Dorothea and Madeline Rock were sisters from Ingatestone, Essex who were both active in the suffrage movement. Edith Dorothea Marlet was born in November 1881; her sister Madeline Caron, often known as Caron, was born in May 1884. The two sisters were the only children of Edward, an East India merchant and his wife, Isabella. The family settled at the Red House, a substantial property close, to the railway station providing Edward with easy access to his work in London. It was a comfortable upbringing with a governess, several maids and a children’s nurse accompanied by the usual range of suitable activities for girls of their age and background - running the refreshment stall at a village event for the soldiers of the Essex Regiment serving in South Africa; assisting at a rummage sale or helping out at a fundraiser for the church choir.
Dorothea, at the time, an art student, was prompted to join the WSPU during the campaign for the Chelmsford by-election in 1908, and Caron followed suit. The sisters arranged a ‘very successful’ WSPU meeting in the village; a newspaper article describing Dorothea and Caron as ‘keen supporters of the movement. Caron became a regular feature in Chelmsford on market day selling Votes for Women. During March, the following year, Isabella and her two daughters organised a rummage sale at their home to raise funds for the WSPU. ‘An enthusiastic meeting’ was held in the village during September 1910; its success credited to Dorothea and Madeline’s energy. Everyone in the village turned out; the vicar lent an acetylene lamp which was placed on top of the water pump to illuminate the proceedings and demand was so high the suffrage literature supplied by the WSPU head office ran out. Caron wrote poetry and her first collection; A Legacy and other Poems was published in 1910.
The Conciliation Bill 1910, intended to give a limited number of women the vote, passed the House of Commons in July of that year and it was referred to a committee for fine-tuning. While the Bill was drafted and debated the suffrage movement agreed to refrain from any militant action. Asquith, the Prime Minister, then made it clear he had no intention of supporting the Bill, and it would be shelved. Emmeline Pankhurst led over three hundred women to the House of Commons in protest, which led to the violence which has become known as Black Friday. Both Dorothea and Caron joined the protest and along with many others were arrested. The charges against all the women were dropped. An investigation by Henry Brailsford and Jessie Murray gathered testimony from the participants at the hands of the police. It has been quoted from extensively in earlier blogs. Paul Foot, in his book the Vote published in 2005 observes that the resultant report provides ‘irrefutable testimony not just of brutality by the police but also of indecent assault’. Winston Churchill, Home Secretary, refuted all the allegations against the police and ‘was at pains to show that whatever injuries and indignities the women suffered, were the outcome of their invitation to all and sundry to assemble and make common cause against the Government. Their sympathisers included undesirable and reckless persons, quite capable of indulging in gross conduct, and for their presence in Parliament Square the women were themselves responsible’.
About a month later one of the sisters and Joan Dugdale were at Victoria station seeing off some friends when they spied Lloyd George. Seizing their opportunity, the two women asked him questions about the progress of the Conciliation Bill and women’s suffrage. Lloyd George refused to answer, and ‘scuttled away with most undignified haste’. A second Conciliation Bill was introduced with some amendments from the first. Many saw this as progress and a positive step; others, such as the WSPU did not. The Women’s Freedom League led a campaign to boycott the 1911 census which received the support of other suffrage groups such as the WSPU and the Tax Resistance League. At a meeting of the Chelmsford Branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage, one of the sisters gave a spirited explanation of census resistance arguing that it would show the Government how women ‘would submit no longer to being treated as mere chattels.’ A member of the NUWSS countered arguing that resistance to the census ‘was a destructive, and not a constructive policy.’ She proposed a resolution in support of the Bill and against boycotting the census; it was seconded as ‘The vote was bound to come’. The resolution passed.
The 1911 census was taken on Sunday 2 April. Edward, perhaps, because he did not wish to become embroiled in his daughters’ plans stayed that night at the Great Eastern Hotel by Liverpool Street station. Dorothea wrote across the form: ‘I, Dorothea Rock, in the absence of the male occupier, refuse to fill up this Census paper as, in the eyes of the law, women do not count, neither shall they be counted.’ Someone else, presumably, the enumerator, has noted Mrs Rock, Dorothea, and Caron along with three unnamed servants. The ages of all five occupants are given along with their marital status. The servant’s occupations are noted, but the section is blank for Isabella and NK (not known) is entered for Madeline. Against Dorothea, it records ‘News Vendor News Agency Worker’, a role which may refer to her selling Votes for Women.
During the summer months, the Women’s Freedom League would campaign across various counties using caravans. Towards the end of August, a group pitched the caravan in Ingatestone, ‘a little paradise for suffragettes.’ Each day they were there Dorothea and Caron welcomed them into the Red House for baths and a meal – ‘Mrs Rock and her daughters proved themselves very real friends to the Cause, with their goodness to us, and canvassing their friends to get audiences for us.’ When the caravan moved onto Chelmsford Caron helped them find a suitable pitch, and she, Dorothea and Grace Chappelow, a close friend and fellow WSPU member, lent their assistance at the meetings. The caravan moved on to Witham, and again the sisters gave their support. Grace cycled over twice from Hatfield Peveral to visit. All three brought provisions with them: ‘fruit, honey, home-made jam and cakes, biscuits, bottles of coffee and limejuice; also two baked puddings’.
Early in May 1911, the Conciliation Bill passed with a majority of one hundred and sixty-seven votes. Lloyd George argued against the Bill, as the weeks moved on, as it would enfranchise women of property but not the working-class man. His real reason was though more political than for a desire for universal suffrage. Asquith announced the introduction of a bill to enfranchise men which could be amended to include women. The leaders of the WSPU had lost patience which led to the window-smashing campaign which the sisters joined. Caron was charged with breaking a window at the Board Trade valued at seven shillings and sixpence. She was sentenced to seven days. Dorothea was fined three shillings and ninepence and sent to prison for five days. Their friend, Grace, was fined the same but sentenced to an additional two days. While Votes for Women reported that like Caron, the windows broken were at the Board of Trade the official record is blank.
Dorothea, sometimes accompanied by Grace, was active, during this time, in the campaign in London; selling tickets for events or stepping in to address a meeting when the speaker was delayed. On that occasion, Grace recited The Song of the Shirt, a poem written by Thomas Hood, 1843, about the plight of a widowed seamstress who pawned the clothes she was paid to sew to feed her children. In March 1912 Dorothea, Caron who gave her occupation as poet, Grace and Fanny Pease were charged with breaking windows at the Mansion House in the City of London. When the four arrived at court, they each carried a bunch of violets and primroses. Dorothea spoke in defence for all of them. The magistrate inquired if the women had travelled from Essex ‘purposely for this little prank?’ Dorothea responded: ‘I came up to do my duty’. A policeman had recognised Caron as a regular seller of Votes for Women in the environs of the Mansion House. Describing the four women as ‘either criminals or lunatics’ the magistrate sentenced them to two months in prison with hard labour. By this point, Dorothea had also joined the Church League for Women’s Suffrage. One of the founders in 1909 was Maude Royston, a preacher and suffragist, with whom Dorothea was to become associated.
In July 1912 Emmeline Pankhurst, who was on licence under the Cat and Mouse Act, had failed to return to prison. She attended the Pavilion Theatre, where suffragettes typically gathered each week, for a meeting. Spied by a plainclothes police officer Emmeline was seized. A group of women attempted to confine the officer to the manager’s office, leaving Emmeline free to address the waiting crowd. In a swift response, the police blocked the auditorium, preventing anyone from going to support the group tussling with the officer. Meanwhile, in the office, two policemen tried to maintain their grip on Emmeline. One woman plunged the room into darkness, but the fracas continued with either side trying to either gain or retain control of Emmeline. Eventually, the police succeeded escorting Emmeline to a taxi and back to Holloway Prison. Many of the newspapers carried stories of blood pouring from head wounds, stabbings by hatpin or torn clothing. Six persons were arrested including Caron who, it was reported, had been hit over the head by a stick. She was charged with obstruction. In court, Caron denied any involvement declaring she had been ‘merely engaged in distributing literature’. While one defendant who provided the same explanation was discharged Caron and Maud West were found guilty and sentenced to a fine or twenty-one days in gaol. As Caron was led from the dock, she declared ‘We shall keep no peace until it is peace with honour. How long are we to be the tools of this tyranny? I am not going to keep any peace at any time’.
While in Holloway Prison Dorothea met Zoe Procter, who was serving six weeks. Zoe was a writer, poet, and private secretary. The two became life - long friends. Some of the suffragettes wrote poetry, which was smuggled out, and published in booklet form by the Glasgow Branch of the WSPU. It was entitled Holloway Jingles. Caron contributed Before I came to Holloway and Dorothea is widely believed to be the ‘D R’ of To D R in Holloway by Joan Guthrie. On 4 June 1913, Emily Davison died at Epsom. The WSPU with military precision organised the funeral procession. Dorothea was a group captain of one section of marshals.
Sylvia Pankhurst broke from the WSPU. A member of the Worker’s Socialist Federation for the East of London she founded the Women’s Dreadnought, a newspaper intended to raise awareness of the plight of poor women. Like, Grace, Dorothea made financial donations to the Federation. When war was declared, Christabel Pankhurst suspended the campaign for women’s suffrage instructing the members to focus on the war effort. Many women were dismayed at Christabel’s arbitrary decision. One resultant breakaway group was the Independent WSPU founded in 1916 which Dorothea joined. She signed a letter on behalf of the Independent WSPU calling upon the Government to meet with women’s groups to discuss the proposals to deal with a rise in venereal disease. The following year a proposed clause in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill caused outrage among women’s organisations. Clause III, as drafted, gave the authorities the power to examine women compulsorily. While many of the Committee, considering the proposed legislation felt it was unacceptable; others argued it was ‘a sanitary and curative measure’. At a meeting of the Women’s Freedom League, chaired by Charlotte Despard, Maude seconded a resolution condemning Clause III which went on to be signed by many women’s groups including those campaigning for suffrage. Dorothea was the signatory for the Independent WSPU; Bertha Brewster (see earlier blog) signed for the United Suffragists. Dorothea and Zoe became great admirers of Maude and her work.
Caron turned her focus to her writing, publishing in 1915 a second volume of poetry, Or In The Grass. The Chelmsford Chronicle reviewed her work describing the title as ‘bizarre’ but concluded that the poems ‘contain many charming thoughts clothed in graceful words.’ By 1920 Caron was living at 15 Great Ormond Street. Dorothea and Zoe settled at 81 Beaufort Mansions in Chelsea. At some point, they purchased Shepherds Corner in Beaconsfield; ‘a small period house occupying a uniquely secluded but central position’.
Maude along with Percy Dearmer, a liturgist, and Martin Shaw, a composer and organist, founded the Guildhouse in 1920. Based in a converted chapel in Eccleston Square it was led by an advisory council who saw it as ‘a clearing -house of thought … moral energy and intellectual enthusiasm’; a fresh way to view and consider Anglicanism. It was a venue for ecumenical worship, social enterprise, lectures and entertainment. From 1924 to 1935 speakers ranged from Gandhi to Oswald Mosley: from Julian Huxley to Lloyd George. A troupe of actors, known as the Guildhouse Players, put on, from time to time, theatrical performances. Described in the press as ‘an enthusiastic body’ the players often wrote their own material and made the costumes and scenery. Dorothea and Zoe were involved with the Players from 1926 onwards as actors and writers.
In January of that year, The Story of Tobit adapted from the Apocrypha by Doris Pailthorpe, Dorothea and Zoe was staged at the venue. Mimed in the Medieval style to a reading by Maude; Dorothea and Zoe both had roles. One reviewer observed that mime in such a style involved ‘stiff and formal gestures, with hands constantly pointed upwards.’ Published subsequently as a children’s story a review read: ‘This quaint medieval play requires a reader and several mummers to tell the story of Sars, whose lovers died as soon as she wed them, and of the lover, Tobias, son of Tobit, who broke the curse. ‘..those who are on the look-out for something fresh would do well to secure a copy.’ The following year Zoe joined by Caron performed in a staging of Mary Queen of Scots. Caron published another volume of poetry, that year, On The Tree Top.
In 1928 Dorothea and Zoe performed in The Likes of Her; a year later A Holy Mountain by Dorothea was performed. Another production was a series on one-act plays; one, Two Gentlemen of Soho by A P Herbert, stared Dorothea as the Duchess and Alfred Huxley as a sneak. The performance was preceded by a playlet entitled The Tower written by Dorothea. The fourth play was Symphony in Illusion written by James Wallace Bell in which Caron and Zoe performed. Later, Dorothea broadened her activities, contributing a children’s short story, The Snow People, to the Bobby Bear Club, the thriving junior section of the Daily Herald. The Little Worthing Players performed another play, The Weatherfriend, set in the Austrian Tyrol during January 1933.
The same year, that Caron passed an examination to be awarded the Gold Medal by the Poetry Society. One of her poems was selected for inclusion to be read during a radio program, Pilgrims Way; alongside poets such as Shelley and Tennyson. A founder member of The Galere, a group interested in poetry and music, Caron would, under its auspices, give recitals of poems.
Edward died in 1927. The Red House remained the family home. Both Isabella and Dorothea are recorded as living there in 1939. Madeline, by 1935 had moved to Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury. Four years later Caron was living at Russell Court, where she lived for the remainder of her life, describing herself as a poet who also did odd jobs. She died in July 1954 appointing her cousin, Marjorie Potbury, a relative on her mother’s side. Isabella died eleven months after Caron aged ninety – eight at Dorothea’s home in Beaconsfield.
Zoe died in 1962 and Dorothea in 1964.
Grace Chappelow was the daughter of John, a chartered accountant based in Lincoln's Inn, and Emily. The couple had two children: Claude 1880 and Grace 1884 who attended the North London Collegiate School, founded by Frances Buss, then located on Camden Road. By 1901 John and Emily's marriage seems to have run into difficulties. Emily and her two children are living in Tollington Park while John is absent; ten years later he is living in Thanet, Kent with Laura Bower who he later appointed his executor. Either there was a reconciliation, a ruse or for appearance's sake Emily was entered on the electoral roll living with John at 28 Highbury Grove from about 1920 onwards.
Grace was a gifted vocalist - described by one newspaper as possessing 'much promise'. Sometime after November 1903 Grace and Emily moved to Hatfield Peverel Essex settling by 1911 at Nounsley Villa. They appear to have been living in the area by April 1904 when Emily auctioned off some furniture. The first record of Grace's involvement with the suffrage movement was her arrest in connection with disturbances outside the Houses of Parliament. Charged with obstruction, Grace pleaded not guilty. Evidence was given that Grace had refused to move when requested to do so. To which she responded: 'I only did what I considered to be my duty'. The magistrate commented that 'It is our duty to support the police in keeping order'. Grace was ordered to be bound over to keep the peace in the sum of £5 or if she failed to pay, five days imprisonment. When asked if she agreed to be bound over, Grace replied: 'Certainly not'.
Grace and Emily, on and off, donated or collected funds for the WSPU. Grace participated in the demonstration, which became known as Black Friday. She was arrested, but as was the case for all, the charges were dropped. The following Friday Grace appeared in court charged with breaking a window. She pleaded guilty explaining that during Black Friday she had been 'very much knocked about by the police' and her current actions were in protest. She was fined forty shillings or fourteen days in prison. Grace elected for the latter entering gaol alongside Edith Begbie and Mabel Capper (see earlier blogs). She gave evidence to the enquiry into the actions of the police, during Black Friday, led by Henry Brailsford and Jessie Murray. Grace recounted that she was 'thumped and gripped by the throat'. A policeman grabbed her by the back of her collar, forcing her head towards the pavement; a position she was forced to proceed in down the street. While still bent, she received a 'terrific blow' to the left of her chest which 'nearly made her unconscious'.
On their release, a Welcome Breakfast was held at the Criterion Restaurant. Grace, among others, spoke to the assembled company. Referring to her Huguenot and Chartist ancestry, she said 'suffragettes were compelled by an unknown force to carry out anything and everything, even the dreadful ordeal of speaking at breakfasts. She was ready for anything that might come'. Grace does not appear in the 1911 census. While Emily is recorded, she has written across the form 'No vote No census E M E Chappelow'.
Two weeks later, Emily appeared before the Witham magistrates charged with being the owner of a dangerous dog which she had failed to keep under control. The policeman stated he had issued a warning about the dog previously. Grace was present when her mother was summonsed. In court, Emily's solicitor pointed out that the dog was Grace's, and she had licenced the animal. In consequence, Emily should not have been sent a summons. Emily was asked why she had not said anything at the time; 'I went on cooking my dinner … and did not take notice of what he was talking about'. She added that when a suffragette had visited the policeman 'had called on her about it'. Emily intended to move; she was so disillusioned with the constant interference. The summons was dismissed. The matter did not end there as the police then summoned Grace, who informed the court that to avoid any further trouble, she had rehomed the dog. She was fined thirteen shillings.
That summer the Women's Freedom League toured Essex with a caravan. Grace cycled over to support the women accompanied by Dorothea and Madeline Rock, fellow Essex suffragettes. In December Dorothea and Grace were charged with throwing stones at the Board of Trade windows. Three panes were broken valued at seven shillings and sixpence. Dorothea, in court, said 'We did it from a sense of duty, and we can only be stopped by granting us the vote, not by punishment'. Dorothea was fined or, in the alternative, jailed for five days. Grace received an additional two days as it was not her first offence.
The WSPU resolved to organise a campaign in Chelmsford; Grace chaired the initial meeting when the plans were outlined. Shortly afterwards, the Rock sisters, Grace and Fanny Pease were arrested for breaking windows at the Mansion House in the City of London. Dorothea and Grace were said to have broken eight panes in the kitchen windows. When searched Dorothea was found to have a hammer and Grace a few stones; it was said her hammer was left on the windowsill. The damage was valued at £2, which Grace felt was excessive. The Alderman hearing the case called it 'a little prank'. All four were sentenced to two months with hard labour.
Grace was back in court, only a few months after her release. She was again summonsed for not keeping a dog under proper control; this was the same dog which Grace had taken back after a couple of months absence. An almost equal number of witnesses were called damning or praising the animal. Grace was fined again, ordered to pay costs and to keep the dog under control. Saying she would appeal Grace, repeated her mother's intention of planning to leave the area. The Daily Herald ran a story a few months later with the headline 'Suffragist's Woes'. Grace visited their offices in London claiming she was being victimised. She had failed to pay the costs and was now being threatened with fourteen days in prison which Grace did not wish to serve. 'I absolutely refuse to pay as I consider it a great injustice. If I do not make a decided stand now, next I shall be summoned for a keeping a ferocious hen, or a dangerous cat'. Grace explained that since she and her mother became suffragettes, 'we have had no peace'.
Grace returned home, placing outside her home a large sign 'I am going to prison'. The authorities tried to reason with her, but Grace stood firm. On 18 November she was arrested and taken to Ipswich Gaol. Grace had replaced the sign with a new one which read 'Essex suffragette goes to prison'. The Daily Herald got behind Grace running a second story. It was hoped Grace would have, on her release, a 'rousing home-coming' because 'the more publicity that is given to the ways and methods of country benches of magistrates the better'. The amount of the costs was sent to the Daily Herald by a sympathetic reader.
Grace was soon back campaigning, lending her support to the WSPU Christmas fair. The following March Grace and friends provided the musical entertainment at a gathering of the East London Federation. Grace was joined in her support of the Federation by her paternal cousin, Eric, a poet, whose poems were printed in the Federation's newspaper, the Women's Dreadnaught. Eric was a conscientious objector who eventually was permitted to work with the Friends Ambulance service rather than being on active duty. Later he worked and lived at Garsington Manor, the home of Lady Ottoline Morrell, literary hostess and patron of the arts. Grace and Emily regularly contributed funds to the East Federation League both during and after the war.
In 1917 Nounsley Villa was sold at auction and they moved to the village of Ramsden Heath where they purchased Bishop's Farm. The Snapping the Stiletto project writes that locally Grace became known as the Goat Lady as she cycled around the countryside selling goat's milk. She eschewed modern innovations such as a television or telephone. Grace became involved with the local Women's Institute. Grace won a prize for her marmalade and spoke at a meeting on the difficulty of attracting attendees. By Christmas 1924 Grace was a committee member for the Bentley branch, sometimes providing a song or two as part of the entertainment.
The LSE Library holds an interview with Florence Konter who lived with Emily, Grace and Claude in which describes Grace's love of animals; she had thirteen cats, her commitment to vegetarianism and her admiration for Elizabeth Fry.
Emily died in 1941. Claude, who moved to Harringay, died eight years later. Grace died in 1971.
With thanks to Chelmsford Museum and Dr Mark Curteis for the use of the images
The next woman on the amnesty record is Greta Cameron alias Greta Cameron Swan whose actual name was Grace Cameron Swan. The first report of Grace being active in the suffrage movement is a donation to the WSPU £20000 fund of £3 in May 1908. By the following spring, Grace is the secretary of the Croydon Branch of the WSPU; both chairing and addressing meetings. In May, Grace chaired a meeting, in South Norwood, at which Christabel Pankhurst and a campaigner released from prison spoke. As women were arrested and sent to gaol, the WSPU would invite them to meetings after their release, not only to show their appreciation but to learn of their experiences. Few, who attended those meetings, would have been unaware of what, potentially, faced them. Grace spoke, a few weeks later, at a meeting of the Brixton branch, about militant tactics receiving a ‘most attentive hearing.’
Grace was tireless and resilient. The WSPU organised events across London during the third week of June. Grace spoke on four consecutive days at outdoor locations; on occasion without support to a heckling crowd. A few days later she was in south London doing the same. Grace then joined the demonstration that accompanied another attempt to deliver a petition to the Prime Minister, Asquith, at the House of Commons; this was the suffragettes’ thirteenth attempt. The newspapers report that over three thousand police were drafted into the area. The suffragettes gathered at Caxton Hall, passing through a police cordon to gain entry, before marching towards the Houses of Parliament. Seven women formed the deputation, tasked with presenting the petition. One was Dorinda Neligan, the retired founding headmistress of the Croydon High School for Girls with whom Grace campaigned in Croydon. The group of seven suffragettes set off towards the Houses of Parliament. The deputation was repeatedly refused entry; scuffles broke out in the surrounding area, and the police began arresting women.
One was Grace. It was stated that she had put her arm around a policeman’s neck in an attempt to free an arrested woman. In a speech, after her release from prison, Grace refuted the testimony. She had seen a woman, wearing suffrage colours, thrown to the ground, and injured by a mounted policeman. Rushing to her aid, Grace put her arm around the woman to assist, not the policeman as claimed. Refusing to be bound over to keep the peace, Grace was sentenced to fourteen days in prison.
Although, Grace had heard women speak of their prison experiences; it is clear from an article she wrote for Votes for Women the reality was an eyeopener: ‘We were in ‘Black Maria’ – such a jolting and rumbling I had never experienced before! Was the horror of it all worth the end? Down, down went my heart!’ When the prisoners arrived, they gave a cheer of ‘Votes for Women’ to rally ‘Miss Corson’ who was in solitary confinement. Grace was appalled by the demeanour of the prison matron ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here (under her inhuman charge!)’. Grace was placed in a punishment cell for all but one day and night of her sentence, leaving her with no choice but to lie on her bed ‘growing weaker hour by hour’ as she refused food. The prison chaplain tried to persuade her to ‘be a good girl, put on prison clothing, be happy and read nice books!’ Grace found the constant ‘clashing of doors and clanging of keys’ hard to tolerate. Lying awake one night, the moon shone through the window of her cell ‘casting the shadow of a barred square on the wall’, which made her ‘realise more fully than anything else the horrors of the system represented by those cruel bars.’ The third division prisoners cleaned the cells. One was a young woman, around twenty years of age, who Grace asked why she was in prison. The woman whispered back that she had attempted suicide adding ‘This is what it has brought me to. They don’t let you forget it’. Grace writes: ‘Here is work for us to see to after we have gained the needful tool – the Vote’. The encounter made Grace forget ‘the horror of [her]situation … for I saw more clearly than ever the work that lay before us’. Grace was released, along with seven others, having served six days of her fourteen-day sentence.
Grace swiftly returned to the campaign, speaking in the pouring rain for over an hour on Streatham Common or travelling to Crouch End in north London to speak; to name two examples of her busy campaigning schedule. The following January, Grace was an integral part of the campaign during the general election in Bradford. Grace, Laura Ainsworth (see earlier blog) and Mary Phillips addressed up to three meetings each day. Still a driving force within the Croydon branch, Grace realised that selling the newspaper, Votes for Women, on the streets afforded an opportunity to connect with women and explain the importance of the vote. She set out to recruit young women to undertake this work alongside encouraging new speakers: ‘Come, and attempt what you think is impossible! You will succeed. The spirit of suffering womanhood calls you, and we have all had ‘to make a beginning’’. The purpose of obtaining the vote, as Grace saw it, was to give women a voice to tackle evils such as gambling, intemperance or the white slave traffic; ‘it was the burning desire to remedy such evils as these that banded women together in this noble army.’
In the Autumn of 1910, Grace again joined Annie Kenney, campaigning this time in the west of England addressing meetings in Castle Cary, Shepton Mallet and Swindon. On her return, Grace helped to organise a rally in support of the Conciliation Bill at Duppas Hill in Croydon. Three platforms were erected; one of which was chaired by Grace.
The WSPU branch, in part thanks to Grace’s efforts, was successfully standing independently financially from the WSPU head office in Clement’s Inn. Grace joined a deputation from nine suffrage groups who marched to the offices of Croydon Town Council to present a petition calling for the vote. The council declined to consider the request as it was a political question. Grace wrote to the local newspaper explaining what had occurred and requesting the paper print her letter ‘for the instruction of the women ratepayers.’ She also wrote another letter addressed to a local councillor, for whom Grace had campaigned, pointing out that he had ‘primed her with [his] political opinions’ and yet, had declined to support the motion to consider the petition as it was a political matter. Her letter closes ‘Trusting you will oblige me with an explanation’.
Dorinda Neligan had goods seized for her refusal to pay taxes. A silver teapot, sugar basin and jug, all family heirlooms, came up for auction. Anne Cobden Sanderson, a founding member of the Tax Resistance League, attended the sale along with other supporters. The auctioneer acknowledged that the women wished to protest at the lots being auctioned, giving them the platform. Anne, clutching the League’s banner, addressed the assembled potential bidders, explaining the purpose of the group. The women then withdrew to the street where Grace chaired a meeting. A local journalist confused by the distinction between suffragette and suffragists approached Grace for assistance who explained that ‘gist’ wants a vote whereas ‘gette’ intends to get it.
In November 1911, Asquith was the guest of honour at a dinner held at Bedford College for Women. Grace and Leslie Hall succeeded in gaining admittance. Directed to different tables, Grace found herself seated next to Asquith. She introduced herself. Asquith, according to Grace, in evident fear, asked her intention. ‘Wait and see’ she replied. Leslie appeared behind the Prime Minister, and she and Grace explained their position in what was described as ‘a nice little talk’. The two women were then ushered out. One newspaper carried the headline, the following morning, ‘Shameless Suffragettes’.
The following year, Grace spoke in Melbourne, Australia, of women’s suffrage calling for more women doctors and chaplains. A Melbourne newspaper carried a report commenting on the ‘graceful way she glossed over the anarchical proceedings of her friends in the homeland’. Throwing a bottle at a car which potentially held a Cabinet Minister ‘was lightly touched on as merely symbolic action’, throwing stones ‘was only an act of protest’. The journalist was clearly bemused that the audience was sympathetic.
On her return from Australia, Grace continued to campaign and support the WSPU in Croydon. In November 1912, Grace chaired one of fifteen platforms at the Great Demonstration in the East End of London which marched from Bow to Victoria Park. Early the following year, Emmeline Pankhurst visited Croydon. It was widely reported that Emmeline and suffragette supporters had been mobbed. Grace wrote to the local paper correcting the portrayal. A few young men had thrown tomatoes and rotten eggs; ‘such manifestations of bad temper, might, perhaps, by a stretch of imagination, be described as missiles’. The only arrest was of a man who identified himself as a ‘civilian policeman’. Grace closed her letter: ‘When the women get the votes, suffragettes will make a point of throwing a very strong searchlight upon the use and misuse of plain clothes men’. A letter, challenging Grace’s, was published a few weeks later; it asserted the missive was ‘an unpleasant illustration of the type of person who is seeking to achieve notoriety by the suffragette agitation’. By this point, Grace was nearly seven months pregnant with her daughter, Frances, who was born in May.
After the birth of her daughter, Grace returned to campaigning. In an attempt to raise awareness of the barbarity of force-feeding she organised a deputation to visit the clergy of Croydon. One vicar, who had been unaware of the reality of force-feeding, agreed to host a public meeting of the clergy of the town to protest at the treatment. Another was reluctant to be involved but when the women refused to take no for an answer reluctantly agreed to put a resolution before a meeting of the local clergy condemning force-feeding. When Grace gave a speech to the Golders Green branch, she was introduced as the militant who had spent twenty-hours under the platform at St George’s Hall until her moment came to interrupt the speakers.
Lydia Grace Williamson was born in 1879 to William, a fish merchant and Celia. At the time of her birth, the family were living in Bermondsey. Grace, as she was known, had three sisters and brother. In January 1900 Grace’s mother died. Ten months later Grace married Donald Cameron Swan, the son of Joseph, a developer of the first incandescent light bulb. Donald and his father founded the Swan Engraving Company using methods developed by Joseph to reproduce, for example, paintings and photographs. Donald, himself, invented various improvements and was awarded medals by the Royal Society of Arts and Royal Photographic Society. The couple initially lived in Hammersmith but later moved to Sanderstead in Surrey. When Grace was arrested in 1909, she had two small sons born in 1902 and 1903.
Donald was supportive of his wife. The Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement was founded in 1910; Donald sat on the executive committee holding the office of Parliamentary Secretary. He was also a member of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage holding the position of honorary organising secretary. With two others Donald met with the Member of Parliament for Croydon canvassing for support arguing ‘that the denial of the justice of women’s demand hinders the development of the race, and causes poverty … the complete human point of view is man’s and woman’s combined.’ While Grace chaired one platform at the rally on Duppas Hill in 1910, Donald chaired another explaining the injustice of withholding the vote from tax-paying women. Donald completed the 1911 census return recording he was married, and including his sons, Grace is missing. When Emmeline Pankhurst left for a trip to America during the Autumn of 1911, Donald was among the party who gathered at Waterloo Station to bid her farewell.
During World War I, Donald served in the Volunteer Battalion of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment eventually being appointed a Captain in the RAF. Grace was a superintendent, under Lilian Baker, in a high explosive department in Woolwich. She undertook a tour of the munitions factories in France reporting back to Lloyd George, the then minister for munitions. After the war in 1920, Grace was appointed by the Council of the Industrial Welfare Society as the organiser of women and girls’ welfare selecting women supervisors for employers. The newspaper report of Grace’s new role concludes ‘there is no woman in the country who is more fitted to fulfil such momentous duties.’ Grace wrote an article setting out in detail how she viewed her role, the type of women she was seeking to recruit and working conditions: ‘workers have a right to expect healthy and pleasant conditions while performing their duties.’
In 1922 the family emigrated to South Africa to run a guest house near Table Mountain. Grace continued to work to improve industrial conditions and promoting women’s rights. Grace died in 1947 and Donald four years later in 1951.
A huge thank you to Iona, Grace and Donald’s granddaughter who kindly contributed and allowed me to use her photographs
vy Bon was arrested in May and June 1914. Her first arrest was for breaking windows in Grosvenor Square, found guilty she was sentenced to two months imprisonment. Force-fed she was released under the Cat and Mouse Act.
Only just released from prison, Ivy was arrested for attacking two pictures at the Dore Galleries: Love Wounded by Bartolozzi and a drawing of the Grand Canal in Venice by John Chapland. The manager grabbed her to prevent any further damage, but Ivy put up a struggle until the police arrived. In court, Ivy refused to give her address. In evidence, a letter was produced which Ivy had left at the Galleries. In the missive, Ivy vowed that she was prepared to die for the cause, which was now a war. The case was adjourned. At her trial Ivy continuously screamed ‘Torturers, murderers! I will do it again and again until we get justice’. She was sentenced to six months in prison. With the outbreak of the First World War Ivy would have been released under the government pardon. Nothing else has been found out as to Ivy’s identity. The name appears to be an alias; next to her entry in the amnesty record it says ‘unknown’.
The next two entries are Richard and Alfred Bond arrested in October 1908. The event at which they were arrested had been well advertised beforehand. The WSPU hired a steam launch decorating it with banners and flags announcing the planned demonstration; for a whole afternoon, it sailed up and down the Thames eventually arriving at Putney during a well-attended sculling competition. Handbills were handed out on numerous street corners. The event, in question, was the intention of a delegation to obtain access to the Houses of Parliament. Its high-profile advertising meant that the authorities were aware of the women’s intention giving them plenty of time to prepare a response. Mrs Pankhurst was invited to discuss the situation with the authorities but instead hosted a meeting to rally support further.
On the evening of 18 October, the streets between Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament were heaving with police, some mounted. The numbers differ from each newspaper report, but the police admitted to five thousand men. A cordon was placed around Parliament, and the crowds were swept back at every attempt to move closer. At Trafalgar Square, where many had gathered the mounted police climbed the steps preventing the masses from progressing towards their intended destination. A deputation left from Caxton Hall, but they too were turned back. May Billington was one of those arrested alongside Richard and Alfred.While the Votes for Women newspaper, dated 19 October 1908, gives small biographies on most of the women arrested at the end it simply states, “and twelve men”. Both men were charged with obstruction, found guilty they were bound over to keep the peace and fined £5. No biographical information is given, which would shed some light on their motives. It seems though from the press coverage that the event was also attended by people with other gripes such as unemployment which might explain their involvement.
The next entry is also a man called James Booty arrested on 27 July 1913. Sylvia Pankhurst, who was on licence released from prison under the Cat and Mouse Act, was invited to speak at a Free Speech Committee rally in Trafalgar Square. The day before, in the East End of London, Sylvia addressed a gathering explaining that the invitation was conditional on her refraining from attempting to enter Downing Street to present a petition. Such an undertaking ‘would curtail my freedom of speech, for I implicitly believe that the argument of sticks and stones from the East End, will bring about a general revolt that will win for women the vote…our motto in future must be ‘Deeds not words.’ Sylvia intended to attend the rally and at its close march to Downing Street confident that she could ‘rely on your protection to prevent my being re-arrested’.As planned, Sylvia led over a thousand people towards Whitehall and Downing Street. A line of police officers stood firm across Whitehall. Many of the crowd attempted to burst through. Twelve women, including Sylvia and eleven men, one of whom was James, were arrested. James was alleged to have grabbed a policeman by the throat and struck another. He was fined 40 shillings or a month imprisonment. His response when arrested was “I must have gone mad”. The magistrate observed that many respectable people appeared to have been swept up in the moment. Nothing else has been found out about James.
Lilian Borovikovsky, known as Lilly, was arrested in February 1909. She was born Lilian Bertha Dora Prust on 30 August 1880 to Christopher and Louisa. Her father, a vaccination officer, died in 1882, leaving her widowed mother with two daughters aged one and three. Louisa remarried in 1902, Charles Teague, a Cheltenham musician who played the organ at the local family church and was a well-renowned cellist. Lilian’s sister Emily married and moved to Finland although she returned to live in Cheltenham in the early 1920s. Lilian married Sergi Alexandrovitch Borovikovsky in June 1902; the groom was described as of the Russian Finance Office in Petersburg. Lilian met Sergi through her cousin Helen who was, first, married to a Russian called Chrouschoff. Just before the ceremony, Lilian was baptised into the Church of England. A Russian service followed the nuptials at the Russian Embassy in London. Two years later Lilian gave birth to a son Sergei. In 1905 her husband was appointed to a commission on press censoring by the Czar, embroiled in the Russian crisis Lilian returned to Cheltenham and never returned.
As a child, Lilian appears to have attended Cheltenham Ladies College and later their annual reunions. She became a member of the Women’s Freedom League. She was elected to the committee in January 1909 at a meeting held at the Cheltenham Vegetarian Hotel.
Lilian was part of a delegation led by Charlotte Despard. The latter attempted to deliver a petition to the Houses of Parliament. They were met by a considerable police presence including some on horseback. She was arrested and charged with obstruction. Found guilty she was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment of which she served two weeks; released due to failing health.
After her release, the Women’s Freedom League hosted a reception to welcome her home themed as an American Tea Party and sale. Lilian was clear that she would be more than happy to take part in another demonstration as she now felt more “suffragettish”, on this basis, she encouraged all at the gathering to accompany her next time. Lilian was presented with the Holloway badge given to all women who served time in the prison and a copy of the Awakening of Women by Mrs Swiney. All the proceeds were donated to the Despard Prisoners Fund.
Lilian continued to be involved with the Women’s Freedom League becoming the Cheltenham Branch Honorary Secretary. During the First World War Lilian trained with the Red Cross. Lilian died on 25 May 1926, a patient of Gloucester Mental Hospital.
The next entry is for Boadicea, an apt name given on arrest designed no doubt to infuriate the police. The person’s real name is Lilian Dove Willcox. She was one of two released prisoners feted at a reception at Violet Bland’s house in Bristol.The next name is Lillie Boileau, who was arrested twice. Lillie Maud Boileau was born circa 1870 in Purayh, India to Neil and Mary, Neil was a retired army major general. The second of four daughters her father died in 1895 and the family permanently settled in England.
Lillie was one of five women charged with obstruction in respect of a picket outside 10 Downing Street. The others were Mrs Cranston, Charlotte Despard, Mrs Cobden Sanderson and Mrs Hicks. Members of the Women’s Freedom League the women had been taking it in turns to man the picket, usually in pairs. Lillie attempted to present a petition to Asquith, who replied: “Don’t be so silly.” The size of the picket grew, ensuring that Asquith would have to face them whichever way he chose to leave. At that point, the police attempted to move the women on. On their refusal, two were arrested. Charlotte Despard protested, and as she and Mrs Cobden tried to take the others place, they too were arrested along with the others on the picket.
At their first appearance in court, the women stated that they were going to claim the police for damages. On the understanding that they would stay away from Downing Street, the case was adjourned for a week. In the meantime, the women rallied support. On 26 August they organised a meeting at Caxton Hall where all the women addressed the meeting explaining their belief, based on the Bill of Rights, that all citizens regardless of sex had the right to petition the government.
When the case reconvened, a week later, the women were represented by Timothy Healy, an Irish Nationalist MP, barrister. The defence stated that the women had a constitutional right to present a petition; the prosecution that the document was not prepared in the correct way to conform legally to a petition. However, the police admitted they had not examined the document. The women had been charged with obstructing the police in their duty. While it was argued, what they had actually been doing was potentially obstructing the pavement with which they were not charged. After hearing the evidence, the case was adjourned for a further week, when despite the apparent flaw in the charges, the women were found guilty and fined 40 shillings or seven days in prison.
The women, however, were granted the right to appeal. A letter appeared in several newspapers signed by Charlotte Despard, Mrs Cobden Sanderson and Mrs Hicks explaining the appeal and asking for donations to pay for it. It was an appeal they were to lose. Lillie amongst others travelled to Wales to promote the cause. They were met with fierce opposition by some. In Newtown they were refused lodgings and were eventually taken in by a member of the WSPU for the night, an attempt to hold an open-air meeting was met with a crowd determined to prevent it from happening, and the women had to take refuge in a shop. In meetings behind closed doors, the rooms were packed and support unanimous, but outside it continued to be a different story.
While in Wales Lillie gave an interview to the Montgomeryshire Express and Radnor Times. She described the campaign in Wales as broadly successful particularly in Newton where they had encountered the most opposition but also received the greatest support. In one town small boys pushed up against Lillie pummelling her with their fists. She pushed one boy away. His mother shouted that she would bash Lillie’s head in. The women abandoned their plans and walked to the railway station. The angry crowd followed, but with the help of station staff, they safely boarded the train. The mother had followed and informed Lillie that she had a dog whip which she was keen to use. News came that the appeal had been unsuccessful and Lillie was aware that on her return to London she would be arrested.
Alongside her suffragette activities, Lillie was a member of the Union of Ethical Societies which promoted living within ethical boundaries which would lead to people living in a way that supported others and thus a better world. The union supported areas such as women’s suffrage, penal reform and assistance for the poor. After her death, she was described as “one of its most intelligent, loyal and sympathetic collaborators.”
Lillie was arrested again in November 1913. Following a meeting at Caxton Hall, addressed by Charlotte Despard who called for women agitators to have the same rights as male agitators, four of the women drove to Downing Street to present a resolution to this effect. The remainder walked to St James’s Park gathering on the steps between Downing Street and Horse Guards Parade. Miss Murray began to address the crowd and was immediately arrested for obstruction. Three more arrests followed, including Lillie. All three were charged with obstruction. They were released on bail with surety being paid by Charlotte Despard.
At the subsequent hearing, the evidence was that by standing where they had a public pathway had been blocked. Lillie was fined £5 and bound over to keep the peace for six months. Lillie refused. She was held until the end of the hearing and then released unconditionally. Lillie was back in court a week later as a witness for two of the accused women, Miss Boyle and Miss Murray, as their hearing had been adjourned. Unsurprisingly both women were found guilty, like Lillie they refused to pay the fine or agree to keep the peace. They were imprisoned in the alternate for one day.
Lillie continued to be involved in the Union of Ethical Studies and campaigned for a variety of causes. She died in 1930.
The next entry is for “Miss Black” who was arrested on 22 December 1913 in Cheltenham together with “Miss Red” who was subsequently identified as Lilian Lenton. The identity of Miss Black was never known for sure. Lilian used several aliases and became a thorn in the side of the authorities. Column inches in the press were dedicated to discussing her actions and treatment at the hands of the authorities.Lilian’s first arrest was in March 1912 when she gave her name as Ida Inkley from Slough.
Born Lilian Ida Lenton in 1891, she was the eldest daughter of Isaac, a carpenter and joiner and Mahalah. She grew up in Leicester. When Lilian, later, became a dancer she adopted the stage name Ida Inkley. Lilian joined the Women’s Social and Political Union early in 1912 and, shortly afterwards, she was sentenced to two months imprisonment for smashing Post Office windows in Oxford Street valued at £3. Isabel Inglis, who was charged along with Lilian, received the same sentence.
In February 1913 Lilian was arrested alongside Joyce Locke [aka Olive Wharry] and charged with arson in respect of the destruction by fire of the tea rooms at Kew Gardens. A policeman stated he had seen them fleeing the scene dropping a portmanteau which was found to contain among other things cloth smelling strongly of paraffin. Suffrage literature was found near the building. The police recommended that bail should not be granted to which Lilian grabbed some paperwork and threw it at the magistrate. Forcibly removed from court, the two women were remanded in custody. The damage was estimated to be in the region of £1000.Lilian arrived at Holloway prison on 21 February. She refused to be examined, declined to provide the medical staff with any details of previous medical conditions or her name. The deputy medical officer formed the opinion that ‘she was of rather spare physique …. not being a particularly strong looking woman.’ The same day Lilian was reported and punished for misconduct. Her general conduct was described as ‘bad, very defiant’. Lilian smashed everything she could in the first cell in which she was placed and was removed to a ‘special strong cell’ separated from other prisoners.
Lilian immediately went on hunger strike. A decision was made to commence force-feeding two days after her admission on 23 February as Lilian was ‘presenting symptoms of malnutrition.’ An examination, which she resisted, did not present any signs of ‘organic mischief in the chest’ to suggest the process should not take place. Although, the caveat was added that the examination had not been full due to Lilian’s violent resistance. Her colour was noted to be ‘not particularly good’ but, this was put down to her refusal of food over several days. Lilian regurgitated most of the liquid, ‘peptonised milk’, rich in calcium and carbohydrate, with which she was force-fed and her colour ‘became rather worse.’ At some point, but, when is not clear, a note was added to Lilian’s records ‘It would be highly dangerous to forcibly feed in this case again.’Nearly three hours later Lilian was found ‘in a very collapsed condition….blanched, with lips cyanosed -sighing respiration and a thin running pulse.’ Lilian said she had pain around her heart and chest. The doctor administered strychnine and digitalis. Only when Lilian was told she would be released on condition she returned did she take some food. The doctor described her state as critical for several hours.
So concerned were the medical attendants that one accompanied Lilian on her release to her friend’s house in Mornington Crescent. The friend informed the medical officer that Lilian had been complaining of shortness of breath and chest pain for some time. The officer formed the view that Lilian might have pleurisy. Discussion with Lilian’s doctor led to a diagnosis of pneumonia; although doubt is thrown on this verdict in a file note. Whatever the case, the file notes that this condition could not be caused by force feeding but was made more likely by starvation. In a letter to the magistrates explaining the reasons behind Lilian’s release the author wrote that the medical officer had felt that if force feeding had continued or Lilian had been permitted to continue starving herself her life ‘had been in immediate danger.’
In all the communications that centred around her release, no mention is made of her critical condition or the suspicion of pleurisy.Lilian later gave a statement to the press. When the decision was made to administer force feeding, she was tied to the chair. Seven wardresses and two doctors were present. Lilian resisted strenuously managing to expel the nasal tube, which was immediately reinserted. This time Lilian states her breathing became noisy and rattling. She coughed up the majority of the food and struggled to breathe. Two further attempts were made with the same result. When Lilian was untied; she could not stand. She was helped to a mattress and pillow which were brought in and placed on the floor.Worried by the rapid deterioration in her health Lilian rang a bell for help. A doctor, who attended, sent for blankets and a hot water bottle. Lilian would be released, the doctor and prison governor who had been summoned informed her, if she undertook to appear at court. Verbally Lilian agreed but was not requested to sign any paperwork. In the flurry of concern over her health, the prison authorities forgot to complete a medical report on discharge which they then had to prepare retrospectively to provide to the court and others.Joyce, her fellow arrestee, was brought before the magistrate. Lilian, now on the run, failed to appear in court.
Letters on the file indicate that the authorities believed that Lilian would not present herself at court due to her ill health and were shocked she was now missing. The counsel for the Crown stated that the Home Secretary had been informed that Lilian would “infallibly die” unless she was released and, thus he had ordered her liberty from Holloway prison. A warrant was issued for her arrest. The magistrate expressed his astonishment at this turn of events.Enquiries were made at the headquarters of the WSPU as to Lilian’s whereabouts but, on being informed she was still dangerously ill, it was decided not to implement the warrant. The resulting protests in the press led the Home Office to issue a statement which made it clear that the Home Secretary had had three choices to let her die, force feed her which could have caused her death given the state of her health or release her on licence. Her accomplice, Joyce, meanwhile was tried and found guilty being ordered to pay the trial costs, damages and sentenced to eighteen months in prison.
The release of Lilian and the general question regarding the correctness of releasing prisoners who were force feed and too ill to remain in prison rumbled on. In the House of Commons, questions were asked of the Home Secretary by several MPs who felt that he was failing to uphold the rule of law where the suffragettes were concerned. Three doctors wrote to the Times reiterating the claim that Lilian had been made gravely ill by the process of force feeding and, condemned the practice. According to the Home Secretary, he had spoken with Lilian’s personal doctor who was of the view that the pleurisy was not caused by the factors cited by the three doctors who had not, in fact, examined her. The government was in an awkward position not, wishing the women to starve themselves to death and thus becoming martyrs.
Throughout all the furore Lilian remained on the run even if the Home Office believed she was recuperating. She made a dramatic reappearance on 10 June during the trial at the Doncaster courts of Harry Johnson and Augusta Winship accused of burglary with the intent of committing a felony, burning down a house. May Dennis was called as a defence witness and announced that it was, in fact, she who had committed the offence not one of the defendants. It was then discovered that May was actually Lilian. She was arrested and placed in the dock alongside Harry. Lilian refused to enter a plea as she did not recognise the court.
Placed on remand pending trial Lilian was taken to Armley prison where she refused food and to be medically examined. Lilian who had declined to request bail at court was urged to do so by the prison governor who felt the magistrates would not refuse. The governor relayed this information by telephone to the Home Office who then wrote to the magistrates. Given the furore that had been stirred up by Lilian’s time at Holloway, it is clear the authorities wished to avoid a repetition. While it was possible to free Lilian under the Cat and Mouse Act; the preferred option was for the magistrates to grant bail with sureties. This neatly avoided any apparent involvement by the Home Office who had to sanction release under the Cat and Mouse and would potentially encourage Lilian to return to court if her sureties stood to lose their money if she did not. It was a strategy that relied on sureties being provided and, as a solicitor, approached by the Director of Public Prosecutions, pointed out this could prove difficult if not impossible.
Letters were exchanged as to the basis on which Lilian could be released given the belief she would abscond. As the suggestion as to bail appeared to be destined for failure the next idea was to send her to hospital with, if necessary, the expense being borne by the authorities. The problem with this plan was the possibility that Lilian would continue to refuse food at the hospital. Suspension of the sentence could not be made as Lilian had yet to be tried. As she was on remand awaiting in effect two trials, she was going to remain a thorn in authorities side opening them up to criticism if she fled again and failed to face the court.To ensure that Lilian could be identified in the future, the prison officers took her fingerprints. A note on the file reports that while a set of fingerprints is held, they are not particularly useful, as Lilian violently resisted them being taken.
Lilian continued to refuse food, informing the medical officer that she had not eaten for two days, before her appearance at court, knowing she would be returned to prison. The medical report two days after her admission indicates that Lilian was far from well: ‘her breath is very foul-she has not had any action of the bowel since admission…her pulse is thin and rapid and today she complains of neuralgia – and of giddiness.’ The medical officer recommended bed rest which Lilian agreed to. An addendum to the note by the prison governor states that Lilian informed him subsequently that she last ate on the 8th, seven days previously.
The following day, 16 June, a handwritten note indicates that pleurisy was suspected. Lilian was released the next morning and taken to the house of Mrs Rutter of Chapel Allerton, Leeds. She was not released on bail but by the Secretary of State under the Cat and Mouse Act. The Chief Constable of Leeds was requested to deploy officers to keep Lilian ‘under close supervision.’ She was released for two days after which time she had to present herself back at the prison. If she absconded before the expiration of the two days, Lilian could not be arrested but should be kept under surveillance. If she boarded a train to London, a telegram had to be dispatched to the Metropolitan police as they held a warrant for arrest in connection with the previous charge of arson. Even if Lilian remained at large after two days so long as she did not abscond, she was to be left alone at least until the date she was due to appear in court. The reasoning being that if Lilian was well enough to flee, she was well enough to return to prison. If no attempt was made, Lilian was still too ill. It was imperative that Lilian was not aware she was being watched.The Chief Constable deployed a Detective Inspector and two Detectives at the house.
By 8.30 pm on the 17th, the day of her release, Lilian had gone. In a well-organised plan, a fellow suffragette Elsie Duval came in through the back door dressed as an errand boy eating an apple and carrying a large and heavy hamper. Lilian swopped clothing with Elsie and went out carrying the now empty hamper, eating the apple. She jumped into a cart and disappeared. The police at the front and the rear of the house stood by believing it was a genuine delivery.Travelling by taxi to Harrogate and then Scarborough, Lilian adopted the disguise of a children’s nurse carrying the baby son of a fellow WSPU member. On arrival at the railway station, a policeman helpfully opened the taxi door at which point Lilian hid her face behind the child to prevent the officer from recognising her. From there she took a train to Edinburgh.The legal advice was that Lilian’s accomplices could be prosecuted but, this approach was rapidly abandoned when it was pointed out that, in court, an escape ‘so humorous and so successful … could not fail to bring ridicule upon the police officers who unconsciously assisted.’ The authorities were aware that Lilian was in Scotland and photographs were circulated to the Scottish police. Although, this step was not taken until early July when concerns began to be raised that Lilian would fail to appear in court which she did.
Lilian alluded the police until 7 October when she was arrested at Paddington Station collecting a bicycle from left luggage. Sent to gaol on remand Lilian again went on hunger strike. The medical report on admission concludes ‘physique spare mental condition apparently normal.’ Lilian was taken before the court on the 9th. Returned to prison, she continued to refuse food. A note from the medical officer states that force-feeding ‘in view of the previous history …would be attended with considerable risk.’ Despite this warning, Lilian was force-fed the following day by oesophageal tube, following an examination by Herbert Smalley, medical advisor to the Home Office who concluded that if Lilian was deemed to be an improper person to be released under the Cat and Mouse Act she should be force fed. This was despite her medical history and the fact Lilian refused to be examined; another doctor supported his finding.The force feeding continued twice a day. Lilian often vomited and only then would the feeding stop. It was noted that Lilian ‘wore very thin and scanty attire and walks about in bare feet, evidently with the intention of making herself ill.’
Lilian resisted each time, and, by day three, the nasal tube was tried instead of the oesophageal tube to see if this prevented her vomiting. The idea failed as Lilian retched, bringing back both the food and the tube. The medical officer felt Lilian was being exhausted by the process and did not try a second time that day. Instead, deciding to wait upon instructions from the Home Office. Dr Smalley visited Holloway prison and assisted in further attempts to feed Lilian which failed. In a report to the Home Office, he pointed out that force feeding had primarily failed and that Lilian had not received any meaningful nutrition in over six days. He concluded ‘I think the question will arise tomorrow whether she can be retained much longer without considerable risk.’
By the 15th of the month, a handwritten note on the file records that Lilian had received only a small amount of food via force feeding which had been tried by both nasal and oesophageal tube and that otherwise, she had been without food for eight days. Lilian refused any form of examination. In consequence, Lilian was released on licence to return to prison on the 20th. A file note records that the police had been requested to supervise Lilian but, given her previous behaviour ‘their task will be a difficult one.’ She was dispatched in a taxi to stay with a Mrs Diplock in Putney. Before Lilian left, she took a ‘very little milk and soda.’ Although her condition was described as ‘fairly satisfactory’ it was noted that ‘the signs of malnutrition were well marked.’ Lilian, a doctor notes, was complaining of ‘gastric pains’ and her hand was observed to be twitching. ‘Self starvation after today’ was considered inadvisable.
Not unsurprisingly Lilian failed to present herself at Holloway prison on the 18th. The press named her the “elusive suffragette.” On 22 December Miss Black and Miss Scarlett appeared before the court in Cheltenham. The women were charged with setting fire to Alstone Lawn, an unoccupied mansion, owned by Colonel De Sales La Terriere whose mother had lived in the house as a child and adult. A beautiful and substantial house; it had been placed on the market when the Colonel inherited, but, it had failed to sell as the area surrounding it was becoming less rural. The fire was brought under control swiftly but not without damage to the roof which was left with a hole in it and to the staircase which was utterly destroyed. The two charged women were said to have arrived in Cheltenham by train from Birmingham on the day of the fire. It was found that paraffin had been sprinkled at the seat of the fire and that footprints led away to the door. Suffragette literature was found in the house and the two women, who were said to be wearing clothes that smelt strongly of paraffin, were arrested the next day. The damage was estimated at £400. The house was left empty and later demolished.
The two appeared in court barefoot with long loose hair, other than commenting on man-made laws they said nothing. They were taken to Worcester jail pending a full hearing. On arrival, Lilian did the same as she had done previously announcing she had not eaten for two days. She refused to give her name, age, or to be examined. An officer was dispatched from Holloway prison with photographs of Lilian on Christmas Eve which allowed an identification. Lilian continued to refuse both food and water. Her condition was described as ‘the pulse is decidedly weak & the breath offensive… She seems much weaker than on admission.’ Her trial date was the 29th, but it was not believed Lilian could survive without food that long.On Christmas Day Lilian was released and taken by train and cab, accompanied by a prison matron, to an address in Birmingham. Learning of her impending release, Lilian took some water, and a friend met her partway through her journey with sandwiches and milk. Lilian was dubbed in the press the Illusive Pimpernel. Lilian failed to appear in court for the trial at the beginning of January 1914. The police applied to the court for a warrant for her arrest. The magistrate pointed out none was necessary for an arrest as Lilian had been released under the provisions of the Cat and Mouse Act. The police replied that they had been specifically directed by the Home Office to request a warrant. The magistrate, although perplexed by the police’s insistence, complied and issued one.
Neither women were not without front. A couple of weeks later, a solicitor appeared before the same court requesting the return of a postal order, jewellery and money found on the women when they were arrested. On being questioned as to from whom he had received his instructions, the solicitor stated it was a representative of the two women whose names he did not know. Not unsurprisingly the request was denied.
In a BBC interview first aired on 1 January, 1960 Lilian described her escape. When the women were released on licence under the Cat and Mouse Act they would be delivered, often by the police, to a house where they were to remain until their health sufficiently recovered for them to be returned to prison. Whilst in residence, the house would be placed under police surveillance. In the interview, Lilian states that her speciality was “escapes” from these houses often under the noses of the police. Lilian, who does not mention Miss Black, was taken by the police to a house in Birmingham on Christmas Day. Being a day of festivities, there was a delay of a few minutes before the Birmingham police arrived to place the house under surveillance during which time Lilian escaped. To her amusement, the police duly arrived and surrounded the house, not realising she had already gone.
On 4 May 1914, she was spotted walking down the street in Birkenhead by an eagle-eyed detective and arrested. She was taken to Armdale Gaol to await trial. Lilian refused food both at the police station and the gaol. A report was sent to the prison stating that any condition Lilian had was not due to force-feeding and the only difficulty experienced in the past was due to vomiting. It was suggested that she should be force fed. The Leeds medical officer described her as of ‘very poor physique’ and did not consider ‘her case a very desirable one for force feeding.’ If he was ordered to attempt force feeding, he was not willing to do so without a second medical opinion.When Lilian was taken to court, she was described as having ‘legs a little tremulous’.At her trial, she adopted the tactic of addressing the jury throughout including sentencing. On her return to prison later that day, her condition had deteriorated. On 12 May having again refused food she was released to return on 18th. In the meantime, Lilian was found guilty and sentenced to twelve months in prison. Lilian was taken by car to a house in Havergate which was heavily guarded by police. The day before she was due to return to prison, fifty veiled women arrived at the front door and were admitted one by one. When they left, they did so in one big group; the police had no means of knowing if Lilian was amongst them or not, nor were there sufficient men to follow every woman. Again she had successfully given them the slip.
According to her BBC interview, Lilian fled to the Lake District where she met D H Lawrence, who she described as having only one thing on his mind. Later she read Lady Chatterley’s Lover and said she could not remember anything special about it. The women were all technically freed on the outbreak of the First World War. Lilian served as an orderly during the war with the Scottish Women’s Hospital Unit. After the war, she worked in Norway and was a spokesperson for the Save the Children Fund. She continued to be interviewed on the suffrage campaign until she died in 1972.
Occasionally I trawl the online Oxfam book shop looking for Noel Streatfield books to add to my collection. One recent find was a book called The Day Before Yesterday, Firsthand Stories of Fifty Years Ago published in 1956. Noel was the editor, not the author but, curious; I nonetheless bought what turned out to be a serendipitous find.
The book is divided into chapters; each covers a topic from the nursery to waterways; from mining to entering society as a debutante. Noel Streatfield wrote a prelude to each, for example for the chapter Introducing a Boy Miner she explains that Jack Jones’s recollections were included not only because of his memories of being a child working in a mine but ‘because of what he writes about his mother who, as you will read, was a very great woman.’ She concludes her introduction ‘Now read what Jack Jones writes, and I think you will find you have a lot to think about.’ In others, Noel mixes her recollections with her views.
One chapter is called Introducing Suffragettes. Helen Atkinson, who I wrote about in a blog last November, shares her experiences. The blog below is the revised Helen entry using her own words and recollections. Noel introduces the chapter. She opens by recounting that while suffrage was a subject discussed in her home ‘, it was definitely a ‘not before the children’ subject.’ While out for a walk with her sister a family acquaintance asked the two little girls if they would like ‘to wear white frocks and sashes of purple and green’ to present bouquets to two important women called the Pankhursts. Enchanted with the idea of dressing up, excitedly the sisters told their father who informed them ‘Purple, green and white … were colours no respectable brought up child might wear.’ It was clear that ‘over [their] father’s dead body’ would they present bouquets ‘to those dreadful women.’
Noel recollects that ‘abysmal ignorance’ of the wider world particularly current affairs was not, in her experience, unusual before the First World War, among children. She marvels at the fact that she was oblivious of even ‘a minor skirmish’ when the women, such as governesses, she encountered, may not have smashed windows, but ‘must have admired and sympathised with those who did.’ Describing it as akin to a civil war Noel observes that a reasonable request for the vote was brushed off so frequently that ‘passions were so inflamed that there was nothing women would not do to fight for their cause.’ She approached Helen to write her story as Noel ‘felt we should get a truer picture if I chose one of the thousands who fought like tigers, but of whom few have heard’ rather than a ‘great name in the Suffrage Movement.’
When the two women met Noel was struck by the smallness and frailty of Helen, who ‘seemed swallowed up in the chair in which she sat.’ As they talked Helen, who had ‘a small soft voice to match her size’ said ‘You have no idea how it hurts to be beaten with a policeman’s rolled-up mackintosh.’ An observation Noel writes she would never forget. Her encounter with Helen cured her from ever contemplating not voting.
Helen, born in Manchester in 1873, felt that she ‘unconsciously imbibed a sense of liberalism in its most genuine aspect’ being born in the cotton city of the north. She was the daughter of John Bernard, a journalist for the Manchester Guardian, and Mallie Atkinson. She was the second eldest of six children. The youngest, Lucy, was born in 1885 and very soon afterwards, Mallie died. By the census, in 1891 the family had moved south to Stoke Newington, north London when John was transferred to the newspaper’s London office.
Shortly after the family’s move south, Helen and her brother began attending meetings of the City of London Debating Society. To Helen’s surprise, she was asked to open a debate, a request never previously made of a woman. Eagerly accepting the challenge, Helen opted to speak about women’s enfranchisement, a subject her audience considered to be ‘dry and academic.’ She then joined the National Women’s Suffrage Society where Helen met women who had researched constitutional history forming the opinion that the political role of women had regressed rather than progressed as early Parliaments had been attended by the Abbesses of convents. This led them to fight for the franchise for women.
On a personal level, Helen was driven by a sense of injustice. She recounts the case of a man brought before the courts. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children alleged he had ill-treated his child; a course of action which was taken as it was believed it would be more successful than bringing charges for the mistreatment of his wife. The man was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months. His lawyer raised an objection on a point of law, and the sentence was overturned, and the man freed. Helen called it an injustice. It is a common misconception that women wanted the vote for its own sake but many, like Helen, fought to obtain the vote to give women a voice against such injustices or poverty or inequality.
Three years later, Helen, while visiting a married sister in Manchester, heard of the ‘wild women’ such as Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst; ‘these women and what they had done, and intended to do, changed the course of my life.’ Helen abandoned the Suffrage Society and joined the WSPU. Helen’s father recollected Emmeline’s husband as a man who was ‘much liked’ but was regarded as a ‘crank’ by ‘hardheaded Northerners’ as he liked to be called Citizen Pankhurst and advocated free education; land nationalisation and the disestablishment of the church. Her father, who loathed the use of ‘lavish adjectives,’ described Emmeline as a ‘fascinating person,’ high praise which made Helen appreciate the undoubted ‘force of her natural charm.’ Over the years, Helen felt that this attribute, combined with Emmeline’s eloquence were the two factors that led to her ‘near-adoration’ by hundreds of women.
The WSPU often met on street corners or in tiny local halls; meetings advertised by chalk writing on walls or pavements. This means of promotion led to Helen’s first arrest. It had rained, and Helen and her friend had waited for some time for the pavement to dry sufficiently to allow them to chalk out their message. As soon as they started a policeman arrested them, an arrest which does not appear in the amnesty record. In court the policeman testified that the area was covered in numerous chalk messages, a fact the magistrate, Helen felt, chose to ignore given the torrential downpour beforehand. Ticked off the magistrate dismissed the case.
Helen recollects Frederick Pethick Lawrence promising to pay ten pounds to the cause for every day his wife, Emmeline, spent in prison. This prompted an entry to a fancy dress ball in a costume adorned with Emmeline’s face and the ditty:
Ten pounds a day
He said he’d pay
To keep this face
It won first prize.
The arrests of women led others to be ‘shaken out of their complacency’ and face up to the fact that other women’s lives were intolerable. In Helen’s view, women were implanted with an ‘inferiority complex’ which rapidly ‘gave way to resentment and determination that there should, in future, be equality.’ Campaigning at a by-election, Helen found herself called upon to address the waiting crowd as the planned speaker was delayed. Inwardly quaking she mounted the lorry addressing the crowd on women’s rights and how women had as much stake in the welfare of the country as men did. The crowd were dubious and losing interest. Helen asked the assembled people who had been the country’s champion when the Romans invaded. After a long pause, a small child shouted out ‘Boadicea.’ From there on, Helen felt the crowd was with her.
Helen, who worked as a shorthand typist, dedicated a week’s holiday to campaigning in a Liberal stronghold constituency in Yorkshire. She canvassed, carried sandwich boards culminating in attending a Liberal meeting on the eve of the poll with six others. They carefully spaced themselves across the venue having agreed beforehand in which order they would stand up and ask their questions. Helen was the last. Each ejection was met with increasing tension. When the sixth was forcibly removed the man sitting next to Helen ‘waggled his shoe’ commenting that is what he would give them. With a feeling of dread, Helen stood up. The man, as threatened, kicked her and she received ‘many knocks before the police got me outside.’
Helen attended a WSPU deputation to the Houses of Parliament. Arrested, again this is not included in the amnesty record, she appeared at Bow Street magistrates court. Her father was present in court along with two fellow journalists supportive of the suffrage movement. When Helen was found guilty, all three advised her to take a taxi to Holloway prison. Helen declined. Below is a sketch of the wagon; originally intended to convey fourteen prisoners: men and women destined for Pentonville or Holloway prisons it was often overcrowded. As Helen writes ‘I was scarcely inside before horror seized me. Nausea, claustrophobia – I was almost unconscious.’ She never overcame her ‘intense repugnance’ even though Helen was transported several times.
Helen describes her cell in F Block as ‘horrible … one had to be very exalte to ignore such squalid surroundings.’ In her cell, a previous occupant called Norah had scratched on a brick ‘Norah got six weeks for stealing’; this inspired Helen to scratch poetry on the bricks. The food ‘appalled’ Helen who, as she notes, was not used to particularly grand cuisine following the death of her mother. The highlight of each day was exercise when the women could mingle and chapel. But hopes of meeting prisoners other than suffragettes were dashed as the women were hidden behind a curtain.
Helen later joined another deputation which became known as Black Friday. She recollects ‘an overwhelming display of savagery. We were beaten on the breast, struck with fists and knees, knocked down and kicked.’ Another deputation followed which started in Grosvenor Place. The procession marched as far as the Quadriga, known today as the Wellington Arch, before being intercepted. The police halted the women. One attempted to detain Emmeline Pankhurst, so Helen put her arms around her. The two were beaten by rolled up police waterproof capes which made ‘a truly formidable weapon.’ Emmeline turned out to be well able to look after herself, so Helen let go. Immediately she was bundled into one of the guardrooms in the monument. Helen describes the women as being ‘thrown in like sacks.’ When peace was restored the police marched their prisoners across the parks to Cannon Row police station. Dispatched in the wagon to Holloway prison, Helen passed out. She came round to find herself on the floor in prison.
Helen resolved not to take any food or water. When a prisoner decided on this course of action, no exercise was permitted, and the women were left in solitary confinement. Helen, as she did the first time, scratched poetry on the bricks:
A shipwrecked sailor, buried on this coast,
Bids you set sail,
Full many a gallant barque, when we were lost,
Weathered the gale.
As the days passed, she describes growing feeble and feeling as if she was ‘becoming moribund’. Helen was released under the Cat and Mouse Act. She did not return to prison on the appointed day and was ‘at large’ when the First World War broke out. Despite the amnesty, Helen concludes whether as she was still at large, she was ‘pardoned or not!’
She died in 1955, shortly after she wrote this piece, on the way to visit her youngest sister in hospital. When the book was published, a year after Helen’s death, on reviewer commented on her ‘moving resume of the Suffragette movement;’ another that ‘her account of her experiences as a suffragette [were] particularly valuable.
Evelyn Billings record states that she was arrested twice on 28 July 1913, and 11 August 1913. Next to the first entry is a pencil star which refers to a footnote which notes that no records have been found relating to the first arrest on her file. This note seems to be an administrative error as the first arrest is recorded in the newspapers. Evelyn’s surname is variously spelt with and without an “s”. The correct spelling appears to be Billing as included in advertisements in suffrage newspapers.
Evelyn was the organiser of the West and North Kent branch of the WSPU. In January 1912 she gave a speech at a meeting of the Hastings Branch commenting ‘It was for them [Cabinet Ministers] to prove that they were dishonourable, and they pretty nearly always did it.’ A keen correspondent, Evelyn often raised awareness of the cause by writing letters to the press. For example, she wrote to the Kent and Sussex Courier asking women to write to their Members of Parliament to protest at the force feeding of Olive Walton held in Aylesbury Gaol.
In July 1912 Evelyn travelled to London to take part in a protest in Trafalgar Square against the operation of the Cat and Mouse Act and the rearrest of Sylvia Pankhurst. Evelyn was one of thirteen women and, eleven men. She was charged with obstruction. According to the police, Evelyn incited the crowd crying “Come on, men.” She then proceeded to grab a walking stick; running into Great Scotland Yard yelling to the crowd to follow her and break the windows at the Liberal Club. To this evidence, Evelyn responded that it was all lies and raised a legal objection in that she understood there needed to be three witnesses for an offence to be proven. The magistrate pointed out this was incorrect to which Evelyn replied “Very well- I’ll find out for the next time, and we’ll get along”. She continued: the policeman “..has got the author’s brain and has invented a great yarn”. She was fined forty shillings or one month’s imprisonment. Evelyn shouting “Where are your witnesses?” was forcibly removed from the court.
It appears, however, that Evelyn did not go to gaol as, only a few weeks later, she was arrested again for her part in an attempt to enter Downing Street. The crowd were described variously by the police as a mob or almost a riot. Evelyn was charged with obstruction and assault. A policeman attested that Evelyn had attempted to break through a cordon; striking a policeman in the face. Evelyn argued that the police were, in fact, obstructing the crowd, not the other way round. The magistrate, while not agreeing with the argument, decided to concentrate on the assault charge. Evelyn stated she was a “marked woman” and that when she had been arrested previously, she had been assaulted by police officers. The magistrate retorted that this interjection “...was futile and irrelevant” and sentenced her to a fine, or one month in prison. Evelyn stated her intent to go on hunger strike.
Whether Evelyn did or did not go on hunger strike is unknown, but she did elect to go to prison. On her release, she continued campaigning. In the 25 October 1913 edition of the Bexhill on Sea Observer, a letter was published, written in response to a speech given by the Bishop of Chichester at the Diocesan Conference. Firstly, Evelyn responded to the Bishop’s contention that women should not be elected to the synod, the legislative council, of the church, by outlining in detail why his argument was incorrect. The Bishop had referred to a “filthy” paper, by which Evelyn believed he meant the Suffragette newspaper which had recently included informative articles on venereal disease highlighting, in particular, the way married women could be infected by unfaithful husbands suffering in silence due to the collusion of male doctors. She attacked the church’s lack of desire to recognise this or poverty: “Suffragists and Trade Unions are on the warpath, while the Church sleeps-or scoffs.” This impassioned conclusion sums up the often underlining motive of many campaigners. They wanted the vote, not for its own sake but to have a voice to raise awareness of poverty, disease or injustice.
No biographical information is given in any press report; the only clue is her role of organiser of the West and North Kent WSPU. When arrested, she gave her address as the WSPU headquarters. Evelyn does not appear on the Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners and, no further personal information has been located.
Teresa Billington was arrested twice on 21 June 1906 and 24 October 1906. Teresa was born in Preston, Lancashire to a devout Roman Catholic family in 1877. She strongly opposed her family’s religious values, becoming an agnostic. Teresa eventually ran her away from home, went to night school and trained to be a teacher. Her refusal to teach religious studies lessons brought her into conflict with the authorities who summoned her to appear before the Manchester Education Committee. Emmeline Pankhurst heard her case and arranged for her to teach at a Jewish school where she would no longer be called upon to teach religious studies. While studying for a degree, alongside teaching, Teresa became involved in the University of Manchester Settlement based in a deprived area of Manchester, Ancoats. The idea behind the Settlement was to bring learning to the community whilst exposing the more privileged to the impact of poverty on a community. Like so many of the suffragettes, this exposure was to spur Teresa into campaigning for the vote.
A committed feminist Teresa was one of the first to join the Women’s Social and Political Union of which, in due course, she became an organiser having first served as an organiser of the Independent Labour Party. By 1905 Teresa was a regular speaker on the Women’s Enfranchisement Bill or other topics such as Socialism and the Women’s Question. In April 1906 she was part of a group of women including Annie Kenney who gained access to the Ladies Gallery in the House of Commons during the debate on the Enfranchisement Bill. Their cries of protest led to them being forcibly removed, but they were not charged with any offence.
In June 1906 Herbert Asquith was due to address a meeting of the Liberal Party. All week Teresa accompanied by Annie Kenney campaigned to raise awareness of their cause ahead of the meeting; handing out flyers which read “Come in crowds to oppose Asquith, the enemy of liberty and justice.” Later in the week, they were joined by Emmeline Pankhurst. All three gained entry to the meeting. As soon as Asquith rose to speak, they attempted to drown him out. Members of the audience and stewards bundled the women out of the hall. One newspaper report claimed Teresa produced a whip from under her skirt and lashed out with it. Given she was not charged with any offence and no other newspaper reports this act, it may well be an embellishment. After Teresa was ejected, Emmeline rose to protest and when she was shouted down and removed others took her place to continue interrupting.
Only a week later Teresa attempted to knock on Asquith’s front door in Cavendish Square, London. When she refused to move on, she was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and inciting others. In court, she refused to enter a plea or give any personal details on the basis that the courts were there to apply laws made by men and therefore had no jurisdiction over women. She was fined £10- or two-months imprisonment which, was later reduced to £5- or one-month imprisonment. Teresa did not serve much of her sentence as an anonymous sympathiser presented herself at Holloway Prison and paid the fine; stating that the trial and initial imprisonment had raised the profile of the cause sufficiently, negating the need to serve any more of the sentence. Amusingly the well-wisher was made to pay the full fine of £10 as the prison authorities were not aware of any reduction, they would in due course refund the difference if it proved to be true.
Alongside her hands-on actions, Teresa wrote many letters to the national press and articles explaining the rationale of the women’s activities. Her report, The Militant Policy of Women Suffragists, outlined the reasons why women felt they had the right to protest. Her campaigning took its toll. In, an article, The Woman and the Whip, she wrote of leaving meetings “‘in a state of nervous humiliation, shocked, weeping, and shuddering.’[i] These feelings did not deter her, and after her release from prison, she continued campaigning; addressing meetings during a tour of Scotland. By October Teresa had returned to London joining an attempt to enter the House of Commons. She was arrested and charged with using insulting and threatening language likely to lead to a breach of the peace. The court hearing was chaotic with, one woman detained at the court. All of the women were fined but on refusing, collectively, to pay they were sent to prison for two months. All were released having served one month.
Teresa returned to the campaign trial, visiting the North of England and Scotland. During her work in Scotland, she had met Frederick Lewis Greig, the manager of a billiard supplies company to whom she became engaged to much comment in the press that she had broken her vow not to marry until women obtained the vote. The reality was that Teresa had told Frederick she would give a further year to the campaign before she wed. She married Frederick in Scotland in February 1907 in a low key ceremony intended to prevent journalists attending; the groom reportedly was working until an hour before the nuptials. In a very modern move, they combined their surnames becoming Billington Greig. The couple went on to have one daughter, Fiona, born in 1915.
Teresa was straight back on the campaign trail after her marriage continuing to give talks and write to the newspapers. At a meeting of the WSPU in June 1907 she was presented with a belated wedding present, a typewriter, by Charlotte Despard. At the September conference of the WSPU Emmeline Pankhurst stated her intent to run the organisation without any meddling from doubters of, in particular, the tendency of the leadership to take decisions without consultation. Charlotte Despard questioned this stance and Emmeline invited those who challenged her authority to found an organisation of their own. Teresa, amongst others, joined Charlotte and left to form the Women’s Freedom League.
The campaign continued with both organisations pushing their message but in different ways. In February 1910 Teresa, travelling to Scotland, was injured when the train she was on hit a landslide, derailing the train and sending some of the carriages into the sea. She sustained wrist and ankle injuries. While continuing to question the leadership of the WSPU, she became disenchanted with the Women’s Freedom League citing their “weak intimidation.” Thus, mostly independent of any group, she campaigned by writing articles and books such as Women and the Machine published in 1913.
With the dawn of the First World War, Teresa organised, in Glasgow billiard halls, afternoons for women where they could enjoy demonstrations, talks and playing to raise funds for the Sportsmen’s Ambulance Fund. In 1928 she returned to the fray campaigning for more women Members of Parliament.
She died in 1964.
Dorothea Benson was arrested on 1 March 1912 and charged with malicious damage to a window, valued at 20 shillings, in New Bond Street, the property of John Cooling who ran a fine art establishment together with window two doors up valued at £40. For reasons which are not clear the charge relating to the second window was dropped before the matter came to court. Dorothea pleaded guilty. She was bound over to keep the peace for twelve months and fined £5.
Although on some of the official records Dorothea is noted as being married she was, in fact, single. She was born in 1885 in Birmingham to William and Dorothy; one of four children, three of whom survived to adulthood. The family were comfortably circumstanced. The 1901 census records that William was a retired confectioner even though he was only in his early forties. Dorothea is, as many suffragettes were, missing from the 1911 census while her sister, Mildred, is recorded as employed in an estate agency.
The 1939 register records that Mildred and Dorothea were living together. While Mildred continues to work, Dorothea is stated to be incapacitated. She died in 1950.
The next entry is for William Edward Bethell. Unusually no date for his arrest is included. Searching through the newspapers a bizarre tale transpired.The Suffragette newspaper first carried a story of a meeting addressed by Thomas Macnamara, Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. Macnamara, it was reported, lost his temper at repeated interjections. As tensions rose, the stewards attempted to eject one woman who nearly fell from a balcony. The accident was prevented by the intervention of officials installed at the organisers instigation who had anticipated matters might get out of hand. William was caught up in the melee; breaking his nose which prevented him from working.The following week’s edition announced William’s death. The headline reads: ‘Tyranny Claims Another Victim.’ Condolences are extended to William’s family who, it is reported, sustained his injuries protecting his brother. The cause of death was heart failure. The article continues: ‘The loss of this brave young fighter for liberty is a grief to all Suffragists… How nobly his courage and his sacrifice stand.’ A similar report was printed in Votes for Women on 21 November. Subscriptions were requested to enable a memorial to be placed on his grave.The Daily Mail, 29 November 1913, reported that despite exhaustive searches no one had come forward to say they had certified William’s death or where his grave was. The newspaper had tracked down William’s father, who stated, that as far as he knew, William was in Canada with his wife and children and had been so for the last year. He showed the journalist a letter he had received, the previous month, from William, postmarked Canada.William’s brother, Walter, himself a suffrage campaigner, appears to have been the source of the story. Many months before he had been informed that William was back in London. Walter did not see his brother until he also attended the meeting at which Thomas Macnamara spoke. Although the two brothers did not talk to each other, Walter saw William ejected - sustaining injuries to his nose and knee. Walter, subsequently, received a note asking him to ‘Come at once’ in William’s handwriting. However, Walter could not find him. Later someone called on Walter and informed him William had died. Walter then let the Men’s Political Union know who, in turn, informed the suffragette newspapers.By 5 December, the Suffragette included a few lines retracting the earlier story as the newspaper had been ‘misled by false information.’ The police interviewed Walter, his wife, his father and step-mother. Walter’s wife contradicted her husband entirely informing the police that Walter had told her that William had died in Canada while attending a political meeting. No trace was found of a death certificate or internment. What exactly became of William remains a mystery
Annie Biggs was arrested twice in March 1907 and September 1911. The first arrest was for her part in a demonstration; Annie was sentenced to two weeks imprisonment. In 1907 a book was published entitled My Prison Life and Why I Am a Suffragette written by Annie S Biggs which seems likely to be by one and the same person.Annie was arrested in early April 1908 but not being a suffragette offence; it does not appear on the amnesty record. The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 8 April 1908, reported the appearance in court of Annie who refused to give her address and described herself as an organiser. She had been charged with obstruction for sweeping a crossing between Waterloo Place and Pall Mall in Central London. Annie is described as a well-dressed woman wearing a “fashionable black toque, trimmed with red flowers and white suede gloves” who spoke, “in a refined tone, and was evidently well educated”. Her sweeping the crossing had drawn a crowd which, the police deemed it, was causing an obstruction. On being requested to desist, she had refused and was arrested. In court, Annie stated that she had tried to gain employment; she was a caterer and organiser of first-class restaurants undertaking some of the finest work in London. Annie claimed her references were too good, which meant she had been unsuccessful in finding work as a domestic servant. She had tried to emigrate to Queensland, but this had been unsuccessful. Annie added that she had not known it was against the law to sweep crossings. The magistrate explained why she should not have been sweeping the crossing to which Annie responded: “.. I think I have had enough of crossing sweeping; probably I shall not, go there again.” The magistrate discharged her. In August 1908 Annie was admitted to the workhouse. She is said to be homeless and suffering from an ulcerated leg. No date for her discharge is recorded.
Three years later, Annie was arrested again. This time she presented herself at Cannon Row Police Station stating she had broken two windows at the Home Office. Annie was described as an organiser who was homeless. Annie said that she had broken the windows to draw attention to her plight. Prior to breaking the windows, she had spent the entire night sitting at the out patient’s department of a hospital hoping to be admitted as an in-patient but had failed to achieve her aim. Annie had been without food until the police offered her sustenance. The police informed the court that some months before she had participated in a suffragette protest, been arrested and charged with resisting the police. Annie had, the police added, also appeared before the courts accused of obstruction of the highway. The first of these statements is not consistent with the arrest records as only this incident and the arrest in 1907 are included. In response to the assertion regarding the suffragette movement, Annie said she was now opposed to the movement.
Annie, who was clearly having a challenging time, was remanded in custody to be examined by a doctor. No newspaper reports can be found recording what followed. She was admitted to the workhouse, again, in October 1911 and released, on the order of a magistrate, presumably to enable her to appear in court. She was readmitted and discharged again at her own request a few weeks later. It seems probable that Annie was admitted to the workhouse again as Annie S Biggs, journalist, is recorded as being admitted on 12 December 1911. Again, Annie was admitted on 5 August 1913, discharged on 11 August possibly to hospital. There are no files with any information within the suffragette collection beyond the amnesty record. No further trace has been found.
Elizabeth Billing was arrested in October 1908 charged with obstructing the police near the Houses of Parliament. Elizabeth was ordered to pay a fine and agree to be bound over to keep the peace. She refused and was imprisoned for one month. She was released on 21 November alongside fellow suffragettes. The women were greeted by Mrs Pethick Lawrence and Mrs Howe Martyn accompanied by a band playing the Marseillaise. According to Votes for Women, 15 October 1908, Elizabeth was a new recruit to the movement who had only recently addressed a crowd at her first street corner meeting. After she wrote, “My great regret is to have wasted many valuable years while others have stood the brunt of the battle.”Elizabeth Emily Billing was born in 1877 to George, a surgeon’s assistant and Emily. The family lived in Blackpool. By 1901 her father was a doctor and Elizabeth had three siblings including a younger sister, May, who contributed to suffragette funds. Votes for Women, 25 October 1912, announced Elizabeth’s marriage to Darwin Leighton. The couple settled in Kendal, Westmoreland, where Darwin was a grocer. The couple had three daughters. Elizabeth died in 1947.
 HO 144/1193/220196-1to233
 DPP 1/19 HO 140/298
 HO 45/10712/245464
 MEPO 2/1222
The next two entries read Mary or May Billinghurst who was arrested in December 1912 and January 1913; Rosa May Billinghurst arrested March 1912. These two entries actually relate to one person Rosa May Billinghurst, as does the entry May Bellinghurst arrested November 1911. Known as May, she was born in 1876 into a comfortable middle-class family. During childhood, May contracted polio which left her unable to walk without leg irons – often using a wheelchair tricycle. As a young woman, May volunteered at the workhouse in Greenwich, which opened her eyes to the hardships suffered by the poor. May joined the Women’s Social Political Union early on believing, as did many, that the vote was the means by which women would have a say and be able to raise issues such as poverty. It is clear from the Vote for Women newspaper that this endeavour became a family affair with her mother and sister, Alice, joining and other family members giving donations. It is recorded that May and her mother during seven years donated £252.
May went on to be secretary of the Greenwich WSPU. She was well aware that her appearance at rallies or canvassing at by-elections in her tricycle drew attention to the cause. Her first arrest was for her part in Black Friday, but such turmoil did not deter her. May was described in the press as a “conspicuous” presence, charged with obstruction the charges were dropped. May submitted a statement to the enquiry undertaken by Henry Brailsford and Jessie Murray. May opened: ‘I am lame and cannot walk or get about at all without the aid of a hand tricycle’. The police ‘threw me out of the machine on to the ground in a very brutal manner.’ The police then attempted to move May on by pushing the tricycle ‘with my arms twisted behind me in a very painful position, with one of my fingers bent right back.’ In a side street, the police officers removed the valves to deflate her tyres which meant she was stuck in the middle of a crowd unable to move. Later the valves were replaced, but the police officers attempted to remove them again; when this failed they ‘twisted’ the wheel instructing a man in the crowd to use a police knife to ‘slit’ the tyre. The man declined, noting down the police officer’s number. May was marooned again. When she eventually returned home, May was confined to bed for two days recovering.
A year later she was arrested for her part in another demonstration outside Parliament and “was carried through the thick of the crowd by half-dozen stalwart policemen”. The reporting of this arrest shows the power of being seated in a tricycle, over one hundred and fifty women were arrested after the leaders of the movement, but May is singled out for special mention in many of the newspaper reports. The charge was obstruction which was discharged. A few days later, May was arrested again. This time she was sentenced to five days imprisonment.
May was arrested again for her part in the window smashing campaign and was, this time, imprisoned for one month. In December 1912 she was arrested along with Grace Michel and charged with unlawfully placing a liquid in a post box thereby injuring the post box and its contents. On being searched six rubber tubes containing a black fluid were found on her lap. She was sent for trial in January, found guilty she was sentenced to eight months in the First Division. The judge when he passed sentence observed that many supported the right of women to the vote, but that might have been granted by now if it was not for the actions of a militant few to which those on trial had mistakenly adhered themselves. “..they were animated by the highest and purest motives in what they did, and that, having spent many years among the poorest class of women, they had been impressed with the miseries which resulted from the sweating system, … which often led to the degradation of women and to other results too terrible to contemplate.” A surprisingly more supportive statement than was the norm.
Despite many letters demanding that May was not force-fed, due to her poor health, she was subjected to this degradation on several occasions. Her health declined and on 19 January, having served ten days, she was released. After a period of recuperation, May spoke at events recounting her experiences and denouncing force-feeding. In May 1914 May was part of the deputation who attempted to speak directly with the King. Refusing to move on, she chained her tricycle to the railings at Buckingham Palace. She was not arrested; as no doubt, her notoriety meant the authorities had no intention of giving anyone the opportunity of claiming they were preying on a disabled woman.
May remained politically active until she died in 1953.
 TS 27/19
 MEPO 3/203
 Dundee Courier 22 November 1911
 MEPO 2/1488 HO 144/1107/200655
 HO 144/1193/220196-1to233
 DPP 1/19 HO 140/306
 TS 27/19
The next entry on the amnesty record is May Bellinghurst arrested in November 1911. This entry actually relates to Rosa May Billinghurst, and she will be discussed in a later blog.
Blanche Bennett, noted as born in 1873 and of Belfast, was arrested on 5 March 1912 for, along with Mary Nesbit, breaking two glass panels at the Baker Street post office. Mary, who was reported to say, to the arresting police officer, that it had taken a good deal of courage, and she would never do it again, was sentenced to two months while Blanche, who did not appear to have expressed any remorse, was handed the same sentence but with hard labour.Blanche was the Honorary Secretary of the Irish Women’s Suffrage Society based in Belfast. No further information has been uncovered.
Dorothy Bennett gave her address as Clement’s Inn, the WSPU headquarters. She was arrested in November 1911 and sentenced to seven days for breaking a window at the Board of Trade. No further information as so far been found.
 HO 144/1193/220196-1to233
 DPP 1/19 HO 144/1193/220196-1to233
 Irish Citizen 24 August 1912
 DPP 1/23
The next on the list is Sarah Bennett, who used the aliases Susan Burnton and Mary Gray. The list records that she was arrested seven times. Born in 1850 in the New Forest to James and Rebeca Bennett she was baptised Sarah Charlotte. Her father was a mariner and away from home for long periods. Sarah was the fourth of seven children. In 1873 her mother died, and Sarah moved north to Burslem in the Potteries which was the address she gave when she was elected treasurer of the Women’s Freedom League in 1909.Sarah worked to improve the lot of the workers in the Staffordshire Potteries campaigning to prevent the use of lead glaze in the production of pottery.
The first arrest in March 1907 was for her part in the demonstration attempting to enter the House of Commons. Sarah was charged with obstructing the police; helpfully defined by a policeman as attempting to force your way through a cordon. This Sarah had done while clutching a piece of paper relevant to suffrage, linking arms with the other women. The policeman concerned said he had been forced back by Sarah’s actions but had not been hurt. She was fined £1 or fourteen days in prison.
Sarah was arrested for a second time in January 1908 by which time she was in her late fifties. A newspaper report states: “an elderly person.” The charge this time was disorderly behaviour and resisting the police. Sarah had been standing outside the home of the Scottish Secretary for State addressing a crowd when the police intervened. On the way to the police station Kathleen Crummey took the hand of Sarah and of the policeman, announcing that if they took Sarah, they could take her as well. The magistrate, during the hearing, felt that Sarah needed to be medically examined. She retorted “I am not insane.” To which the magistrate responded that she was clearly not, but there was such a thing as “hysteria and being out of health.” Sarah firmly reiterated that there was nothing wrong with her at all. The magistrate stated that if that was the case that removed any excuse at all and sentenced her to pay a fine of 40 shillings or twenty-one days in prison. Sarah refused to pay. Kathleen was admonished and told she was like a repentant child who should return to her husband and children.One report provides an insight into the numbers involved. From 1 January 1908 to 20 February, seventy-two were imprisoned, of which sixteen were released on a promise of good behaviour, five served their full sentences, three paid or had their fines paid, and forty-eight remained inside. When Sarah arrived at Holloway, she was allocated to the Third Division in the absence of an order from the magistrate sending her to the Second Division. Questions were asked about not only Sarah’s treatment but also several other women sentenced at the same time. A draft letter on the file draws the magistrate’s attention to a circular prepared in 1899 and to another of 1906 which set out the approach to be taken when deciding to which Division a prisoner should be sent, ‘the class of prisoners who should be assigned to the Second and Third Division.’ The author of the letter writes that Gladstone thought that Sarah ‘appear [s] clearly to belong to the class for whom the Second Division was intended.’ The magistrate made the requisite ruling, and Sarah was moved to the Second Division. A draft letter regarding the similar treatment of two other suffragettes mentions ‘these ladies’ which has been crossed out and replaced with ‘they.’
Sarah was a member of the Women’s Freedom League formed in 1907 by a breakaway group from the WSPU. Initially, Charlotte Despard was the treasurer but when she was appointed President in 1909 Sarah was elected in her place. In that role in July Sarah was part of a delegation headed by Charlotte Despard who visited the Home Secretary to present a petition. The following year Sarah was accused of also being a member of the WSPU, her defence at the Annual Conference was given short shrift by the members of the Women’s Freedom League, and she resigned. Sarah, who had by then moved to Finchley, North London, was arrested for her part in Black Friday and like many others, the charge of obstruction was discharged.In May 1912 Emmeline Pankhurst, Frederick and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence were charged with conspiring with Christabel Pankhurst to maliciously cause damage and inciting others to do the same. One of the persons they were alleged to have incited was Sarah who had been witnessed throwing a stone at the window of the Aerated Bread Company. At the trial, a police officer stated that having failed to break a window at her first target Sarah had then thrown a stone at the next-door premises occupied by the London and North Western Railway Company successfully breaking a ground floor window. The officer recovered two stones from the scene. One, of the exhibits at their trial, was a bag with three stones inside found on Sarah when she was arrested. The manager of the London and North Western Railway said that the window measured nine feet by six feet and it had been totally replaced at a cost of 10 guineas. Sarah was sentenced to two months imprisonment in Holloway.In March 1912 Sarah was charged with breaking two windows in Regent Street valued at just over £4. She was sentenced to three months hard labour. Sarah served forty-three days of her sentence. On release, her health was described as ‘indifferent’. The reason given for releasing her early was her age and atheroma, heart disease. Sarah had refused food but was not force-fed.
In February 1913 Sarah took part in the window-smashing campaign breaking windows at Selfridges to the value of £160, she was sentenced to six months hard labour alongside Edith Warwick Bell [see earlier blog]. Her response was to inform the judge that she had been part of the suffrage march from Edinburgh to London in October 1912. Presumably, the comment was intended to make the judge realise she was a tough, resilient woman. The march arrived in London on 16 November rallying in Trafalgar Square. One of the speakers who addressed the crowd was Sarah. On her admission to prison, the file notes ‘General debility. Sixty-three or perhaps older.’
Sarah was released around 19 April. Her medical report before discharge notes that she had refused food for two days ‘Her tongue is coated, her breath cold, features pinched, and her pulse small and frequent.’ It was felt inadvisable for her to remain if she was to continue to refuse food given her age and ‘she presents arterial degeneration.’ Sarah was not considered fit for force-feeding.Sarah was arrested again in July for her part in the protests in Birmingham associated with Asquith’s visit to the city. She was sentenced to one month in the Second Division. By this stage, the authorities had decreed that all suffragette prisoners should be fingerprinted. However, this requirement was dispensed with in Sarah’s case as the medical officer felt that ‘the impressions …cannot be taken without using such force as he thinks is inadvisable in her case.’ Again Sarah was refusing food and this plus her age, it was felt, left her too weak to be forced into having her prints taken. The same day, 28 July, as the report was written Sarah was temporarily released.
She was arrested again in May 1914. Although this is shown on the amnesty record, no other details have been found. It may, therefore, be a readmission to prison under the Cat and Mouse Act.
Sarah died in 1924 remaining close friends with other suffragettes for the rest of her life. She collaborated with Ethel Smyth, whose cell she had been next to in Holloway, on The Wreckers, an opera.
 HO 144/871/161505
 HO 45/10338/139199
 HO 144/1107/200655
 DPP 1/23
 HO 140/290
 DPP 1/23
 HO 144/1195/220196-504to670
 HO 140/306
 Suffragette 15 November 1912
 HO 144/1195/220196-504to670
 PCOM 7/252
 HO 45/24665