Posts Tagged votes for women

Suffrage Stories: Sussex Violets And ‘Votes For Women’

violetsOne of the businesses that over a number of years advertised very regularly in Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, was that of the Violet Nurseries run by ‘The Misses Allen-Brown, F.R.H.S.’ at Henfield in Sussex. I was intrigued by the idea of the intensive farming of violets – that most Edwardian of flowers – and the fact that the women apparently also manufactured violet-scented unguents and perfume and thought I’d do a little delving.

When skimreading through Votes for Women I had just assumed that the ‘Misses Allen-Brown’ were sisters but once I began researching I quickly discovered that they were, separately, a ‘Miss Allen’ and a ‘Miss Brown’.

Ada Eugenie Brown (1856-1915) was born in Liverpool, one of the six children of Aaron (1814-1883) and Lydia Brown. Her father was a ‘provision merchant’ – a ship’s store dealer and ship’s chandler -working from premises in Chapel Street, Liverpool. The family lived in ‘Hartfield’, a large Italianate house in Allerton that still stands, now incorporated into Calderstones School. By 1871 the family was sufficiently prosperous to be tended by at least five servants, including a butler and a footman, and probably also kept a coachman.  By the time he died in 1883 Aaron Brown had moved from Allerton to the very smart area of Princes Park. He left over £22,000 but I haven’t investigated his will and don’t know what share of this went to Ada. By 1899 she was living in ‘Holmgarth’ (now known as ‘Providence Cottage’) on Henfield Common North Road in Henfield, Sussex.

Decima Mary Katherine Allen (1869 – 1951) was born at Burnham in Somerset, one of the eleven children born to Elizabeth Allen. When the 1871 census was taken her mother was a recent widow and described herself as ‘a farmer’. As her name would suggest, Decima was the tenth child born of her parent’s marriage. However on her 1911 census form Elizabeth Allen states that she had given birth to eleven children (of whom seven were by then dead). Her 11th child, Sybil, would appear to have been born in London in 1873 and, if so, it seems impossible that her late husband, John Allen,  could have been the baby’s father. From birth onwards a cloak of mystery covers much of Sybil’s life. She became a writer, known as Sybil Campbell Lethbridge – you can read about her here.  In 1871, when Decima was still the youngest child, the Allen family lived on their farm at Charlinch in Somerset, together with five house servants plus a German governess and a farm bailiff. By 1901 Decima was living with Ada Brown at ‘Holmgarth’ – there is no information as to how they met.

Initially Ada and Decima ran a small general plant nursery but around 1905 sold this and, instead, began farming violets on an acre of land around their house. An April 1907 article in The Graphic headlined ‘A ladies’ violet farm’, reported that: ‘The two ladies who farm the Henfield acre will tell you that no manner of earning a living, or of adding to a slender income, is more delightful than theirs. They work all the year round, planting, transplanting, rearing, tending, weeding, picking, doing all the skilled labour themselves. A little hard digging, only a fortnight’s in the twelvemonth, is done by men…

Here at Henfield are no stream-margins, no banks whereon the violets grow to please themselves. They have to be made to grow to please others. Picking and sending to the English markets goes on from October to April ..All this means the two ladies have to spend long hours in the open air. They are up at five every summer morning, and at seven in the winter. The morning’s harvest is taken to the house for packing and despatch to all parts of the world. You can see violets from Henfield in Egypt and India. The demand for the beautiful long-stemmed Henfield violets is increasing, though all the old blue china pots in England might be filled from there already.’

Other reports make clear that, apart from the short-term hired male labour, Ada Brown and Decima Allen did not do all this work alone but that throughout the year they employed other women to whom they gave a training in horticulture. They even gave some thought as to the best outfit to be worn by these young women while working out-of-doors: ‘We think our students have accomplished the feat of clothing themselves both suitably and picturesquely. A short, straight skirt of some stout material, a green baize or brown leather apron with capacious pocket , a woollen jersey and waterproof Wellington boots; add to this a sou’-wester and a sailor’s mackintosh, and the worst winter weather may be defied.’

Readers will not be surprised to learn that there is no trace of Ada Brown and Decima Allen in the 1911 census. This would suggest that they were willing to support the Women’s Social and Political Union by committing an act of civil disobedience as well as by placing regular advertisements in Votes for Women. The women were friends with the actress and novelist Elizabeth Robins, to whom they dedicated their Violet Book. A prominent WSPU supporter and activist, she lived nearby at Backset (sometimes Backsett) Farm, Henfield. She, too, boycotted the census – it has been possible to track down the census form on which she refused to give information. However I have not yet found a form for ‘Holmgarth’. Elizabeth Robins’ 1923 novel, Time is Whispering features an estate that is devoted to the training of women horticulturalists, a theme that Angela Johns, Elizabeth’s biographer, suggests was inspired by the way of life led by the ‘Misses Allen-Brown’.

That way of life encompassed both visits from royalty, for Ada Brown and Decima Allen prided themselves on their royal patrons such as Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary, and from the less exalted – such as Alfred Carpenter who wrote to his brother, Edward, from Henfield on 3 July 1916 that ‘It is interesting to learn that Kate & Lina were here on the Violet-farm working hard – Miss Allen is still going strong & has many happy pupils – many of them are worshippers of yours & hailed my arrival (before they met me!) with joy – Their carnations are certainly a wonder & they seem to have a great demand for them notwithstanding the War.’ It is good to have evidence that the workers amongst the violets and carnations were followers of Edward Carpenter, socialist poet, philosopher, and advocate of sexual freedom.

The violets were packed and soaps and perfumes were manufactured in Lavender Cottage, an ancient building adjacent to Homgarth, although I am no further forward as to how they actually made soap and perfume in these presumably somewhat primitive premises.

After Ada Brown died in 1915 Decima Allen went into partnership with Ellen Rachel Dyce Sharp. The Violet Nurseries expanded and around 1929 the women bought another 3.5 acres which lay a short distance away from the main plot. You can watch a short 1935 Pathé film about the Violet Nurseries here. It looks as though by then they were giving employment to more men.

The nursery was eventually sold to Allwood Brothers of Wivelsfield, a nursery that had long specialised in growing carnations. Ellen Sharp died in 1950 aged 64 and Decima Allen in 1951 aged 81.

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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: Marjorie Hamilton: An Unknown Suffrage Artist

Procession-Pic-for-Clive2 I have long admired this image, created to advertise the 1911 ‘Women’s Coronation Procession’. This particular item was carefully laid by Kate Frye between the pages of her diary. She was proud to be marching that day in the Actresses’ Franchise League contingent.

However I have only just discovered the name of the artist of this appealing flyer was and have immediately set about trying to find out what I can about her.

The name was delivered to me by Ken Florey who, in his superb Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia: an illustrated Historical Study, mentions the image, naming the artist as ‘Marjorie Hamilton’. The US suffrage society, the Women’s Political Union, had clearly recognised an appealing design when they saw it and used it to advertise a meeting held by Mrs Pankhurst in New York’s Carnegie Hall (see Votes for Women, 5 January 1912). Marjorie Hamilton’s name doesn’t appears in Lisa Tickner’s Spectacle of Women – and I must admit that I had not come across it in my own researches into women suffrage artists.

However, now that I have looked into the matter, I see that on 9 June 1911, in the issue that immediately preceded the Procession, the cartoon that appears the front page of  Votes for Women was drawn by Marjorie Hamilton. Moreover, I actually hold a copy of the front page of this issue in my bookseller’s stock – I just hadn’t looked sufficiently closely at the image to notice the signature.

Front page of 9 June 1911 issue of 'Votes for Women'

Front page of 9 June 1911 issue of ‘Votes for Women’

To have been given this position on the front page of Votes for Women was, indeed, something of an accolade – the paper’s usual artist, ‘A Patriot’ [Alfred Pease], had made way for her. Marjorie Hamilton’s ‘cartoon’ is, in fact, an advertisement for the Procession, with the lead character in her drawing dressed in the same way as the suffragette on the flyer. The latter, however, makes a very much bolder impression – the image greatly strengthened by the use of colour.  While the Votes for Women front-page picture is signed with her full name –  that is, ‘Marjorie Hamilton’ – the flyer carries only initials –  but these do appear to read ‘MH’. When describing the artist responsible for the image on the cover of the lavish Programme produced for the occasion of the Procession, Votes for Women  is rather coy – referring to her only as ‘an artist member of the WSPU’.  So who was Marjorie Hamilton?

My research indicates that she was born in Derbyshire in 1882. Her father, Arthur Hamilton, was a banker – a partner in S.Smith & Co’s Bank, Derby. Her mother, Georgina (nee Stokes) had been born in South Africa.  Marjorie had a slightly younger sister, Vera, and in 1891 the family lived, presumably in considerable comfort, with three servants and a live-in (young) governess, at The Mount, Duffield Road, Derby. Ten years later, in 1901, the family was living above the bank premises at 7 Market Head, Market Place, Derby, along with six domestic servants and a bank clerk. However, less than a year later Arthur Hamilton, now described as of ‘The Grange’, Ewell, Surrey, died, leaving £10,800. It was in 1902 that Smith’s Bank lost its individual identity when it merged with the Union Bank of London.

Georgina Hamilton, with her daughters, may have moved to Canada c 1906. Certainly Marjorie noted on a subsequent Canadian immigration form that she had lived in Canada from 1906-1908. Her sister, Vera, married in Vancouver in 1908 and in 1911, when the Canadian census was taken, was living there with her mother, her husband and two young children. Even though she was a member of the WSPU, Marjorie Hamilton, luckily for us, did not boycott the 1911 UK census and can be found, describing herself as an ‘art student’, as a boarder at 4 Mills Buildings, Knightsbridge, an 18th-century court on the north side of Knightsbridge High Road, close to the Barracks. At this time Mills Buildings was a rather raffish address, although her fellow boarders all appear very respectable.

The census was taken on 2 April 1911 and it must have been very soon after, while Marjorie Hamilton was living here, that she was given the rather important ‘Coronation Procession’ commission. Marion Wallace-Dunlop and Edith Downing were in charge of the artistic design of the Procession, which was being executed at 12 Smith Street, Chelsea. Perhaps  it was they who spotted her talent for graphic design. Incidentally on the night of the 1911 census those resident at this address were Miss Dean, a 27-year-old artist’s model, together with a young secretary and a shop assistant whose surroundings, with 8 rooms, between the three of them, were rather more spacious than those of their neighbours. I wonder if they let out one or two of those 8 rooms to the WSPU? It is clear from the reports in Votes for Women that there was a great deal of activity going on at 12 Smith Street in May and June 1911.

Alas, however, that is about all I can discover of Marjorie Hamilton’s career as an artist – except that in 1913 she was advertising that she would be happy to take order for water-colour sketches of country homes.

I next catch sight of her in February 1917 at Liverpool, embarking on the SS Carmania for New York. Her address is given as ‘Cranleigh, Surrey’ and her occupation is ‘artist’. So, in the six years that had elapsed she had presumably had – or at least had attempted to pursue – art as a career.

I did wonder why, in the midst of a war that made Atlantic travel so dangerous, she was making this journey. And then I realised that her final destination was not New York but Victoria, British Columbia and that she must have been going out to be with her mother – who died a month or so after her arrival.

Another seven years go by until in 1924 I found her again, once more about to enter Canada. However this time it is not as an artist but as the prospective matron of the Waifs and Strays Society Receiving Home at 661 Huron Street, Toronto.  This was Elizabeth Rye House – a home to where girls were sent from England to be trained for domestic service. On the immigration form Marjorie Hamilton gave her present occupation as ‘matron’, which may, or may not, indicate that she had found that art did not pay and that she had to find an other means of earning her living.

And there the trail for the moment ends. I know that the Toronto home closed in 1931 – but don’t know if Marjorie Hamilton was still there then. Did she return to England – or remain in Canada. I know that her sister died in Sussex in 1943 – but can find no further trace of Marjorie.

And all this is what comes of wondering who was the artist responsible for a delightful purple, white and green flyer produced something over 100 years ago.

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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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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: Where And What Was ‘The Votes For Women Fellowship’?

Red Lion Court. The site (on the left) of the offices of the Votes for Women Fellowship

To mark the very welcome co-operation planned for the future between the Women’s Library and the London School of Economics the next few ‘Suffrage Stories’ will demonstrate the past importance to the women’s movement of streets and buildings in the vicinity of  Houghton Street.

In previous posts I described how the Women’s Social and Political Union came to have its offices in Clement’s Inn and to have its campaign publicised in the weekly paper owned and edited by Frederick and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence – Votes for Women – which was printed close by at the St Clement’s Press  In October 1912 the Pethick-Lawrences, who had been recuperating abroad after enduring a term of hunger-striking imprisonment, returned to England to be told by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst that they, as Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence herself put it, had ‘no further use for them’. In her autobiography Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence records that she never saw or heard from Emmeline Pankhurst again.

During the Pethick-Lawrences’ absence Mrs Pankhurst had moved the WSPU from Clement’s Inn to Lincoln’s Inn House on Kingsway (about which I will write in a later post). In fact I rather think, from studying the relevant rate book, that the WSPU may actually have been evicted from Clement’s Inn. After their expulsion from the WSPU the Pethick-Lawrences took back their paper, Votes for Women, and continued to publish it, on their own account, from a new office. Again, it may have been that after their imprisonment they were no longer welcome to the Clement’s Inn  management company.

For whatever reason, the Pethick-Lawrences moved a little to the east of Clement’s Inn and set up office in 4-7 Red Lion Court, one of the quaint passages off the north side of Fleet Street. Despite the redevelopment that has swept away their office, the narrow court is still atmospheric. The office was close to Votes for Women‘s new printer in Whitefriars Street, off the south side of Fleet Street. The first issue of Votes for Women published from this address was that of 25 October 1912.

In addition, in Red Lion Court, on 1 November 1912, the Pethick-Lawrences made their paper the centre of another suffrage society, the Votes for Women Fellowship. This group, made up of former members of the WSPU who were no longer in sympathy with the Pankhursts’ tactics, aimed to promote the paper and its policies rather than stand as a new militant organisation. In Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence’s words the Fellowship was ‘giving full expression to the awakened militant spirit of womanhood, that they should associated themselves in various plans for carrying the message far and wide, until in every town and village of this land women realise that they are a living part of a spiritually militant sisterhood that is at war under the triple banner of liberty, compassion, and purity against every form of evil dominance. (Votes for Women, 8 November 1912). The Fellowship’s emblem was of a lady with a lamp and its motto was ‘To spread the Light’.

Without the backing of the WSPU, Votes for Women had a greatly diminished circulation and in 1914 the Pethick-Lawrences gave the paper to the newly-founded United Suffragists. Although there was an overlap of membership, it would be a mistake to construe the United Suffragists as a direct descendant of the Votes for Women Fellowship. Despite being for most of the time in dire financial straits, Votes for Women continued to be published throughout the First World War only ceasing publication in February 1918 when the vote was (partially) won.

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: St Clement’s Press

St Clement’s Press, c. 1959, courtesy of LSE Library

To mark the very welcome co-operation planned for the future between the Women’s Library and the London School of Economics the next few ‘Suffrage Stories’ will demonstrate the past importance to the women’s movement of streets and buildings in the vicinity of  Houghton Street.

In the last ‘Suffrage Story’ I described why and how, from the autumn of 1906, the Women’s Social and Political Union came to have its offices at Clement’s Inn, a few hundred yards from the London School of Economics which, since 1902, had taken up residence in premises in Clare Market and Houghton Street.

In the previous post I also mentioned that Frederick Pethick Lawrence had had some experience as a newspaper proprietor and editor. It was, therefore,  natural that he and his wife, Emmeline, should consider it useful for the suffrage society with which they were now so closely associated to have its own proselytizing organ. This would both broadcast the aims and actions of the WSPU  and serve as a point of focus for its swiftly expanding membership.

The first issue of ‘Votes for Women’

The first issue of Votes for Women, as the new paper was unequivocally named, appeared on 16 October  1907. It was financed and edited by Emmeline and Frederick Pethick Lawrence and published from the WSPU office at 4 Clement’s Inn.

The Pethick Lawrences had not had to look far for a printer for their new paper. Housed in ‘Newspaper Buildings’, at the junction of Clare Market and Portugal Street, opposite the end of Clement’s Inn Passage (now St Clement’s Lane), the late-19th-century bulk of  St Clement’s Press towered over the maze of narrow streets bounded by the Strand and the swathe of  Kingsway, still a raw building site.  The Press had begun business in 1889 and was to be printer to a variety of other organisations sympathetic to the suffrage cause – from 1909, for instance, responsible for the Anti-Vivisectionist Review.

Votes for Women was published monthly until April 1908, after which it took on a larger format and became a weekly. This increase in frequency and size was a direct reflection of the WSPU’s great success in attracting members and creating interest in its campaign. By early 1910 Votes for Women had a weekly print run of c. 30,000 copies.

Grace Chappelow, a WSPU member from Essex, selling ‘Votes for Women’. Courtesy of Chelmsford Museum

The paper was sold in newsagents but also by members of the WSPU who were prepared to stand in the gutter (to stand on the pavement counted as obstruction) and sell it to passers by.  St Clement’s not only printed Votes for Women but also a variety of posters to advertise the paper – such as this one, held in the Women’s Library collection.

This arrangement continued for three and a half years until March 1912. At the beginning of that month WSPU members embarked on a dramatic window-smashing campaign, attacking shops and offices in London’s West End. As a result Emmeline Pankhurst and Frederick and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence were all arrested on the charge of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.  Christabel Pankhurst escaped from Clement’s Inn and fled to Paris. The first issue of Votes for Women to be issued after the arrests – the number for 8 March –  appeared with blanks in the text. There was a note on the front page:”The Editors who are responsible for “Votes for Women” in the absence of Mr and Mrs Pethick Lawrence beg to inform their readers that the blank spaces in this week’s issue do not represent lack of interesting matter for publication, but mark the suppression by the printers of articles, comments, and historical facts considered by them to be of an inflammatory nature.’

Whether it was because the temporary editors considered it impossible to continue working with a printer who felt unable to print all the material supplied, or whether  it was that St Clement’s Press declined to be associated with a publication that might bring them into direct conflict with the law – for whatever reason the 15 March 1912 and subsequent issues of Votes for Women were no longer printed by the St Clement’s Press but by Walbrook & Co of 14 & 15 Whitefriars Street, off Fleet Street.

After the Pethick Lawrences were ousted from the WSPU in the autumn of 1912 they retained ownership of Votes for Women, still printed by Walbrook,  making the paper the focus of their new organisation, the Votes for Women Fellowship.  I will discuss this organisation in a subsequent post.

The Economists’ Bookshop, viewed from Kingsway

The site of the St Clement’s Press is now occupied by Waterstone’s Economists’ Bookshop, very much an LSE institution.

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: Where And What Was Clements Inn?

To mark the very welcome co-operation planned for the future between the Women’s Library and the London School of Economics the next few ‘Suffrage Stories’ will demonstrate the past importance to the women’s movement of streets and buildings in the vicinity of  Houghton Street.

In previous posts I have described the Tea Cup Inn, which was in Portugal Street in the building which, for the time being at least, houses the LSE Chaplaincy, and the Aldwych Skating Rink, in which the WSPU organized its grand 1911 census boycott meeting. In the latter post I remarked that, all but abutting onto the back of the Skating Rink, were the offices of the WSPU at 3 & 4 Clement’s Inn.

A commemorative plaque, placed on a building now occupied by LSE. marks the site.  See the LSE Library website for the  announcement of the LSE’s plans for the Women’s Library and for the brochure setting out details of its bid. The introduction to the latter includes a photograph of the plaque (left) and the words of Christabel Pankhurst:  ”Clement’s Inn, our headquarters, was a hive seething with activity… As department was added to department, Clement’s Inn seemed always to have one more room to offer.’ [9 February 1907]

But what was ‘Clements Inn’?

The history of the late-19th-century Clement’s Inn buildings are surprisingly sketchy – although I daresay that archival research would uncover more detail. In its original incarnation Clement’s Inn had been one of the original Inns of Chancery, but its purpose and its buildings were swept away sometime during the second half of the 19th century. The exact date of its removal is vague; Pevsner merely puts it between 1868 and 1891, presumably meaning that it was demolished in stages. Suffice it to say that towards the end of the 19th century – probably in the 1880s – large blocks designed for both office and residential use were built on the site of the old Inn.  They stretched in a line, just west of the Royal Courts of Justice – and on the west side of Clements Inn Passage –  north from the Strand up to Clare Market. These blocks were given the name ‘Clement’s Inn’ and  housed a medley of solicitors, architects, chartered accountants, surveyors, publishers and even, at 5 & 6 the Uruguayan Legation and Consulate. The southern-most blocks were numbered ‘1 & 2 Clement’s Inn’ and were still standing in 1977. By then the more northerly blocks  – 3 & 4 – had already been demolished.

Courtesy of the International Institute for Social History

Extraordinary as it seems, photographs of the exterior of 3 & 4 Clement’s Inn seem all but non-existent.  The photograph on the left shows, I think, one corner of the Clement’s Inn range; it was taken in 1912 while police trying to establish the whereabouts of Christabel Pankhurst, for whom they had an arrest warrant. Apart from this I have managed to track down, in the Westminster Archives, only three small photographs of 1 & 2 Clement’s Inn. They form part of a collection taken in 1977 of the Royal Courts of Justice. Very helpfully the photographer  turned his camera, from his position in the RCJ,  across Clement’s Inn Passage to take a distant view of the surviving Clement’s Inn buildings, and followed that with two close-up photographs of the  entrances to the buildings. The collection of photographs is accompanied by a hand-drawn map showing the precise position of each photograph so that there is now no doubt in my mind as to the layout of the Clement’s Inn blocks, now replaced by the LSE Towers.

The photographs show the Clement’s Inn buildings to have been rather imposing –  five storeys high, rising in places to seven. They were built of brick – presumably once red, doubtless very quickly blackened in the London atmosphere, with facings of stone around the windows and doors. Detailing was gothic, doubtless a nod to the adjacent  RCJ buildings. The ‘look’ was not unlike that of nearby Old Square, Lincolns Inn, where in later years Frederick and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, who are specifically noted on the WSPU plaque, had a flat.

Frederick Pethick Lawrence, photographed at a time when he was living and working in Clement’s Inn

For it was entirely due to the Pethick Lawrences that the WSPU office came to be sited at 3 & 4 Clement’s Inn. Frederick Pethick Lawrence first appears on the London electoral register at  3 & 4 Clement’s Inn in 1904. He and Emmeline – they had married in 1901 -were living in what is termed in the rate book as ‘a residential suite’ – to differentiate this type of apartment from the offices that were also available for rent. The apartments were serviced; the Clement’s Inn  building included a servants’ hall, servants’ dormitories and a kitchen in which meals were cooked for delivery to the tenants. This, I would imagine, was a style of living that entirely suited the Pethick Lawrences whose many interests surely precluded any time for domesticity.

The Pethick Lawrences had presumably chosen Clement’s Inn as their London address – they did also have a house in Surrey – because it was close to the office, at 19 St Bride Street,  of The Echo, a newspaper bought by Frederick Pethick Lawrence c 1902. It had been a Liberal paper – with a bias towards the Liberal Unionist section of the party- but, under Pethick Lawrence was re-directed towards the Labour movement, with Ramsay MacDonald among its contributors. However The Echo ran at a loss and in 1905 Pethick Lawrence closed it and  in May launched a new monthly publication, the Labour Record and Review. Pethick Lawrence was also the publisher of the Reformers’ Yearbook (called, before 1905, the Labour Annual and Reformers’ Yearbook). In the 1905 edition of the Yearbook, printed from information supplied in 1904, the ‘Directory of Useful Addresses’ lists the ‘Women’s Union’ , the secretary of which is Mrs Rachel Scott of Woodbine, Flixton, Manchester.  This was the recently formed Women’s Social and Political Union. Its founders, Mrs E. Pankhurst and Miss C Pankhurst, of  62 Nelson St, Manchester, are also listed as ‘Useful’.

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, courtesy of the International Institute for Social History

In her autobiography Emmeline Pethick Lawrence records that it was from her roof garden in Clement’s Inn that in January 1906 she saw the general election results ‘as they were thrown by a lantern-slide on the elevated-whitened board in the Strand’. This new technology was displaying a Liberal landslide. But it was, however, the success of Keir Hardie and the Labour Party that particularly pleased the Pethick Lawrences.  A month later Hardie introduced Emmeline Pethic -Lawrence to Emmeline Pankhurst as ‘a practical and useful colleague who could develop in London the new society she had founded in Manchester’ – the WSPU.

Later that year the embryonic London campaign, which had been spearheaded by Annie Kenney and which for several months had held its business meetings around kitchen tables in various hospitable London homes, was given office premises by Frederick Pethick Lawrence in 3 & 4 Clement’s Inn. In the relevant rate book the WSPU is shown as taking up its tenancy at Michaelmas (29 September) 1906 in rooms 68,69 and 70.

This apartment was separate from number 119 shared jointly by the Pethick Lawrences; Frederick had given Emmeline the luxury of ‘a room of her own’.

In Emmeline Pethick Lawrence’s apartment in Clement’s Inn. From the left, Christabel Pankhurst, Annie Kenney, Nellie Martel, Mrs Pankhurst, Mrs Despard. Courtesy of the International Institute for Social History

When, in July 1906, Christabel Pankhurst came to London, after gaining her first-class law degree in Manchester, she lived with the Pethick Lawrences – perhaps in Emmeline’s separate apartment. The rate books show that over the years the Pethick Lawrences occupied several different sets of rooms, the quantities and configuration varying from year to year.

When, in October 1908, warrants were issued for the arrest of Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst after the WSPU had urged Londoners to ‘Rush the House of Commons’, the pair were photographed hiding from the police on Emmeline Pethick Lawrence’s roof terrace. See here to view the Women’s Library copy of the photograph.

After ensuring that their evasion had been captured on camera, they then went downstairs and were photographed in the course of being arrested by Inspector Jarvis.

Inspector Jarvis making his arrest. Photograph marked for a rather idiosyncratic cropping. Courtesy of the International Institute for Social History

Other WSPU offices were photographed on other occasions – the Women’s Library holds pictures, among others, of Mrs Pethick Lawrence’s secretary’s office, the General Office and of the WSPU Information Bureau at work. In the latter picture Emily Wilding Davison is the woman seated on the left and the young woman, with white collar and cuffs, standing at the back is Cicely Hale. All these photographs can be viewed on the Women’s Library Special Collections catalogue and from them one can glean an idea of the physical surroundings in which the campaign was orchestrated – the furniture, the fireplaces, the typewriters, the bowls of flowers, the posters and the maps on the walls.

This ‘seething hive of activity’ is pictured in at least one contemporary novel. For in Ann Veronica, published in 1909, H.G. Wells furnishes the offices of the Woman’s Bond of Freedom – the  suffrage society that sweeps his heroine off her feet and into prison – with  ‘notice boards bearing clusters of newspaper slips, three or four posters of monster meetings..and a series of announcements in purple copying ink, and in one corner …a pile of banners’. Wells had no need to rely on photographs for his information; during the years when the WSPU was working from Clement’s Inn, it was doing so in close physical proximity to the Fabian Society, of which Wells was a leading member and which had been responsible for the founding of the LSE.  Knowing from the rate book that the WSPU’s basement office was next door to that of the Fabian Society, it requires little stretch of the imagination to envisage Wells finding a reason to combine a visit to one with a brief sortie into the other, the result being good  ‘copy’ for his novel.

It would be surprising if there had not been some tension between the two offices – the one campaigning for votes for some, not all, women while the other backed the cause of adult suffrage. For although, when they agreed to support the WSPU, the Pethick Lawrences were still committed to the Labour cause,  as the women’s suffrage campaign developed its tactics changed and the association with Labour was considered by the Pankhursts no longer to be advantageous.  Despite this, there were many connections between the WSPU, the Labour Party and the Fabian Society. For instance, Beatrice Sanders, working from an office in Clement’s Inn as  financial secretary to the WSPU, was the wife of William Sanders, a Fabian Society lecturer, LCC alderman and Labour parliamentary candidate. Mrs Sanders was herself a member of the Fabian Women’s Group.  However, William Sanders was one of what Wells termed the  ‘Old Gang’ that ranged itself against him when he attempted to reform the Fabian Society and, in retaliation, probably took Sanders as his prototype for ‘Alderman Dunstable’ in Ann Veronica. Wells certainly found plenty to mock in the WSPU and its activities and, unsurprisingly, although Ann Veronica was listed among ‘Books Received’ in the WSPU newspaper, Votes for Women, it never received the accolade of a review.

A very powerful propaganda tool for the WSPU, Votes for Women was brought to life each week in a building even closer to Houghton Street than Clement’s Inn and will be the subject of the next of my ‘Suffrage Stories’.

     

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