According to the evidence Dorothea arrived at the police station equipped with a copy of the Suffragette newspaper and a hammer. The reason for her actions was the failure to gain the vote and the treatment of Mrs Pankhurst who had been rearrested. Dorothea was fined 40 shillings or ten days in prison. Harold offered to pay the fine but Dorothea declined as he did not agree with her views although he was a good man. Despite this refusal Harold paid the fine.
Harold died a few years later in 1915. Dorothea continued to live in Richmond later moving to Eastbourne where she died in 1949.
The next entry is Helen Bourchier, a member of the Women’s Freedom League, who was arrested on January 31st 1908. Helen and eight gathered outside Asquith’s house holding banners proclaiming “Votes for Women.” After a while they started ringing and knocking on the front door, the butler declining them entry. Their next move was to host an impromptu rally on the steps addressing the gathering crowd. At which point four of them, Helen along with Mrs Dempsey, Mrs Duval and Mrs Sanderson were arrested. In court, they were fined 40 shillings or a month imprisonment. They all elected for prison.
The event is recalled in Sylvia Pankhurst’s book The Suffragette. The women elected to defend themselves. Helen was the first to speak but was cut off by the magistrate “Behave yourself! You are the bell-weather of the flock.” On sentencing the magistrate stated his regret that he could not give them a stiffer sentence but this was all the law allowed him. “I do not consider it by any means a fair measure of your deserts.”
Helen Johnston Bourchier was born on October 24th 1852 in Somerset, the daughter of Charles and Margaret. Her father was a soldier holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel when he died in 1866. A dependent’s allowance was from there on until they reached majority paid to Helen, her brother Charles and sister Margaret. Following their father’s death the family initially settled in Clutton, Somerset where their grandfather had been Rector. By the 1881 census return Helen’s mother and sister had moved to Finsbury Park in North London although Helen’s whereabouts are unknown. A year later her sister married Peter Purves, a land agent, to which Helen was a witness. Their brother has also married and was serving in the army.
In 1890 their mother died. Helen was a doctor who qualified in Paris. The Dundee Courier, January 26th 1886, records that six women are more or less practising medicine successfully in Paris, one of whom was Helen. According to her obituary she practised medicine for some years in India, an experience which influenced her novels. In the early 1900s she was appointed to the Honorary Medical Staff when the Battersea Hospital was established. In those records Helen is stated to be still residing in Paris which would explain why she appears on few United Kingdom records. Although Helen does appear to have around this time maintained an address in Notting Hill advertising for a lodger or patient to live with her. She wrote novels such as Darry’s Awakening and The Ranee’s Rupees, attended séances contributing to the The Occult Review, believed in theosophy and was a vegetarian, her interests running in parallel with other fighters for votes for women such as Charlotte Despard. An anti-vivisectionist Helen was a founding member of the Pioneer Anti-Vivisection Society becoming its President. Vivisection, she believed, led to a passion for experimentation which was not always halted when experimentation involved the human being if it was a woman.
On her release from prison she wrote an article for Women’s Realm on her experiences “I am not a young woman, and a good deal of my life has been spent alone .... Yet I found even that short term of imprisonment, in some subtle way affecting my mind …. But the fact which showed me most startlingly the effect produced on my mind by the unnatural conditions of seclusion, silence and monotony, which prevail in Holloway, was the growth of a strange feeling of apprehension, of shrinking from the outside world.”[i] In another interview to the press she commented that being a vegetarian her diet consisted of one egg, potato, carrot or onion in place of meat. Her article led to an inspector being appointed by the government to report on conditions in Holloway Prison.
In October 1908 Helen was involved in another protest, this time at the House of Commons, organised by members of the Women’s Freedom League. It was organised to start at exactly 8.30pm. A group of women including Helen entered the Ladies Gallery from which ladies were permitted to view the proceedings in the House of Commons from behind a metal grille. At the appointed hour two of the women chained themselves to the grille, rose to their feet and commenced to address the few MPs in the House. One attendant attempted to silence them by placing his hand over their mouths but Helen stepped in and prevented him. Two other protests in the precincts of the Houses of Parliament took place simultaneously. A male supported seated in the Stranger’s Gallery threw down into the chamber votes for women literature. After some wrestling the attendants managed to snap part of the grille off and dragged the women from the gallery still attached by chains to the grille. Although several women were arrested Helen was not.
When the 1911 census was taken Helen refused to participate, her entry being completed by the collector. Across it is written “No votes for women. No census”. Her occupation is given as doctor (believed to be of medicine), her age is estimated at around fifty and her place of birth is blank. At the time Helen was living in Fulham.
Helen died in 1918 in Kensington, London. Just before she died she wrote to a friend “I expect to be soon on the ethereal plane.”
[i] Marxists Internet Archive