Archive for category Suffrage Stories

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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Suffrage Stories/Collecting Suffrage: Countdown To 12 October And Release Of The Film ‘Suffragette’: The Morrison Collection

To celebrate the release on 12 October of the film ‘Suffragette’  (for which I was an historical consultant) I will post each day an image of a suffrage item – or, in the case of today, items – that have passed through my hands.

For my current catalogue – No 189 – which contains a good deal of suffrage material – as well as general books and ephemera by and about women – see here.

Today’s images: The Morrison Suffrage Collection.

Evelyn Morrison's WSPU regalia

The Morrisons’ WSPU regalia

Evelyn Mary Fanny Matilda Murray was born in New South Wales, Australia, c 1850. She was the daughter of Sir Terence Murray, (President of the NSW Legislative Council) by his first wife. She was, therefore, half-sister to Sir Gilbert Murray, later to become Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford, who was a son of the father’s second marriage. [Gilbert Murray’s wife was a daughter of Lady Carlisle and for many years president of the Oxford Women’s Liberal Association.]

By the mid-1870s Evelyn Murray was married to a Robert Morrison. They had a daughter, also named Evelyn Morrison, born c 1881. At some point Robert Morrison died and it was as a widow that Mrs Morrison, with her daughter, Evelyn, arrived in Britain sometime between 1891 and 1901. Mrs Morrison ‘worked’ for the Liberal Party before becoming involved with the WSPU.

Her daughter, Evelyn, was a university graduate (possibly of Bedford College, but I am not sure. Certainly she was not a graduate of an Oxford or Cambridge college because she was able to style herself ‘BA.’)

The younger Evelyn was a WSPU speaker and in February 1910 was elected joint honorary secretary of the Kensington WSPU.

DSC00005

Miss Evelyn Morrison was a ‘Group Captain’ in charge of Section One of the WSPU’s spectacular procession to Hyde Park on 21 June 1908.

DSC00028

It would be for this that she made the ‘Group Captain’ sash.

DSC00004 I am pretty sure that the ‘Votes for Women’ sash also belonged to her.

Evelyn Morrison

Here is Miss Evelyn Morrison wearing just such a sash – in a procession alongside Mrs Pankhurst.

Morrison 1910 deputation

This is the ticket issued to Mrs Morrison for a 22 November 1910 WSPU meeting in Caxton Hall. However, as we can see from the hand alterations to the ticket, the date was brought forward.  The collection included two telegrams to Mrs Morrison, dated 15 Nov 1910, rescheduling the date of deputation to Parliament in which she was to take part.

The new date of Friday 18 November became notorious in suffragette history as ‘Black Friday’ when Parliament Square became the scene of a near riot and many women were assaulted by the police. Mrs Morrison was there, wearing the ‘Deputation’ silk insignia that appears in the first photograph. Incidentally, the film’ Suffragette’ includes a scene of frantic suffragette protest immediately outside Parliament

Mrs Morrison was arrested and the collection included the order issued by the Metropolitan Police, ordering her the appear the next day at Bow Street Police Court. The charge was one of ‘wilfully obstructing Police whilst in the due execution of their duty’. The charge against her, as against all the other women arrested on Black Friday was dropped and Mrs Morrison was discharged.

Another telegram was included in the collection, sent from Mrs Morrison to her daughter from Southampton Street close to Bow Street court, dated 19 November, to say that she and all the others arrested with her the previous day had been discharged. The Home Office had decided it was not politic to charge so many women – 220 had been arrested on ‘Black Friday’.

Morrison gun licence

On 4 July 1912, in the genteel setting of Church Street, Kensington, Mrs Morrison was issued with a gun licence. Why should she require to carry a pistol? At this time WSPU militancy was reaching fever pitch – with Mrs Pankhurst being regularly arrested and then released after hunger striking. It is interesting that this particular piece of paper has survived alongside the other, solely suffrage, material. The inference is that the issuing of the licence was not unconnected with Mrs Morrison’s involvement in the suffrage movement.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Letter from Evelyn Sharp to Miss Morrison, dated 21 March 1909 thanking her for organising a WSPU meeting (at which Christabel Pankhurst had been the main speaker)
  • Cyclostyled letter from Christabel Pankhurst – probably to Mrs Morrison – it dates from November 1910 and refers to meetings being held at the beginning of the week after the deputation in which she took part.
  • Gun Licence issued to Mrs Morrison on 4 July 1912. This was at a time when WSPU militancy was reaching fever pitch – with Mrs Pankhurst being regularly arrested and then released after hunger striking. It is interesting that this particular piece of paper has survived alongside the suffrage material. The inference is that the issuing of the licence was not unconnected with Mrs Morrison’s involvement in the suffrage movement.

 

Framed items

 

1) Together in one frame – three telegrams

 

Two telegrams to Mrs Morrison, dated 15 Nov 1910, rescheduling date of deputation to Parliament in which she was to take part. This was to become notorious as ‘Black Friday’ when there was a near riot in Parliament Square and many women were assaulted by the police.

The third telegram (the one in the centre) is from Mrs Morrison to her daughter, sent from Southampton St close to Bow Street court, dated 19 November, to say that she and all the others arrested with her the previous day had been discharged. (The Home Office had decided it was not politic to charge so many women – 220 had been arrested on ‘Black Friday’.

 

  • In the second frame

 

The order issued by the Metropolitan Police when Mrs Morrison was arrested in the course of ‘Black Friday’, ordering her the appear the next day at Bow Street Police Court. The charge was one of ‘wilfully obstructing Police whilst in the due execution of their duty’. As we have seen the charge was dropped and Mrs Morrison was discharged. NB Inspector Crocker, who signed the charge sheet, was involved for many years in pursuing suffragettes.

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Suffrage Stories/Collecting Suffrage: Countdown To 12 October And Release Of The Film ‘Suffragette’:’Justice Demands The Vote’ Poster

To celebrate the release on 12 October of the film ‘Suffragette’  (for which I was an historical consultant) I will post each day an image of a suffrage item that has passed through my hands.

For my current catalogue – No 189 – which contains a good deal of suffrage material – as well as general books and ephemera by and about women – see here.

Today’s image:

Justicee Demands the Vote 1

This image (courtesy of Schlesinger Library) is of an English poster. I was fortunate enough to buy one of the originals of this poster at auction some years ago. This was before the days of digital cameras, which is why I, alas, don’t have my own record of it.

The poster was issued by the Brighton and Hove Women’s Franchise Society c 1908. This society had been founded – or re-founded, because there had been an earlier suffrage society in the town in the late 19th century – in 1906.  The Brighton and Hove Women’s Franchise Soceity was a local committee of the non-militant London Society for Women’s Suffrage – that is, a member of Mrs Fawcett’s National Society for Women’s Suffrage.

The artist of the poster is not recorded – but there were no shortage of women artists living in and around Brighton. It was printed by Weiners Ltd of Acton, who also printed posters for the Artists’ Suffrage League.

The message that the poster conveys – that middle-class women were campaigning alongside and on behalf of their poorer sisters – is a theme developed in the film, ‘Suffragette’.

For more about suffrage in Brighton see my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a regional survey (Routledge, 2006)

Suffragette Film Poster 2

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Suffrage Stories/Collecting Suffrage: Countdown To 12 October And Release Of The Film ‘Suffragette’: Annie’s Bracelet

To celebrate the release on 12 October of the film ‘Suffragette’  (for which I was an historical consultant) I will post each day an image of a suffrage item that has passed through my hands.

For my current catalogue – No 189 – which contains a good deal of suffrage material – as well as general books and ephemera by and about women – see here.

Today’s image:

Christabel bracelet

A 9 ct gold bracelet, very pretty, the outer engraved on one side with decorative scrolls. But it is what is engraved inside that is the secret of the bracelet’s significance..

On one arc of the circle:

‘To dearest Annie with all my love & in recollection of our great day out’

Christabel bracelet 1

and, on the other,

Christabel bracelet 2

‘Christabel Pankhurst, Hyde Park June 21st 1908’.

Annie Kenney was Christabel’s most faithful follower, her love and admiration for Christabel – and Christabel’s acceptance and acknowledgment of this loyalty – made clear in letters and in Annie’s autobiography. But this bangle is, as far as I know, the only object that testifies to the peculiar bond between the two young women.
Annie, who had worked in a mill from the age of 10, had first come under Christabel’s spell in the spring of 1905 and a few months later, in October, spent a week in prison with her after they had heckled a Liberal meeting in Manchester. This imprisonment marks the beginning of the WSPU’s militant campaign.

Annie’s life was changed for ever. As she wrote, ‘My pleasure came from seeing Christabel’s face light up with a light that later in life I discovered meant victory. Her confidence in me gave me confidence in myself.’ And when they were together in prison – ‘I remember going to Church and sitting next to Christabel who looked very coy and pretty in her prison cap. She took my hand tenderly and just held it, as though I were a lost child.’

Nevertheless that ‘lost child’, backed by Christabel’s confidence, became one of the WSPU’s leading organisers. Indeed, after Christabel left for Paris, Annie acted as her deputy, putting into effect the absent leader’s commands.

But before that, for the ‘great day out’, ‘Women’s Sunday’, the first great WSPU rally, held in Hyde Park on 21 June 1908, Annie bought a hat from Liberty’s (£1/2/6) and led the procession that started at Paddington – being at the time WSPU organiser in the West of England. Once in the Park she was the principal speaker on Platform 3.

Christabel’s gift of the bracelet recognises the significance of the ‘great day out’, marking the WSPU’s entry into a world of polished performance and Annie as one of its stars.

As Annie wrote many years later in her memoir, ‘There is a cord between Christabel and me that nothing can break – the cord of love. Distance or absence makes no difference.’ Here is a tangible – and unique -emblem of that affection.

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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Suffrage Stories/Collecting Suffrage: Countdown To 12 October And Release Of The Film ‘Suffragette’: Mrs Albert Broom And The WFL

To celebrate the release on 12 October of the film ‘Suffragette’  (for which I was an historical consultant) I will post each day an image of a suffrage item that has passed through my hands.

For my current catalogue – No 189 – which contains a good deal of suffrage material – as well as general books and ephemera by and about women – see here.

Today’s image:

Coronation Procession - WFL

A ‘close-up’ photograph by Mrs Albert Broom of women from the Women’s Freedom League section of the suffragette ‘Coronation Procession’ held on 17 June 1911. The image is very crisp and clear. Many of the women are wearing academic robes – one is carrying a satchel from which to sell WFL badges and postcards of the WFL leader, Mrs Despard. I think that the figures in the lead (to the left of the picture) are carrying a banner, doubtless that of the WFL, and other smaller banners are also there in the picture.

Suffragette Film Poster 2

For details of the exhibition ‘Soldiers and Suffragettes’ featuring the photography of Mrs Albert Broom 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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Suffrage Stories/Walks: Anne Cobden Sanderson And 15 Upper Mall, Hammersmith

One day last week, while thunder raged outside, I spent some time researching an archive at the William Morris Society premises in Upper Mall, Hammersmith. Just before I left I remembered that close by was the home of Thomas and Anne Cobden Sanderson – the former a renowned Arts and Crafts bookbinder and the latter a campaigner for women’s suffrage, constitutional in the 19th and militant in the 20th century.

Dove PressThe rain had stopped by the time I emerged from the William Morris basement, but the sky was lowering and the Thames was high and rushing fast the other side of the embankment wall as I walked towards the alley onto which the Cobden Sandersons’ house fronts. Passing the Dove – the pub which gave its name to the Doves Bindery and later the Doves Press – I came to 15 Upper Mall and the gate through which so many radical worthies have passed.

Dove Press 2

 

Anne Cobden Sanderson was born in 1853 into a leading Liberal family – her father was Richard Cobden, founder of the Anti-Corn Law League – but by the end of the 19th century she had joined the Independent Labour party.

She supported the women’s suffrage cause from an early age but, in 1906, after Annie Kenney and the Women’s Social and Political Union had arrived in London, she joined the militants. She received her first term of imprisonment – two months – in October 1906 after organising a protest meeting in the Lobby of the House of Commons. At her trial she declaimed that ‘I am a law breaker because I want to be a law maker’.

However in 1907, perhaps dismayed by Pankhurst autocracy, Anne joined Charlotte Despard in the breakaway Women’s Freedom League. In January 1909 she and her husband did, however, present Emmeline Pankhurst  with an address written on white vellum in purple and green ink and bound by the Doves Bindery to celebrate her release from prison.

Anne Cobden Sanderson proved to be one of the WFL’s most tireless campaigners, speaking at outdoor meetings and continuing to take part in militant protests.

Mrs Cobden Sanderson and Mrs Despard

She was arrested in August 1909 while picketing the door of No 10 Downing Street in order to present a petition to Asquith. During the ‘Black Friday’ demonstration in Parliament Square in November 1910 Winston Churchill, who knew Anne Cobden Sanderson well, encountering her during the fracas called a policeman and ordered, ‘Drive that woman away’!’. The structure of society must indeed have seemed perilously close to crumbling when such an action was deemed necessary against a friend of one’s family and erstwhile hostess.

Anne Cobden Sanderson continued to campaign for women’s causes for the rest of her life – and in the 1918 General Election supported Charlotte Despard when she stood as the Labour candidate for North Battersea. In 1926 she was present, a few days before she died, at a dinner given to celebrate the silver wedding anniversary of Frederick and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence.

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Suffrage Stories: Helen Watts And The Mystery Of The Unclaimed Trunk

In May I attended a very interesting seminar – ‘”I am a part of all who I have met”: Why Social Networks Mattered for Suffragette Militancy‘ – given at the Institute of Historical Research by Dr Gemma Edwards of Manchester University. In the course of this Gemma demonstrated how social network theory could be used to re-construct the networks that formed around individual suffragettes and how these networks could then be analysed to demonstrate the subject’s primary relationships and the influences likely to have been exerted on and by them. For an illuminating article by Gemma on the subject see here.

For her paper at the IHR Gemma concentrated on two known suffragettes – Mary Blathwayt and Helen Watts – and related that she had a particular connection with the latter because it was thanks to her own father that papers relating to Helen Watts’ suffragette activities are now held in Nottinghamshire Archives. I little realised when I sat there reading through the Watts’ papers in the late 1990s that they had such a romantic past (or at least romantic to an historical detective).

For, Gemma explained, in the 1980s her father, a Bristol history teacher, had set project work for his class and that one pupil had chosen as her subject the local women’s suffrage movement. She had then been sufficiently enterprising as to place an advertisement in a local paper asking for any new information. Rather amazingly a reply was received from a worker at Avonmouth Docks to say that a quantity of suffrage-related papers were held in a trunk that lay, apparently unclaimed, in a warehouse. The papers related to the suffrage activity of Nottingham-based Helen Kirkpatrick Watts. Gemma’s father was permitted to borrow and photocopy them, subsequently depositing the copies in the Nottinghamshire Archives.

Helen Watts photographed by Col Blathwayt (photo courtesy of Bath In Time website)

Helen Watts photographed by Col Blathwayt (photo courtesy of Bath In Time website)

Knowing nothing of this rather bizarre provenance I duly wrote an entry on Helen Watts for The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide, recounting her suffragette life. I discovered, from an issue of Calling All Women, the newsletter published by the Suffragette Fellowship, that Helen had emigrated to Canada – to Vancouver – in 1965, the wording suggesting that this was a permanent move. I did like to anchor my subjects’ earthly existence with firm birth and death dates but in those pre-internet days I assumed that was as far as I could follow her – having no way then of discovering dates of death in Canada.

However, after Gemma’s seminar I pondered on the mystery of how the trunk could have lain apparently abandoned at Avonmouth. Even though she had flown to Canada and organised for her belonging to have followed her by sea Helen Watts would surely have been on tenterhooks to ensure their safe arrival. Thus it seemed doubtful that the trunk could have failed to leave Avonmouth in 1965.

In the days of my Reference Guide research all tracking of births, marriages and deaths had to be done by working through the hefty volumes held in the Family Record Office and its predecessors. Now, however, I can sit at my computer and at a click find dates in a second. So it was that, after Gemma’s talk, I entered details for Helen Watts and discovered that she had not died in Canada but in England – in Chilcompton, Somerset, aged 91 – on 18 August 1972 . Her permanent address at the time was 36 York Avenue, Hove. Her ’emigration’ had clearly not been permanent. However, one of her sisters, Ethelinda, a teacher, does seem to have taken up permanent residence in Canada, and in 1965 it was presumably Helen’s intention to live with her. Ethelinda Watts died in Vancouver three months after Helen – in November 1972.

Helen Watts' suffragette memorabilia (courtesy of Christie's website)

Helen Watts’ suffragette memorabilia (courtesy of Christie’s website)

My suggestion is, therefore, that the trunk had actually completed its return journey from Canada when it lay forgotten at Avonmouth. Possibly by then Helen Watts was too infirm to keep track of her possessions – however treasured. It is not known what has happened to the trunk and the originals of the papers – perhaps Helen Watts’ wider family (Nevile Watts has numerous descendants) were eventually made aware of them. What must have been her most valuable suffragette mementoes – her hunger-strike medal and Holloway brooch – did resurface – for they were sold at auction in London in 1999. However it is more than likely that Helen Watts carried such an iconic item with her on her journey home rather than consigning it to the trunk.

A little more investigation revealed something more of Helen Watts’ life after her brief and dramatic involvement with the Women’s Social and Political Union than was available when I wrote her Reference Guide biography. By 1911 she had left Nottingham and was living with her brother, Nevile, in Chilcompton in Somerset. He had rebelled in his own way against his family’s Anglican tradition (Helen and Nevile’s father was vicar of Lenton, on the outskirts of Nottingham), was now a classics teacher at Downside College, a renowned Roman Catholic school, and later converted to Roman Catholicism.  You can read a short autobiographical article by Nevile Watts here.

Nevile Watts married, fathered five sons, published several books and continued to live in Chilcompton. Helen probably remained in the area for some years – possibly joined by her other sister, Alice. Certainly in the 1950s the ‘Misses Watts’ are listed in the phone book as living at Crosslands, Wells Road, Chilcompton.

The moral of this tale is that papers related to the suffrage movement can turn up in the most unexpected places. If you come across any do let me know…

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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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