Posts Tagged suffragette

Lockdown Research: Stella Spencer, Suffragette: From Holloway To Montevideo

Tombstone of Stella Lavinia Spencer in the British Cemetery, Montevideo, Uruguay
(photo courtesy David Rennie)

The epitaph reads:

In Loving Memory of my dear wife STELLA LAVINIA SPENCER born in England March 9th 1884 died April 14th 1930 age 46. Her nobility of soul was shown as an an ideal wife and in her endeavours for the welfare of others. A pioneer and tireless worker for the social and political emancipation of women. Poetess and artist whose devotion to the good and the beautiful was the constant striving of her life. Even in adversity.

I recently had an enquiry, emanating from Uruguay, as to whether I knew of Stella Lavinia Spencer, who had died in Montevideo in 1930, was buried in the city’s British Cemetery, and had, perhaps, been a suffragette. Well, the short answer was ‘No’ – the name rang no bells – but a quick search showed that a Stella Lavinia Spencer was indeed listed in the Roll of Honour compiled by the Suffragette Fellowship. So the hare was ready to be chased.

Identifying her as a possible suffragette was the easy bit. The attempt to untangle the identity of Stella Lavinia Spencer has been a good deal more complicated. No-one of that name appears in the list of ‘Suffragettes Arrested’ compiled by the Home Office, nor does she appear on any census. It is obvious from the wording on the tombstone that ‘Spencer’ was her married name and the Probate Register revealed that her husband’s name was ‘Alberto John Spencer’. So the hunt was on to establish her maiden name.

One would have thought that, with the relatively unusual forenames of ‘Stella Lavinia’ and a firm birth date of 1884, this wouldn’t be difficult. But, in fact, no-one of those names appears to have been born in England (or anywhere else) in 1884. Was she perhaps a child registered before her parents had selected her name? It’s possible. Or could she have refashioned herself, selecting names more appealing than those with which she had been furnished by her parents? Again, a possibility. There’s probably a quite straightforward reason for her absence from the various registers, civil or ecclesiastical, but, if so, I haven’t found it.

However, thanks to a general Google search for ‘Stella Lavinia Spencer’ I encountered an article (‘You Are Not a White Woman’) by James Heartfield (The Journal of Pacific History, vol 38, no 1, 2003) which sketched something of my quarry’s biography – as well as telling a rather riveting story. The article concerns the trial in Fiji in 1915 of Stella Spencer, which makes clear that she was by now married. But it turns out that ‘Spencer’ was not her husband’s family name; ‘Alberto John Spencer’ was originally ‘Alberto John Sangorski’. This was a surname I knew very well, as Sangorski and Sutcliffe was the leading firm of ‘art’ bookbinders in England at the beginning of the 20th century. Research quickly revealed that Stella’s husband, Alberto Spencer, was the son of Alberto Sangorski, renowned as the firm’s illuminator and calligrapher.

Anyway, armed with this new knowledge, I was now able to search for the marriage of Alberto Sangorski and, sure enough, found that he had married in Kensington in the summer of 1910. But even now matters were complicated by a quirk in the listing on the register that didn’t make clear the name of his bride. I won’t bore you with the ramifications of my further searches but only say that I finally decided that a likely candidate was a ‘Stella L. Mahny’. Needless to say I could find no other record of a woman with that rather unlikely surname, but with this faint lead I returned to the ‘Suffragettes Arrested’ register and discovered that a ‘Stella O’Mahoney’ had been tried in Westminster on 1 July 1908. Without the tedious unravelling of the link to the Spencer surname I could not have been certain that I had the right ‘Stella’. But I am sure now that I have.

And what was it that she had done to merit arrest? Votes for Women (9 July 1908) reported that, on 30 June 1908, Miss Stella O’Mahoney had taken part in a demonstration organised by the Women’s Social and Political Union in the vicinity of the House of Commons and that, with 26 other WSPU members, had been arrested. She was ordered to give a surety of £20 not to take part in any other militant activity, but refused, and was instead sentenced to a month’s imprisonment in Holloway. At the trial she gave her address as that of the WSPU office, 4 Clement’s Inn, so, once again, I could get no closer to her.

There is no other record I can find of Stella O’Mahoney’s involvement with the WSPU but I would presume that she had been a member both before and after this incident. However, a couple of years later, soon after her marriage, she and Alberto set off for Australia, landing in Sydney on 17 November 1910.

The Heartfield article mentions that Stella Spencer had worked as a journalist, but I have been unable to find any articles written by her. The tombstone describes her as a poet and an artist, but, yet again, I can find no trace of her work in any medium.

So, Stella Spencer would remain something of an enigma were it not for the reasons behind her trial in Fiji in March 1915 that James Heartfield reveals in his article. She had arrived with her husband from Melbourne about seven months earlier because he had been employed in a new venture, the Fiji Produce Agency. This organisation had been set up as a means for Fijians to market their own produce, in competition with European traders. The background rivalry, both economic and political, was complicated, but the upshot was that Stella Spencer stood trial, accused of slapping a Fijian in the face. He was a henchman of the European faction and had accused her of being ‘a bad woman’, the implication being that she was sexually involved with a Fijian. The ensuing trial – of a white woman accused of assaulting a Fijian – was remarkable, motivated not from a desire to protect Fijians, but to punish those Europeans who failed to observe the policy of separation from the indigenous population.

Stella Spencer was found guilty but apparently, Heartfield reports, did not have sufficient funds to pay the fine levied and was, therefore, imprisoned. I have no evidence whatsoever for querying this, but did just wonder if, as in 1908, it was rather that she had refused to pay a fine. It seems very surprising that no funds could be mustered if she had been minded to pay. Stella then went on hunger strike, perhaps in emulation of the suffragette stratagem, adopted subsequent to her 1908 imprisonment. However, she abandoned the hunger strike after four days and wrote to the governor asking for passage to Melbourne for herself and her husband. This was granted at the end of April 1915. I don’t know when and why she and Alberto eventually made their home in Montevideo but he remained there for the rest of his life, dying in 1954, twenty years after Stella, and is buried in the same cemetery.

It is not difficult to detect a parallel between Stella Spencer’s interest in the emancipation of women and that of improving the lot of the native population of Fiji. Whatever her background, she was clearly imbued with a spirit of rebellion

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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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Collecting Suffrage: Gladice Keevil Photographed by Lena Connell

 

Portrait photograph of Miss Gladice Keevil, The ‘National Women’s Social and Political Union, 4 Clement’s Inn, WC’.

The photographer was Lena Connell, who, in an interview in the Women’s Freedom League paper, The Vote, dated her involvement with the suffrage movement to this commission. When she arrived at Lena Connell’s St John’s Wood studio in 1908 Gladice Keevil had not long been released from prison and was soon appointed National Organizer for the WSPU in the Midlands.

She was a speaker in the WSPU’s summer campaign in Ireland in 1910 and was described by a member of one of her open-air meetings in Belfast as ‘Clever speaker and knows her subject’. She was also one of the WSPU’s prettiest activists.

Postcard in fine condition – unposted £120 + VAT in UK and EU. Email me if interested in buying. elizabeth.crawford2017@outlook.com

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Collecting Suffrage: Questions To Lloyd George Asked By The Women’s Social And Political Union

A leaflet on which the WSPU set out eleven questions concerning Lloyd George’s behaviour in introducing a Government measure for Manhood Suffrage in 1913.

Among the many other pertinent questions: ‘Why do you expect us to accept your personal and unofficial advocacy of Woman Suffrage as a substitute for united and official action on the part of the Government as a whole?

Two-sided leaflet, printed in purple. In good condition – some creasing.  £100

If interested in buying – email me – elizabeth.crawford2017@outlook.com

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Collecting Suffrage: ‘Votes For Women’ Hooks And Eyes

VfW Hooks and Eyes

 

In over 30 years spent hunting for and selling objects related to the women’s suffrage campaign, this little box is the only example I have ever found of ‘Votes for Women’ Hooks and Eyes. Although I had it photographed in black and white back in the 1990s, the box in reality is tricked out in the WSPU colours of purple, white and green.

The manufacturer registering ‘Votes for Women’ as its trademark was not the only maker of hooks and eyes to discern a market for its goods among the supporters of the suffrage cause. Votes for Women  (eg issue for 23 April 1909, p 26) carried advertisements for ‘Smart’s invisible hooks and eyes ‘ which were the’ patented  invention and property of two members and supporters of the Women’s Social and Political Union.’

These items might well have been found amongst the stock of the suffrage shops opened by the various suffrage societies.

As well as being  campaigners, the majority of suffragettes and suffragists were, of necessity, also needlewomen. So here was an opportunity to back the Cause while sewing fastenings onto their skirt plackets or bodices.

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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: The British Museum’s Hunger-Strike Medal And The 1911 Census Boycott

Rather belatedly you might think, I’ve just realised that the British Museum holds a hunger-strike medal.  It, together with a Holloway brooch (which rather oddly is the main image used to illustrate the item online), was awarded to ‘Joan Cather’. Her’s was not a name I recognised from previous suffrage research, so I immediately set about finding out something about her.

The first trace I came across for a woman of that name were a few entries on the London Electoral Register in the 1920s and ’30s. Thus, I discovered that a Joan Cather had been living in London, at 23 Upper Montagu Street, sharing the house with John Leonard Cather. Rather oddly, apart from her death in 1967, this Joan Cather hadn’t left any other trace.

So I turned to John Leonard Cather – looking first at his entry on the 1911 census. And, lo and behold, on his census form he had written ‘Conscientious scruples prevent me from rendering a return of the female occupants of this house for the purpose of assisting statistical tables which will be used as the basis for further vexatious legislation affecting women, & in which they have no voice. Should the Conciliation Committee bill be passed into law this session the additional details will be forthcoming.’

A note has been added ‘Two Females inserted in Summary Books by the Registrar being the probable number.’ One of these would doubtless have been his wife, Joan, and the other a female servant.

Clearly I had the right Cathers.

At this time they were living at ‘Red Cottage, Cavendish Road, Redhill’ and John Cather gave his occupation as ‘Motor Body Builder. Lieut Royal Navy (Retired)’. He had married Joan Waller (1882-1967) in 1908 and was clearly fully supportive of her involvement in the suffrage cause. Indeed, when the militant ‘Men’s Society for Women’s Rights’  was formed in 1912,’ Lieutenant Cather’, as he clearly liked to be known, was its honorary secretary. Ge was also by 1914 (and probably earlier) chairman of the Finance Committee of the Church League for Women’s Suffrage.

Joan Cather’s Hunger-strike Medal gives the date of the imprisonment that related to her hunger-strike as 4 March 1912 – which would indicate that she had taken part in that month’s WSPU window-smashing campaign. However, despite trawling through the relevant issues of Votes for Women, I haven’t yet managed to find a report of the damage she caused to merit this custodial sentence. Nor does her name appear on the Roll of Honour compiled by Suffragette Fellowship c 1960. It is possible that she was using an alias when she was sentenced. It would seem that the British Museum acquired the medal and brooch in 1975, seven years after the death of Joan Cather, but I’m not sure if it was given to the Museum by a family member or whether it was purchased. Perhaps I shall find out!

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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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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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Suffrage Stories: Mrs Frood, Topsham’s Suffragette/ist

Some time ago, when researching a talk,  ‘No Vote No Census’, that I gave in October 2011 conference on the 1911 census organised by the National Archives, I came across the boycotting census form of Mrs Frood of Topsham. Since then I have passed on this discovery to a researcher associated with Topsham Museum who has been able to link Mrs Frood directly to the 1913 Suffrage Pilgrimage, the 100th anniversary of which is being celebrated in Topsham today, 4 July 2013.

The 3 March 1911 edition of Votes for Women contains a letter from Mrs M.C. I. Frood of Station Road, Topsham,  in which she described how, early in the morning of the polling day for the last election (which must have been Dec 1910/Jan 1911),  she went out with a pot of ‘good, white oil paint’ [I like the fact that it was ‘good] and ‘printed on the inner edge of the pavement along which voters would pass on the way to the polling station ‘Taxation Without Representation is Tyranny’ and ‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves. I also printed it along the brick wall of my field, which they also had to pass coming and going to and from the train. ..On the large doors of my field, near the same spot, I printed ‘No Votes No Taxes’. I find my field gate a useful place to stick cartoons and cuttings from Votes for Women.’

A month later Mrs Frood was one of those suffragettes who boycotted the 1911 census. Together with one of her daughters, her servant, Beatrice Hutchings and six unknown females, to whom she had clearly given boycotting shelter, she refused to fill in any details on her census form, writing across it ‘If I am intelligent enough to fill up this paper, I am intelligent enough to put a cross on a voting paper. No Vote No Census.’

The census enumerator, Mr.H. J. Baker, reported this act of civil disobedience to the Census Office and received a reply from its Secretary, Archer Bellingham, instructing him to fill out the form with the best information he could muster. Mr Baker then annotated the letter, quoting Mrs Frood as saying to him that she had had  a ‘house full’ of boycotters on census night – and ‘that I am therefore adding to Numbers 6’.  With this number revealed as an arbitrary choice of the enumerator, we can only speculate as to how many Topsham women spent the night at Little Broadway House in Station Road.

Although in 1911 it would appear that Mrs Frood, as a correspondent to Votes for Women, was a supporter of the WSPU, by 1913 she is listed in The Suffrage Annual and Women’s Who’s Who as secretary of the Topsham branch of the NUWSS. Perhaps she was one of those who were dismayed by the WSPU’s increasingly militant tactics. It was one thing to paint slogans (with ‘good’ paint’) on pavements and walls, but quite another to break windows and commit arson. So it was as a leading local NUWSS member that Mrs Frood took part in the Suffrage Pilgrimage in early July 1913.

Who was Mrs Frood?

Mrs Mary Catherine Isabella Frood (nee Campbell, c. 1856-1931) had been born of Scottish parentage in Canada and was living in New Zealand when, in 1878, she married James Nicholson Frood (d. 1913), an Irish-born doctor. She had five children, the first four, all daughters, born in New Zealand and the last, a son, born at sea c 1888 – presumably as the family was returning to England. One of her daughters, Hester, was successful as an artist. Although Mrs Frood actually died in London, her address was still in Topsham – 26 The Strand (Old Court House).

26 The Strand, Topsham. Photo courtesy of Derek Harper (geograph.co.uk)

26 The Strand, Topsham. Photo courtesy of Derek Harper (geograph.co.uk)

Where was Dr Frood in 1911?

Dr Frood was living with his family (whose name was misrendered as ‘Froud’) when the 1901 census was taken.  But where was he in 1911? The name on the cover of the census form had been written as ‘Dr Frood’, but this had been amended to ‘Mrs Frood’ and it is she who is shown as ‘Head of Household’. I can find no trace of James Frood elsewhere in the 1911 census, although he did not die until 1913, his death registered in the local area. Interestingly under the terms of his will probate was granted to the Public Trustee rather than to his wife or any other member of the family.

Where was Little Broadway House?

Thanks to Street View I can see Station Road and the pavement along which Mrs Frood painted her slogans. Thanks to Paul Tucker (see Comment below) who tells me that Little Broadway House is still there – the house with the overhanging upper window that I can see in Street View – although now divided into two.  Presumably the ground to its side was Mrs Frood’s field. So let’s take a moment to visualise  its gates – decorated with Votes for Women cartoon – a reminder to those walking past on their way to the station that one Topsham woman was prepared to do her bit to win  ‘votes for women’.

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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison or Harold Hewitt?

Emily Davison at the Derby 4 June 1913 or Harold Hewitt at Ascot 20 June 1913

Emily Davison at the Derby 4 June 1913 or Harold Hewitt at Ascot 20 June 1913

For many years, since I acquired this photograph, I had thought it showed Emily Davison lying on the Derby racetrack on 4 June 1913, tended by policemen.

However, it has just been suggested to me that it in fact shows Harold Hewitt who, at Ascot just over two weeks later ran in front of the racing horses, with a ‘suffragist’ flag in one hand and a fully-loaded revolver in the other,  in what was deemed a ‘copycat’ action. For details of the event and Hewitt’s action see Lesley Gray’s blog.

Although I have no firm evidence one way or the other, I am minded to believe that the photograph is of Hewitt. There is little to go on but the narrow belt and slanting side pocket do indicate trousers rather than a skirt. Hewitt was, apparently, wearing a loose Norfolk-type jacket which may well be the one in the picture. The filmed images of Emily Davison with which we are now so well acquainted do indicate a rather fuller skirt – with petticoats.

In addition to the information given in Lesley’s blog, I can tell you that Harold Charles Hewitt, who had a Cambridge degree, came from a family with a large estate at Hope End in Herefordshire had lived for lengthy periods of time in Canada and Switzerland and in 1913  was, apparently, planning to go and farm in Africa.

The night before Ascot he had stayed at a hotel in Hart Street, Bloomsbury (perhaps the Kingsley Hotel, right next to St George’s where Emily Davison’s memorial service had been held on 14 June). He had, according to the report in The Times, been present at Emily Davison’s ‘funeral’ -although whether in the church or taking part in the procession is not made clear. The newspaper reports concentrate on his interest in anti-vivisection and apparent hatred of horse races rather than on any particular suffrage sympathies. Tenants at Hope End who knew Hewitt reported that ‘he had always been eccentric on religious matters’.

Harold Hewitt died in 1961 aged c 86, a comparatively wealthy man, the head injury he sustained at Ascot in 1911 having done little to shorten his long life.

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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison And That Return Ticket

Emily Wilding Davison

Emily Wilding Davison, wearing a WSPU’ Boadicea’,  brooch, her ‘Holloway’ brooch and her hunger-strike medal. The latter was buried with her.

Ever since 1988, when  the Women’s Library@LSE  (or, as it was then, the Fawcett Library) was given, by descendants of Rose Lamartine Yates, items that had belonged to Emily Wilding Davison, the fact that amongst these was her return ticket, issued on 4 June for travel between Victoria Station and Epsom Race Course, has been considered important in assessing whether or not she intended to act in such a way as to harm herself. Click here to view an image of the ticket,  an item in a digital exhibition launched to mark the 100th anniversary of Emily Davison’s death.

The argument was, in essence, that if Emily Davison had a return ticket she intended to return. However, no contemporary report, either at the inquest, in newspapers or in the memoirs of her friends, made such a deduction. The first occasion on which this theory was put forward, as far as I can discover, was  in a 1988 Guardian article celebrating the gift to the Fawcett Library.

Some while ago I decided that this lack of contemporary comment required further investigation and that in order to determine what message the ticket carried it was necessary to look more closely at the workings of pre-First World War rail routes between London and Epsom, in particular the arrangements that were in place on 4 June 1913.  Experience has taught me that a lack of awareness of just such quotidian details can often lead historians astray. Thus, before attempting to interpret Emily Davison’s motive on Derby Day, it is necessary to understand the detail that shaped her day.

I quickly realised that, as Derby Day has dwindled in importance – no longer the epitome of a wonderful day out for Londoners – so has an appreciation of the logistics that 100 years ago brought hundreds of  thousands of  Londoners, of all social classes, by carriage, car and, most importantly, by train to Epsom. For Derby Day in 1913 was still the Derby Day of William Powell Frith’s painting and of the wonderfully descriptive scenes depicted by George Moore in Esther Waters, almost a national holiday, racing augmented by funfairs and sideshows. For instance, on 4 June 1913  many London theatres cancelled their matinees, knowing that their audiences would be elsewhere.

First I researched the route that Emily Davison had taken. From newspaper advertisements placed by the train companies in the Manchester Guardian and the Times I saw that on Derby Day virtually all the usual train services were suspended and special trains ran to the three Epsom stations – Epsom Town, Epsom Downs and Tattenham Corner.

Plaque showing map of L B & S C Railway system at Victoria Station

Plaque showing map of L B & S C Railway system at Victoria Station

Each of these stations was linked to a different rail company. Emily Davison’s ticket was issued from Victoria Station. I discovered that the only company that ran trains from Victoria was the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, the rather circuitous route taken by the line ending at Epsom Downs station.

Each of the rail companies advertised the virtues of its Epsom station – so, while the Charing Cross/London Bridge line trumpeted Tattenham Corner as the only station on the race course (and, indeed, at this time trains only travelled to that station on race days), the L B & S C Railway claimed Epsom Downs as the station nearest the Grandstand – and described it as the ‘Racecourse Station’. The return ticket gives the route for return as ‘Epsom Race Course to Victoria’.

On Derby Day 1913 all the companies put on special excursion trains. The L B & S C ran ‘cheap trains’ from Victoria up until 9.38 am and after that – between 10.15 am and 1.38 pm – put on 17 ‘fast trains’. The cost of Emily Davison’s ticket – 8s 6d  ‘with no particular class of carriage guaranteed’ – does not seem cheap. In 1913 the WSPU paid its organizers £2 10s a week – and Emily did not even have the luxury of such employment; the 2013 equivalent of the ticket price is over £40.The advertisements do not give much detail about prices.  No ‘8/6 ticket’ is mentioned, but the ‘ Pullman Limited’ Non-Stop train that left Victoria at 12.15 cost 12/6 (return) and another Derby Day ‘Special Through Train’ from Willesden cost 6/6 so I would conclude that Emily Davison caught one of the ‘fast trains’ from Victoria to Epsom Downs.

Epsom Downs station on Derby Day, 1907 (image courtesy of Nick Catford's 'Disused Stations' website)

Epsom Downs station, packed with trains, on Derby Day, 1907 (image courtesy of Nick Catford’s ‘Disused Stations’ website)

The advertised arrangements for Derby Day stress, as I have mentioned, that certain ordinary services to Epsom were suspended and others were altered. A reading of the advertisement would strongly suggest that it was not possible, on Derby Day, to buy any ticket from Victoria to Epsom Downs other than one that included a return element. The L B & S C Railway concentrated on running only ‘excursion’ trains on Derby Day, intent on transporting the hordes looking forward to this highlight in the holiday calendar, and that these tickets were, of necessity, ‘return’.

My feeling is that the explanation for no contemporary comment being made of the fact that Emily Davison had bought a return ticket – quite an expensive ticket – was that her contemporaries would have recognised that Derby Day excursion tickets were by their very nature ‘return’. On that day railway companies operating between London and Epsom  had a captive market and made the most of it.

Moreover, even if  Emily Davison had not expected to be injured at Epsom, she could hardly have been certain of returning to London that day. If, when she bought her ticket, she was then intending to step onto the race course and cause disruption to the Derby she would surely have known that, at the very least, she would to be arrested. I would suggest that the fact that she had notepaper, envelopes and stamps in her pockets (she does not appear to have been carrying any kind of bag) might indicate that she had thought it would be likely that she would need to write a letter or two that day, possibly from a police cell.

I would suggest that it does not seem likely that, impoverished as she was, Emily Davison, with the expectation of, at the least, detention, would have spent so much on a return ticket if she had not been compelled to do so.

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Suffrage Stories: Radio 4 ‘Document’: Votes For Victorian Women

On Monday, 18 March 2013 Radio 4 broadcast, in the series ‘Document, an interesting programme to which I made a small contribution. Below is the description of the programme that appears on the BBC website.  The programme is available  on iPlayer for a year – that is until March 2014 – click here to listen.

‘Votes for Victorian Women

Duration: 
28 minutes
First broadcast:

 Monday 18 March 2013

Popular history tells us that women did not get the vote until 1918.

Though they could technically vote in local elections before that, many historians have argued that in practice they had no vote until the 1860s at the earliest. And evidence that they ever did vote has proved almost impossible to find.

But now a poll book, discovered in a box of papers in a local record office, clearly shows 25 women voting in elections for important local posts in Lichfield in 1843.

In this week’s Document, the historian Sarah Richardson follows the trail of these women, to reveal a picture of Victorian women’s involvement in politics which challenges many of our assumptions.

She discovers that they represented a surprising cross-section of society – old and young, poor and prosperous – and attempts to trace their descendants today.

She finds out how, when even universal manhood suffrage was seen as a radical, dangerous idea, these women may have been just a few of many more who could vote at a local level.

Coronation Procession 1911: The Historical Pageant

Coronation Procession 1911: The Historical Pageant

And she explores how, decades later, campaigners for Votes for Women at the Westminster level had to contend with this complex legacy.’

[Left – the photograph that Sarah and I are looking at when discussing the way in which 20th-century suffrage campaigners were keen to legitimise their claim to the franchise by looking to the power, occasionally electoral, exercised by women in the past.]

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Suffrage Stories: Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary, The Royal Albert Hall, And The Importance of Gas

photo 4The Royal Albert Hall was the scene of many grand suffrage occasions – organised by both the constitutional and the militant suffrage societies. The management of the Hall has recognised this by supporting its archivists in mounting a small display relating to its suffrage past. The display may be viewed by anyone with a ticket to an event in the hall.

Researchers use the primary sources available and Suzanne Keyte, Project Archivist at the Royal Albert Hall, has mined what is known as the Hall’s  ‘Gas Book’ to recreate a list of occasions on which the Hall was rented for suffrage-related meetings. The ‘Gas Book’ records the amount of cubic feet used each time the Hall was let for a concert or a political or a religious meeting and, with certain provisos, can be used as an  indication of the size of the audience.

Kate Frye witnessed several grand suffrage occasions in the Hall. Here she describes an evening stewarding for the London Society for Women’s Suffrage at a Mass Meeting of suffrage societies in support of the Conciliation Bill

Albert HallSaturday November 12th 1910

I sat and sewed a red, green and white scarf for the evening. We had tea at 4.15 and I had a rush to dress and take Mickie [her dog] out and get off by soon after 5 o’clock. I was due at the Albert Hall at 5.30. Was given a job to do till 6.30 – or rather before – when we all went to our posts. Mine was Balcony – selling of programmes and ‘Common Causes’ [the NUWSS newspaper]  & helping with the collections. The hall looked lovely – the banners were so beautifully arranged – but it wasn’t so full as I should have liked. The W.S.P.U. had a crowded meeting on Thursday and collected £8,000. Wonderful people one simply cannot hear from the Balcony. Mrs Swanwick was the only one I could really hear – her elocution is marvellous. It was so interesting seeing all the Societies – but [ie except for] the W.S.P.U. there – such lots of colours & badges – and I got very chatsome to some of my companions upstairs from the different societies.Albert Hall 1

When the meeting was nearly over I went down to the hall & tried to sell ‘Common Cause’. Old Major General Sir Alfred Turner, who was sporting around with Adeline Bourne, bought one of me with a beam and a handful of coin – he is a joke. It had come on to pour with rain and the Wrights insisted on bringing me as far as their place in their Taxi which was kind. ‘

The Hall’s  ‘Gas Book’ shows that for this meeting the NUWSS consumed – and were charged for – 47,800 cubic feet of gas.  On this November night one imagines that it would have been necessary to have lit all the Hall’s lamps. In fact,  on 19 March 1908, when Kate Frye attended the first WSPU meeting to be held in the Albert Hall, that night’s gas consumption had been very similar- 46,800 cubic feet (click here to see Kate’s description of that meeting). From this idiosyncratic source we can deduce that the NUWSS did not lag behind the WSPU in ensuring that their evening meetings were brilliantly lit, even though, from Kate’s account, they were not necessarily able to muster as large an audience.

There was something to be said for staging meetings in the Albert Hall on summer evenings. For at the meeting held there that marked the finale to the NUWSS’s procession through London on 13 June 1908, gas consumption was only 16,000 cubic feet.  We know when the meeting started because Kate Frye carefully noted in her diary that, after marching from the Embankment in the rearguard position which the Kensington branch had been allotted, she reached the Albert Hall at 5.10, just as the meeting was about to begin.  Clearly less artificial illumination was required for a meeting held on an early evening in summer than for one in the winter, thereby reducing at least one element of the cost. (See here for the entry from Kate’s diary describing the procession).

Suzanne Keyte has identified c 30 suffrage meetings that were held at the Royal Albert Hall. By June 1913, however, after pressure had been exerted on hall owners throughout the country, the management of the Hall decided that they would refuse the WSPU any further lettings. What was in effect their last  meeting had taken place a couple of months earlier, on 10 April.

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: 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

NOW, ALAS, OUT OF PRINT.

KATE FRYE’S DIARIES AND ASSOCIATED PAPERS ARE NOW HELD BY ROYAL HOLLOWA COLLEGE ARCHIVE

'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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Suffrage Stories: Beware! A Warning to Suffragists by Cicely Hamilton (4)

Cicely Hamilton wrote the words – the sketches were supplied leading suffrage artists: Mary Lowndes, Dora Meeson Coates, C. Hedley Charlton – and the ‘Rhyme Book’ was published by the Artists’ Suffrage League, 1908.

I will reproduce this delicious work in a series of posts – a few pages at a time – for your amusement and edification.

Instalment 4:

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Suffrage Stories: Beware! A Warning to Suffragists by Cicely Hamilton

 Cicely Hamilton wrote the words – the sketches were supplied by

      leading suffrage artists: Mary Lowndes, Dora Meeson Coates and

       C. Hedley Charlton – and the ‘Rhyme Book’ was published by the           

       Artists’ Suffrage League, 1908.

I will reproduce this delicious work in a series of posts – a few pages at a time       – for your amusement and edification.

 

Instalment 1:

 

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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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Book of the Week: Margaret Sanger, Woman And The New Race – Kitty Marion’s copy – rich with suffrage and Sanger associations

Margaret Sanger, Woman And The New Race, published by Brentano’s (NY), 1921 (3rd printing) – Kitty Marion’s copy

Inscription on free front endpaper of this copy of Woman and the New Race

Margaret Sanger spearheaded the birth-control campaign in the US.  In this book, first published in 1920, she writes: ‘The most far-reaching social development of modern times is the revolt of woman against sex servitude. The most important force in the remaking of the world is a free motherhood’. The Introduction to the book is by Havelock Ellis, one of several leading thinkers with whom she had an affair.

In October 1914 Margaret Sanger fled from the US to England while on bail for violating US postal obscenity laws – the charge was that of sending through the post copies of her radical feminist journal, The Woman Rebel, which advocated the use of contraception.  She remained in England until October 1915. Coincidentally it was in October 1915 that Kitty Marion, a former, German-born,  militant suffragette, set sail for the US. Once in New York she worked for many years for Margaret Sanger, her role being that of street seller of Sanger’s Birth Control Review. 

 In England in 1913 Kitty Marion had been  sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for her part in the burning of the grandstand at the Hurst Park racecourse (as retaliation for the death of Emily Wilding Davison)- although, after going on hunger and thirst strike,  she was released under the Cat and Mouse Act. It would  appear that, on the run, she was  one of the WSPU’s most active arsonists, although she evaded detection for much of the destruction she committed.  In New York, on 14 October 1918, she was again given a prison sentence – this time for distributing Birth Control Review.

This particular copy of this book brings together these various histories. The free front endpaper bears the ink inscription, in Margaret Sanger’s handwriting –  ‘Margaret Sanger, New York, Oct 14-1921. 

Underneath this is written ‘zum Andenken! Kitty Marion’ [translated from German: In Memory!].  This inscription obviously commemorates the 3rd anniversary of Kitty Marion’s imprisonment – of which Margaret Sanger had at the time written ‘We glory in her deed’. I think the second part of the endpaper inscription may be Kitty Marion’s hand. For although the ink looks much the same as the Sanger message, I think the writing is different.

Yet another layer of suffrage association is revealed by the ownership signature, written faintly in pencil in the top right corner of  the same page. It is that of Maud Fussell, another former member of the WSPU – and, again, one who suffered imprisonment.

My reconstruction of the history of the book is that it was signed by Margaret Sanger for  Kitty Marion and was subsequently given by Kitty Marion to Maud Fussell. It was sold to me along with other books that had been in Maud Fussell’s possession.

The book is in good condition and is  a particularly interesting association copy.    Price £165 plus postage.

To buy: please contact me at e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk

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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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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 Eustace Miles Restaurant – and the Tea Cup Inn

The Gardenia Restaurant, subject of yesterday’s post, was by no means the only vegetarian restaurant favoured by suffragettes. Close by, at 40-42 Chandos Place, at the western end of Covent Garden, was the rather more famous – and successful – Eustace Miles Restaurant.

Eustace Miles was a Cambridge-educated health guru – a real tennis player – prolific author – and vegetarian. He opened the restaurant, with his wife, Hallie, – as a ‘Food Reform’ restaurant – in May 1906, a few months after their marriage. Among the restaurant’s  shareholders were his close friend, the writer E.F. Benson, the headmaster of Eton, Bernard Shaw and his wife, Dr Helen Wilson, a Sheffield-based doctor and suffragist, and Mrs Ennis Richmond, a suffragette who ran West Heath, a progressive school in Hampstead.

Ellen Terry’s daughter, Edith Craig, who lived nearby in Bedford Street, sold Votes for Women from a pitch outside the Eustace Miles. It was a sensible spot to choose; vegetariansm and suffragism went hand in hand for those whom H.G. Wells characterized – caricatured – in Ann Veronica  as ‘a small but energetic minority, the Children of Light’, for whom ‘ everything…was  “working up”.. “coming on” – ‘the Higher Thought, the Simple Life, Socialism, Humanitarianism’.

Opening just as the WSPU arrived in London, the Eustace Miles grew up alongside the suffragette movement. In March 1907 the WSPU chose it as the venue for a breakfast celebrating the release from Holloway of the prisoners who had been arrested when taking part in the deputation from the first Women’s Parliament. Similar breakfasts were also held there– including, a year later, one for women who had taken part in the pantechnicon raid on Parliament. (another suffragette episode hijacked by Wells for use in Ann Veronica – see my article, The Woman’s Bond of Freedom’: H.G. Wells, Ann Veronica and the suffragettes, published in the 2011 edition of The Wellsian, the journal of the H.G. Wells Society.)

Comic card – one of a series – poking gentle fun at the ‘Simple Life’ suffragettes

As with Alan’s Tea Rooms and the Gardenia, so the Eustace Miles had a space to rent – an offer taken up, on occasion, by those giving women-related talks. The Eustace Miles, however, went one better than the other two, offering their ‘Simple Life’ audiences ‘ozonized air’ to breathe as they listened to, for example in 1912, Miss Hoskyns-Abrahall lecture on ‘The Religion of the Great Mother’, to the accompaniment of a lantern show operated by Vera Holme. In January 1910 the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement held its inaugural meeting at the Eustace Miles – the owner surely being a member of the MPU –  and in October 1914 it was the venue for committee meetings of the  United Suffragists.

The Eustace Miles was by all accounts an attractive place in which to lunch or dine; Kate Frye – by no stretch of the imagination a vegetarian – often ate there – as readers of my Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary  will discover. The restaurant did very well during the First World War – when meatless cookery was more or less a necessity – staying in business for over 30 years.

Alas, Hallie Miles’ Untold Tales of Wartime London, the source of the words spoken by Alison Steadman in The Great War: The People’s Story, is out-of-print.  But for much more about the life and times of Kate Frye do read  Kate Parry Frye: the long life of an Edwardian actress and suffragette. In this I tell the whole story of Kate – and of John Collins, her soldier husband. For details see here. I hope you will find it a Good Read.

 

Teacup Inn

While not specifically a vegetarian café, the Teacup Inn, much frequented by suffragettes, made sure that its vegetarian credentials were mentioned in its advertisements in the WSPU paper, Votes for Women –  ‘Dainty luncheons and Afternoon teas at moderate charges. Home cookery. Vegeterian dishes and sandwiches. Entirely staffed and managed by women.’ The café was opened in January 1910 in Bank Buildings, Portugal Street, just off Kingsway, in a new building in area that was, as I have stressed in recent posts, still under development

The Tea Cup Inn occupied a ground-floor shop and basement in the building – then, as it name suggests – mainly given over to a bank – and now occupied by the Chaplaincy of LSE. In this photograph, taken c 1915, I am sure, after peering at it with a magnifying glass, that a sign ‘Tea Cup Inn’ is visible,  hanging just above the smart open-topped car.

The site today of the Tea Cup inn

When it opened its owners were Mrs Alice Mary Hansell (c 1859-1923) and Miss Marion Shallard. However Miss Shallard quickly disappears and the rate books from then on show Mrs Hansell as sole proprietor. She had been born in Yorkshire, was about 52, and long a childless widow when she opened the café. Her husband, a traveller for a coal factor, had died in 1897, leaving only £87. I do not know what Mrs Hansell was doing  in the intervening years – the 1901 shows her a visitor, with ‘no occupation, in a household in the Lake District..

Once the cafe was opened – certainly by April 1910- Mrs Hansell lost no time in advertising the Tea Cup Inn in Votes for Women – taking care to mention its proximity to the WSPU office in Clement’s Inn. In 1912 the WSPU  moved to Lincoln’s Inn House in Kingsway, making the Teacup Inn probably the nearest place of refreshment. I am pretty certain that Mrs Hansell was a member of the WSPU; in 1909 someone of that name advertised in Votes for Women a cottage to let in Henley, but I have not been able to find conclusive evidence. Unfortunately I cannot trace her on the 1911 census – perhaps this is an indication that she was taking part in the boycott, but it may just be that her name has been mistranscribed. After the 1912 Peth-Pank split, the Teacup Inn advertised at least once in the Pankhurst paper, The Suffragette – in June 1914 – stressing: ‘Kitchens open for inspection’.

Across Portugal Street, the Tea Cup Inn faced the London Opera House (now the site of the Peacock Theatre).  This theatre had opened in November 1911 and, again, handily situated for the WSPU office, was the scene of many suffrage meetings. One can imagine that the Tea Cup Inn may well have benefited from the thirsts engendered by a rousing rally.

Mrs Hansell continued running the Tea Cup Inn until her death in 1923. Her estate amounted to £2098 – which might suggest that, as her husband had left so little, she had made some money from her business. It would be good to think so.

More ‘Suffragettes and Tea Rooms’ posts to come….

Here is the link to Woman’s Hour (4 Sept) podcast that includes the item on ‘Suffragettes and Tea Rooms’ (starts c 27 mins).

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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.

Based on her  diary, I published Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s suffrage diary. This is now out of print. The complete collection of Kate’s diaries is now held by Royal Holloway College Archive.

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: The Suffragette 1911 Census Boycott: Where and What Was the Aldwych Skating Rink?

Roller skating was one of Edwardian Britain’s ‘crazes’ – to be enjoyed, as this comic card shows us, by all the family. One could, of course, as I did as a child in the 1950s, roller skate in the streets, but in the years before the First World War entrepreneurs hoping to cash in on the craze ventured to erect roller skating rinks in towns the length and breadth of Britain.

While I am sure that many individual suffragettes and suffragists enjoyed a spin around their local rink, there was one episode of suffragette history that centred on a specific London roller skating rink. For on census night 1911 – 2 April – it was at the Aldwych Skating Rink that the militant suffrage societies – the Women’s Social and Political Union and the Women’s Freedom League, together with related societies such as the Tax Resistance League – urged their supporters to muster. Here, out of their homes, they would escape detailed enumeration.

When interviewed in the 1970s by Sir Brian Harrison (Women’s Library  8 SUF/B/024)Marie Lawson, an important figure in the Women’s Freedom League, remembered that ‘We formed immediately a census resistance group – women who said ‘we don’t count; we won’t be counted’ – that they would stay out somehow – out of a house or roof during the period when you had to be recorded. Our group took the Aldwych skating rink for the night – we hired it. Nobody was supposed to be sleeping there. We had roller skates and we spent the night on roller skates and there was no-one to declare us and when we went away in the morning we were very weary, very tired with our roller skating but we felt we had done the government out of so many names on the census resistance. It wasn’t very useful really but it was something to do. We used to grab at every little thing, you know, that we could make a protest about. It was advertising really.’

So it was that, after a late-evening rally in Trafalgar Square,  the suffragettes promenaded down the Strand to the Aldwych where it was estimated by the Census Office that 500 women and 70 men gathered at the Skating Rink. Although the numbers were recorded, the identity of most of that 570 is lost – only those whose names are mentioned in the Votes for Women report (7 April 1911) can be placed there with certainty. These included Mrs Pankhurst, Ethel Smyth and, among members of the Actresses’ Franchise League who provided the entertainment,  Decima Moore and her sister, Ada, Adeline Bourne, Winifred Mayo, Inez Bensusan, Rosa Leo, Sidney Keith, Miss Laing and Natalia de Meix. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence was also there. She certainly did her bit to disrupt the census, being enumerated in three separate places- once in her Clement’s Inn flat, once in her Surrey country cottage and, again, here at the Aldwych. By way of contrast, no trace of a census paper for Christabel Pankhurst has been found – but she was there in the Skating Rink, bringing the entertainments to a rousing conclusion at 3.30 am.

Here is Decima Moore photographed that night inside the Skating Rink. I am pretty certain that she is captured doing her party piece -Laurence Housman’s  ‘Women This and Women That’. In the photograph we can see, behind the audience and the NWSPU ‘No Vote No Census’ banner, the walls of the skating rink – rather bare as one might expect. ‘What kind of structure was it?’, I wondered and, moreover, ‘where was it?’  ‘Aldwych’ was a rather vague address.

I discovered that the Aldwych Skating Rink was first listed in the rate books in 1911, provisionally numbered 10 Aldwych. The Kingsway/Aldwych area that to us today looks so solidly Edwardian was, in 1911, still in a state of flux.

Looking up Kingsway from the Aldwych, 1905

Kingsway had been driven through – it was formally opened in 1905 – and the curve of the Aldwych formed, but it was not until well into the 1920s that all the plots were  sold and developed. Thus, from the rate book, I could see that no 10 Aldwych was surrounded by vacant lots enclosed in advertising hoardings, the hoarding company paying a rent for their advertisements.

But I was still unclear as to precisely where no 10 was. However, the rate book came to the rescue, recording that on one side of no 10 the lot was owned by the London County Council and was ‘used for advertising station on frontage line from Houghton Street to roller skating rink. On its other side –provisionally numbered no 8 – was an advertising station north-east on the frontage line east of the roller skating rink. So this seemed to establish that the skating rink was on the north-east curve of Aldwych, to the east of Houghton Street. Clement’s Inn, the WSPU headquarters, virtually abutted the rear of the plot. What more suitable venue to book for such an evening than this, probably the nearest large hall?

The owner of the skating rink was Edward Johnson Wilson who had formed his company, ‘Rinkeries’, in 1909. In 1911 the company also ran ‘ideal skating palaces’ on the Holloway Road, as well as in Exeter, Plymouth and St Leonards.  Like many other roller-skating rink companies, whose liquidations, as recorded in the London Gazette, are a sad testament to so many lost hopes, ‘Rinkeries’ does not appear to have been very successful; Edward Wilson was doubtless glad of the windfall of a night’s rent from the WSPU.

But I still did not know what the skating rink looked like. It is difficult now to conjure up the appearance of that Aldwych curve before the arrival of the imperial solidity of the buildings we see today. From looking at contemporary photographs of Kingsway, dominated by empty plots and high advertising hoardings, I could imagine that the area must have felt strange and impermanent. The old higgledy-piggledy rookery streets around Holywell Street and Houghton Street – that many of the suffragettes would have remembered – had been swept away, but the new order had not yet arrived. In this aerial photograph, probably taken c 1918 after the completion of Australia House (in the centre foreground), the Aldwych Skating Rink would have been – and perhaps still was – one of the low buildings in the bottom right of the picture.

But in 1911 the southern side of the road had not been developed at all. With few buildings to throw out light, the area was doubtless rather dark. What kind of building was it that the suffragettes waited outside that night – surrounded by, in effect, a building site – while posses of hooligans attempted to storm the rink’s doors?

I have not been able to locate a photograph, but, as luck would have it, I found the answer in the ‘Rinkeries’ file in the National Archives – its presence there a consequence of the company’s eventual liquidation. There, as a heading to ‘Rinkeries’ notepaper, was an engraving of the Aldwych Skating Rink. I could now see that it comprised four linked, gabled structures –chalet-type – single storey. The effect, for all the panache of many flying union flags, was somewhat temporary – as it was no doubt in reality. What a contrast to its successors.

During the First World War the Aldwych Skating Rink was used as a clearing house for Belgian refugees. This  watercolour, in the Imperial War Museum collection, shows the building after it was hit in a Zeppelin raid on 13 October 1915.  The church in the background is St Clement Danes. The Rink must have been swept away by the end of the war, to make way for the monumental buildings that still occupy the central section of that Aldwych curve. It takes an effort to reimagine its former appearance – but to do so helps us to enter the 1911 worldview of the census evaders.

To listen to a talk I gave on the suffragette boycott at a National Archives conference on the 1911 census click here

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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Suffrage Stories/Collecting Suffrage: Mrs Pankhurst’s portrait

In a previous post on Suffragette Jewellery I commented on the danger of assuming that any piece of jewellery that a dealer described as ‘suffragette’ had, in fact, anything to do with the suffragette movement. However it is still possible to discover items the provenance of which cannot be doubted.

Below is one such.

PENDANT – MRS PANKHURST – ICONIC PAINTED PORTRAIT MINIATURE -presented to Mary Leigh, leader of the WSPU Drum and Fife Band, devoted friend of Emily Wilding Davison, and ardent suffragette.

        

         The image for this original painted miniature portrait of Mrs Pankhurst is derived from the photograph of her by the Kensington photographer, Martin Jacolette (see below). In it she is wearing a Holloway brooch, which dates the photograph to no earlier than April 1909.

The portrait miniature is very pleasingly painted and, although no artist’s signature is visible, I did wonder if it might not be by one of the Brackenbury sisters (Georgiana’s much later portrait of Mrs Pankhurst is in the National Portrait Gallery). The portrait is set in a metal pendant, on the back of which is inscribed ‘Presented to Mrs Marie Leigh Drum Major by the N.W.S.P.U. Drum and Fife Band in memory of her courageous fight for woman’s freedom December 1909’.

In the autumn of 1909 Mary Leigh had been forcibly fed while serving sentences in Winson Green and Strangeways prisons and in December an action for damages was brought on her behalf by the WSPU against the Home Secretary. The WSPU newspaper, Votes for Women, reported that, on 16 December 1909, ‘Ushered to the strains of “See the Conquering Hero Comes” , played by the WSPU Band, Mrs Leigh, the Drum Major received a royal welcome at St James’s Hall. Looking rather pale but as determined as ever, she delivered a stirring address.’ As Christabel Pankhurst, who was presiding, commented, ‘The Government did not know with whom they were dealing.’ The pendant was probably presented on this occasion.

The pendant, which has its original chain, has set around its edge three little stones – one white, one purple and one green. In this case the choice of stones clearly did have WSPU relevance. The pendant is in its original box – similar in material to that used for the hunger strike medals. Contemporary painted portraits of Mrs Pankhurst are exceedingly rare and with this particular provenance – unique. I have never seen another pendant like this, but wonder whether Mary Leigh was the only recipient of such an object. Might there be others waiting to be discovered?

Mary Leigh (right) and the WSPU Drum and Fife Band

 

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Collecting Suffrage: The Hunger Strike Medal

One of the most iconic items to add to a suffrage collection is a WSPU hunger-strike medal. 

These medals were first presented by the WSPU at a ceremony in early August 1909, given to women who had gone on hunger strike while serving a prison sentence handed down as punishment for an act of suffrage militancy.

The medals comprise a silver pin bar engraved ‘For Valour’, a hanging length of ribbon in the purple, white and green colours, and either a silver or a striped enamel bar, from which hangs a silver circle with the name of the presentee on one side and ‘Hunger striker’ on the other. If the ribbon terminates in a silver bar, this is engraved with a date denoting the day of the owner’s arrest. The enamelled purple, white and green bars are engraved on the reverse, for example sculptor Edith Downing’s medal that I once sold is engraved with ‘Fed by Force 1/3/12’. This was the date of her imprisonment that resulted in a hunger strike and forcible feeding.

The reverse side of the medal

Some medals, such as the one Emily Wilding Davison is wearing in my 6 August ‘Suffrage Stories’ post, carry more than one bar, indicating multiple hungerstrikes.

Each medal was presented in a purple box, with a green velvet lining. As can be seen in the photograph, a piece of white silk that originally went inside the lid was printed in gold with: ‘Presented to [name] by the Women’s Social and Political Union in recognition of a gallant action, whereby through endurance to the last extremity of hunger and hardship a great principle of political justice was vindicated’.

These medals were made by Toye, a well-known Clerkenwell firm, and cost the WSPU £1 each – the medals now sell for thousands of pounds. They were treasured by their recipients who , in their old age, still proudly wore them  on suffrage occasions; they are treasured today by collectors who recognise the bravery of the women to whom they were awarded.

Grace Roe (right) and Leonora Cohen (centre)wearing their hunger strike medals in 1974

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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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Collecting Suffrage: Punch cartoon

21 January 1912 – full page – ‘The Suffrage Split’. Sir George Askwith (the charismatic industrial conciliator), as ‘Fairy Peacemaker’, has tamed the dragon of the Cotton Strike – and Asquith, wrestling to keep a seat on the Cabinet horse turns to him ‘Now that you’ve charmed yon dragon I shall need ye to stop the strike inside this fractious gee-gee.’

In very good condition £10 plus £1 postage.

To buy contact: e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk

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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

NOW, ALAS, OUT OF PRINT

'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: ‘Madame Mantalini’

Since 2009, when details of the 1911 census were released, I have (with, for a time, Dr Jill Liddington) been investigating how the women of the country responded to the call issued by the more militant suffrage societies to boycott the census. In the process I have discovered women of a suffrage inclination of whom, until now, suffrage history has known nothing.

One of these was a ‘Miss S. Marsden’, whose census form was delivered to her at 69 Church Street, Kensington, and who refused the enumerator any details about herself. However, Miss Marsden did not leave the form blank, writing on it one of the longest statements that I have so far encountered.  Although the right edge of the census form is badly damaged, creating gaps in her comments, I think we can get the gist.

‘I, Mdme Mantalini, a municipal voter and tax payer, refuse to fill in this census paper, as I have no intention of furnishing this government with information and thereby helping them to legislate for women without obtaining their consent or first consulting them in the [missing words] effective way possible & extending the franchise to duly qualified women. As a responsible, law-abiding citizen I have conducted my business for sixteen years; as an employer of labour I have [contributed?] to the wealth of the state and in return I have been taxed for the upkeep of no 10 Downing Street. No 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the prime minister, but converted by his wife into a show-room for a French [dress maker?] (free of all duty and taxation) to exhibit his Paris models and take orders from them to be executed in Paris. I [missing words] with very few exceptions the dressmaking establishments in England are all owned by women, & only women & [missing words] workers. It therefore comes to this, that the only way open to us to protest at ‘our trade’ being ruined in [missing words] our taxes, is to drive home to the government by every method available that women are determined [missing words – perhaps ‘not to be governed’] without their consent.’

Would that not whet any researcher’s appetite? Who was Miss Marsden/Mdme Mantalini? What had Margot Asquith been up to?

In fact the second question was the easier to answer. An inspection of The Times archive revealed that in May 1909 Margot Asquith had been called to task by drapers’ associations from around the country for inviting the Parisian designer Paul Poiret to show dresses in 10 Downing Street.

Poiret then was the epitome of chic – designing dresses that relied on draping, rather than tailoring – so much easier to wear – and promoting hobble skirts, harem pants and kimono coats – designs such as these.

Poiret

In response to a letter of complaint from an MP,  Mrs Asquith explained,  ‘I received in my private rooms at tea from 20 to 25 of my personal friends and a well-known French costumier, whose models can be bought in any London shop, brought some specimens for the inspection of myself and my guests. It was a purely personal occasion.’ In fact, such was the rumpus, that henceforward Margot Asquith was obliged to patronize British costumiers, such as Lucile  although probably not, I fear, Madame Mantalini.

I thought at first that when Miss Marsden referred to herself on the census paper as ‘Mdme Mantalini’ it was merely as short-hand to describe her position as a dressmaker – that being the name of the dressmaking establishment at which, in Nicholas Nickleby, Kate Nickleby is apprenticed.  But, consulting my 1908 London street directory, I found that the shop at 69 Church Street (which is still there) was, indeed, that of ‘Mrs Sybil Mantalini’. It was then only a short step to establish that Mrs Mantalini was, in fact, Miss Sybil Marsden, who was on the London Electoral Register by dint of her occupation of those premises, and the question of’ ‘Who was Miss S. Marsden?’ was solved.

But now I was hooked. Who was Miss Sybil Marsden? Why was she such an outspoken dressmaker?

I discovered that she had 9 siblings and in 1911 was living at the family home, 82 RedcliffeGardens in South Kensington, with her mother and one unmarried sister. Her father, Algernon Moses Marsden, had been a fine art dealer but, by 1901, had been declared bankrupt several times. His background was most interesting; he had declined to enter the family’s successful clothing business, clearly preferring the more elevated association with ‘art’.

Algernon Moses Marsden by James Tissot

Algernon Moses Marsden by James Tissot

Marsden was by all accounts – mainly in the bankruptcy reports – an engaging fellow – as is evident in the portrait of him by James Tissot, painted in 1877, when Sybil was four-years-old. At that time Marsden was Tissot’s dealer, but gambling and high-living proved his downfall. It would appear that after his final bankruptcy in 1901 he removed himself to New York, where he died in 1920. I can now see that the choice of the name ‘Madame Mantalini’ may have been even more to the point than I first thought. In Nicholas Nickleby it is Mr Mantalini’s extravagance that resulted in the bankruptcy of his wife’s business – an awful warning to Sybil Marsden.  No wonder Algernon’s daughter had little faith in the ability of men to manage her affairs.

Epilogue

The cinéaste members of my family play the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game (whereby any named film actor has to be connected with fellow-actor KB by links covering no more than 6 films). I am hopeless at that – but think I might be a contender in Six Degrees of Garrett. This particular case is easy: Sybil Marsden, Algernon Marsden, James Tissot, J.M. Brydon, Agnes and Rhoda Garrett. As I discuss in Enterprising Women: the Garrets and their circle,  the two young women were undergoing their architectural training with Brydon in 1873, at a time when he was working on the design of a new studio for Tissot, attached to the artist’s St John’s Wood house. Did they go on a site visit? Had they perhaps even seen in the flesh, as it were, the tiger skin and the fashionable blue vase, that serve to emphasise Algenon Marsden’s exoticism and good taste.

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Suffragette postcards: suffragettes and policemen 3

Another in this week’s theme of ‘suffragettes and policemen’.

Two burly policeman are playing games with tiny (elegant, for a change) suffragette. Waving the tools of her trade – a hammer and flags, she is held aloft by one who looks as though he intends to lob her over to the other, who is waiting with outstretched arms. A ‘Votes for Women’ placard lies on the ground between them. Published by Inter-Art Co., Red Lion Sq, London WC. Good – slightly rubbed at edges – posted in 1913. £35 post free.

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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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Suffragette postcards: suffragettes and policemen 2

Here is another card in the ‘Philco Series’, titled  ‘SUFFRAGETTES ARE GOING ABOUT STICKING BILLS IN PROMINENT PLACES’ and in this particular case that is pasting a ‘Votes for Women’ on the back of a policeman, who is in the process of accosting another bill-sticking suffragette. Needless to say the women are the usual stereotypical trilby-wearing, bespectacled harridens. In the scene a pillar box and a dog have also been plastered with V f W posters. The message on the reverse – written in pencil from the same sender to the same recipient as that of the card in the previous ‘Collecting Suffrage’ post – that is Win to Mrs James – reads  ‘And the best of wishes for a happy Christmas. The suffragettes what and how they do things in London.’ Very good – unposted £45 post free. NOW SOLD

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Suffragette postcards: suffragettes and policemen

The increased activity of the women’s suffrage campaign in the early years of the 20th century coincided with the golden age of the postcard. It proved to be a subject very popular with the burgeoning number of commercial postcard publishers and cards with a ‘suffragette’ theme outnumber those relating to other contemporary campaigns – such as Tariff Reform and Home Rule.

Without too much effort, anyone interested can still build up a collection of cards reflecting the varying views of Edwardian society on women’s desire for citizenship – and their methods of achieving it. The suffrage societies themselves all produced cards – portraits of their leaders or photographs of great suffrage occasions – although they are vastly outnumbered by cards produced by the commercial publishers. 

The incongruence of women battling with policemen – as on ‘Black Friday’ in November 1910 – certainly caught the publishers’ attention and there are many variations on the theme. This card was published by Philco Publishers, whose office was in Holborn Place – very close to WSPU headquarters. This card was not posted but is written to ‘Mrs James’. The message reads ‘I do not know what you will think of this. But this is suffragettes in vengeance and in their battle array.’

The  stereotypical harridan (trilby hat, glasses, high-colouring, big nose) wearing ‘Votes for Women’ sash wields her umbrella as she kicks a policeman. In the background another, similar, scene is enacted. There is a tall clock tower – which might just be intended as Big Ben – at the very back of the scene, attached to a misty building. This card, which is in good condition, was one of a series. It is available for sale from me: £45 post free. NOW SOLD

See the August 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine for Prof June Purvis’s article on ‘suffragette’ cards published by commercial publishers and click here for details of her very interesting and informative accompanying podcast (June’s piece begins 20 minutes into the recording).

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