Bertha Brewster was born in 1887 to George and Bertha who lived in the village of Henfield, near Horsham in West Sussex. Two years after Bertha was born, the family was completed with the arrival of a brother, Philip. Brother and sister attended the progressive boarding school, Bedales, presumably as day pupils as the 1901 census records the family living in Steep, Hampshire, the village location of the school. Founded in 1898 by John Haden Badley, its foundation was in part at the urging of his wife, Amy a suffragette and cousin of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Millicent Fawcett. Bertha was academic and in 1905 was one of the first two girls to leave school to attend London University although no record has been located of her graduating.
The first indication of Bertha’s involvement in the suffrage movement is a donation to the fundraising £20,000 appeal to which her mother also donated. By 1909 the family had moved to Osmonds, a substantial country house located between Droitwich and Ombersley in Worcestershire. In August 1909 Bertha was arrested for the first time. A group of suffragettes had rented a house adjacent but separated from Sun Hall in Liverpool by a narrow passage for when Richard Haldane, a Liberal member of Parliament and the Secretary of State for War came to speak. When the meeting started, one climbed onto the roof while another addressed the gathering crowd. According to the press reports, slates and other missiles were thrown from the roof of the house at the gallery windows of the hall forcing Haldane to interrupt his speech. Bertha was sentenced to one month in prison, not the two months her fellow participants received. Bertha protested at the leniency of her sentence which she served at Walton Gaol. Votes for Women reported that on the way to the gaol the women sang the Marseillaise and managed to push through an opening in the roof of the prison van a flag, which had they had smuggled in, which read Votes for Women.
The lack of recognition as political prisoners led the women to go on a hunger strike before their trials. Sentenced on 24 August, by which stage they had been on hunger strike for three days, the women were released two days later. Their treatment prompted questions in the House of Commons. The Home Office gathered information regarding the force-feeding of other categories of prisoner. A report from Parkhurst Prison reported that in three years sixteen were force-fed; three of whom were classified as insane. The majority were fed for short periods, but several were fed for longer. One was subjected to the procedure over two years, another for over year who became so familiar with the process he inserted the tube himself. The report makes for chilling reading. The process is described in detail: a soft rubber tube passed into the stomach through which a hospital diet of grated or pulped ‘meat or fish, pudding, potatoes, cabbage and bread’ mixed with ‘eggs and milk or beef tea’ was poured via a funnel. The process took if there was no resistance a couple of minutes. The use of a nasal tube, in the alternative, disposed of the need to use a gag but less nutritious food only could be administered.
Following their release, the women were charged with willful damage at the prison where they had allegedly smashed windows. Bertha was charged with damaging fifteen panes in her cell valued at 3 shillings and 9 pence. In response, the women contended that they had been punished for their actions while in prison and all that remained to be settled was a payment for the damage. However, the authorities argued that because Bertha was ill due to refusing food, she had been too weak to be punished. The summonses for arrest were issued in September over a month after the incident took place. While Bertha remained at large, a court hearing took place in October. Bertha’s mother instructed a barrister to defend Bertha and pay any damages. The judge refused to hear the barrister ordering the issuing of a warrant for her arrest.
The Bedales Chronicle, following Bertha’s imprisonment, commented ‘May it go down to posterity side by side with Franklin’s discovery of Sodium, and the imprisonment of Bertha Brewster - our suffragette- for stone throwing.’ The following issue of the Chronicle published a letter from ‘G.J.’, who took issue with the celebration of criminal activity, his missive closed ‘...to get the vote, use one’s influence quietly is my method.’ Bertha had been cast as the leading lady in a performance of Ibsen’s Love’s Comedy to be performed by alumni of Bedales. The Chronicle reported that while Bertha was in the audience, her part was taken by another actor as it was felt if she appeared, she might be arrested as the warrant was still out for her detainment.
In January 1910, Bertha and Emily Hudson gained access to the roof space above Louth Hall, Lincolnshire, where Lloyd George was due to speak. During their sojourn in the roof, they survived on German black bread, hard-boiled eggs and chocolate. When Lloyd George rose to speak, they began to shout. He responded by observing ‘I see some bats have got into the roof - Well let them squeal; it doesn’t matter’, dismissing their actions as ‘silly tactics.’ When the two women appeared in court, they were cautioned. While in the cells Brenda wrote on the walls ‘Most welcome bondage, for thou art a way I think to Liberty.’
A few weeks later, Bertha was arrested and back in Liverpool to answer the charges of wilful damage at Walton Gaol. She was sentenced on 21 January to six weeks with hard labour. Just before she entered prison, she handed over 5 shillings ‘Because I cannot work in the election.’ The WSPU organised a well-attended protest meeting outside the prison, a few days later. In London, the treasurer of the WSPU, Mrs Pethick Lawrence, spoke of the unjustness of the sentence comparing it to the 5 shillings fine metered out to a man who had attacked and knocked down a woman holding a baby.
The decision to prosecute was intended to deter other such prisoners from damaging prison property. A memo, on the files, makes it clear that the sentences were viewed by the Home Office as ‘unnecessarily severe’ and it was feared that as Bertha went on hunger strike, she would have to be released early. A letter was written to the judge who had tried the case requesting his support in showing clemency by agreeing to release Bertha after three weeks.
Bertha went on hunger strike and appealed against her sentence. On 30 January she was released on bail of £40 having refused food for six days. It was noted that Bertha was released into the care of her mother and took a meal before she left the prison. Interviewed by Votes for Women Bertha described the process of force-feeding using a tube and steel gag. On each occasion, she resisted necessitating her to be forcibly restrained by tying her down. Once she barricaded herself in her cell, and it took a considerable time to extract her. For this, she was given three days close confinement in a punishment cell. Part of this sentence was remitted, and Bertha was returned for another attempt at force-feeding; the table on which she had been tied initially was replaced by a chair. In February the Home Secretary, Herbert Gladstone, pardoned and remitted the balance of the sentence and therefore Bertha withdrew her appeal. Bertha received the WSPU medal for valour.
Following her release, Bertha spoke of her experiences at WSPU events. During a carefully orchestrated procession in July 1910, Bertha was the banner captain of the group, which rallied at Cleopatra’s Needle on the Thames embankment, leading a group from the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage and four other groups. On 18 November 1910 Bertha was arrested for her part in Black Friday when over three hundred women marched on the Houses of Parliament. Asquith had made an election pledge of a Conciliation Bill which would have granted some women the vote. When the Liberals won the general election, a committee proposed legislation which would have seen around a million women obtaining the vote. Although it received the support of the House of Commons Asquith halted its progress by refusing to allow its passage any more Parliamentary time. A dispute between the House of Commons and the House of Lords saw Asquith call on 18 November a general election which dissolved Parliament from 28 November. The WSPU were outraged and marched to Parliament in protest. Many women were injured. Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary, announced that ‘on this occasion no public advantage would be gained by proceeding with the prosecution.’ Bertha participated in the inquiry conducted by Henry Brailsford and Jessie Murray. She reported ‘both arms were very much bruised for over three weeks … I could hardly walk upstairs…the Black Heath policemen were dreadfully rough and cruel … and lifted me right up and flung me as hard as they could many times..’
Bertha supported the protest that saw women refuse to pay tax, as they did not have the vote, under the auspices of the Women’s Tax Resistance League. Her refusal to pay the Inhabited House Duty saw the authorities seize a carriage clock to be sold at auction to raise the taxes she owed. At each sale, a crowd of women would attend to protest. On this occasion, in an attempt to outwit the women, the only auction lot was Bertha’s carriage clock. A crowd of women gathered both inside and outside the auction room. The auctioneer mounted the podium and opened the bidding and then without a single bid being made turned to a man in the corner of the room handed him the clock and received in return twenty-one shillings. Uproar ensued. The auctioneer found himself surrounded by angry woman. The police had to come to the aid of the auctioneer who then retrieved the clock from the man and started the auction again. As the women had initially intended it was resold to one of their own. The auctioneer departed, and the women used the auction room to make speeches and accepted an apology from the man who had originally bought it.
Documents gathered collected and collated following a raid on the WSPU offices sheds light on Bertha’s mother’s involvement with the union. In 1908 Bertha’s mother joined the union and went on to be the secretary of the Ombersley branch distributing copies of the Vote. After Bertha’s release from Liverpool the WSPU wrote to her mother: ‘You have already given so very much through your dear daughter whose devotion and courage has been proved again and again.’
In November 1911 Bertha was arrested for breaking two windows at the National Liberal Club valued at 20 shillings. She was fined £5 or twenty-one days in prison. It is unclear whether she went to prison or not as there is no record of either her internment or release. In May the following year, Bertha wrote to the press regarding the treatment of women in prison. She argued that by not according them the status of political prisoners, the government were harming their own argument. Few she felt would question the length of sentences metered out if the women’s treatment in prison was the same as criminals.
A few weeks later Bertha was arrested for breaking windows at Rayleigh Post Office. She was fined £5 or one month imprisonment. A lady in court paid the fine. Bertha continued to raise awareness of the cause in a series of letters to the press. Her most widely publicised letter and the one which is most remembered today was published in the Daily Telegraph on 26 February 1913:
Everyone seems to agree upon the necessity of putting a stop to Suffragist outrages; but no one seems certain how to do so. There are two, and only two, ways in which this can be done. Both will be effectual.
On the 6 February 1914, the United Suffragists was formed by former members of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and the WSPU. While the latter stopped campaigning during World War I the United Suffragists continued taking over Votes for Women as their newspaper. Bertha became an active member joining the governing committee and playing a pivotal role in founding a branch in Birmingham. The same year her brother, Philip a conscientious objector married a fellow suffragette, Clara Giveen. Throughout the war, Bertha continued to campaign and keep the issue in the spotlight. In one issue of Votes for Women, 3 August 1917, she penned an erudite essay on why Jane Austen should be regarded as a feminist.
When success was achieved, Bertha penned the following poem:
The Passing of the Grille
On Anti’s all, do you recall the days that once you knew,
When you were the majority, and the Suffragists were few?
When women all were womanly, and men were really male,
And bipeds clamouring for votes were promptly put in jail?
When the female of the species was made to know her place,
And hidden in the gallery with bars before her face?
But now all that is at an end, she’ll sit where she’s a will,
For the House has just consented to removal of the grille.
That prehistoric state of things has gone without a doubt;
The Suffragist is everywhere; you cannot keep her out;
The Anti’s ranks are getting thin; their day is nearly done;
Their prominent supporters are converted one by one;
Six million soon will vote and worst - and final blow!
The House will never be again the House they used to know,
For every night in future the gallery will fill
With those who hitherto have scorned to cower behind the grille.
In August 1918, Bertha was campaigning for men like her brother Philip, a conscientious objector. She suggested writing in protest to the Home Secretary at the release of the objectors after the end of their sentence and their prompt re-arrest on the same charge. A step which was contrary to a pledge Lord Derby had made the previous year in the House of Lords. In addition, she was fundraising for the Save the Children Fund, formed to raise monies for the starving children of Germany and Austria whose suffering was caused by the blockade of Germany by the Allies. After the end of the war, Bertha turned her attention to supporting the Labour Party raising funds to fight elections.
Bertha ultimately settled in the village of Weobley in Herefordshire and died in France in 1959.
Edith Annie Bremner was born May 1881 in Weymouth, Dorset. Her father, John, was a paymaster in the Royal Naval, he and his wife, Annie, had seven children; five of whom survived to adulthood. Edith’s father died in 1896 while serving with the Royal Navy in Hong Kong. At the time of the 1901 census was taken, Edith was living with her mother and sister, Hilda, in Alverstoke, Hampshire; the sisters were working as governesses.
By 1908 Edith had joined the Women’s Freedom League spearheaded by Charlotte Despard. The Women’s Franchise newspaper lists Edith has one of the leading participants at various rallies across London during the summer of 1908. In October of the same year, Edith was arrested and charged with obstruction in connection with an attempt to gain access to the House of Commons. Fifteen arrests were made, fourteen women and one man. All were taken to Cannon Row Police station and were released on bail, Charlotte Despard standing as surety. Their actions were part of a larger protest - Muriel Matters and Helen Fox persuaded two Members of Parliament to assist them in gaining admission to the Ladies Gallery. Both women chained themselves to the grille of the gallery and began to address the House of Commons on the subject of women’ suffrage. At the same time, a man had entered the Strangers’ Gallery from where he shouted: ‘I am a man and I protest against the injustice to women.’ Outside members of the Women’s Freedom League had gathered. Two gained entrance to the lobby of the House of Commons, while another climbed the plinth of the statue of Richard I and began to address the gathering crowd. It took some time for the police and Parliamentary attendants to regain order.
At their trial all the women sported the colours of the League and passed their time, before the hearing started, making rosettes. The actions at the House of Commons were described as ‘one of the most disorderly and disgraceful scenes that had occurred in the last few years’ in connection with the suffrage movement. Edith was fined £5 or an alternative of a month in gaol. Refusing to pay the fine Edith was sent to Holloway Prison. She was released on 28 November. The League organised a celebration to mark the ‘red-letter day’ of the women’s release. Greeted at the gates of Holloway Prison, the women processed to breakfast at the Cottage Tea Rooms in the Strand. This was followed by a rally in Trafalgar Square and an evening reception at Morley Hall near Hanover Square.
Following her release, Edith joined in supporting the League at a variety of gatherings during December, often talking of her prison experience. The League mounted a silent siege at the gates to the House of Commons. The vigil lasted for over forty-four hours; one participant was Edith. She also continued throughout the year to address meetings and rallies. By the beginning of 1910, Edith was in Wales organising the North Monmouthshire branch of the League. The country was in the grip of a General Election campaign, and North Monmouthshire was significant as it was the seat of the future Home Secretary, Reginald Mckenna. In a report to the Women’s Franchise newspaper Edith recounts the difficulties of gaining a short-term tenancy of a vacant shop in Pontypool and how ‘slowly but surely we have won our way’ gaining permission from the council to hold meetings at the Cattle Market. She describes walking through the streets to the market in ‘drizzling rain’ to find the platform and that light had not been delivered. Undaunted Edith mounted a wall, only for a ‘sudden terrific squall’ to hit through which she addressed the small crowd for twenty minutes observing the polite tolerance with which she was received ‘even if they do not agree with us.’ Charlotte Despard joined Edith in Wales addressing a meeting in Blaenavon. Although Mckenna was re-elected, his percentage of the vote was slightly reduced and, as Edith observed, the numbers voting had increased significantly.
Edith travelled to East Fife, the seat of the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. The day before the poll the League adopted the tactic of following him in a car from meeting to meeting ensuring that ‘the green, white and gold fluttered behind the English Czar’s car.’ The women attempted to ask questions about the vote at each meeting, ‘now to questioning was added a policy of dogging and protest.’ The whole area was covered in posters. At the County Building, around three thousand turned up to hear Edith, Marguerite Sidley and Anna Munro speak. Asquith was returned as the Member of Parliament for East Fife but as the result was declared many shouted out ‘Votes for Women.’
Shortly afterwards Edith was made the organising secretary for Ireland, a country dear to the heart of the President of the League, Charlotte Despard. After a few months Edith, based in Southsea, was heading the campaign in Portsmouth proposing to hold meetings three times a week. On 18 June 1910, a suffrage march was organised which processed from the Embankment to the Albert Hall. The women were divided into groups from university women to an international section. Edith was in the group of women who had been imprisoned once. Not unexpectedly Edith does not appear on the 1911 census. Edith continued to be involved with the Portsmouth branch agreeing to address an open-air meeting during June 1912. Unfortunately, heavy rain brought the meeting to a halt before Edith had spoken. It was reconvened the following day. As Edith spoke a man in the crowd challenged her to a debate with ‘an Anti lady’, a duel Edith promptly accepted. Held the following week, not unsurprisingly, the Vote declared that Edith clearly was the victor.
It appears that by 1913 Ethel had possibly switched allegiance to the Church League for Women’s Suffrage and had also been elected to the executive of the National Union of Clerks. Both of which are areas for further research.
By 1939 Ethel is living in Battle, Sussex, employed as a secretary. She died in 1962 aged eighty.
Constance Bray, full name Mary Constance, was born in 1876 to Patrick, an architect, and Mary Auld whose maiden name was Bray. This explains why one official record notes her surname as Bray/Auld. A sister, Winifred, was born in 1879. Their father, Patrick, died in 1889. By 1901 Mary, Constance and Winifred are living in Queen Street in the City of London. Winifred worked as a soprano soloist and violinist who often performed in concerts. While Constance played the piano, both sisters were active supporters of the suffragette movement and lent their musical skills to raise awareness or funds, ‘by playing violin in the street.’
Winifred was the first to be arrested in 1907. She was sentenced to fourteen days in prison for her part in an attempt to gain access to St Stephen’s entrance at the Houses of Parliament. Following her release Winifred, as part of the Willesden and Kensal Rise branch of the WSPU which she, her sister and Louie Cullen founded, addressed a meeting accompanied by Minnie Baldock (see earlier blog). Winifred was heckled during her speech, which was described in the press as ‘amusing’, by shouts of, ‘Woman’s place is in the home’. Minnie interjected, pointing out that many women did not even have a home.
The following year Winifred was arrested for attempting again to enter the House of Commons. Votes for Women, 15 October 1908, included a report from the Evening Standard of a woman found in an underground passage near the House of Commons who, when detected, made a rush for the St Stephen’s entrance. The woman, Votes for Women reported, was Winifred. The initial hearing was adjourned and as Winifred, wearing a Votes for Women sash and a sailor-style hat with a band of suffragette colours left the courtroom she shouted out ‘You shall not have any of my money. I shall go to prison.’ At her trial, Winifred was sentenced to one month.
When Winifred and the twelve women sentenced alongside her were released from Holloway Prison, they were greeted by a large crowd who processed with the women to the Inns of Court, headquarters of the WSPU, for a celebratory breakfast. Winifred recounted to the assembled women a dream she had in prison. Rather than a clergyman in the pulpit, Winifred had dreamt that the Chief Magistrate at Bow Street, Henry Curtis Bennett, who had sentenced her stood in the vicar’s sted reading from the 22nd Psalm ‘As for me, I am a woman and no man.’ All her fellow prisoners were in the congregation and responded ‘Hear, Hear.’ Finding that someone had inscribed the prison cutlery with ‘Votes for Women’ Winifred had added ‘Down with Asquith’ and ‘Long live Christabel’ referring to Christabel Pankhurst.
Constance was first arrested in July 1908 and charged with obstruction in connection with an attempt to enter the Houses of Parliament. She was one of twenty – eight women arrested. At court Constance shouted ‘The police arrested me in the execution of my duty. We demand justice, we demand votes for women.’ Constance was bound over to keep the peace or in the alternative one month in gaol.
When Constance was released along with fourteen other women, they were greeted by a reception committee and taken to Queen’s Hall accompanied by banners and flags for a celebratory breakfast. Each woman received a bouquet of purple and white sweet peas along with purple heather, the suffragette colours. Mrs Pethick Lawrence addressed the crowd expressing the Women’s Social and Political Unions gratitude for their service. Constance addressed the gathering. She reported that the prison chaplain had asked if she was paid to be in prison; a suggestion she ‘repudiated …but said it was an insult, and said so in plain language.’ She showed her notebook which she had used as a diary. At one point it had been removed for inspection. Forwarned Constance had spent several hours erasing her ‘individual impressions of prison life.’ Each cell had the Bible, a Prayer Book, a Hymn Book, and copy of A Healthy Home and How to Keep it which the prisoner wardresses insisted were always kept on the shelf provided and in a specific order. Other books from the library were brought round in a basket. Constance selected Shakespeare’s Plays; the Strand and the Cornhill magazines as well as several novels.
Mary Auld, their mother, who had moved to Willesden, noted on the 1911 census in red ink across the return ‘Taxation without representation is Robbery. If, in this great and glorious nation we do not count on Polling Day. It gives us pain and irritation to count when there is a tax to pay. For these, ‘twill somewhat recompense us not to be counted in the census. Bow Wow!’
Both sisters were arrested in 1912. Constance was charged with wilful damage alongside the Brackenburys. She was sentenced to be bound over or in the alternative one month imprisonment. Winifred was charged with maliciously damaging five windows, the property of the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company in Regents Street valued at £50. She was sentenced to four months in Holloway Prison. Due to the numbers imprisoned Winifred was transferred to Birmingham Goal. On 27 May Winifred and seventeen other women refused food in protest against the allocation of Emmeline Pankhurst to the second division of prisoners and the denial of the rights of a political prisoner. An inquiry into the treatment of political prisoners, particularly in respect of force-feeding, was demanded. A request that the Home Secretary rebuffed.
In an internal memo it was noted ‘If prisoners refuse to take food so as to endanger health, compulsion becomes necessary.’ Winifred was fed by both gastric and nasal tube which she described as ‘much smaller … but it is fiendishly painful, and the back of the nose swells up from ear to ear, and becomes inflamed, and the pain even extends up the sides of the head to the brain.’ The following year a report was filed which noted that during 1912 102 women held in four prisons were force-fed. Winifred was released on 25 June following a diagnosis of a weak heart coupled with a history of rheumatic fever.
In 2012 the Guardian published an article about a suffragette autograph book which had come up for auction. One of the entries was written by Winifred whilst at Winson Green. Titled Holloway it reads:
The Suffragette who plays to win
Will break a window to get in
The hapless ‘Drunk’ with joy would shout
Could she, by breaking one, get out! (Guardian 6 December 2012)
In July 1914 Mary, their mother, passed away, an announcement was placed in the Suffragette. Constance died the following year and Winifred in 1932.
Emily Brandon was arrested and sentenced on 1 December 1911. She was charged with obstructing Parliament Square on 21 November by trying to force her way through the police cordon. The police stated they had repeatedly requested her to move when she refused; they arrested her. In court, Emily stated, “the Manhood Suffrage Bill is an insult to the women of England, and I did it as a protest.” She was fined five shillings or five days in prison. She elected imprisonment.
Emily was born Emily Charlotte Mcmahon Foyle in London in 1878. The family lived in Aldgate, London where her father was a warehouseman. When Emily left school, she worked in a hotel in Hanover Square in the West End of London as a clerk. On 16 June 1901 Emily married Albert Brandon, an upholsterer, from Tring, Buckinghamshire. The couple settled in Chesham, Buckinghamshire where Emily founded the Chesham branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union.
She died in 1968 in North London.
Stated on the arrest records as Mary Grace Branson her correct name is as recorded on the Suffragette Roll of Honour, Grace Mary Branson. Grace was born in 1870 in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire to John, an ironmaster and Margaret Jones. John and his brothers founded Jones Bros & Co, a company which built the Ayrton Rolling Mills comprised of furnaces and mills erected to manufacture sheets for shipbuilding. By the time of the 1891 census, John had moved into the manufacture of concrete and Grace had left home to attend the University of London. In 1898 Grace married Frederick George Reddy Branson, an attorney in the Judicial Department of the East India Company based in Madras. The couple had one daughter, Edith Rosa Grace, born on 26 May 1899 in Madras. Frederick died in 1903.
Mother and daughter returned to England. Edith attended the private school, Rodean in Brighton. Like many suffragettes, Grace seized the opportunity to officially record her opinions on the 1911 census return: “Until I am acknowledged to be a citizen of Great Britain I refuse to carry out the duties of citizens.” In residence with Grace on the night of the census were Edith, Mrs Harvey visitor and her three children daughter, son and son. Edith went onto to marry one of the anonymous sons of Mrs Harvey, Charles Donald Warren Harvey.
Grace was arrested twice, March 1912 and 10 February 1913. The first time was for breaking windows in the Haymarket belonging to John Dewar & Sons Ltd valued at £40 and H E Randall Ltd worth £30. She was sentenced to four months in Holloway Prison. However, she was one of the women transferred to Aylesbury gaol. Rule 243a stated that any prisoner whose character was previously good and who was not either awaiting trial or been sentenced for a crime involving dishonesty, cruelty, indecency or serious violence the prison authorities could ameliorate the rules in respect of wearing prison clothes; bathing; exercise; visitors or books. However, such relaxing of the rules was only allowed at the direction of the Home Secretary. On 9 April a report noted that it had just come to the attention of the prison staff that the women had been starving themselves for three or four days in protest that the lack of response to their petition requesting privileges within Rule 243A.
Reginald McKenna had been appointed Home Secretary the previous year. Initially, the suffragettes believed that the necessity for hunger-striking to highlight their lack of recognition as political prisoners was over even if the relaxation of the prison rules was not as extensive as that accorded to male political prisoners. However, those imprisoned along with Grace were only allowed to wear their own clothes and to converse when exercising, which fell far short of a relaxation of the rules in recognition of their status as political prisoners. When no further concessions were forthcoming, the women, including Grace, went on hunger strike.
The food disappeared. The prison wardresses presumed it had been eaten, but it became clear it was being hidden by the prisoners and disposed of down the toilet. The decision was taken to commence force-feeding. Nine were fed using a feeding cup, two by stomach tube and twelve by nasal tube. The process took three hours and forty-five minutes to complete. The second day it was decided to discontinue force feeding four of the women, one of which was Grace, as the medical officer felt it was inadvisable to continue and recommended immediate release. The Prison Commission dispatched Dr Smalley to Aylesbury and proposed that the two women considered to be the ringleaders should be moved to Manchester Prison. Smalley reported back that the four, including Grace who, in his view, was suffering from aortic disease, should be released. A recommendation which was followed; Grace was released having served twenty-four days of her sentence. Her condition on release was described as ‘very fair.’
A heated debate followed in the House of Commons. McKenna argued that the crimes were sufficiently serious to deny the privileges accorded by Rule 243a, and if the women would eat forcibly feeding would not have been necessary. Those opposed to their treatment pointed out that it was the lack of recognition as political prisoners that led to the hunger strike.
The following year Grace was charged with breaking three windows at the Junior Carlton Club valued at £4 10 shillings. Three other clubs were stated to have also been targeted together with the home of Prince Christian, Schomberg House which stood adjacent to the Oxford and Cambridge Club. The women used clay balls, iron nuts and stones. Only three women were arrested. At her trial, Grace said ‘I did it as a suffragette and as one who protests against the government of the country by men alone. Also the fact of prostitution existing is enough to justify any of these acts on our part. This standard of morality makes us women sick to death, and we are going to cleanse and abolish it. You men ought to be ashamed of letting women come here on charges of soliciting.’ Grace’s drawing attention to women being brought before the courts for prostitution highlighted the inequity that suffragettes and suffragists felt at the women facing charges, not the men who sought out prostitutes.
Found guilty she was sentenced to two months in prison. This time she was sent to Holloway. Alongside Sylvia Pankhurst and Edith Ball [see earlier blog] she was force-fed. Grace is mentioned in a letter that Sylvia wrote to her mother, Emmeline. She describes in graphic detail the process of being force-fed “They prise open my mouth with a steel gag…My gums are always bleeding.” She wrote that the authorities claimed they did not resist “Yet my shoulders are bruised with struggling...”. She mentions that Mrs Branson, Grace, has a heart defect and wonders whether anything can be done. Sylvia’s experiences were published in the press, which caused a furore.
A meeting was held at which the Bishop of London protested at the barbarity of force-feeding. In response, a debate took place in the House of Commons. Reginald Mackenna, the Home Secretary, stated that the women were prepared to die, which he did not intend to let them do, thus force-feeding was a necessity. The movement needed to be broken down using “patience, forbearance and humanity.” It is a shocking stretch to imply that keeping the women from starving themselves to death by force-feeding is a sign of humanity. He proposed, in response to the growing public disgust at the practice, that the women could be freed on licence if their health was in danger. This proposal would become the Cat and Mouse Act where women were released on licence and when they had physically recovered were taken back inside to serve the rest of their sentence. Early in April 1913, Grace was released. She spoke to the press describing how one suffragette had learnt how to contract her throat so that a finner tube had to be used, but this was not before she had had two teeth smashed. The treatment of Grace and many others forced the government into the release on licence of women whom it was felt could not endure the practice of force-feeding, but it did not alter their stance on the vote or the practice of force-feeding until it could be endured no longer.
Following a raid of the WSPU offices in 1913 Grace wrote to the authorities demanding the return of a medal belonging to her which had been removed from the premises. The response was a curt one-sentence letter from the Chief Inspector of Police denying that they had taken the medal. In the Autumn of 1917, Edith applied to study at Bedford College, part of the University of London. Grace’s occupation was noted as an oxy-acetylene welder, presumably as part of the war effort.
Grace and her daughter and son in law settled in Devon where she died in 1961.
Frank Brailsford, a commercial traveller, was arrested in December 1912 for breaking a pane of glass in a window at No 10 Downing Street valued at 2 shillings and 6d. One newspaper described Frank as ‘well-dressed’ man who lived in Canterbury Road, Brixton. On his arrest, he said: “I shall not run away, I did it for a purpose.” At his trial, Frank stated he had taken this course of action on purely political grounds due to Asquith’s attitude towards votes for women commenting: ‘Mr Asquith had strained at the Suffragist gnat and swallowed at the Home Rule camel.’ He was sentenced to pay forty shillings plus the money to pay for the pane or in the alternative a month’s hard labour. The newspapers do not record which he picked, but his presence on the suffragette roll of honour for those who went to prison indicates that was the option he took. No further information has been found.
Jane Esdon Brailsford nee Malloch was born in 1874 in Elderslie, Renfrewshire. Her father, John, was a cotton manufacturer employing over two hundred people. Intelligent, she studied Greek at Glasgow University falling in love with her married professor, Gilbert Murray; a love which appears to have been unrequited. Later, she studied philosophy at Sommerville College, Oxford University. A lecturer at Glasgow University, Henry Brailsford, heard Keir Hardie of the Independent Party speak. An event which inspired the founding of a branch of the Independent Labour Party at the university. This, in turn, spun into the founding of the University Fabian Society. One of the first members was Jane.
Henry Brailsford’s academic career was not successful, and he began to explore a career in journalism. His political activities brought him into continual contact with Jane with whom he fell in love. Jane, who was considered by many of his friends to be neurotic, rejected his first proposal of marriage prompted by her departure for Oxford University. Her rejection seems only to have served to make Henry more smitten. He wrote to her, continually ignoring the abruptness of her replies. When Jane returned to Glasgow for the holidays, Henry was contemplating volunteering if Greece went to war against Turkey. Jane encouraged him to go. Henry set off in a fervour of patriotism, only to return seven weeks later exhausted, wounded and disillusioned.
His experiences led him to write his only book, The Broom of the War God. Not widely well-received it opened the door to a commission from the Manchester Guardian to report on the situation in Crete. He proposed again to Jane, and she accepted. Her yes after two years of pursuit and the far from happy marriage it became has led to speculation as to why she finally capitulated. Possible explanations which have been put forward are the romanticism of a mission to Crete, the death of her father or the consequent sale of her childhood home. Jane did not appear, over the years to have much respect for Henry, and indeed many believe the marriage was not consummated.
The couple were married in 1898 in Glasgow, Jane refusing to wear a wedding ring as it symbolised bondage. Whilst in Crete, Jane wrote a novel which failed to find a publisher. She then explored an acting career. Henry wrote her a play, hired a hall but her performance was not met with critical acclaim and her acting career stalled before it had truly begun. In 1903 the couple travelled to Macedonia working as relief agents. Henry Nevinson, a journalist and founding member of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage, in a letter dated 12 October 1909 to the Home Office relates Jane’s time in Macedonia which he described as ‘heroic’. Throughout the winter ‘in the wildest & most dangerous part of the country’ Jane remained tending ‘the wounded and the destitute.’ While visiting typhus cases in underground shelters, she contracted the disease and was dangerously ill.
Unhappy in her marriage Jane was a woman who yearned for acclaim and needed a cause which she found in the fight for votes for women. Initially, she joined the National Union of Suffrage Societies, but in 1906 she switched allegiance to the Women’s Social and Political Union. In line with his own political sentiments and ever supportive of Jane Henry often wrote about the campaign and was a founding member of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage.
The Daily News, 4 October 1909, printed a letter from Jane to the editor of the paper in response to an article which argued that the forthcoming General Election ‘a decisive victory will be achieved for democratic and Progressive principles.’ Jane pointed out that the argument had no merit ‘in regard to a country where more than half the population is in a state of political slavery.’ Henry was a lead writer on the Daily News. The day after Jane’s letter was published Henry and, fellow journalist, Henry Nevinson, resigned in protest at the treatment of the suffragette prisoners in Birmingham. The Times published a letter from the two setting out their reasoning. The two Henrys argued that in William Gladstone and John Morley, both Liberals had ‘defined the attitude of the older Liberalism towards political offenders’ as one which did not meter out ‘humiliating punishments’ such as forcing the wearing of prison dress. However, Gladstone’s treatment of suffragette prisoners did not accord with this Liberal principal; the women were not accorded political status and were now being subjected to force-feeding.
A few days later on 9 October 1909, Jane was arrested in Newcastle during a protest intended to disrupt a visit to the city by Lloyd George. Among the other suffragettes arrested, alongside Jane, were Constance Lytton, Emily Davidson and Dorothy Pethick. According to the police report, in the days leading up to Lloyd George’s visit suffragette meetings were held across Newcastle. At one Violet Bryant reportedly said ‘they were prepared to go to any length to get their rights even to death itself.’ The city started to swell with suffragettes. Significant numbers of police were drafted in, venues searched, the glass roof of one venue was covered by a tarpaulin, and the suffragettes were placed under surveillance. When Lloyd George arrived in Newcastle a hundred policemen were on duty inside and outside the railway station. Decoy cars were deployed to confuse the suffragettes as to which route Lloyd George was taking. When he arrived at the Palace Theatre guarded by over a hundred police officers, the suffragettes threw stones, and Jane repeatedly smashed one of the barriers with, it was claimed, an axe.
The women were arrested and denied bail. While on remand, the police reported that the women were ‘allowed reasonable facilities for communicating with and interviewing their friends, and obtaining meals and bedding outside. The charge against Jane was disorderly behaviour and having an axe. Found guilty Jane was sentenced to one month in prison having refused to be bound over to keep the peace. The prison governor wrote a report in which he stated that he believed the women had reconnoitred the gaol in the days leading up to Lloyd George’s visit to ascertain how many prisoners could be processed and accommodated. The women had concluded that a group of them would be difficult for the staff to manage. Thus the number who engineered their arrest. The governor felt that the women now believed they had failed to subsume the staff but had indicated that next time an even larger number would gather and endeavour to be arrested whether in Newcastle or somewhere else. Sheer numbers would make, for example, force-feeding harder to administer.
On arriving at Newcastle Gaol, the women announced their intention to refuse food. Keir Hardie wrote to Gladstone enquiring if it was true that up to two pints of milk were force-fed to the women during each session. In turn, the Home Office wrote to the prison governors. One report in the official files includes a response which states ‘I think that is in every way desirable for obvious reasons to give as large a quantity at each ‘feeding’ as the patient is found able to digest.’ Jane was not force-fed. Dr Smalley, Medical Inspector of Prisons, wrote on 13 October 1909 following his attendance at Newcastle Gaol ‘We have had a worrying day,’ both Constance Lytton and Jane had ‘gone downhill.’ Smalley summoned a local doctor who thought Jane’s health ‘very doubtful,’ as she was anaemic and showed ‘signs of dilatation of the right ventricle with heart muscle weakness’—describing Jane as in an ‘extremely nervous state’ with a pulse of 120 the doctor advised against force-feeding. Despite his concern, Smalley felt that force-feeding was not a risk; it was the struggling against the process, which was more of a concern.
Smalley interviewed Jane, who informed him that if ‘the force-feeding did not kill her, she would kill herself after.’ He felt that Jane could well attempt to take her own life. When he asked her how she would do this, Jane replied she had the means. Smalley’s concern was that on admittance to the prison, the searching of the prisoners had not been particularly thorough, and Jane could be concealing drugs.
Charles Masterman, Liberal Member of Parliament for West Ham North, wrote a letter on Home Office notepaper to an unknown recipient, aligning Jane’s threat to commit suicide if executed to Shakespeare’s Rape of Lucrece resulting in ‘the popular support that we have hitherto received …immediately (in its stupid, unthinking way) turn from us.’ Such an event would mean force-feeding would no longer be an option, a fact Masterman believed Jane knew and ‘that is why she is determined …to kill herself: under the wild & frantic idea that by so doing she will save ‘her sisters’ from these ‘outrages’’.
Henry visited the Home Office. He pointed out that the aim of the women’s actions had been to be arrested, and they had deliberately ensured that the damage they did was minimal. Jane had only become ‘a strong supporter of women’s rights [when] she heard of the forcible feeding of women at Birmingham.’ The women had set out to be arrested to enter prison, refuse food and in turn be force-fed, a process which ‘produced a feeling of horror in their minds.’ Henry suggested the women should be released ‘when they had starved themselves long enough instead of being forcibly fed.’ He declined the opportunity to apply for the release of his wife.
Henry Nevinson weighed in writing to the Home Office. He stated that so keen was Jane to do as little damage as possible the axe with which the barrier was struck was wrapped in tissue paper. Nevinson described Jane as a ‘very remarkable woman, who has accomplished at least one most heroic action for humanity.’ Henry’s visit and Masterman’s letter led the authorities to decide that both Constance and Jane should be released as soon as possible.
It was decided to release Jane and Constance as they both showed ‘symptoms of cardiac trouble. Lady Betty Balfour, herself an ardent support of the suffrage movement and Constance’s sister, arrived in a cab to collect both women. Smalley persuaded them to drink a cup of milk each and noted that he had advised them ‘to be careful as to diet.’ In his opinion when it was decided to protest at Lloyd George’s meeting the women had ‘picked out all the ‘crocks’; if this was the plan it was, in his opinion, ‘a cute move.’ A telegram was sent ordering that if any questions were asked by the press, the only response was that any release was on medical grounds.
Shortly after her release, Jane joined Christabel Pankhurst and Dora Spong on the platform at a WSPU meeting in Hampstead. Henry wrote an article published in the Nation on 18 December describing force-feeding as ‘the horrors of warfare’, ‘a degradation which sears the spirit and breaks the will.’ In December Jane travelled to Lancashire to lend her support to the campaign there. On her return, she addressed a meeting of the WSPU Croydon branch. Jane explained that she had carried an axe as she had not wished to partake in stone throwing in case she accidentally hit someone. Dismissing the reports of a heart weakness due to starvation Jane observed that just before examination, she had walked around the prison yard for several hours without pause.
Throughout 1910 Jane continued campaigning and addressing meetings while Henry supported the cause through the Men’s League. In January Asquith had called a general election but the Liberals failed to gain a majority and were reliant on the support of Labour Members of Parliament in the House of Commons. Henry approached Millicent Fawcett of the National Union of Woman’s Suffrage Societies proposing the formation of a Conciliation Committee for Women’s Suffrage. Both Millicent and Emmeline Pankhurst agreed, and all militant action stopped. A committee was formed with Henry acting as secretary and a Conciliation Bill drafted. It passed the first stage in the House of Commons, and it was sent to the Committee stage. Asquith then made it clear the Bill would be abandoned which led to the protests on 18 November 1910, known as Black Friday. The Conciliation Committee demanded a public enquiry into the events of Black Friday, but Churchill refused. Henry, along with Jessie Murray, set about gathering statements from the women, a total of 135 were collected.
Jane was arrested for a second time in November 1911 for her participation in an attempt to gain access to the House of Commons. A fellow participator reported seeing Jane repeatedly attempting to breakdown a cordon of police three deep. When this attempt failed, Jane climbed over the railings and ran across the grass towards the entrance to St Stephen’s. Jane was arrested and charged with obstruction. Refusing to be bound over she was sent to Holloway Prison for seven days. On her release, Jane sat on the platform at a WSPU meeting held at the London Pavilion. Chaired by Emmeline Pethick Lawrence Jane gave a short speech on her experience in Holloway Prison.
Various Members of Parliament horrified at the resumption of militant actions by suffragettes indicated their intention to withdraw their support for the Conciliation Bill. Henry wrote to the editor of the Westminster Gazette pointing out that such a withdrawal would only serve as ‘a complete vindication of [the WSPU] policy of ‘all or nothing’’. Jane continued to address meetings. In late April and early May 1912, she went on a tour organised by the Halifax and Huddersfield branch of the WSPU.
The Pankhursts desire to totally control the Women’s Social and Political Union angered Jane, and she resigned in October 1912. The Pethick Lawrences were expelled from the WSPU and from there on they published the Votes for Women newspaper independently under the auspices of the Votes for Women Fellowship which united suffragettes militant or not but who were, generally, frustrated at the actions of Emmeline Pankhurst. Jane took the stage alongside the Pethick Lawrences at a rally in Hyde Park in June 1913.
In 1913 Henry and Jane separated. A year later they reconciled although far from happily. Their respective stances on the First World War were poles apart. Henry who had lost his patriotic fervour many years before joined the Union of Democratic Control which advocated the taking of steps which would ensure such a conflict never occurred again. As the WSPU no longer had the newspaper, Votes for Women, within its control, it launched a new one called the Suffragette which following the agreement to support the war effort changed its name to the more patriotic Britannia with the slogan ‘For King’ For Country, for Freedom.’ Even before its name change the newspaper’s patriotic stance was clear. Despite Henry’s years of support for the suffrage movement, his membership of the Union of Democratic Control was lambasted; it was an organisation ‘which seeks by playing upon sympathies of the well-intentioned to conceal its insignificance and futility.’ Henry was described as ‘having a talent for taking the wrong political turning… This fatal talent … [is] at the expense of his country and the cause of civilisation.’ Jane was consumed by patriotic fervour.
Henry turned his attentions to writing books such as the Origin of the First World War published in 1914 and The War of Steel and Gold: A Study of the Armed Peace. The latter was initially published in 1914. A revised 1915 edition included a new chapter, A Postscript on Peace and Change, and an appendix with an outline for a Federal League of European Nations which influenced Woodrow Wilson’s speech to the American League to Enforce peace. Henry unsuccessfully stood as a Labour candidate in the 1918 General Election. He toured Europe writing two books shedding light on the consequences to the lives of the people of the defeated countries, pointing out that the Treaty of Versailles was flawed which could lead to Germany rearmament and war. Again this influenced the thinking of Wilson.
The couple split again in 1921 although Jane refused to agree to a divorce. By this time Henry was editor of the New Leader, the newspaper of the Independent Labour Party. He fell in love with Clare Leighton, an artist and author, with whom he lived for several years. Blighted by alcoholism, Jane died of its effects in 1937, which left Henry free to marry, but his emotional turmoil following Jane’s death destroyed his relationship with Clare, who emigrated to America in 1939.
Henry continued to combine political activism with writing. Several years after the breakdown of his relationship with Clare, he met and fell in love with Evamaria Perlmann who was much younger than him. They married in 1944, marriage which continued until he died in 1958.
Hilda Eliza was born in Quebec, Canada, in 1832 the youngest of seven children of Archibald, an advocate, and Agnes Campbell. In 1854 in Quebec Hilda married Charles Booth Brackenbury of the Royal Horse Artillery. In August 1857 they had a daughter, Hilda, the first of nine children: three daughters and six sons. During the early years of their marriage Charles served during the Crimean War and was then posted to Malta; returning to England, he rose to the rank of Colonel and later acting Major-General. Charles was a respected writer on military topics. Georgina Agnes, often known as Ina, was born in 1865 and Marie Venetia Caroline in 1866. The family was beset by tragedy. In 1870 their eldest daughter died, and in 1884 and 1885 their two eldest sons, William and Charles passed away. Only five years later Charles died suddenly from heart failure. A year later Hilda’s second eldest surviving son, Lionel, serving in the army, died in India.
Hilda left London, and along with Georgina, Maria and Hereward, her youngest son, she moved in with her sister and brother in law, Andrew, an expert in armaments, and Margy Noble, who lived in a grand style in Jesmond Dene House, Newcastle upon Tyne. Hilda’s eldest surviving son, Richard, had emigrated to America in 1885 and her other son, Cyril, was abroad working as a mining engineer. Georgina and Marie were both artists who studied at the Slade School of Art. Passenger lists record the two sisters travelling to America in 1894 where they spent a year. Ina and Marie quickly made the acquaintance of William Keith, an artist in San Francisco, whose friends and pupils they became returning to England in 1895. The following year, 1896, the two sisters accompanied by their mother, Hilda, returned remaining until the next spring. William’s brother, Cornelius in his biography Keith, Old Master of California, describes an exhibition held in 1898 by Ina, Marie and their brother, Richard. The latter had bought twenty-four pictures of William’s to London. Although not all of the paintings sold, the press cuttings Richard sent to William, which he in turn sent to the newspapers in San Francisco, led to articles which made him appear an artist of international fame enhancing his artistic reputation.
By 1899 Hilda and her two daughters returned to London moving into 2 Campden Hill Square London. In the same year, William sailed for Europe with John Zeile, an art patron. Marie excitedly wrote to him offering the use of a studio at their home. For whatever reason Ina and Marie saw little of William while he was in Europe, but their correspondence with him continued until he died in 1911. His second wife, Mary McHenry Keith, was a keen advocate for women’s suffrage. The first female graduate from Hastings College of Law Mary was a leading member of the Berkeley Political Equality Group whose activities played a crucial role in securing women’s suffrage in California in 1911. Mary clearly influenced Ina and Marie. In a letter dated 26 November 1908 William wrote ‘Now I will leave a space for Mrs Keith to gossip about woman suffrage.’ In another missive, Marie wrote to William ‘Won’t Mary crow if she gets Woman Suffrage before we do!’
Initially, the three were members of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, but in 1908 they joined the Women’s Social and Political Union. Of Hilda, Marie said ‘Night after night we wrestled over the new ideas and her soul was troubled. But she had always been a brave seeker after the truth, and one by one she gave up the old ways of thinking and became fired with the just and true ideals of women.’ The studio, which had been offered to William for his use while in England, became the venue for suffragette meetings. In January 1908 the sisters hosted a suffragette meeting chaired by Evelyn Sharp, a founder of the WSPU, attended by two hundred women. The following month Ina and Maria took part in a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament which has become known as the Pantechnicon incident. The WSPU hired two Pantechnicons in which to convey forty-two suffragettes into the environs of the House of Commons. Once inside, a petition would be presented. Marie described ‘A great clattering of horses and a sense of jolting and rumbling which lasted for what seemed to use like an age. Suddenly the van stopped, and our hearts beat fast, and the doors swung open, and we saw the House of Commons before us and out we all flew.’ The suffragettes intermingled with the Members of Parliament entering the House of Commons but the police grabbed the women pushing them away. Only for the women to try again and again. The suffragette action was part of a three-day Women’s Parliament being held at Caxton Hall. When news reached the delegates of the ruckus at the House of Commons many more set off to support the women already there. Ina and Marie were among forty-seven women arrested.
Charged with obstruction they were both imprisoned in Holloway Prison for six weeks. Hilda commented that “I feel that my daughters are doing a service to their country in exactly the same way as my sons would do on the field.” Both daughters spoke at WSPU meetings and rallies. Both chaired platforms at a rally held in Hyde Park in the summer of 1908. Of the two Ina was, perhaps, the more active. She lobbied during the by-election in Peckham, south London, and campaigned successfully to prevent Winston Churchill from winning a seat at the Manchester by-election. Alongside campaigning, she was a regular speaker at meetings standing alongside luminaries such as Jessie Kenney; Emmeline Pethick Lawrence or Mary Gawthorpe. Marie was, though, equally highly regarded. She gave an interview to the Northampton Mercury, 22 October 1909. in the introduction, the interviewer describes her as “one of the very best exponents of her cause -a lady of culture and refinement, deeply in earnest.” When in 1910 the WSPU felt it needed more women confident in addressing meetings the Brackenbury family lent the studio for weekly classes in public speaking. This was so successful two additional classes were quickly added. Towards the end of 1910 Ina was along with Rona Robinson, the organiser for Manchester and District.
On 12 October Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst together with Flora Drummond were charged with ‘conduct likely to provoke a breach of the peace’ after they spoke at a rally in Trafalgar Square urging people to join them ‘to rush the House of Commons’ two days later. Christabel, who had a Law Degree from the University of Manchester but was barred by her gender from practising, mounted a robust defence even securing Lloyd George and Herbert Gladstone as defence witnesses. The case opened at 10.30 am and continued until 7.30 pm. At that point, the Magistrate asked Christabel how many more witnesses she intended to call. When she announced there were fifty more, the Magistrate adjourned to the following day. However, when the court reconvened, he limited the number to three. After their testimony, the prisoners could address the court. One witness called on the first day was Marie who testified that Horace Smith, the Magistrate who had passed her sentence, had informed her that in sentencing her he was doing what he was told.
Maria often used to advertise meetings by using her artistic talents, chalking the details on paving stones or walls. Both sisters regularly addressed meetings across the country.
Hilda took part in Black Friday when she was arrested but released without charge. In March 1912 Hilda, Ina and Marie were arrested for their role in the window-smashing campaign. Hilda, nearly eighty years old, was charged with wilful damage for smashing two windows at the United Service Institution in Whitehall. Ina and Marie were charged with obstruction. The trial of the three took quite some time as all seized the opportunity to address the court at length. All three were sentenced to payment of a fine or two weeks in prison.
The authorities took to attending suffragette meetings to take notes on the speeches. In one report, the detective boasts he is more than competent at shorthand, his note, therefore, being an almost verbatim transcript. The caveat to his boast is the intended destination of any report and who paid his wages. Even if read bearing this in mind a transcript of Ina’s speech, given in February 1912, provides an insight. The meeting was chaired by Christabel, who introduced Ina as ‘one of our best workers.’ Ina opened powerfully: ‘I want you to think for a moment of this Union as a great Regiment; it is a WAR!’ She dismissed thoughts that breaking windows was an act of hooliganism: ‘you are not a hooligan as you are acting in a great and noble cause…’ Ina made a call for one thousand women to damage one thousand windows. This would overwhelm the authorities ‘1000 women to be tried, 1000 gaping mouths that will want feeding.’ Like a general rallying, his men Ina urged ‘We must show no weakness, to falter would be to prevent, what we know would be a certain victory.’ When the report was filed in a bundle of evidence for potential prosecution, someone helpfully underscored in blue crayon the words which were considered to be the most significant.
Amongst the files is one which collated all the evidence the authorities had gathered about the WSPU and which was put before two leading barristers of the time, Archibald Bodkin, later Director of Public Prosecutions, and George Branson, later grandfather of Sir Richard Branson. In respect of the Brackenbury women, the documents state that the family home, 2 Campden Hill Square, was let to the WSPU at £4 per week who used it as a nursing home at which suffragettes, released under the Cat and Mouse Act, could recover their health following force-feeding. In an article in the Sunday Post, 30 October 1921, Annie Kenney describes being taken by ambulance from Maidstone Prison to the Brackenbury property which was nickname Mouse Castle. Before this Campden Hill Square had temporarily been used as the headquarters of the WSPU when their occupation of Clement’s Inn became untenable following a police raid and the replacement offices at Tothill Street were, in turn, raided. This third move did not, though, deter the police from another raid at Campden Hill Square where it is noted they not only recovered WSPU documentation but also discovered Freida Graham, an alias for Grace Marcon. Grace had been sentenced to six months for damaging five paintings at the National Gallery in May 1914. She was released on 5 June ill from the effects of a hunger strike and subsequent force-feeding.
In a joint opinion, Bodkin and Branson favoured a civil action rather than a criminal one which they felt was ‘not …likely to succeed.’ In their view: ‘there can be no doubt that the methods adopted and recognised by the WSPU …are unlawful methods, and we think that persons joining or continuing to be members …with knowledge of its unlawful methods, … could be made civilly responsible in damages for injuries maliciously inflicted by other members…’. Both Hilda and Ina were named as persons who could, ‘subject to proof of the facts mentioned’, be joined as defendants. Grace, it was suggested, should be sued in the civil courts by the trustees of the National Gallery for damages incurred. The advent of the First World War put pay to the suggested approach.
The family also had a home, Brackenside in Peaslake, Surrey which was often used to house women who had been released under the Cat and Mouse Act whilst they recovered. In an advertisement for a tenant Ina or Marie described it as a ‘sunny HOUSE, in garden, on hillside above village; beautiful view: four bedrooms, three reception, bathroom, large Swiss balcony.’ Edwin Waterhouse, the founder of the accountancy firm Price Waterhouse and a prominent resident of Peaslake, commented in his memoirs ‘Peaslake is rather a nest of suffragettes.’
In June 1914 Hilda wrote an impassioned letter to The Times ‘The women have died, but that did not stop militancy’, continuing she named women who had died for the cause or those who were ‘partially dead in body though not in spirit.’ Thousands remained prepared to damage ‘pictures, churches, houses …’ but ‘policemen cannot be everywhere.’ Hilda observed that ‘fine young men’ were willing to give up their leisure pursuits to protect property but ‘Let the women die by all means, but to save our young men from such a terrible sacrifice let justice be done, and give women the vote!’
Hilda died in 1918, Maria in 1945 and Georgina in 1949. The National Portrait Gallery owns two of Georgina’s portraits; one of the 17th Viscount Dillon and one of Emmeline Pankhurst.
Janet Augusta Boyd was born in 1855 to George and Anne Haig. Part of a large extended family Janet's niece Margaret Thomas Haig, and her cousins Louisa and Florence Haig also became suffragettes. In 1874 Janet married George Boyd, a solicitor. His father was Edward Fenwick Boyd, an industrialist based in the northeast of England who built a substantial family home called Moor House in the small village of Leamside on the outskirts of Durham. On his father's death, George inherited the house, and he, Janet and their four daughters moved in. George died in 1909, and this appears to have influenced Janet to contribute to the fight for women's suffrage.
Janet was first arrested on Black Friday, 18 November 1910, and released, like all the other participants, without charge. Janet made a statement to the enquiry into the events of Black Friday - she had witnessed the police pinching or twisting women's breasts. Due to rheumatism Janet was, she asserted, incapable of throwing a stone, as alleged, 'without danger to those beside me.'Janet appears to have like many; campaigners avoided the 1911 census. In June of the same year, the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 12 June 1911, reported that Janet had refused to pay her rates amounting to £21. In consequence, an auction was to be held to raise funds. Janet offered a Spanish mantilla for sale, which was bought by her gardener. The auctioneer announced his support for the campaign permitting a member of the WSPU to address the crowd.
Janet was arrested on 19 November 1911 for breaking a window in the Strand. In court, she stated: 'I don't consider I was guilty, because I was doing it for a good purpose.' She was fined 10 shillings and three shillings for the damage or, in the alternative, 7 days imprisonment. It is unclear which she elected.Her second arrest was in March 1912. At the initial hearing, she was committed for trial alongside her cousin Florence Haig for each breaking four windows at D H Evans department store valued at £66. To the charge, Janet responded 'I have nothing to say.' By the time the matter came to court the value of the windows broken was stated to be £250 and rather than four the pair had broken thirteen windows. Janet was sentenced to six months imprisonment. Florence, who said that if she were bound over to keep the peace, she would feel like a soldier deserting in the middle of battle, was sentenced to four months.Following a hunger strike when Janet was not force-fed, as she was deemed unfit to tolerate the procedure, she was released in June of that year, two months early. This was following a report that Janet and Florence, both refusing food, were 'holding their own well.' Her release report described Janet as 'Senile, eccentric and weak-minded.' She had resisted attempts to be fed by a cup and spoon and was showing signs of malnutrition 'in condition of her tongue and increase frequency of pulse.'She was one of the women who "signed" a handkerchief owned now by the Priest House at Hoathly.
Janet died in December 1928 and is included in the Suffragette Roll of Honour.
The next entry reads Dinah or Nina Boyle who was arrested on several occasions during 1912, 1913 and 1914. Born Constance Antonia in 1865 to Robert, an army captain and Frances, her father died when she was four years old. Her widowed mother was left with six children, the youngest of whom David was only a few months old. At some point, Nina went to live in South Africa where she was a journalist writing for the Transvaal Leader alongside nursing during the Boer War. Nina wrote to the Times newspaper of the unequal treatment metered out to Boer and loyalist refugees. Interested in women's rights she founded the Women's Enfranchisement League of Johannesburg.
Nina returned to England in 1911. She was initially active in the Victoria League and Colonial Intelligence League for Educated Women. The former Nina resigned from feeling they were pursuing an anti-suffrage stance. She spoke at a meeting of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in Redhill in April 1911 about the suffrage campaign in South Africa. Present was Katherine Harley, sister of Charlotte Despard with whom Nina was soon to become closely involved. A month later she addressed a joint conference of suffrage groups in Edinburgh highlighting the unpaid work women undertook without which the country would suffer.
Shortly, thereafter she joined the Women's Freedom League whose President was Charlotte Despard. Nina regularly addressed meetings and was elected to the executive. She was also a member of the Tax Resistance League. Nina was arrested alongside Charlotte Despard and Julia Wood; all three were charged with obstruction as current regulations banned protests in Trafalgar Square. In breach of these, Charlotte mounted a plinth addressing a growing crowd, standing alongside her were Julia and Nina who rang a handbell. All three refused to climb down and were consequently arrested. Nina was fined 60 shillings or 10 days in prison. The other two were treated similarly. All elected to go to gaol. However, not long afterwards, their fines were paid, and they were released.
A similar ban on public speaking had been imposed in Hyde Park. In May 1913 Nina and Annie Munroe were arrested for attempting to break the embargo. In court, Nina and Annie were fined 20 shillings or fourteen days imprisonment. They elected to go to prison. Both complained about the conditions of the prison vans use to convey them from Marylebone Police Court to Holloway Prison to the Prison Visiting Committee. The van picked up five women from the court proceeding from there to Marlborough Street Police Court where six men and two women were collected. After an hour's journey, the men were dropped off at Pentonville Prison and then the women at Holloway, only a short distance away. The van was designed to accommodate fourteen prisoners, and according to the guard, Nina and Anna elected to sit in an area known as the Association Cell which they had to themselves. The guard reported that he had been present in the passage of the van the entire journey and nothing untoward had taken place. Nina, however, asserted that she and Annie had witnessed 'most disgusting familiarities between a French street walker…and some of the men in the passage.'The Prison Visiting Committee, after consideration, raised their concern regarding the transportation of men and women together. The authorities stated that women were transported in 'closed compartments' while men were placed 'in the corridor of the van.' A decision was taken to hold an enquiry headed by a Police Commissioner and an Assistant Commissioner of Police; despite the fact, there was some confusion as to whether Nina's complaint was of her own experience or that experienced by another prisoner, Jane Short.Sworn statements were made by several women including Charlotte Despard, attesting that men had been present in the prison vans. Nina reported that although she and Annie were in a separate compartment the men had been able to make 'obscene gestures' at them and, another had 'reached his hand' into their section; 'it was a most disgusting, revolting and provoking performance.' Jane Short, it was reported, had travelled in the same compartment as a woman charged with soliciting. The Governor of Brixton Prison stated that he had often received complaints about the transportation; in particular that it was airless. He strongly felt that the adoption of motor vans would be a solution with different vehicles for male and female prisoners. One proponent of the Governor's proposal commented that 'in his personal experience a dozen or so [have been]taken to hospital on arrival' due to the high temperatures in the van.
Both Nina and Annie attended the enquiry. Giving evidence, Nina was clear she had no complaints with the officers in charge of the vans while Annie pointed out that while technically men and women were separated the necessity to keep the shutters up to let some air in meant that the men were able to see and communicate inappropriately with women prisoners. Both women urged the use of separate vans for the sexes and the employment of a matron for the female van. The enquiry was wide-reaching, including research on transportation to prison used in other cities. The concluding recommendations were motor vans and separate transport for women. Both changes were introduced over the next few years.
George Lansbury, a Labour politician, was a passionate advocate for women's suffrage. Originally elected as the Member for Parliament for Bow and Bromley in 1910 he resigned his seat in protest at the lack of support the Labour Party were giving to the campaign for women's votes. At the resulting by-election, George stood purely on the issue of suffrage losing to the Conservative candidate who coined the phrase 'Petticoat Government'. During April 1913 George addressed a WSPU rally at the Albert Hall. The authorities believed that his speech was an incitement to violence. Charged, after a trial and appeal George was sentenced to three months imprisonment unless he agreed to be bound over and provide sureties. His adamant refusal led to the prison sentence rather than any guilt in respect of the charges. Questions were asked in the House of Commons as to how a man could be imprisoned when he had not been found guilty and whether George was being accorded the privileges of a political prisoner; rights which were routinely denied to women prisoners. Despite this, the authorities note in the files that George was not receiving privileges because he was on hunger strike. An overt example of discrimination as the argument generally for denying the women prisoners was their cause was not political.
George went on hunger strike and was released three days later on licence under the Cat and Mouse Act. One report states that he had a 'bad heart' which was substantiated by a rise in his life insurance premiums ten years earlier. Another written after he was removed to the prison hospital: 'attacks of palpitations at times.' Although medical opinion was that George was a candidate for force-feeding so long as he did not violently resist no attempt appears to have been made. Despite the often used approach of re-arresting women when they were deemed to have sufficiently recovered their health if they failed to return to prison, George remained at large having not presented himself back at Pentonville Prison on the appointed day, 11 August 1913.
This led to many protests at the apparent different treatment of men and women. One woman wrote pointing out that while George remained free Sylvia Pankhurst had been re-arrested; 'does not this show there is a law for man very different to that which is administered to a woman.' The letter is included in the official files with a note appended 'the position is very awkward. Lansbury ought to be arrested but we can hardly do so now, if he remains quiet. At recent meetings he has been studiously careful and moderate in what he said.'
In a letter from the Home Secretary, Reginald Mckenna, to Lord Stamfordham, Private Secretary to King George V, explaining the position the reason for the lack of re-arrest is cited as 'he has been careful to avoid any language which could be construed as an incitement to crime.' The letter continues asserting that there have been 'several women' discharged who have not been re-arrested 'because it is known that they intend to refrain from further participation in militant action.' The fact that this only applies to several women when they were hundreds arrested and released only serves to underline the difference in treatment. The letter concludes 'The case of Miss Sylvia Pankhurst is quite different as she persists in open defiance of the law.' This exchange of letters took place over a year after George's arrest and nearly a year after his release.
The King, Stamfordham wrote, wished to know why George had not been force fed. Mckenna responded that 'force feeding is not administered except in the case of serious offences…if Lansbury's offence had been serious enough to justify the adoption of force feeding, the medical report ...would have rendered the course undesirable.' During this research, thus far, there has been no indication that force-feeding was settled upon depending on the nature of the offence. Nor does George's medical reports rule out force feeding. In support four of the Women's Freedom League executive including Nina wrote to every police force urging them to refuse to re-arrest any woman who had been released from imprisonment suffering from the effects of force-feeding, in other words, women released under the Cat and Mouse Act on licence.
In November 1913 Nina along with others was arrested and charged with obstruction. At the initial hearing, Nina applied for an adjournment so she could call witnesses. The magistrate was far from amenable to which she retorted "Why should we be dictated to by Mr Muskett, sitting there with his ears cocked like an intelligent terrier?" Her request was granted, and she was bailed for a week. At the reconvened hearing, Nina was bound over to keep the peace, on her refusal to agree she was sent to prison for one day.
In May 1913 it was decided that in future all suffragette prisoners would be photographed and fingerprinted regardless of their offence or in which division they were placed unless the prisoner was not convicted but imprisoned due to a failure to provide sureties like George Lansbury. These rules were altered on 1 January 1914 when it was decreed that fingerprints and photographs should be taken whether or not the prisoner was convicted of an offence. Force could be used; specific guidance was given as to how to hold the arm and fingers. Only if there was 'serious resistance' should the Medical Officer be summoned. If the charge was 'so serious as to make the prisoner's identification of serious importance' and force failed a telegram was to be sent to Scotland Yard who would 'send an expert officer' to assist in the presence of the Medical Officer. Both were to be undertaken as soon as possible after admission to avoid prisoners who were 'suffering from physical exhaustion as a result of self-imposed starvation; and as they mostly resist…there is always a risk.' A photographer was at Holloway Prison at the cost of £2 per hour to take the pictures either when the women were in the exercise yard or in the entrance yard from a vantage point hidden in a police van. Code names were settled upon 'to be used in telephone conversation' with the photographers: 'Wild Cats' was suffragettes; Holland House, Holloway Prison and 'Photogram', attend with camera.
As head of the Political and Militant Department of the Women's Freedom League Nina wrote numerous letters in February 1914 as to the treatment of Marguerite Sidley and Lilian Ball. Both were sent to Holloway Prison on 11 February 1911 for four days, like George Lansbury, for failing to provide sureties and according to Nina's letter 'were violently and illegally subjected' to having their fingerprints taken. Neither, Nina pointed out, were 'under reasonable suspicion of concealing their identity.' As members of the Women's Freedom League, they were 'not concerned in the actions of a sister society which adopts sterner measures.' The charge against Lilian was obstruction. Marguerite's father joined in the protest describing in a letter to the Chairman of the Prison Commissioners what had taken place. A visiting Magistrate at Holloway Prison had asked Marguerite if she had any complaints to which she replied in the negative. As soon as he departed, Marguerite was removed from her cell to an area where 'five wardresses who by violence after a long struggle succeeded in taking my daughter's fingerprints.'
Only a month later, the Deputy Medical Officer at Holloway Prison was adding his voice to the concerns. He pointed out that 'It was very difficult to gauge the amount of force which can with safety be used in fingerprinting prisoners…It has been found advisable owing to the violence of the prisoners resistance to stop the process at a very early stage…the results [obtained] are very indifferent and obtained at some risk.' The officer suggested that the practice should at least be desisted from where the prisoners had committed minor offences. The matron at Holloway Prison wrote to the Governor expressing the opinion that due to the level of resistance the quality of fingerprints taken was poor and at the expense of 'abrasions & bruises' to the prison officers involved. She concluded 'The staff would be very grateful to be relieved of this duty.'
The taking of photographs was also subject to failure. A police photographer was dispatched to Holloway Prison to capture an image of Kitty Marion. He reported that he 'was unsuccessful owing to her head being completely covered with a dark green motor veil.' A report stated that given Kitty's state of health, she had been on hunger strike, it had not been felt appropriate to remove her headgear. The Prison Governor wrote that he personally supervised the taking of photographs. In the instance of Kitty, she had been brought to the prison on 6 January. The following day the Hospital Warden took Kitty to the exercise yard. The pair 'walked about the freely and several times came up to the marked spot on the ground, indicated by a few crumbs.' The Warden had felt plenty of opportunities had arisen for a satisfactory photograph to be taken as she and Kitty were in the yard for half an hour. When it was known the attempt had failed a second was made on the day of Kitty's release when she was encouraged to remove her veil.Kitty refused, and the Warden did not persist as it was felt it would lead to a 'struggle with the prisoner when she was in a debilitated condition.'
Not only did Nina and the two women prisoners seem unaware of the new regulations but so did the Prisoner Commissioners who wrote to the Home Secretary that the regulations, as they currently stood, were that an application needed to be made by the police to the Prisoner Governor for permission to take the fingerprints of an untried prisoner and force was only to be used with the consent of either the Home Secretary or a Justice of the Peace. The Commissioners suggested the rules should be modified to allow the taking of fingerprints of any prisoner if they agreed but if they objected only by force if the police informed the Prison Governor that a Justice of the Peace had agreed and the fingerprints were 'necessary for the purpose of justice' or if food had been refused and release was anticipated under the Cat and Mouse Act. The prison governor stated that Marguerite's resistance 'was not very serious' and 'she talked a good deal.' He concludes 'The fingerprints were very good.'The rules were modified in April 1914. While the modification did not go as far as the Prison Commissioners had suggested it was decreed that no attempt should be made to take fingerprints from prisoners convicted of minor offences such as obstruction unless 'fingerprints are necessary for the purpose of justice, or when the prisoner is known to be refusing food' or it was felt they would refuse to eat or had done in the past. This would, therefore, apply, in future, to prisoners such as Lilian and Marguerite.
The most chilling photograph is of a woman believed to be Robina Macleod whose head is being forcibly held up. According to the correspondence on the file, the arms belong to the Prison Matron. The photographer helpfully pointed out that he could if necessary, remove the arms from further prints.
After her release, campaigning swiftly resumed, Nina travelled the country addressing meetings. In July 1914 she was arrested and charged with obstruction. Five women, Nina gave her name as Ann Smith, chained themselves to the door in the waiting room of the Marlborough Street Police Court temporarily housed in Francis Street. The police cut them free, putting them outside of the building from whence they refused to move. They were each bailed for a £2 surety. At the trial, Nina, when entering the witness box exclaimed "Here we are again! It's quite like coming to see old friends." She was fined forty shillings or a week imprisonment. Nina attempted to raise several complaints during her trial, which were denied, but she was permitted to present her protests at the conclusion of the case. Again Nina complained about the prison vans stating 'the distressing effect of being brought' in such transport which left the occupants feeling ill on arrival which 'was a serious handicap to a prisoner in putting forward her own case before the Court' and 'the disregard of arrangements for decency at Police Stations.' In the Police Station, Nina had been taken to an area where men walked along the passage outside the women's cells 'without any warning to the occupants …the latter are subjected to observation not consistent with decency.' The Chief Magistrate passed Nina's complaint on.
Immediately after the outbreak of World War 1, Nina lobbied for the founding of a female body of Special Constables who could protect women and children in the absence of the men. She also was an active member of the Women Suffrage National Aid Corps formed to provide support services to women whose husbands were away fighting. Without any government approval for her proposal regarding women police Nina, together with Margaret Dawson, continued on their own and, by January 1915 the Corps of Women Police Volunteers had been formed. Courses were undertaken in first aid, court rules and self-defence. Everyone wore a uniform, Nina being one of the first. However, she split from the Corps when they sought to curtail the freedom of women by imposing a curfew on prostitutes. However, a women's force continued to operate in London and Brighton under the auspices of the Women's Freedom League.
In October 1915 Nina was charged with failing to register under the Alien Restriction Order 1915. The case was dismissed when it was held the summons had not been issued correctly. In due course, she was awarded damages for her illegal arrest. Nina used this experience to raise awareness of the lack of appropriate treatment for women held in police cells where there was no accommodation for women nor any women gaolers.
Towards the end of 1916, Nina travelled to the Salonika Front to act as a nursing orderly. It was widely reported in the press before this that her fiancée had been killed and perhaps that is what prompted her to take this step. There Nina renewed her acquaintance with Katherine Harley who was eager to learn of her sister Charlotte. Nina remained for eight months. On her return, she continued with campaigning and supporting the wives left behind.
In 1918 Nina announced that she would stand in a by-election as a prospective member of Parliament for Keighley. It was ruled that as a woman, she could stand, but as her nomination papers were incorrectly completed, she could not. This acceptance of a woman's right to stand allowed others to stand in the general election in 1918.
Nina remained politically active for the rest of her life mainly supporting the National Union of Women Teachers and the Save the Children Fund. She also wrote novels. She died in March 1943.
Emma Bowen was arrested in March 1912 charged with breaking a window at Hudsons Bros Provision Merchants, located in New Bond Street, valued at £15. She was sentenced to four months in prison. According to the official records Bowen was an alias for Bower or Bodell. Despite the addition of a birth year, 1867, noted in another official document it has not been possible to trace Emma with any certainty.
Charlotte Bower was arrested on 27 November 1911. She was charged with throwing stones and breaking a lamp hanging outside the Clock Tower at the Houses of Parliament. When arrested Charlotte said: “I was afraid I should not be able to do so well.” At court she stated that male suffrage was an outrage on the women of the country who had campaigned for years for the vote. She was fined or alternatively sentenced to seven days although another official record states it was fourteen days. She elected to go to prison. An official record states that Charlotte was an alias; her actual name was Agnes V Bower. The year of birth given in the official records matches that of an Agnes Veronica Byrne born in 1869 in Manchester to Edward and Julia. Edward’s occupation is unclear from the census return but later Agnes stated he was a rough riding sergeant, a non-commissioned soldier who trained horses. Julia worked as a tailoress. Agnes had, in 1871, two brothers Ignatious and Alphonsus and an older sister, May. There are no further census returns recording either her parents, brothers or sister.
By 1881 Agnes was working, aged fourteen, as a nursemaid living in West Derby, Lancashire. Nothing more has been found until 1901 when Agnes married Thomas Edward Bower in Chorley, Lancashire. Thomas had been previously married, and his occupation was a merchant/chemist. Ten years later Agnes, living in Hendon, North London, filed for divorce on the grounds of Thomas’s adultery and desertion. The couple had one child; Julia Veronica born in January 1902. Perhaps Agnes’s marital difficulties propelled here towards the vote for women movement a few months later.
Agnes died in 1952.
Dorothy Agnes Bowker was born in 1886 in Bedford to Charles and Elizabeth who was from Canada, a country several of the family went on to live in. Charles, who died in 1892, is noted on one census return as a wine merchant but otherwise is recorded as living off his own means. Dorothy attended Bedford Kindergarten College followed by St Winifred’s School in Bangor, Wales where tuition was described as holistic: ‘to provide, upon a sound and accurate system, a religious and useful education for the daughters of clergymen and professional men of limited means, and the agricultural and commercial classes generally.’ An advertisement for the school stated that girls could be prepared for university entrance. Despite an open-minded approach to a girl’s education it was an establishment, like many of its time, strict on appropriate ladylike behaviour, something that young women often railed against.
For another image see https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/blog/what-life-was-suffragette-organiser
Dorothy joined the WSPU in 1909. Initially she moved around the country establishing branches in Cornwall, Leicester and Loughborough. In Votes for Women, 2 July 1909, Dorothy stated that she had originally been against militant action but having heard Emmeline Pankhurst speak and read suffragette literature ‘the conversion already begun’ was finished. In late June 1909 Dorothy was arrested along with 114 others for offences arising from an attempt to meet with Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister, at the House of Commons to present a petition. The majority were charged with obstructing the police, but 17 protesters faced other charges. One was Dorothy who was charged alongside Emmeline Pethick Lawrence with assaulting the police. Emmeline Pankhurst’s barrister, Robert Cecil, ran the defence that it was a lawful right to petition the Crown and preventing this from happening was therefore not a legal exercise of a policeman’s duties. The court held that while the lawful right of petition existed once it had been ascertained that Asquith was not available the protestors should have withdrawn and, in any event, any such petition should have been given to the Home Secretary. Emmeline Pankhurst and her co-defendant appealed unsuccessfully on the point of law arising from the court’s decision. All the other trials were delayed until the appeal had been heard. While the protestors who broke windows were imprisoned it is unclear what sentence, if any, Dorothy received.
Early in August 1909 Dorothy travelled to Hull to participate in a meeting to be held at the same time as a gathering of the Liberals. The women were jostled by the crowd and pushed by a deployment of mounted police; six women were arrested for disorderly conduct. In court, all of the women complained at the use of mounted police. Dorothy stated in court that she had during the melee called the police cowards for riding horses on the pavement. The magistrate lectured the women on their parlous behaviour but discharged them from the charges.
Weeks late Dorothy took part in a similar protest in Bradford. This time she lodged a complaint with the police claiming that she had been struck on the nose. In discussions with the Chief of Police Dorothy admitted that at the time of the incident she had been trying to knock off a constable’s hat unintentionally striking him in the face. The officer had lost his temper striking her. Dorothy provided the policeman’s number, but the Chief Constable insisted that number was incorrect as the officer in question had been on holiday.
In 1910 Dorothy was appointed the organiser for the Eastbourne, Hastings, Bexhill and St Leonards on Sea district, a post she held for two years resigning in February 1912. She was also arrested and released without charge that November, the day which became known as Black Friday. Like others Dorothy filed a report of her treatment at the hands of the police. A constable put his knee in the middle of her back forcing her shoulders back as far as they would go. He only released his grasp when someone knocked his helmet to the ground. Another officer then grabbed her by the neck dragging her along the road before forcibly pushing her into a lamppost. Dorothy was unable to take a note of his number as she was seeing stars.
Dorothy worked closely with Dorothy Pethick, sister of Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, Votes for Women names both as the organisers of the campaign in Leicester. The 1911 census was taken on 2 April 1911. Dorothy, who was lodging in a room at the top of a house in York Road Marylebone, decided, along with many other campaigners for the vote for women, not to complete the return. The enumerator for her address informed the registrar that Dorothy was absent from her home. The registrar duly visited the address and noted that he, as the enumerator before him had, found Dorothy absent. The registrar wrote that Dorothy returned after the census was taken in the earlier hours of 3 April and presumably to avoid any repercussions left with her luggage, leaving no forwarding address. On the form Dorothy wrote “No vote no census. I am dumb politically. Blind to the census. Deaf to enumerators. Being classed with criminals, lunatics and paupers I prefer to give no further particulars.”
Dorothy was arrested in 1912 and sentenced to four months imprisonment for breaking 13 windows at Swan and Edgar, a department store in the West End of London, alongside Edith Lane and Helen Creiggs to the value of £210. Due to the quantity of prisoners not all could be incarcerated in Holloway Prison so some including Dorothy were taken to Aylesbury Gaol. Dorothy was released on 27 June. When she was imprisoned in 1912 she went on hunger strike being awarded the Hunger Strike medal, the box is inscribed “Presented to Dorothy Bowker 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.” The medal is part of the Lindseth Women Suffrage Collection housed at Cornell University.
On the outbreak of the First World War Dorothy joined the Women’s Land Army. In 1921 she emigrated to Canada where she had family, an emigration funded by the government established body, the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women whose aim was help women find jobs abroad who could not find them in England after the end of the war. In 1934 she returned settling in Lymington, Hampshire, where she served as a councillor for nineteen years. The International Suffrage News, 2 July 1943, published a letter from Dorothy in which she observes that many are concerned at the slow progress women were making in local politics. However, a local election had recently seen a woman garner 21 votes trouncing the two male candidates who had received five or less votes. Dorothy concludes ‘May this be an example to others to go and do likewise.’
Dorothy died in 1973.
Grace Hosdson Boutelle was arrested once on October 14th 1908 as part of a contingent attempting to deliver a petition to the House of Commons. Grace was American, born in Maine in 1869 to Charles and Lucy Boutelle. Her father served in the United States Navy and on his discharge, became a businessman who was elected as a Republican Congressman.
Grace was musical and literary; writing poetry which was published in American magazines. Her mother died in 1891 leaving Grace to often act as her father’s hostess. By 1900 her father was suffering from dementia, unusually although he was confined to a Lunatic Asylum he was re-elected to the House of Representatives although he was too ill to ever return. Grace moved with her father from Washington to Waverley, Massachusetts. The Newcastle Courant dated 8 December 1900 includes an article from The York World about her plight, drawing a poignant parallel with King Lear and Cordelia. Daily she visited her father spending all his waking hours with him, taking him for carriage drives, making small talk. This she did until he died on 21 May 1901.
Following her father’s death Grace spread her wings. She travelled to England where she became a suffragette writing articles for both the British and American press. Alongside her suffragette activities she studied English Folk Music.
For her actions on 14 October 1908 she was sentenced to thirty days imprisonment. She returned to America permanently in 1910 where she gave lectures on her experiences as a suffragette in England and on her time in prison often donning her prison uniform. In later life she taught piano, singing and instructed people in the genre of English Folk music.
She died on 25 August 1957 in Maine.
Eugenia Bouvier who was arrested twice on 8 February 1908 and 12 July 1909. She was born Eugenia Anna Weber in Russia in 1865. She married Paul Emile who was born in Italy. The couple settled in Lewisham where Paul taught French. The couple had one daughter Irene Eugenie born in 1893. In 1904 Paul died. Eugenia was often known as Jeannie; one her daughter's application to enter the London University as an undergraduate she signed herself as Mrs J A Bouvier, mother. In the Suffrage Movement by Sylvia Pankhurst she referred to her as the “brave, persistent Russian.”
The first record of Eugenia being involved in the suffragette movement is a report in the Berkshire Chronicle dated 25 January 1908. A meeting in Reading being addressed by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Augustine Birrell, was interrupted by women demanding the vote. Entry to the meeting was by ticket only to prevent any protest but somehow the group of women had successfully gained entry. Seven women including Eugenia were in the hall and at regular intervals shouted out Votes for Women. One by one the seven women made themselves known and having spoken either left the hall themselves or were ejected. Outside the women regrouped addressing the gathering crowd. A group of young men heckled the speakers in turn shouting “It’s a different girl again” “Half time”. Later when the women walked to the train station the men followed them, chanting and attempting to gain access to the platform but the women managed to leave safely.
On 12 February Eugenia was part of a group attempting to enter the Houses of Parliament. One newspaper described it the attempt as like “the wooden horse of Troy.” Two vans drove past Parliament with men in the usual green aprons sitting on the tailboards. One carried on but the other stopped, the men jumped down opening the backdoors from which appeared a group of suffragettes who ran quickly towards the nearest door to Parliament. The police although caught unawares managed to stop them. More vans pulled up decanting more women, more scuffles and arrests followed.
In the meantime, in Caxton Hall a conference called the Parliament of Women was taking place. After several speeches, it was resolved that the women would march to Parliament. Scuffles broke out between the women and the police whilst others circled the area in cabs with megaphones shouting Votes of Women. Eugenia was one of those arrested. She was fined £40 or six weeks in prison.
Only a week later Eugenia staged another protest. Along with two others, Mrs Watson and Miss Fraser, they dressed in evening clothes and took a cab from the WSPU headquarters at Clement’s Inn to the Admiralty. As no tickets were asked for, they had no difficulty in entering the reception being hosted by Reginald Mackenna, First Lord of the Admiralty, and his wife. Eugenia informed the press afterwards that she shook the hands of Mr and Mrs Mckenna and the Prime Minister, all of whom were unaware that she was a gate crasher. Towards the end of the evening there was a lull in the music, so she mounted a chair, close to Mackenna, and asked him, from her lofty position, his views on votes for women. Surprised he walked away but Eugenia continued addressing the throng. A member of staff intervened, helped her off the chair, and escorted her from the building where she was joined by the other two women.
Two days later Eugenia was in action again at the inaugural dinner of the Certified Grocers at which Augustine Birrell amongst others was present. Dressed in a white full-length dress adorned with a large spray of poppies Eugenia interrupted Augustine Birrell’s address from the gallery. Several guests ran upstairs to remove her only to discover that she had chained herself to the gallery railings using steel chain and two padlocks, the whole had been disguised by wrapping it in cotton wool. Next to her was another suffragette who it turned out had also chained herself to the railings. The stewards resorted to forcing them into their seats and silencing them by covering their mouths with napkins. Both the women continued to attempt to speak and jump up from their seats. Eventually they were cut free whilst the pianist played a Merry Widow to drown out the noise of sawing. They were both removed from the building.
In July 1909 Eugene was arrested for breaking a window at the Privy Council. She was fined £5 and the cost of replacing the window or a month in prison. At this she announced she trusted she would be treated as a political prisoner, the Magistrate retorted that it was not a political offence. He stated that throwing stones was what small hooligan boys did, Eugenia pointed out that stone throwing was used as a protest to the Reform Act. Eugenia went on hunger strike and along with others was released on 21 July 1909.
Eugenia continued campaigning. She addressed a meeting in Plymouth, a few months after her release. In 1912, present at the opening of new WSPU offices in Lewisham, a branch Eugenie was Honorary Secretary of, the crowd of around three thousand became hostile throwing eggs. Eugenia and others had to escape assisted by the police. This was repeated on several occasions over the next year when she addressed meetings. Eugena carried on campaigning after the outbreak of war.
In 1915 she joined Sylvia Pankhurst on the platform addressing a meeting in East London where it was resolved to campaign on the basis of obtaining the vote for all, women and men. To this end the East End group was renamed the Worker’s Suffrage League, Eugenia being elected to the committee. Alongside this campaign Eugenia was against conscription addressing a No Conscription Conference in December 1915. This led to a demonstration in January the following year which Eugenia addressed.
When I originally concluded this blog I wrote 'Nothing has been found for Eugenia after 1916. At some point she travelled to Russia where she died in 1933.' Since then the Dreadnought newspaper has been put online by the British Newspaper archive which sheds light on Eugene's activities post 1916. the historian Maurice Casey has followed Eugene's fascinating journey which saw her leaving the United Kingdom and become a Russian citizen. His blog can found here https://mauricejcasey.com/2018/03/24/from-russia-to-east-london-and-back-again-eugenie-bouvier-1865-1933-suffragette-and-socialist/
Dorothea Boulter was arrested in December 1913 for smashing six panes of glass at Richmond upon Thames police station. She was born Dorothea Anna Georgina Connell circa 1857 in Ireland and married Harold Baxter Boulter, a doctor. The 1891 census records the family living in Sandown on the Isle of Wight. By this point they had two children: Dorothy born in 1882 and Christopher born a year later. Eleven years later they had a second daughter, Norah, by which stage they were living in Richmond where Harold practised medicine. Whilst both the daughters are included on the 1911 census return Dorothea is not; her husband has left the number of years married blank.
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, she said, he was a good man. Despite this refusal Harold nonetheless 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 in January 1908. Helen and eight others 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 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; Helen was a witness. Their brother had also married and was serving in the army.
In 1890 their mother died. Helen, by this point, was a doctor qualifying in Paris. The Dundee Courier, 26 January 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.” 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 supporter 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.”
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