitions have been started – and one, hosted by 38 Degrees – see here – has attracted thousands of signatures. This is pleasingly popularist but, if you live in the UK, is NO SUBSTITUTE  for making comments on the 3 planning applications that are being put to Westminster Council. It is imperative in planning matters to go through the proper channels. I have asked the originator of the petition to include links to the planning applications, but nothing has yet been done. UPDATE:  A LINK HAS NOW BEEN INCLUDED

The Westminster officer in charge of the case has a responsibility to read all comments made and take notice of them when writing his/her report to the Planning Committee. Even if he/she knows of a petition there is no obligation to take any notice of it.

I am worried that those who only sign the petition will feel they have ‘done their bit’ but will actually have wasted a very real opportunity of making their views known to the Planning Committee. 

There is no difficulty in registering objections to the planning applications – hundreds have already done so. No suffragette would have been deterred!

2) The Curator’s Office at the Palace of Westminster has commissioned a very thorough report into the plan to remove Mrs Pankhurst’s statue from Victoria Tower Gardens – published today (22 Aug 2018). Read it here. It makes extremely interesting reading but, to cut to the chase, the verdict is definite.  ‘The proposal to move the memorial, therefore, should not be granted planning permission or listed building consent.’ (Page 37)


The proposals to remove Mrs Pankhurst’s statue and re-erect it in the grounds of Regent’s University have just been WITHDRAWN.

The planning application to erect a new statue of her on Canning Green is still ‘Pending’.

Hoowever, we would be wise not to be too complacent…this may be some kind of tactical move. Be vigilant.


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.



Suffrage Stories: The Hodgson Sisters And Their Suffrage Souvenirs

My new catalogue – No 198 – will contain a large collection of suffrage ephemera kept all their lives by three sisters, Edith Lizzie (1881-1958), Florence Emily (1882-1967), and Grace Margaret (1887-1966) Hodgson.

Women of the Hodgson family. With mother, Jemima, in the centre it is thought that Grace is on her right, with Mabel back left, next to Florence and with Edith on the right (Photocourtesy of Mabel’s descendants)

They were the daughters of Edward Hodgson (1857-1919) who was, successively, a linen draper, by 1901 a dairy manager and in 1911 was a ‘dairyman, unemployed’. The 1901 census found Florence, who is described as a ‘telegraphist’ (she worked for the Post Office), staying as a boarder, with a fourth sister, Mabel, at the Sunday School Union Home of Rest in Wykeham Road, Hastings. This would suggest that these sisters, at least, had possibly been teachers at Sunday School. Edith and Grace were back home with their parents, living at 31 Lawford Road, Kentish Town – Grace was a schoolgirl and Edith was working as a pupil teacher.

When the next census was taken, in 1911, Grace, who is now a teacher working for the LCC, and Mabel, a telegraphist, were at home with their parents at 39 Estelle Road, Gospel Oak, Hampstead – but there is no trace of Edith and Florence. There are two ‘Census Resistance’ badges in the collection – perhaps once owned by Edith and Florence. By now they, together with Grace, had been active for some time in the Women’s Freedom League and, as they can be found nowhere else on the census, it is to be presumed that they were following the call to boycott. For by this time all the sisters, except Mabel (who married in 1914), were active members of the Women’s Freedom League. It is likely – because there are items of WSPU ephemera in the collection – that they had originally joined the WSPU, but had then moved over to the WFL.

The collection also contains two very rare badges referring to the right of the subject to petition the King. These are associated with the WFL picket of the House of Commons organised by the WFL between July and October 1909. A postcard to ‘Miss Hodgson’ from Mrs Bettina Borrmann Wells, who organised the picket, makes clear that Edith, at least, took part in the picket.

The collection contains many other badges, as well as sashes worn by the sisters, ribbons that may have been worn as neckties, a miniature WFL pennant representing Holloway Prison, and a home-made ‘dolly bag’ – a green drawstring bag with gold carrying straps, on the front of which is sewn a WFL cloth shield badge. It is very unusual to find items of suffrage dress that have a clear provenance. The sisters’ intense interest in suffrage personalities is demonstrated in the large number of real photographic portrait postcards that they bought – and kept. These include members of the WSPU as well as of the WFL.

The sisters continued supporting the WFL with financial donations until at least 1932.  They continued to live together for the rest of their lives – latterly at 39 Laurier Road, Dartmouth Park, NW5. Family memory has it that the sisters had one each of the house’s three floors.

The sisters were obviously keen to see something of the world – and in 1930 all three travelled to Tangier and two years later Edith and Grace visited Japan. They probably had other adventures – but these are the only ones that survive in the records.

As with the Stevenson Sisters, about whom I wrote about last week, no family memory remained of the involvement of Edith, Florence and Grace in the suffrage movement – nor, indeed, anything else of their lives – the fate, as I’ve mentioned before, of the maiden aunt. It is only since one of Mabel’s descendants took the Collection to an auction house that something of their story  has slowly been revealed.

If you would like to receive a copy of the catalogue containing the Hodgson Collection, email me


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Suffrage Stories: Ella And Geraldine Stevenson, Suffragette Sisters

Place is important to me and sometimes my attention is caught by an incident occurring somewhere I’ve known well. And so it was that four years ago I noticed that a suffragette ‘outrage’ had taken place at the Richmond Post Office. Ella Stevenson, a WSPU member, was charged with placing a packet containing two tubes of phosphorous in the post box attached to the main Richmond Post Office. In my youth I knew this Post Office very well – it is a rather fine building – 70 George Street – but was long ago abandoned by the PO and is currently a branch of Anthropologie. Quite coincidentally, very soon after I had become aware of this incident and had pictured it in my mind, I was asked to value two hunger-strike medals – one awarded to Ella Stevenson and the other to her sister, Geraldine. Other matters have intervened, but now, four years later, here is something of their story.

Ella and Geraldine Stevenson were two daughters in the large family (12 children, I think) of Leader (1826-1907) and Louisa Stevenson (1828-1913). Leader Stevenson, who was an ‘Australia merchant’, was born in London of non-conformist parents, his wife in Tasmania. In the first decade of the 20th century the family was living at 10 Cumberland Road, Kew.

Both Ella [Ellen] (c. 1860-1934] and Geraldine Stevenson (1866-1949) were financial supporters, in a smallish way, of Mrs Pankhurst’s militant suffrage organisation, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and until October 1910 Ella was Literary Secretary of the Richmond and Kew WSPU.

Ella’s first militant action seems to have taken place on 4 December 1909 when, as ‘Ethel Slade’, she was arrested in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, after breaking windows in the local Liberal Club. She had gone north to protest at a meeting held by a government minister, Lewis Harcourt, but had been barred from the theatre where it was being held. She refused to pay a fine and was sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment.  It doesn’t appear that the police had yet discovered her real identity.

The following year, in November 1910, as ‘Ethel Slade’, Ella Stevenson was sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment after taking part in demonstrations surrounding the ‘Black Friday’ riot in Parliament Square.

Neither Ella nor Geraldine Stevenson was at home on census night in April 1911 and we may presume they were following the WSPU boycott call. Later in the year, again as ‘Ethel Slade’ Ella was charged with breaking windows in Parliament Street on 21 November – as part of an organised WSPU demonstration (because the government was proposing to bring in a Manhood Suffrage Bill – excluding women). ‘Ethel Slade’ was sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment.

Now, although I know that Geraldine Stevenson earned a hunger-strike medal, I can find no trace of her among suffragettes arrested by the police nor does her name appear in any news reports. However, when she was breaking windows in Parliament Street ‘Ethel Slade’ was accompanied by a ‘Grace Stuart’, who was, in fact, Geraldine Stevenson, using a pseudonym, but keeping her own initials.

 Both ‘Ethel Slade’ and ‘Grace Stuart’ were released from prison on 12 February 1912. At the ‘Welcome Breakfast’ ‘Ethel Slade’ said it was a great honour for women to go to prison and mentioned that she was going to volunteer for the next deputation.

A few months later, in March 1912, Grace Stuart was sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment after taking part in an organised WSPU window-smashing campaign – and I suspect it was during this term in Holloway that she earned her hunger-strike medal.

On 5 November 1912, as ‘Ethel Slade’, Ella, with another women, broke 9 plate-glass windows in New Bond Street – and was sentenced to 4 months’ imprisonment. They were protesting against the fact that an amendment to the Irish Home Rule bill that would have allowed for a measure of female suffrage was lost. She went on hunger strike, was forcibly fed, and was released after two weeks.

The former Richmond Post Office

On 5 March 1913  Ella Stevenson was sentenced at the Old Bailey to 9 months’ imprisonment for placing a packet containing two glass tubes of phosphorous in the post box attached to the main Richmond Post Office. It had burst into flames. It is more than likely that she had been given the phosphorous by Edwy Clayton, an analytical chemist of ‘Glengariff’, Kew Road, Kew, whose wife was honorary secretary of the Richmond and Kew WSPU. Around the time of Ella’s sentence, Clayton was charged with conspiracy to commit damage (supplying bomb-making information and materials) and sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment. He went on hunger strike, was released under the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act and eluded re-arrest.

When sentencing Ella Stevenson the Recorder said that it was impossible for people to be allowed to go about defying the law because they require some change made in it. Such a condition of affairs would lead to a state of barbarism. Defendant replied that she would go to prison to carry on the fight as she had carried it on outside’.

No women were allowed in court during her trial and Ella specifically asked for a ‘lady reporter’ to be allowed in court and had also asked for her sister [Geraldine?] to be present. But the Recorder was adamant – ‘No women’. There was something of an outcry about the exclusion of women, and the Commissioners of the Central Criminal Court quickly decided that this would not happen in future.

Ella Stevenson went on hunger strike as soon as she got to Holloway and was forcibly fed. Extraordinary vitality is a splendid thing to have outside prison, it is tiresome inside. I am not downhearted she is reported as saying. A report in Votes for Women, 11 April 1913, described how her nostrils were severely injured by forcible feeding and one of her teeth had been knocked out when members of the prison staff were trying to force her mouth open. The Governor reported: ‘the task has been very difficult and disagreeable one owing to her violent resistance; but the medical officer reports that though she exhausts herself by her resistance, there are no serious ill-effects. As to her teeth, the facts are that on one occasion she bit the rubber shield over the doctor’s finger and broke a tooth which was a mere shell owing to decay .Her lip has been sore from an attack of herpes but is now better. These details are distressing and I should be glad to advise a remission of sentence if it were not almost certain that she would on her release commit further offences. I need not say that a strict watch is kept over her condition and every care taken to prevent her injuring herself.’ It is clear, from a letter written to the Home Office by Geraldine Stevenson, that it was one of Ella’s front teeth that was broken – a rather distressing thing to happen to a middle-aged woman in Edwardian Britain

A 17 April 1913 report from Holloway Prison shows that she was given 2.5 pints of  ‘Horlicks, Brand’s Essence, Allenbury’s Milk and egg – fed twice by oesophageal  tube. Violently resistive the whole time.’

Ella was eventually released from prison on 28 April under the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act – the Temporary Discharge of Prisoners Act, one of the first four prisoners released under the Act. She did not return to Holloway on 12 May as required – but was re-arrested on 7 August 1913, while selling The Suffragette in Richmond, and was taken back to Holloway to continue her sentence. Her mother had died at home in Kew just over two weeks earlier – on 19 July 1913.

Ella again went on hunger strike and was released on 14 August under the terms of the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act. While in prison she broke windows and her conduct was deemed ‘Bad’. A Report from the prison’s medical officer (13 August) Medical Officer mentioned that she ‘has forsaken sleep owing to constantly recurring dreams that she has swallowed a drop of water by mistake. Feels extreme satisfaction on finding it is only a dream.’

A ‘Wanted’ Notice for Ella Stevenson appeared in the Supplement to the Police Gazette 2 January 1914. ‘Wanted – for failing to return to Holloway Prison on 22 Aug 1913, as required by the conditions of her discharge under the Prisoners’ Temporary Discharged Act (1913), Ella Stevenson, alias Ethel Slade CRO No S/165568, age refused (about 45), height 5ft 6in; complexion sallow; hair light brown turning grey, and eyes  grey.’

Perhaps as a result of this publicity, on 23 January 1914 Ella Stevenson was re-arrested,  was once again taken to Holloway, where once again she adopted a hunger-and-thirst strike and was released a few days later (under the ‘Cat and Mouse’). She was arrested again on 17 March, released on 19 March, and re-arrested 23 June, and released 27 June. She described this last occasion: I was arrested in Richmond very early on Tuesday morning, June 23. I attempted to strike the man who arrested me, but was taken to Richmond Police Station where I was held until 2 oclock and then taken through the streets of Richmond firmly grasped by two men in uniform. Finding the procession was to be of this very public nature, I decided to make the most of the opportunity to get the people to understand, if possible, what was happening. I resisted the whole way telling the people that I was resisting an iniquitous Act on principle. I gave them as much information as I could in the time, and at the railway station and afterwards in the carriage, when several people got in with us, I was able to appeal to them and reason with them without interruption.The Suffragette, 10 July 1914. Once back in Holloway she again went on a hunger-and-thirst strike, was released on 27 June and does not appear to have been re-arrested before the outbreak of war on 4 August brought the WSPU campaign to an end.

Picturing Ella Stevenson’s activity in George Street and, eventually, that enforced march through Richmond certainly enlivened my rather tedious wait at the bus stop opposite the station as I was on my to the National Archives last week. And, once there, I met her again in files describing her treatment in Holloway and her resistance to it. No real knowledge of the part she and her sister played in the fight for the vote – or, indeed, anything else at all of their lives – has survived within her family. Such is the fate, noted time and time again, of the maiden aunt.

P.S. For a Museum of London surveillance photograph of Ella Stevenson, probably taken when she was in Holloway – see here.  

And, quite coincidentally, the Museum of London was earlier this year given the illuminated scroll awarded to Ella Stevenson by the WSPU after one of her imprisonments. All the pieces of the Stevenson jigsaw are falling into place.


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Suffrage Stories: Women’s History Review – Women’s Suffrage Centennial Article Collection

If you are one of my readers interested in the history of the women’s suffrage movement, you will be pleased to know that, in this centennial year, Women’s History Review is allowing free access to a number of past-published articles dealing with all aspects of the campaign. Here is the link to the collection. This should be particularly useful to Early Stage Researchers specialising in suffrage history who may be finding it difficult to grasp of the scope of previously published work in the field.

Grace Roe walking out of Lincoln’s Inn House – under arrest – May 1914. She was held in prison from 23 May, on hunger strike and forcibly fed, until finally released on 10 August, under the government amnesty

I’m particularly pleased that an article I wrote that was published in 2008 – Police, Prisons and Prisoners: the view from the Home Office – is now easily accessible. It is based on Home Office papers held in the National Archives, viewing suffragette militancy through the eyes of the authorities rather, than as been more usual, through the writings of the suffragettes. The article concludes by demonstrating how, in the weeks before the outbreak of war in August 1914, the authorities were tightening their grip on the WSPU. The final paragraph of the article reads:

As a final thought, rather than asking the usual question “Did militancy achieve votes for women?”, I would like to pose the question “Could the government have been successful in suppressing the WSPU?” By the summer of 1914 it certainly appeared to have every intention of doing so. The impression has remained, fostered very effectively in their lifetimes by the members of the Suffragette Fellowship, women who, of course, never saw the files that the state had compiled on them, that the WSPU was set on a winning trajectory and that only their patriotism brought the campaign to a conclusion. But is this a true picture of the battle between the Home Office and the suffragettes when the shutter snapped in August 1914? I would suggest that the position of the WSPU as seen from the Home Office was altogether more precarious.’

This is not a conclusion from which, in the ten years since the article was published, I’ve had any reason to differ.


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Suffrage Stories: Ethel Moorhead, Militancy, and Modernism

Ethel Moorhead

Ethel Moorhead is one of my favourite militant suffragettes. Not on account of the reality of her campaign of damage and arson,which was extensive, but because of the way she later wrote about it.

Ethel Moorhead’s militant suffrage career is well known – or, at least, well known to those who take the trouble to read about it in The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide or in Leah Leneman’s entry on her in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – for she was one of the most turbulent of the Scottish suffragettes. In 1913 Ethel was a ‘Mouse’ – on the run from the police, let out of prison after hunger striking.  Over a period of months, until she was rearrested, caught redhanded about to create further mayhem, she left a trail of destruction as she roamed Perthshire and Renfrewshire, setting fire to buildings. Her close companion on this jaunt was Fanny Parker (about whom you can also read in The Reference Guide).

Fanny Parker

So far, so not an entirely unusual way of life for a militant suffragette. But it is the life that she lived after the war that is so intriguing. She and Fanny remained close until the latter’s death in 1924 – in Bordeaux. She was living there with Ethel and Ernest Walsh, a young American poet and Ethel’s protege.  With money left to her by Fanny, Ethel and Ernest then launched This Quarter, the most Modernist of little magazines, publishing in the first issue work by Ezra Pound and in the second work by James Joyce and Djuna Barnes.

This Quarter, Vol 1: 2 – the ‘Incendaries’ issue (courtesy of University of South Carolina Libraries)

No editorial modesty prevented Ethel from including in the first issue four of her paintings (oh, yes, she had had a thorough art training in ‘Greydoom’ as, in a Modernist way, she referenced Edinburgh) and, in the second issue, Incendaries (Work in Progress) a moving, autobiographical account of her early life and suffragette activities. Incidentally, ‘Work in Progress’ was a phrase attached to the title of work by at least one other contributor to This Quarter  – suggesting that the writer is still grappling with his/her material – is still thinking it through. – in an acceptably Modernist stream-of-consciousness manner.  Alas, however, Ethel did not produce any further installments of Incendaries. She and Ernest Walsh co-edited those first two issues and after his death in 1926 she continued as sole editor for two more delightfully idiosyncratic issues, until spring 1929. The magazine continued until 1932, but Ethel had bowed out.

I don’t feel able to pontificate on the relationship between Ethel and Ernest Walsh. Her Wikipedia entry says that they were married, which they were certainly not. Another website states that she had a child by him, which she did not. Walsh did have a daughter with Kay Boyle, an American novelist, who made clear that she replaced Ethel in Ernest’s affections.

Incidentally, Kay Boyle left a description of Ethel –‘ short bobbed hair, with only a little grey in it, and the pince-nez she wore gave her an air of authority; but there was at the same time something like shyness, or wariness in her small uneasy brown eyes and her tense mouth.’ This was slightly more flattering than that issued by the Criminal Record OFfice in 1914 – ‘aged 44, 5’6″ tall, with brown eyes (‘wears pinze-nez’), oblong face, receding chin, slim build, stooping shoulders’. Kay was, of course, a far more glamorous creature.

But back in 1913 there is no doubt of the affection Ethel and Fanny (‘Fan’) Parker felt for each other. As Ethel wrote in Incendaries – ‘They snatched friendship as they rushed past on mad quests’. And in Incendaries she describes one particular ‘mad quest’ – the burning of a church.

‘Fan had on a jaunty dress, a coloured sweater and a knitted cap to match and was gracefully padded with the necessities of the job. The Mouse was wearing the blue dress Fan had borrowed from the Glasgow doctor’s wife and which she was always clamouring for, – she was uncomfortably padded with the necessities of the job, they filled out the blue suit and made it fit better. She had on the Rufus wig [it was red], and blue earrings, and a red hat and veil. They looked queer and men ogled them. They both carried harmless looking housewife bags, but which were heavy with paraffin and there were even small lumps of coal in the bottom. They were on a journey, – when it got dark there were eight miles to walk. They were not gay and jaunty.

About midnight they got to the outskirts of the village. All was dark and quiet. They went into a field to wait until all was quieter. They put down their packs and were afraid of falling asleep..The day before they had scouted the pagan temple, – all had been memorized, they wouldn’t have to think now. They were cold as black granite, their minds were black granite..They reached the old churchyard as the bells rang out twice. They made their way through the tombstones to the church. On a tombstone with pedestals, under a small window, they put down their stuff. They took it off their persons and laid it down carefully.

The window was a small ventilating window like a skylight. The Mouse could reach it by standing on Fan’s shoulders. It was held open by a fixed iron bar. The iron bar did not give. She had to squeeze through the narrow space between one side of the iron bar and the wall. She squeezed through and let go and fell amongst pews. She got up and made her way to a little Gothic doorway. She knew where to find it. It was on the same side as the window. She found it easily, – she ran her hands over the oak door feeling for the key, she hoped the key would be in the lock – she pulled something with a spring and the door opened..Then Fan (who was in a frenzy to get in by the skylight window, and nearly got in) came in the Gothic doorway.

They carried in the stuff from the tombstone, they carried in the oil, the candles, the wadding, into the pagan temple for the last rites. They shut the oak door behind them. They knew where to go. They piled a heap of firelighters and on the top they put small lumps of coal and broken candles. At a little distance off they placed two candles for lighting, they connected them with the firelighters by long strips of wadding, they soaked the wadding with paraffin, they poured paraffin on the firelighters, they poured paraffin on the woodwork, they emptied a tube of inflammable stuff, they lit the candles, they walked out by the Gothic doorway.’

This is as dramatic a retelling as any of an episode of suffragette militancy. There is no doubt that Ethel was the Mouse and that, therefore, the arson attack was likely to have been made while she was on the run between October 1913 and February 1914 – or between her release from prison later in February 1914 and the outbreak of war. But which church was it that they fired? So far I’ve been unable to identify it. UPDATE. While researching something else I believe I’ve found the answer. The church was Carmichael Parish Church (now Cairngryffe Parish Church) in Lanarkshire. An arson attempt was made on it at the beginning of July 1914.

The following is from the Church’s website:

‘ In 1914 a group of women suffragettes broke into the Church and attempted to set it on fire.  Beyond some scorching of the gallery carving no structural damage was done however and the Church is believed to have been saved by its hard oak furnishings.  The Kirk Session entry recording this event reads as follows :-

 “8th July 1914.  The Kirk Session offer to Almighty God their heartfelt thanks for the preservation of their dear and beautiful Church from destruction by fire on a night between Sunday28th June and 1st July, 1914.  Some person or persons unknown entered the Church by breaking the vestry window and piled chairs, bibles etc on the pews underneath the Carmichael gallery and, after sprinkling these with inflammable material, set fire to them.  The damage was trifling considering what might have been done if the flames had taken hold of Carmichael gallery.  The Kirk Session are grieved that any person could have allowed such sacrilegious intentions to enter into his or her heart.”

Fanny Parker was arrested a few days later on 8 July, while she and Ethel were attempting to place two bombs at Burns’ cottage at Alloway – about 45 miles from Carmichael. Ethel escaped and was not recaptured by the time war was declared on 4 August.

Ethel Moorhead has most definitely not been forgotten. Apart from all that has been written about her – and she was even the subject of a short film –  ‘Ethel Moorhead Place’ forms a little suffragette enclave (close to ‘Frances Gordon Road’ – she was another militant) in a new development on the outskirts of Perth. I wonder what she would have made of this as a memorial?


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