Posts Tagged votes for women
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.
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 – email@example.com (£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.
I will shortly be issuing a new book and ephemera catalogue – number 175. It will comprise books and ephemera by and about women – with special sections on Women’s Suffrage and Women in the First World War. If you would like a copy of the printed or email version please let me know. A short time after these have been sent out, I shall post the catalogue on this website.
Amongst several rare items that I shall be including in the ‘Women’s Suffrage’ section is ‘The Game of “Suffragette”‘.
This card game was invented by the Kensington branch of the WSPU, probably in the late summer of 1907, and, as such, is, I think, the earliest of the games that were marketed as a tool of suffragette propaganda. It was described in the second issue of ‘Votes for Women’, November 1907.
The first issue of ‘Votes for Women’, October 1907, had on its cover the picture of the ‘Haunted House’ by David Wilson, which had first appeared in the ‘Daily Chronicle’ in April 1907. Depicting a seated woman brooding over the Houses of Parliament, a demand for ‘Votes for Women’ in her hand, this image appears on the reverse of every card in this game – and on the base of the box. David Wilson (1873-1935) was an Irish-born illustrator, soon to become chief cartoonist for ‘The Graphic’.
The game comprises 54 cards (all present) divided into 13 sets of 4 cards each – one of the odd ones being known as ‘The Bill’ – and the other a spare which has been used to record the score of a game played long ago by 6 people, designated by their initials. All the sets have names: eg. Prominent Supporters, Arguments, Freewomen, Voteless Women etc – and each card poses a series of questions. Some of the cards also carry photographs – of Christabel Pankhurst, Annie Kenney, Mrs Fawcett, Elizabeth Robins, Israel Zangwill, and Mary Gawthorpe.
This is an incredibly scarce item. Although I wrote of it in The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide, this is the first set I have ever seen. An amazing survival.
A Nest of Suffragettes in Somerset: Eagle House, Batheaston by B.M. Willmott Dobbie for The Batheaston Society, 1979. Soft covers – very good condition (with a newspaper cutting of an obituary of Bristol suffragette, Victoria Lidiard, laid in). £26 (plus postage) For sale – from my stock of books and ephemera about the suffrage movement. To buy – email firstname.lastname@example.org
The story of the Blathwayt family – Col Linley Blathwayt, his wife Emily and daughter Mary -who lived at Eagle House, Batheaston, where for some years they offered a haven to WSPU activists. Annie Kenney – and her sisters – were particular favourites.
Col Blathwayt organised the planting of trees to commemorate visits by both suffragists and suffragettes – such as Lady Constance Lytton.
‘Annie’s Arboreteum’ and ‘Pankhurst Pond’ were just two of the features created on the estate. Col Blathwayt was a keen photographer and many of the photographs he took of visiting suffragettes are included in this book. The text includes extracts from the diaries that the Blathwayts kept and which provide us with such a disingenuous view of some of the leading suffragette personalities
For more about Eagle House (and a little about Rose Lamartine Yates and Dorset Hall, Merton, of whom, coincidentally, I wrote in yesterday’s post) see here. For ‘Suffragettes in Bath’ see here. The diaries of Col. Blathwayt, Mrs Emily Blathwayt, and dear Mary Blathwayt, who I describe in the Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide, as the ‘Mr Pooter of the suffrage movement’, are held in Gloucestershire Archives.
A week of posts on ‘Suffragettes and Tea Rooms’ cannot end without looking at the tea rooms that the suffragette societies themselves ran – in their shops and at their fund-raising bazaars – and the china they commissioned in which to serve that tea .
The best known of the fund-raising events is probably the WSPU exhibition held at the Prince’s Skating Rink at Knightsbridge in May 1909. There the tea room was run by Mrs Henrietta Lowy, with help from her four daughters and another young upper-class suffragette, Una Dugdale. In the spirit of exuberance and professionalism that marked this the first of the WSPU’s fund-raising bazaars, a decision was taken – presumably reasonably well in advance of the Exhibition – to commission a Staffordshire pottery – H.M. Williamson of Longton – to make the china from which the tea would be served in the Exhibition’s Tea Room.
The white china has strikingly clean, straight lines, rimmed in dark green and with angular green handles. The shape is, I am sure, a Williamson standard – but how very different the WSPU pieces look from, say, Williamson’s Rosary design–in which pink and grey ribbons and roses are applied to the same shape and every edge is gilded. In contrast, the WSPU china design is pared back, almost stark.
It is more than likely that, from the range offered by Williamson, Sylvia Pankhurst chose this shape, keeping the design simple so that the ‘angel of freedom’ motif that she had designed specifically for the Exhibition should be shown to best effect. Each piece of the tea service carries this motif; behind the angel and accompanying banner and trumpet, are the initials ‘WSPU’ set against dark prison bars, surrounded by thistle, shamrock, rose – and dangling chains. At the end of the Exhibition, the china – tea pots, cups, saucers, tea plates, sugar bowls etc – was offered for sale, made up into sets of 22 pieces. Many years ago, early in my ephemera-dealing days I bought – and, of course, immediately sold – a comprehensive service. Although I have subsequently sold individual pieces of the china, I have never again seen such a complete set. Ah well.
Pieces of this design are held in archives such as the Museum of London and the Women’s Library – but one variation design is not, as far as I know, represented in any public collection.
This cup – its design based on Sylvia Pankhurst’s ‘portcullis’ motif which, used on the WSPU’s ‘Holloway brooch’, can be dated to the spring of 1909 – came from a collection that also contained items of the ‘angel of freedom’ china. I bought this wonderful haul some years ago at auction and, although the provenance was not divulged by the auctioneer, I am pretty sure that the china had once been belonged to Mrs Rose Lamartine Yates who held fund-raising teas for the Wimbledon WSPU on the lawn of Dorset Hall, her 18th-century Merton house. This ‘portcullis’ cup does not carry any maker’s mark but, as the shape is identical to the Williamson pieces, I think we can be pretty certain that they probably also made this. As, in the early 19th-century, when women set their tea trays with ‘anti-slavery’ china, so in the early 20th, suffragettes who bought these tea services could – like Mrs Lamartine Yates – use them as propaganda tools -promoting the movement, most elegantly, in a bid to convert their ‘anti’ neighbours.
I have only ever had in stock – and that only fleetingly – this cup and saucer (see left), part of the third identifiable range of WSPU-commissioned china. I believe, however, that the People’s Palace in Glasgow holds a similar two pieces . They formed part of the Scottish version of the Prince’s Rink tea service, commissioned from the Diamond China Co, another Longton pottery, for use at the refreshment stall at the Scottish WSPU Exhibition held in Glasgow at the end of April 1910. Here the ‘angel of freedom’ is allied, on white china, with the Scottish thistle, handpainted, in purple and green, inside transfer outlines. After the exhibition this china, too, was sold – Votes for Women, 18 May 1910, noting that ‘a breakfast set for two, 11s; small tea set 15s , whole tea set £2, or pieces may be had singly’. It will hardly surprise readers to learn that WSPU china – now so very rare – commands a very high price. But what a wonderful addition a piece would make to any suffrage collection.
Although the china they used was probably more basic, some of the shops and offices run by both suffragette and suffragist societies offered their members – and the general public – a tea room. For instance, the Birmingham NUWSS office at 10 Easy Row included a shop at which tea could be taken and suffrage papers read. And the Glasgow WFL shop, at 302 Sauchiehall Street, as befitting the city in which Miss Cranston perfected the art of the tea room, served tea in its ‘artistic hall’, decorated in the WFL colours. (By the way, when in Glasgow do not fail to visit the De Luxe Room in The Willow Tea Rooms, also on Sauchiehall Street, originally designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Miss Cranston – it may be a reconstruction, but it’s lovely).
As a final thought, the WSPU not only sold their own china, but also their own tea – much advertised in Votes for Women. Unfortunately, the only reference I have ever come across to anyone buying the tea was an aside by Mary Blathwayt, who noted in her diary that she had had to return a bag that was ‘off’ to the Bath WSPU shop. But I am sure that merely reflects the fact that the hundreds of satisfied customers had no need to comment and I will end this sequence of posts by conjuring up the image of a WSPU tea party, cucumber sandwiches sitting delicately on the elegant WSPU plates, as the assembled company receive WSPU tea into their WSPU cups from the WSPU pot. How, then, could the ensuing conversation be of anything other than ‘Votes for Women’?
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.)
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.
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.
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).
The Gardenia Restaurant, at 6 Catherine Street, Covent Garden – off the north-western curve of the Aldwych – was, between c 1908 and 1913, a vegetarian cafe much frequented by suffragettes. Unlike Alan’s Tea Rooms – in Oxford Street – and the Criterion – at Piccadilly Circus – the Gardenia was situated in the heart of militant suffrage territory. The Women’s Freedom League headquarters lay just south of the Strand in Robert Street and those of the WSPU just to the east of Aldwych in Clement’s Inn.
The Gardenia was opened c 1908 by Thomas Smith, a young man from Morpeth, who lived with his wife and two children in rooms above the restaurant. By early 1910 it would seem that the Gardenia was in some financial difficulty because it was then formed into a limited company with three additional directors. Two of these were from the Newcastle area – and were presumably known to Smith. One was Herbert Joseph Armstrong – a chartered accountant. The other, the major shareholder, was Godfrey Hastings, a photographer from Tynemouth, a member of a Quaker family, educated at Ackworth, the Quaker boarding school in Yorkshire. The third director was Richard James, who published – and sold – temperance and vegetarian books from the Central Temperance Rooms in Paternoster Row. It would, therefore, seem safe to deduce that those running the Gardenia were advocates of vegetarianism and temperance in particular – and of social reform in general.
As I emphasise in my post on the part played by the Aldwych Skating Rink in the 1911 census boycott, this area of London was undergoing extensive redevelopment at the beginning of the 20th century. No 6 Catherine Street, a tall, rather dramatic, building, had been erected in 1905 and it is likely that the Gardenia was one of its first tenants. Its frontage of stone-banded red brick echoes that used in the construction of no 2 – which was designed in 1902 by the editor of the Builder, as offices for the journal. By now this corner of Covent Garden was taking on a rather Arts and Craftsy look – making it just the place for a vegetarian restuarant.
Unlike the Criterion – or even Alan’s Tea Rooms – I have been unable to find any image to tell us what the interior of the Gardenia looked like. However the file in the National Archives giving details of the 1913 winding up of the company does contain a list of the company’s assets – including the restaurant’s fittings. From this I think it would be safe to say that the general impression of the interior was of mahogany and mirrors. – long mahogany serving counters and quantities of mirrors. The rooms were lit with electroliers – some four-branched and others three. Customers sat at tables, marble-topped on metal stands – rather like those used today by Pizza Express.
Having noted that the Gardenia’s financial situation was somewhat precarious, one imagines that the company’s directors would have been keen to develop a niche clientele to boost passing trade. And so it was; the company accounts reveal that they hired out upper rooms in the building to societies whoe interests would seem to coincide with their own – for instance, to the Syndicalists, to a Vegetarian Club, to the National Union of Shop Assistants, and to the University Fabian Society.
The militant suffrage societies also figure regularly in the Gardenia’s accounts as customers for the hired rooms. In her autobiography, My Own Story, Mrs Pankhurst refers to the Gardenia as a place where many WSPU breakfasts and teas were held – and the accounts show specific hirings of rooms by the WFL (for instance,7 March 1912, 5 guineas). In fact the Gardenia seems to have been a particular favourite with the WFL, which did its best to advertise the delights of the restaurant. The Gardenia was included in The Vote Directory –the WFL newspaper’s list of recommended retailers – and was written up in the 6 May 1911 issue when – in the course of a suffragists’ shopping day – the author has tea at the Gardenia – ’a fragrant cup of tea and some cress sandwiches made with Hovis bread’ – [Hovis was also advertised in The Vote]’ –reporting that ‘she would eat no other.’In 1912 the WFL rented a room in the Gardenia in which to hold its weekly discussions – on such subjects as ‘Jane Eyre and its relation to the Woman’s Movement’ and Mrs Brownlow on ‘Local Government’ and on 17 February 1912 three of the Gardenia’s floors were hired by the WFL for a fundraising sit-down supper, with dancing and performances by the Actresses’ Franchise League.
It was doubtless no hardship for suffragettes to attend such suppers; a vegetarian restaurant would have been particularly popular with suffragettes – many of whom had embraced this cause – and the associated anti-vivesectionist campaign – along with that of women’s rights. For Leah Leneman’s excellent article on the subject – ‘The Awakened Instinct; vegetarianism and the women’s suffrage movement in Britain’ – see here.
For its part the Gardenia management was clearly committed to the suffragette cause over and above its use as a source of income. The directors were prepared on occasion, to turn a blind eye to the use to which the WSPU put its rooms. Thus, on 2 April 1911 – census night – the Gardenia’s management allowed the restaurant to be used by suffragettes attempting to evade the enumerator. One census schedule for 6 Catherine Street shows Thomas Smith, the manager, in his flat there that night with his wife and two children, together with the restaurant manageress, two waitresses, a male chef, female cook, a male baker and a kitchen maid. But a separate Gardenia schedule, completed by the Census Office from information supplied by the police, shows that the restaurant was packed with 200 women and 30 men. These defiant evaders had moved to the Gardenia at c 3.30 am for breakfast, having spent the earlier part of the night in the Aldwych Skating Rink.
A year later the Gardenia again played its part in a dramatic WSPU publicity campaign when, on the night of 4 March 1912, women taking part in a WSPU-organinised window-smashing campaign gathered there. In her autobiography Mrs Pankhurst notes that the police thought that about 150 women went to the Gardenia that evening, arriving in twos and threes from a large meeting at the London Pavilion at Piccadilly Circus. They were followed to the restaurant by a number of detectives who then waited around outside in Catherine Street And what was it that the women were doing in the Gardenia?
At the ensuing trial Miss Jessie McPherson, a still-room maid, testifed that on the following day, 5 March, she found a dozen on so stones – on one of which was written ‘Votes for Women’ – lying in a grate in a big room on the second-floor. Godfrey Hastings, the Gardenia’s major shareholder, gave evidence that the room had been engaged by the WSPU for the afternoon and evening of 29 February and 1 and 4 March – at a charge of 45 shillings on each occasion.
The evidence pointed to the Gardenia as the WSPU’s ammunition arming station. Once they had received their supply of stones, the suffragettes led the police a merry dance.
One policeman testified that he followed Miss Wolff van Sandau and Miss Katie Mills as they left the Gardenia, went to an ironmonger’ shop in Covent Garden and then walked to Westminster, along Victoria Street to the Howick Street Post Office, where the former broke a window with a hammer and the latter with stones. It transpired in court that it was at the Covent Garden ironmongers, with the policeman in tow, that they had bought the hammer.
Another policeman reported that on 4 March he waited outside the Gardenia Restaurant for three women [Nellie Crocker, Miss Roberts and Miss Taylor]. When they emerged he followed along the Strand, to Charing Cross and then on District Line to Royal Court Theatre. A few minutes after the performance began they left and went along to 9 King’s Road – a post office – where they smashed the plate glass windows with three hammers.
Another policeman followed Elizabeth Thompson and another woman from the Gardenia to Parliament Square,where Miss Thompson threw a stone at a window of Home Office.
There does not appear to have been any legal repercussions for the Gardenia but, sadly, despite support from the suffrage movement, the business could not be made to pay and the restaurant closed in March 1913.
However 6 Catherine Street today still has a primary connection to the food trade – as the home of the Food and Drink Federation. The FDF were very generous in allowing access to their building in order to record a section of the Woman’s Hour item on ‘Suffragettes and Tea Rooms’ in the rooms where the WSPU plotted their militancy over tea and brown rice.
Here is a link to Woman’s Hour iPlayer that includes item on ‘Suffragettes and Tea Rooms’ .